Sean Carroll, a research professor of physics, has been named a 2015 Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Established in 1925, the Guggenheim Fellowship Program awards mid-career fellowships for those who have "demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts." This year, the Guggenheim Foundation awarded 173 fellowships, two of which went to physicists.
Carroll came to Caltech in 2006. His research interests are broadly spread across theoretical physics, ranging from cosmology and general relativity to quantum mechanics and particle physics. His proposal to the Guggenheim Foundation, titled "Emergent Structures and the Laws of Physics," focuses on the concept of emergence: how the deepest levels of reality—quantum mechanics, field theory, and space-time—are connected to higher and more complex phenomena, like statistical mechanics and organized structures.
"Since the very notion of complexity does not have a universally-agreed-upon definition, any progress we can make in understanding its basic features is potentially very important," Carroll says in his Guggenheim application.
Carroll has also done research into the relationship between philosophy and physics, particularly within the developing field of philosophy of cosmology. Studies in the field take philosophical approaches to traditional physics problems, such as the arrow of time—the idea that there is a distinction between past and future throughout the observable universe, although the laws of physics would be the same if the direction of time were reversed.
"While science was my first love and remains my primary passion, the philosophical desire to dig deep and ask fundamental questions continues to resonate strongly with me," Carroll says in the "Career Narrative" portion of his application. "I'm convinced that familiarity with modern philosophy of science can be invaluable to physicists trying to tackle questions at the foundations of the discipline."