>>Neil Turok: Okay. Thank you very much. I’m
not a businessman. My business is theoretical physics. I study the Big Bang and the singularity
and whether there was time before it. I’m actually not going to talk about that
today. I’m going to talk about special places. Can I have the first slide?
Next slide. Look at this picture. So, this is ancient Greece. “The School of Athens”
by Rafael. Look at these people. Does it look like a school?
[ Laughter ] This is a place where people shared ideas,
saw the world with fresh eyes, invented notions of democracy, liberty. It is a school I would
have loved to have gone to. But, see, over here on the left, what was
at the heart of it was mathematics and science. Pythagoras was the person who invented the
name “mathematics.” And looking over his shoulder is Anaximander, the first scientist who drew
the first map, thought of the concept of infinity and did the first scientific experiment.
And you see what he is doing. That’s what we do as theoretical physicists. We cheat.
[ Laughter ] We look over the shoulder of the mathematicians
to see mathematical truths. These are the most profound truths we know of. But we also
have the other eye on the real world because we’re trying to describe reality. And that’s
exactly — we use all available means to figure out how the world really works.
I want to point out another coincidence in this picture which is you see the birth of
mathematics and the concept of proof. Pythagoras was the first person whoever proved anything.
He proved Pythagoras’ theorem. But that concept is profoundly related to the notion of justice
because in a court, what do you do if you want to show somebody is guilty? You have
got to prove it. And the concepts go together. Now, I’ve led — I have led a very lucky life
and my luck began a few years before I was born when my father was tried for treason
in South Africa. There’s my father. Alongside him was this person who you should
probably recognize. And it was my good fortune to be raised in a family committed to a struggle
to change the world which ultimately succeeded. And this was a long-term enterprise. As you
said, this took, you know, nearly four decades from this picture, but they wouldn’t give
up. They believed things would change. And that was the spirit in which I was raised.
Well, as a child, I got into science, collecting beetles, playing with experiments, doing mathematics.
The ’60s were — was an era of great hope and optimism. And we left South Africa — after
my parents had both been to jail, we left South Africa and we lived in East Africa in
Kenya and Tanzania, young countries really with incredible hope for the future at that
time. And after that, we went to London, to the
U.K, and arrived just in time to see this, Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. And that
was the spirit of my childhood, is that there was nothing that couldn’t be done if you put
your mind to it. Well, after that, I returned to Africa as
a teenager to teach in a school in Lisutu, a small land-locked country surrounded by
apartheid South Africa. And I lived in a hut like that one and taught in a local school
for a year. And I met many wonderful kids and, I could see the talent that was there,
enormous talent. But those kids never had a chance. The best they could hope for was
work as migrant workers in South Africa or over the border.
No matter how smart they were, they could not — there was no way they could succeed.
And it struck me then, and it strikes me now that here is the greatest asset with all respect
to your minds. The greatest asset the world has is its young people. And most of them
are utterly denied the opportunity to realize their potential. So my experience in Africa
affected me deeply. Now, in the village — in an African village
at night, it is a pretty scary place. There is no lights. There’s dogs barking. And people
believe in magic, and Lisutu is famous for its magic. They believe that old ladies fly
at night naked. They believe that you can make an effigy out of flour and water and
herbs and at night, it will turn into a little devil and go and kill your enemy.
And so magic was huge. And, frequently, encountered this in class as I was teaching. And I showed
some demonstration like electricity from rubbing a balloon on your hair. They shout “Tokoloshe!”
(phonetic) the word for wizard. So, after this experience, I went back to
England to Cambridge, where I studied theoretical physics. And Isaac Newton, the inventor of
the subject, the greatest mathematician of all time — I didn’t know at the time he was
actually a wannabe magician. That’s the story of Isaac Newton. He spent more than half his
time on alchemy, trying to create gold. Again connects to our — he failed. All he succeeded
in doing was poisoning himself with mercury, from which he died.
