Of Particular Significance


Here are some video clips of talks that I have given to a public audience (with more to come!)

The Quest for the Higgs Boson (Aspen, CO, March 15, 2013) [one hour, preceded by 5 mins. introduction and followed by 25 mins. of Q&A]

Here’s an hour-long on-line radio interview about the Large Hadron Collider, with me as interviewee, and well-known science writer, documentary film-maker and MIT professor Tom Levenson as interviewer:

Here’s a one and a half hour panel discussion (from the March 2012 SEARCH workshop) that is at a professional level, so not much of it is really layperson-friendly.  But some of you may find it interesting to hear theoretical particle physicists reacting to this very interesting moment when the data from the Large Hadron Collider was enough to hint at a Higgs particle but is insufficient for convincing evidence.  In my post from May 4th, 2012 you’ll find suggestions on what you might find most worth listening to, and a glossary to help you with a bit of the jargon.

A Ring of Truth: Seeking Answers to Big Questions at the Large Hadron Collider (Secret Science Club, Brooklyn, NY, March 16, 2011 — prior to Higgs particle discovery!)

  1. Excerpt 1  (6 mins.)  Find out why the Higgs is often called “The God Particle”, and what a “Field” is.
  2. Excerpt 2 (7 mins.) Find out why you do care about the Higgs field, and how to make and detect Z particles.
  3. Excerpt 3 (8 mins.) Learn how to find the Higgs particle!
  4. Q&A excerpts (10 mins.)  An assortment of excellent questions and sometimes good answers.

Beyond the Hype: The Weird World of String Theory (Science on Tap, Seattle, WA, September 25, 2006). Though a bit old, this talk is still topical; it covers the history, development, context and impact of string theory from its earliest beginnings to the (then) present.  Be forewarned: this was an amateur video taken by one of the organizers of the talk, and because the place was small and totally packed with people, it’s not great quality… but good enough to follow, I think.

  1. Part 1 (10 mins.): String theory’s beginnings in hadron physics and the early attempts to use it as a theory of quantum gravity.
  2. Part 2 (10 mins.): String theory was shown to be a mathematically consistent candidate for a theory of all of quantum gravity and particle physics, and became a really popular idea.
  3. Part 3 (9 mins.): How string theory evolved through the major technical and conceptual advances of the 1990s.

34 Responses

    1. Particles of a field need not have mass. What they must have is energy. As an example, a photon (i.e., single quantum of a wave in the electromagnetic field) has zero mass, but it has energy (in the form of motion-energy).

    1. Thank you so much for restoring this link. I’m not sure what direction or possibly new career path Matt has chosen, but it breaks my heart to think that he may no longer be involved in pedagogical pursuits (aside from this website, that is). He is blessed with all of the gifts of the true educator, and the next generation of physicists depend crucially on the dwindling few who possess such rare and dynamic expository talent.

  1. Aieee. the link for Mr. Stuff Doesn’t Cost That Much!!! | May 25, 2012 at 3:02 PM | doesn’t work anymore.

  2. Hi Matt,

    thank you again for the illuminating content on your site:)
    I have another question about one of the elementary particles, the photon. As I understand it (from your lecture), the photon is the elementary particle associated with the Electromagnetic force. Initially I was assuming that a photon was a quanta of visible light, but as visible light is a very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, that doesn’t make much scientific sense? So my question is: does the definition of a photon cover the whole electromagnetic spectrum?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Azita,
      While all photons travel at the speed of light, they can attain very different frequencies (recall that a photon is a single quantum of an electromagnetic wave). The human brain has evolved to interpret different frequences as different colors. So the entire electromagnetic spectrum (not just visible light) is the result of lightwaves being composed of many photons having many different wave frequencies.
      As an aside, the fact that we know the universe is expanding depends crucially on frequency and luminosity of light. As a source of light moves away from the viewer, the wavelengths of its photons become elongated in the direction of the line of sight (increase in wavelength = decrease in frequency) which results in “red-shift” along its spectrum. In other words, if one looks at a star through a spectroscope, the spectral lines that result from the actual star’s elemental composition will shift toward the red end of the spectrum as the star recedes from the viewer.
      The opposite happens as the source of light gets closer to the viewer, that is, a shortening of wavelength (so increased frequency) which results in a “blueshift”.
      Another physical application of this is the search for new potential solar systems. For example, in our own solar system it is not technically correct to say that the planets orbit the sun. More correctly, they revolve around the CENTER OF MASS of the solar system, which, because the sun is so massive, happens to be located at a point within the sun. In fact, the sun itself is revolving around this center of mass, which causes it to “wobble”. Thus, in the search for new potential solar systems one looks for distant stars that wobble, as these could be playing the role of “suns”. And the way to detect a wobbling star is to look for periodically alternating red-shifts and blue-shifts through a spectroscope.

