Interview with Lawrence Krauss. About Trump and Putin, USSR, dark energy, education and theology

In June, as part of the Geek Picnic festival, a scientist and rock star promoting science Lawrence Krauss , an American physicist, a specialist in astrophysics and cosmology, a professor-founder of the Department of Earth and Space Research and honorary director of the Origins project at Arizona State University, visited Moscow.
Our team and the Vert Dider team could not deny themselves the pleasure of interviewing this outstanding person. So, we present to you a version of the interview adapted for reading (and the video version is here ). Welcome under cat.

Vert Dider: First of all I would like to ask about your tweet , in which you said that you were in Russia the sixty-seventh last time.

You were a teenager then, the height of the Cold War. And how did a Canadian-American teenager manage to get to the USSR at that time?

Lawrence L. Krauss: I came as part of a group of schoolchildren from all over the world. I don’t know how it was all organized, but we came as part of a school group trip to Europe. We were in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) and in Moscow. Then everything was completely different - that's for sure.

VD: And how impressions?

L. Krauss: The former Soviet Union was quite specific. We are from America ... In some stores only American dollars were accepted. And only in them were "luxury goods", in simple shops - no. It seemed strange to me ... What else surprised me ... I don’t know, can I say that for television?

VD: Well, we are not television.

L. Krauss: OK. There were two things ... generally three that impressed me. I want to repeat one of them - this is a visit to Lenin's Mausoleum, then he struck me. I don’t know how it is now, but then the queues were there for kilometers, people stood in them for hours. But we just had ... The experience was one more. I now want to see if Lenin has changed much over fifty years.
Secondly, toilet paper in public toilets was paid, and it was sold by the ladies who were there. For a teenager, this is a big event. And one more thing ... Although, perhaps, two vivid memories are enough.

VD: Can you tell me?

L. Krauss: No, I think it is not worth it. But the situation was very unusual. The USSR was a closed community, and it was informative to look at it from the inside at that time. The daily lives of people are not very different: everywhere they try to earn a living, meet with friends, go to parties. And what's even better ... even in some sense, better than now, there was "fake news" ... and everyone knew that it was a lie. In the Soviet Union, everyone knew that the news hears "fiction". So they tried to listen to other sources ...


L. Krauss: Yes, for example, his. And now you can not figure out where the truth is. I just realized that you have a shirt, God! Well, okay ... (the operator was wearing a Krauss T-shirt. - Note. Ed. ) So it’s rather funny that they used to know that they were hearing a lie, but now everything is mixed up.

VD: This is our next question. On Twitter, you said you were expecting a change, and ...

L. Krauss: So, I need a photo of this T-shirt, I'm sorry to interrupt. Excellent at all! - I interrupt the recording of the interview to make a photo. So, that's great. I'll post this picture on Twitter, okay?

VD: So, you tweeted that you expected changes. About one already said ... Have you seen something else?

L. Krauss: Time was short. Something yes: the stores literally bloomed. There were large companies, bright signs, capitalism. I just arrived, so not much has been considered. Although then, of course, what we are doing with you now would not work. Information sharing around the world, open access to it - are extremely important. Yes, and a press conference a little earlier - so easy access to information was unthinkable fifty years ago. And that's what's interesting. I doubted, I didn’t expect that I would open up so much, but still - about two o'clock in the morning, when I finally got here, I turned on the computer and, it turns out, I can go to any site that I open from home. In China, for example, you no Google, no New York Times. I was struck by the scope of censorship in the country. I am glad that there is no such thing.

VD: We hope that this will not happen. One more thing about the changes. You are the chairman of the committee responsible for the Doomsday clock . As I heard - after recent political events, did you move the arrows?

L. Krauss: We moved the hand by thirty seconds, right. Now they show two and a half minutes to midnight.

VD: What were you guided by?