But the point is, the other part of his time he spent on mathematics and physics. And we
remember him for that because his physics was the magic that worked.
And he figured out how — the laws of motion, not by studying every day things on earth,
but by staring at the heavens and the data from the planets, which told him how mechanics
works, how gravitation worked. And they work in truly magical ways. They obey mathematical
laws, which govern them to phenomenal precision. And, of course, the laws he discovered are
the foundation for all of engineering and all the projects we do today. But this basic
discovery of magic in the world underlies all of modern science and technology. And
following Newton came Maxwell, who discovered — who tried to reconcile magnetism with electricity
mathematically and in a single picture. And, in resolving the contradictions, discovered
what light is. This is probably the greatest discovery of all time in physic. To figure
out some equations and suddenly it emerges. This is light. This is radio waves.
And then came Einstein, who had to reconcile what Maxwell did with what Newton did and,
in so doing, discovered relativity and space time, the fact space and time are unified.
And, yes, I’m happy to answer questions afterwards on those very fast neutrinos which were seen
last week but probably not going faster than the speed of light.
[ Laughter ]>>Neil Turok: And so Einstein paved the way
for all of modern physics in the 20th century. And it’s been a fantastic enterprise, which,
unfortunately, has been hidden from most people. Because this enterprise of unraveling all
the laws of nature has been phenomenally successful. And so here’s a single formula that summarizes
all known physics in one line. Okay? We have Schrödinger, who discovered that the world
is not deterministic. It’s described by an amplitude, which tells us the possibilities.
And the probabilities for everything. We have Planck, who discovered quantization and just
survives as a constant in this formula. The square root of minus one, a mathematical idea,
seems intrinsic in physics. Newton also, and he survives as a constant. Because Einstein
discovered the real law of space time and gravity, at least the one we have for the
moment. Maxwell discovered electricity, magnetism, and light generalized by Yang and Mills to
the force — the weak and the strong force of nuclear physics. And then Dirac discovered
the equation, which describes three quarters of the known particles — the electrons, protons,
the quarks, neutrinos, all of these particles. And then Kobayashi-Maskawa and Yukawa discovered
how particles get their mass by introducing this term in Dirac’s theory. And this phi
is the mass. The origin of mass is the Higgs Field. And, you know, the greatest experiment
of all time, the Large Hadron Collider, is running right now.
And over the next six months, if not sooner, we should know if the Higgs Field exists,
if this formula is correct. So it’s an amazingly accurate and complete picture of the basic
laws of nature, which is — which is without equal, without parallel in science. Using
this formula, you can calculate quantities to one part in a trillion. And they are correct.
And so I would really claim this is indeed magic that works.
Our mathematical understanding of the world is incredibly powerful. It’s our most valuable
possession. I’m sorry, but money doesn’t grab me. But this does.
Understanding of the world really does. It’s completely free to share. You can explain
this equation to somebody from Bangladesh or Cameroon. And, with enough effort, they
will understand it. It’s written in Greek, by the way, you will
notice, in homage to the Greeks. But the most interesting thing about it is
it’s just the beginning. This is not the final story. We know there are deep mathematical
inconsistencies in that formula. There are infinities we can’t get rid of. They hint
at a deeper underlying formula which will be even more fundamental than this one. So
this search for the fundamental description of nature is only beginning
Well, for myself, when I went into theoretical physics, I was drawn into cosmology, understanding
the whole universe. It’s absolutely ridiculous that it works. It’s crazy that there’s this
subject. We can’t understand how bacteria works. And yet modeling the whole universe
turns out to be amazingly simple. We have the equations. We can calculate. We can make
predictions. I’ve done it myself. We predicted what would be seen when satellites like this
mapped the whole cosmic sky, the radiation from the big bang. And the predictions agreed.
It’s phenomenal. We have no right to understand the whole universe, but we do.
