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Quantum Field Theory and the Limits of Knowledge

Wednesday, December 7, 2022
11:00am to 12:00pm
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Caltech Consciousness & Reality Colloquium Series

Sean Carroll

Homewood Professor of Natural Philosophy, Johns Hopkins University

Quantum Field Theory (QFT) is the successful paradigm underlying modern theoretical physics, including the "Core Theory" of the Standard Model of particle physics plus Einstein's general relativity. I will argue that QFT, and in particular the notion of an "effective field theory," grants us a unique insight: each QFT model comes with a built-in specification of its domain of applicability. Hence, once a model is tested within some domain (of energies and interaction strengths), we can be confident that it will continue to be accurate within that domain. Currently, the Core Theory has been tested in regimes that include all of the energy scales relevant to the physics of everyday life (biology, chemistry, etc.). Therefore, we have reason to be confident that the laws of physics underlying the phenomena of everyday life are completely known.

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This lecture will be accessible to an interdisciplinary audience, and Caltech members from all divisions are welcome to join. Select questions from the Q&A window will be answered after the lecture.


The Consciousness & Reality colloquium series promotes interdisciplinary investigations on mind, cognition, consciousness, and the nature of reality. The colloquia will be held once a month.

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