L. Krauss: One of the reasons is obviously Trump's election. Before the elections, he managed to make a ton of inappropriate statements about nuclear weapons, and besides, Vladimir Putin and the Russian government were more and more harsh on nuclear war. Trump said that, not against the use of nuclear weapons in Europe - the mind is not understandable! For now these are just words. Trump generally speaks first and then thinks. I don’t know if he even at least sometimes thinks about it in his affairs, but he doesn’t think, he doesn’t think so much, so you don’t have to listen much, words speak louder than words. But words are important when you are the new US president. The same with Putin. Empty loud statements are their statements. There is tension. You do not remember, but during the Cold War it was strongly felt. I thought that when the Cold War ended, there would be no reason for strained relations, and we would start cooperating normally. It is a pity that this did not happen, it is quite important. On the one hand, Donald Trump seems to have neglected international agreements, recommended Japan and Korea to build up weapons, did not approve of the nuclear agreement with Iran, and this is an important document. This is the first. Secondly, on the issue of nuclear weapons, we should not forget North Korea, which is developing ballistic missiles and it is not clear how the world will react to this. But beyond that, in the USA one party controls all branches of the government, and they do not recognize the reality of climate change. It is the only large, developed, industrialized country in the world in which those in power refuse to recognize climate change. I do not know how things are going in Russia ...

VD: Climate change, if I'm not mistaken, is not such a burning topic.

L. Krauss: This is not even the case, is the question whether the state denies the existence of the problem? US authorities say it is not.

VD: And Trump just left the Paris Agreement .

L. Krauss: Exactly, but we switched the clock before that. The clock was transferred back in January, and everything that has happened since then only confirms that we were right. We said that there was cause for concern, and now the United States has left the Paris agreement, although it cannot be said that it was a serious agreement - more words than deeds. But this meant something and it is very unfortunate that the United States in a sense took a step back. Perhaps the effect will be positive - more people will think about how to implement the agreement. It cannot be said that the world effectively avoided climate change; I am pessimistic about the development of this situation.

VD: Since climate change has now become part of the Doomsday, what can we do (people, society, you and I) to move the arrow back a little?

L. Krauss: Now, let me just add one more thing, it can be important: we also looked at new, developing technologies, which the press conference was devoted to (a press conference held in Moscow shortly before this interview. - Ed. . ), and for the first time new technologies have played a role in our decision to move the arrows. Namely, the problem of possible cyber war. At least the fact that during the elections in the USA there appeared reasons to doubt the democratic process. And this is a significant event: for the first time, technology has influenced a similar procedure. Not the fact that things get worse anymore, but we have noticed the phenomenon. And the only way to somehow cope with all these problems, not only with the climate, but with everything - is to connect people. People must be the driving force. World leaders do nothing in any of these areas. Attempts by political leaders to begin to solve the real problems of humanity fail miserably, in building up their nuclear potential, in changing climate, and partly in the danger of developing technologies. They can not lead. The only thing that will force them to act is the people who declare themselves out loud. So, we must first take up enlightenment, and this is one of the tasks of the Doomsday clock.

But world leaders, even with democracy, even without it ... the people are sending leaders, and not vice versa. People need to show that they are tired of inaction on climate change, that they are ready to act (to pay the carbon tax, for example), that people are tired, that the United States and Russia each have five thousand nuclear warheads, a thousand of which are always ready for launch. They can run in fifteen minutes, but what if the signal is false? It is stupid, in the modern world this should not be possible. This does not provide a strategic advantage. Both Russia and the United States will spend billions, if not trillions of dollars on the modernization of nuclear ammunition, and for what?

VD: Well, to balance ...

L. Krauss: But this will not make the world safer. They think they will, but it will be the opposite. Only if people show that he cares, will we go in the right direction. Unfortunately, everything in this room besides me (only the two of us are on the screen, but believe me, there are a lot of young people here) none of you grew up in an era when the threat of the use of nuclear weapons seemed real. But we can not relax, if you know what I mean. It can not be considered that it is in the past. Nuclear weapons are extremely dangerous, and the only way to avoid a real catastrophe is to reduce its number in all countries. But I, unfortunately, think that in this century, nuclear weapons will have time to use against the civilian population. This is terrible, but it seems to me more than likely.