And so I pursued my career at Princeton and then at Cambridge where I got to work with
Stephen Hawking on the beginning of the universe. And, if you want to talk about that, I’m happy
to come back some other time. But, even as I was working on this field,
I kept worrying about Africa. I’d left those wonderful kids behind. As you
feel about your country, I feel about mine. And, in fact, I feel we should all — because
we all come from Africa. Africa is the birthplace of humanity. And I couldn’t help feeling there’s
something, you know, I need to do. And by then my parents had gone back. They
were both elected to Parliament. And South Africa now had a fledgling democracy. Interestingly,
my father is now chair of the ethics committee in Parliament responsible for rooting out
corruption within South African Parliament. So, worrying about South Africa, I went back.
And what could I do? Cosmologist is practically the most useless person on the planet. It’s
not going to make you any money. It’s never going to lead to a commercial application.
But what could I do? It turned out that maths and science was a
strategic problem for Africa. If you don’t have maths and you don’t have
science, you will not enter the modern age. It’s as simple as that.
And so I went back and helped to found a new institute, The African Institute for Mathematical
Sciences. We bought a derelict hotel and converted it into a state-of-the-art postgraduate education
facility, recruiting the best students from all over Africa in maths, physics, engineering,
computer science; put them in a hotel; brought the best lecturers in the world to teach them.
And they would come, because they’re interested in Africa.
And we did this as an experiment. How would it work?
The amazing thing is it worked brilliantly. And what it showed me, as somebody who had
worked at Princeton and Cambridge, these prestigious institutions, is they are not the answer.
There are plenty of spaces for much more innovative educational centers in the world. And, frankly,
I think that’s where the future will go. It will go to enterprise. Enterprise should be
attached to education and science. And this was our little attempt at educational entrepreneurship.
Here in this picture — so AIMS has operated for eight years now very successfully. We
have 415 students have passed through AIMS. And 95% of our alumni have gone to masters
in Ph.D. across all of science. And some of them work in the most advanced scientific
projects in the world. One works at the Large Hadron Collider. Another at National Institutes
of Health on HIV/AIDS. Another is a top financial modeler in the City of London. He’s a failure,
because it wasn’t our intention to help London resolve its financial crisis. But there he
is. He’s practically a genius. And he works at Barclay’s Bank in the city of London. But
78% of them remain in Africa. They are filling university positions. They’re working in companies.
They’re working in governments, in research centers. And they’re beginning to form the
skills base which will drive Africa’s development. In 2008 we launched, based on the success
of the center — and I could talk for an our about it. We really thought everything, the
traditional university model is running out of steam. It really needs recreating. The
style of teaching needs changing. It’s got to be interactive. You’ve got to treat students
for their potential, not — you don’t judge them and say, “You are a failure.” “You are
a success.” You’ve got to see that potential in them and let that emerge and let them develop
their minds. Don’t tell them what to think. Allow them to. That’s the spirit of the center,
and it’s been phenomenally successful. In 2008, the head of NASA, Michael Griffin, came
with Stephen Hawking and two Nobel prize winners to help us launch a new plan. And the plan
was to create 15 of these centers all over Africa within a decade. We called it the next
Einstein initiative, because it’s our dream that the next Einstein will be an African.
In 2010 one of our alumni spoke at the T.E.D. Conference. I just want to tell you a little
bit about her. Daphney Singo, from a rural province in northern South Africa. She’s wearing
her traditional tribal dress. But she’s actually just finishing a Ph.D.
in nuclear engineering. And she will be one of the leaders of technology in Africa in
the future. And she gave this talk at T.E.D., which brought
2,000 people to their feet when she quoted her mother, who was a domestic servant — her
father was an alcoholic, and her mother was a domestic servant who put her through school
and told her daughter these words, that “education is the husband that will never let you down.”
[ Laughter ]>>Neil Turok: And just two weeks ago we opened
our second center in Senegal in a beautiful ecological reserve just south of Dakar by
the sea. Virgin natural forest. And that’s the center. It’s in a renovated facility.
