This is a really nice and easy to follow lecture by the director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI), Neil Turok, called “The Astonishing Simplicity of Everything”. PI is a top-tier research centre for theoretical physics, located in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It is really exciting to see how much physics in Canada has developed over the past 20 years, and how many important contributions physicists based there have made.
The themes of Turok’s lecture symmetry and scale, which he uses to bind together theories of nature explaining why the cosmic microwave background, galaxies, stars, and atoms are held together. Unlike a lot of lecturers, who rely on constructs from string theory (neat but not testable), Turok grounds his talk in findings from experimental physics, such as the confirmation of the Higgs Boson from CERN. (He also alludes to the detection of gravity waves in ~2-5 years, which LIGO announced a few months later. This lecture was given on 7 October 2015, and the black hole collision that LIGO later reported was detected on 15 September, just 3 weeks earlier.)
NB: There is presently a law in Canada requiring universities receiving public funding to give priority status to Canadian citizens when hiring new faculty, regardless of candidates’ merits. Although I am a citizen, and such a law would presumably give me a leg-up, it drives me nuts that some young, excellent researcher, who so happens is not Canadian, could be displaced by someone of lesser quality (even if that hire was me!). To restate the obvious, Neil Turok is not Canadian-born. I don’t know whether he’s a citizen, but Canada should be so lucky to draw in as many such high-level academics, but in earlier stages of their careers, whether they come from Toronto or Timbuktu.
Image: Higgs particle detection event, CERN.