VD: Where?

L. Krauss: There are quite a few options. Perhaps the terrorists, and perhaps India and Pakistan - they have tensions and a lot of nuclear weapons. North Korea is also ... It is difficult to say whether it will be a war between countries or some groupings, but the more nuclear weapons we have, the more dangerous in the world. Inspiring, isn't it?

VD: Hurray, the future is terrible! You have already touched on a very important topic of education, because, probably, this is how people of science can change something. And you!

L. Krauss: And people like you can too. It is hoped that such things will help convey something to people. Actually, that's why I'm here.

VD: We hope ... You and Neil DeGrasse Tyson quite regularly talk about how politics affects science: financing, control, legislation ... And how can science influence politics? Well, for example, can a scientist lead a state?

L. Krauss: I don’t think that a learned ruler will turn out much better than someone else. Science can influence policy in the way that it should do it - through information. It's simple: government policy should be based on empirical data. And the people should demand that all political decisions be based on science, because it makes reasonable predictions based on empirical data. From them it is worth repelling when you choose a line of action, and even more so government policy. I don’t think that scientists will make the best ... I don’t think scientists should make decisions. The people should - this is democracy. But the people should have information, as well as lawmakers. And the people must demand that their politicians, their leaders, provide the facts on which their decisions and subsequent actions are based. Or that they honestly say that they do not know something, this is very important, and moreover, there has never been such a situation when the politician says “I don’t know.” And they should say this phrase. Public policy is to use scientific data, and it is not at all the case when states do not turn to science or try to censor it, what happened in your country, and what is happening in the United States now. After all, then all politics turns into nonsense. Politics based on ideology or religion is doomed to be bad.

VD: But in order for people to force their government to follow science, they must first do it themselves.

L. Krauss: That's the point, for example, you talked about education. I am an enlightener. I often recall one phrase: “ If you only have a hammer from the tools, it seems that any problem is a nail .” I think that the solution to most problems lies in education. People should not be given a set of basic facts, they need to explain what science is and how to approach it. It is very important to educate young people so that children can distinguish truth from nonsense when, for example, they surf the Internet.

VD: Do you, as a teacher, have any advice? Something concrete, because there are no countries with an ideal education system.

L. Krauss: Yes, unfortunately ...

VD: Certainly not the United States or Russia.

L. Krauss: Right. It would be nice to have a magic wand and one way to solve all the problems. First, we need resources. The state should be ready to spend money on teachers in the first place. On technologies that are used in schools. But, more importantly, it seems to me that all training should be built on questions, not on answers. The ability to ask questions is the most important skill in the universe. And when a child asks a question, teachers should not only contribute to this, but also be ready to say "I do not know, let's look for an answer together." Then learning turns into research. And in the modern world, when your cell phone contains so much information that you don’t even need to go to school, teachers should inspire and motivate children to explore this “field of mind” / information world and learn to ask the right questions. This is the first.

Secondly, teachers should ... I always say that the biggest mistake a teacher can make is to think that the students are interested in what he is talking about. But this is true for everyone: for car dealers ... and for everyone in the world. If you want people to be interested in listening to you, you need to speak the same language. That's why I wrote Star Trek Physics because people are interested. Teachers should find out what the students are interested in and how to use it somehow, and still need to connect what is interesting to you. Often teachers think: “ Oh, no, it’s not worth talking about my interests .” But if you yourself do not show interest, how can you expect interest from listeners? I think this is what you need. And do not build yourself an expert. You can make mistakes, do not know the answer and inspire children to questions. Questions are the heart of science and knowledge. And too often, children in schools simply rewrite and memorize facts. And it is useless.