A big building is under construction. And over here you’ll see the first group of students,
35 students from 20 different countries, including our first Somali AIMS student. And together
they are entering their graduate careers. And I’m sure we’re going to see them do remarkable
things. The director is over here next to me, Mamadou
Sanghare. He’s one of Africa’s most distinguished mathematicians. And next to him Klaus Von
Klitzing is a German Nobel prize winner from 1985. And there’s some are solar panels, which
were donated by a German company. Here is Klaus doing what we do at AIMS. You
see, AIMS is a place of joy. It’s a center where the whole person is nurtured. One of
the most important outcomes of AIMS is the students come in. And they have been, frankly,
traumatized as young people in Africa by all the adversity they faced. AIMS is a safe house.
And they really thrive within this supportive environment. And AIMS — every party, of course,
being Africa, is a lot of dancing. And here we are celebrating the opening of AIMS Senegal.
I’m going to skip this. Well, that’s part of my life. The other part
is my cosmology and my physics. And so, while I was busy setting up AIMS, there was a far
more enterprising person in Canada by the name of Mike Lazaridis, the inventor of the
BlackBerry. Mike is a very, very rare individual who spotted an opportunity, in my opinion,
that everyone had missed. Not just smartphones, which he invented, but an even more profound
one. When Mike made a fortune out of smartphones, he wanted to start something. He said, “I
want to go to the root of innovation. I want to support the foundations of all innovation.
What is that? It’s theoretical physics. I’m going to fund a center for theoretical physics
in Waterloo, Canada, called the Perimeter Institute.”
And many of the philosophy is the same as at AIMS. It’s a public/private partnership.
It’s entrepreneurial. It moves quickly. It’s — it has an extremely ambitious goal,
which I’ll tell you about. Its focus is on quantum theory and space time. These are the
two most fundamental notions in physics and, actually, all of science. The laws of physics,
the arena for physics. Here’s a picture of a vacuum. The vacuum in physics is one of
the most interesting things. Everything is fluctuating in and out of existence all the
time due to quantum effects. And, as we now know from observations, the vacuum has energy,
which is one of the most mysterious things in physics. Where did that energy come from?
So Perimeter set its goal as a deeper understanding of quantum theory and space time. And, as
a professor at Cambridge, I was shocked. How could you be so daring as to declare that
you are going to stimulate new breakthroughs in our understanding of these things. But
that was the intention. And so three years ago, I moved to Perimeter
and AIMS became part of the outreach mission of Perimeter. So these things are now organizationally
connected. And Stephen Hawking, my colleague from Cambridge, came with us to help conceptualize
what we would do. I remember when I told Stephen, “I’m thinking
about moving to Canada, because the guy who invented the smartphone loves physics, and
he’s founded a center that — dedicated to quantum theory and space time.” I sort of
said it without thinking. And Stephen’s eyes just lit up, “What? How
could anyone do something like that?” And so Stephen came and helped us conceive
of an expansion of the Perimeter Institute called the Stephen Hawking Center, which we
opened last week. And it’s a spectacular place.
The whole facility can house 250 researchers in the foundation’s or physics of theoretical
physics. It’s a very interactive — it’s like a space
ship, basically, this building, a mixture between a space ship and a play house. And
that’s the spirit in which we run it. Here, I have a diagram which — which echoes
Eike’s diagram. How — There was no arrangement in advance.
But we are in the zone. [ Laughter ]
>>Neil Turok: We’re absolutely in the zone. You see — pardon?
>>>(Off mike.)>>Neil Turok: Didn’t get it. So the foundations
of the subject, quantum theory, quantum information, quantum foundations, space time, quantum gravity
and string theory are leading approaches to space time.
Then we have physics on small, medium, and large scales, particles, condensed matter,
cosmology, and complex systems. But, you see, what’s really important is that Perimeter’s
at the center of all these things. One of my favorite sayings at Perimeter is, there
are no groups. People say how many postdocs for our group this year? What groups? There
are no groups. What we’re all about is collisions between
different approaches which will lead to something genuinely new.