  3. Hi Prof,
    I enjoyed the various clips on youtube, and I would like to have seen the SEARCH workshop panel discussion (University of Maryland, March 18, 2012), but it’s no longer available on Vimeo 🙁


  4. I know a little about physics but when I study your articles, I feel my faith in the Creator get enhanced. Professor, thanks for your time writing these articles that benefit both ‘aware’ & ‘un-aware’.

  5. I work them to the best of my ability and they feel right
    to me. The next important tools are the x-acto
    knife for cutting the stencils and heavy cardboard for mounting the velvet.
    For example the top step can be your baby pictures, the second step your partner’s
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  6. Thank you very much for a lucid and exciting lecture on the Quest for the Higgs Boson!
    I have a question pertaining to the section where you go through the different types of elementary particles, specifically the “Force particles”.
    You there state that the Photon belongs to the Electric force.
    Is this the same as the Electromagnetic force?
    I hope this does not label me as a complete ignoramus, but I am trying to understand the nature of duals in nature:)

    1. They are the same. The electric force and the magnetic force were once believed to be unrelated, but have long since been unified, so your question is a good one.

  7. This lecture was magnificent. It’s one thing to scale things back for a lay audience. It’s quite another to do so in an accurate, compelling, and yet *responsible* manner (take notes, Michio Kaku).

    Btw, I’m not sure why people are complaining so much about the animation quality. Seemed fine to me.

      1. I don’t have a solid one but when i do see one i stretch it to the very far reaches of its use and turn it into something new, im in need of one you got any ones that i could use.

  8. I have Adobe Premiere 5.5 (and After Effects, etc.). Combining text and video for 5-10 minute films is not that difficult. I would do it for nothing. Filming is another matter — You would need to come out here to Colorado where our RED One and Epic Camera are.

  9. Dear Prof. Matt,
    It should NOT cost you $1000 for only that much power point stuff!
    Who ever charged you that is ripping you off! Plus the animation was terrible!

    I have had stuff far greater done only for a dollar. but then again I live in a third world country …..

    1. It was a lot more complex than you think. The powerpoint and animations were free (I did them myself, which explains the quality) but the filming and editing (of which there was a great deal) were not free. Why? Because NYC is expensive…

      1. I see. Stuff does tend to be far costlier elsewhere but still the movie editing could have been done by yourself, of course you’d have to buy a camera and learn how to use all those newfangled picture and movie software operation …. Ya I guess you’re right it’s better what you did but you should learn how to do that stuff yourself it’ll save you money while nourishing our brains 🙂 I see you don’t take donations hence you must save your money for any babies or grand kids (if you have them.) nevertheless I still think you could have done a better job at the animations a cloud doesn’t do a good representation of a higgs field.

        PS when can we expect future video releases?

    1. Unfortunately, taking raw video and combining it with powerpoint slides into something really workable is expensive and time consuming. [For scale — To do the three main clips shown here is of order ~$1000 and eight hours working with professional editors.] If there is enough demand, I can do it, maybe late this year, but I’ll need to find a way to cover costs. No rush since I don’t have time this winter anyway…

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