VD: A very important question from a person who has just finished school ...

L. Krauss: Are you talking about yourself?

VD: No, unfortunately ... As a teacher, what do you like more: blackboard and chalk or blackboard and marker?

L. Krauss: I like blackboard and chalk. Because I am a fossil.

VD: Is it easier with chalk? In fact, this issue is being actively discussed ...

L. Krauss: You see, there is a problem: when you get dirty with chalk, it is easier to wash it off than a trace from a marker, so. And if the chalk gets on the clothes, you can just shake off. But what is good in boards with markers - they allow you to use colors for clarity. But if you are honest and without sarcasm, I do not think that technology plays a role. Important content. And I think it is not necessary to use modern technology. Many people make mistakes, believing that without a computer and beautiful pictures you won’t be interested in people, and although there are always beautiful animations in scientific programs, there is no need for this, ideas are interesting. The task of the teacher is to make the children think. And it’s not so important how exactly if there is enough chalkboard with chalk - fine. Or even just words ... Much more important is what students do, not the teacher.

VD: What about inspiration, encouragement of children? How to inspire children who, as you said, are not interested in what you are talking about, do science?

L. Krauss: Well, I don't think everyone should be a scientist. Yes, first of all, there is no need to become a scientist, we are born that way. Every child learns the world by experimenting, playing, checking, putting his fingers into the fire and burning. All children are born scientists, and in schools we beat them out of them. All you need is to feed this innate interest in solving riddles, asking questions and exploring the world. And it seems to me that inspiring stories about amazing things. Science is interesting to all, people just do not understand that what they are interested in is science. So everything that I tell, I try to connect with movies, for example. For example, time travel science captures, just people are afraid of it and do not realize that they can understand a lot. So the main thing is to show that science is interesting, it has exciting ideas that it is not necessary to be an expert. One of the big problems of our society, at least in the US ... To love music you don't have to be Eric Clapton. To love art, do not need to be Pablo Picasso, you can love the theater, not being Shakespeare. But for some reason science cannot be loved if you are not a scientist. It seems that if you can’t become a specialist, you don’t need to understand her. I love music, although I am not Eric Clapton, I am able to enjoy it. You can also admire scientific ideas without being a scientist.

VD: We have, by the way, one of the questions about this, from one of the subscribers. He writes: “ To appreciate the beauty of a game of chess, you need to be able to play. To appreciate the work of Shakespeare, you need to know English. , , , . — ».

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L. Krauss:Well, that's a big question. We can all become science evangelists. From religion - more than enough. All that is needed is to ask questions. Ask yourself and others questions. And working together, trying to understand something. Helping people understand that science is important. You can go to school, communicate with your children, and refuse, I emphasize, refuse to take anything for granted. Refuse to accept anything without evidence. If you are a young scientist - do science. If you are interested in popularization, then you can communicate with small groups, but the more you know as a scientist, the more opportunities you will have. I do not think that every young scientist should run more likely to popularize science. If you have a talent - do science. But if you want to educate - exercise. Do it all the time, even without the audience. In due time I,in his youth he wrote a lot, as they say, "on the table." But I learned through practice. Checked whether my explanations work in public: friends, students, he worked in a science museum when he was young. It really helped. … , . , . , , , . . Everyday. , , : . : - , , , . — , , . . , , . , , , , , . .

VD: «». , ?

L. Krauss: , , , . , , … … , . , . , ? ? , ? , , . , — . Empty space has energy, and we have no idea why. I would like to know that. But I would like to know the answers to many other questions. As an acting scientist, I may be able to understand the nature of dark energy, or whether there was time before the Big Bang, but I also wonder how the brain works. The universe is a fascinating place full of amazing things. And as I often say: I am surprised every time, in which I was not surprised at anything. I love to be surprised.

VD: Do you plan to get the Nobel Prize?

