Perhaps more than any other scientific discipline, modern physics has revolutionized our understanding of the cosmos by tackling a number of age-old existential questions: How did the universe begin? How can something emerge from nothing? What is the fabric of reality? Why do the laws of physics seem to be uniquely suited for life on Earth? Do we live in a deterministic universe? For all its successes, physics has also uncovered new mysteries, from dark energy and dark matter to the perplexing properties of quantum mechanics and the possibility of multiple universes. While new discoveries have pushed us to the frontiers of science, they have also raised fundamental questions regarding what physics can ultimately reveal about the nature of our reality.
The great revolutions that shook 20th century physics transformed familiar ideas such as space and time, opening new pathways for understanding and interacting with the world around us. Today, however, we are left to wonder how to relate to dark matter, black holes, or the multiverse—concepts that appear to be wholly disconnected from us. Has modern physics lost touch with our basic intellectual and existential concerns? Can physics help us to understand what it means to be human, or are we merely insignificant specks in the cosmos? What, in other words, is the human significance of contemporary physics?
Moderated by Steve Paulson, journalist and Executive Producer of Wisconsin Public Radio’s To the Best of Our Knowledge, this intriguing three-part series brings together a wide array of leading physicists, philosophers, historians, and writers to explore the multiple scientific and philosophical dimensions suggested by modern physics, with an emphasis on understanding how recent scientific advances impact our enduring search for meaning. In doing so, the series will analyze and reflect upon the wider implications of these discoveries in a manner that seeks to render them more accessible to our daily lives.