And so we — you see, this is one of the diseases of academia, you have physics and math and
engineering and computer science. Then within those departments, they fragment into groups
and they all fight each other for resources, and everything slows down.
At Perimeter, no, we have research focuses which bring people together, and I’ll show
you just three of them, our top priorities. One of them is quantum field theory and particle
physics. These are the fundamental description of particles and forces is quantum field theory.
And particle physics, as I said, now has the greatest experiment of all time going, the
large hadron collider. It’s a huge area of opportunity where techniques from all these
fields are actually combining. And Perimeter has, as I’ll show you, the leading young group
in the world in that field of developing our fundamental description of particle physics.
Black holes, we’re about to be able to observe black holes. These are the most weird objects
in the universe. If you fall in, you never come out.
But there’s one in the middle of our galaxy. It’s about a million solar masses. And as
I’ll show you, we are about to see it in exquisite detail.
And then quantum materials. This is the next basis, the next technological revolution.
You see, all the devices you use — I mean, what’s a BlackBerry or iPhone? It’s just theoretical
physics in a box. That’s all it is. And the transistor was invented by a theoretical
physicist. Maxwell discovered the laws of radio waves. That’s what’s in one of those
devices, just theoretical physics. Quantum mechanics is a whole new horizon of
a type of materials which will drive the quantum electronics of the future, which will be infinitely
more powerful than what we use today. So quantum fields and particle physics. Here
is CERN, the large hadron collider, 27-kilometer tunnel underground. And there we have black
holes. And this is a futuristic picture of an experiment called Lisa, which will be in
space, we hope, in ten or so years, which will detect gravitational waves, waves in
space time, produced when black holes merge. And so you see our field is all about young
people. It’s about finding the most gifted, talented people worldwide, getting them as
quickly as possible to a center where they can develop their potential.
So here we have a Portuguese, an Italian, an American, a Colombian, an Israeli. These
are our brilliant young quantum fields and particle physics researchers at Perimeter.
In black holes, here’s a picture of two black holes merging and emitting — spewing out
gravitational waves, which will be seen by detectors like this one, LIGO, one kilometer
arms on a side in — there are two such stations. And they will detect these signals produced
by gravitational — by black holes colliding. So Perimeter has joined LIGO, this experiment.
And — and there are other techniques using neutron stars. You — you observe neutron
stars and, essentially, use them as a giant gravity-wave telescope.
And these are some of the young people. This person, Avery Broderick, is the first person
to ever make an image of the black hole at the center of our galaxy. He did that last
year. And over the next few years, that image is going to become more and more refined so
that we really see the shadow of the black hole.
In quantum materials, just last week, and this goes back to Newton, we’ve just appointed
a chair at Perimeter called the Newton chair. One of the strange things is that there was
no chair in the world named for Isaac Newton. Just think about that. The founder of modern
science and mathematics and nobody thought to name a chair after him.
Well, we have. And we’ll be announcing four more chairs for Maxwell, Bohr, Einstein, and
Dirac, to really build strength and depth, so we have 50 faculty out of 250 researchers.
Because we have a saying at Perimeter that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s
technology. And if you look at history, it’s blindingly obvious this is the case.
Why should it not be true in the future? And we believe it will be.
This is what others are saying about us. And let me go back at the end to this picture.
I hope I have convinced you that there’s plenty of space for enterprise in the field of advanced
knowledge of sharing and creating advanced knowledge.
We need to — we need more of these places. We need more places in the world where people
generate important discoveries. And I would say thanks to companies like Google
and people like all of you, the world is speeding up. Traditional institutions like universities
and research centers move slowly. We need 21-century spaces and communities
which advance the frontiers of understanding and create the breakthroughs which will define
our future. Thank you.
[ Applause ]