L. Krauss:It would be great, the Nobel Prize is always good. But the reward is a relative thing. I have a lot of them, some I even deserve, some maybe not. Or deserved, but not received. Do not get hung up on rewards. I am proud ... here is an example: I was one of the first to realize that perhaps dark energy exists. But in the end, the prize went to my friends, who actually opened it. They proved that I was right. So that's great. But for me the greatest reward was that I was right. At some instant I understood what no one else knows. What can compare with this? Feynman said the same thing, but I did not believe him. But now I agree, for a scientist the greatest reward is an understanding of nature, and everything else is not at all obligatory things. Of course, it's nice to receive rewards and money, and to be in some sense a star,but all this should not be the ultimate goal. I hope this is not for me, but who knows?

VD: On the issue of not yet open and science. Finally, let's take quantum mechanics ... Quantum mechanics is strange. And, perhaps, only there is a true chance.

L. Krauss: Well, I am not sure about the accidents, but it is so strange that it is impossible to imagine, and I wrote about it. But we must understand that at the fundamental level, quantum mechanics is a deterministic theory .

VD: Seriously?

L. Krauss:Yes, the wave function is determined by a second-order differential equation. This means that if you set the initial conditions, the system behavior is predetermined to the very end. So quantum mechanics itself is a deterministic theory. Measurements ... they are probabilistic. The wave function gives us the probability of a particular measurement. The measurements are probabilistic, but they are based on a deterministic world.

VD: So the wave function turns from a probability into a fact?

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VD: , - ?

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VD: , , ? .

L. Krauss:With physics, everything is clear, and interpretation is just words. And yes, I am concerned about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, this is often asked. As my friend from Harvard told me, we need to interpret classical mechanics. The real world is quantum mechanics. But when you try to interpret it through, say, the “illusion of the classical world,” you get completely insane explanations. And this is normal, because the real world is quantum mechanics. Any interpretation will seem strange, but it is only an interpretation. You can explain the experience of Jung through a multi-world interpretation: every time I observe I find myself in one of the options, and so on ... It all sounds great. But these are only words, and quantum mechanics is an exact science that explains how the world works.

VD: - , « ». , - « , - ». , ?

L. Krauss:Philosophy is a useful tool. Any critical thinking is helpful. Philosophy can not replace science - this is the main thing. Philosophers, whom I call “good,” realize that philosophy is useful in certain areas, but it is not science. Philosophy allows you to comprehend the knowledge that science has received. Philosophy does not produce knowledge. Philosophy allows you to reflect on scientific achievements, empirical laws, interpret them, or ask new questions. Philosophy copes well with the formulation of questions about what we do not understand. Take, for example, consciousness, we still do not know so much about the processes occurring in the brain ... For me, philosophy helps to formulate similar questions and set the direction for research, this is important. But in physics, philosophers do not give scientists useful questions; this does not happen.
Physics has gone so far that the questions are asked by the physicists themselves. Philosophical speculations are strongly sidelined and they are not caught by physicists and do not affect them in any way. I'm not trying to belittle philosophy, it's just a fact - physicists don't read the philosophy of physics. They deal with issues that are determined by science itself, not philosophy. The fact is that physics is a very advanced science, with quite clear questions that are determined by experiments. It just ... it happened. I'm not trying to hurt anyone, but sometimes philosophers take offense at it.

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If religion did not satisfy some basic needs, it would not be so popular, durable and persistent. Another question is whether it is needed and can it be replaced with something? I would like to believe that a world is possible, which will be better, where we will not need fairy tales to live. And an example of such a world is the Startrek universe. . , , , , - . , . — . , , , , , . , , , , .

VD: . .

L. Krauss:Well yes. Will we wait for this? - I don't think so. Religion is also power, it is one of the institutions of our modern world. Institutions are always trying to survive. Religion is a serious business, among other things, so it’s hard to imagine ... It’s still sad that religion has access to youth. It hurts me that many parents consider it a good thing to take their children to church. Children are still too young to understand complex existential issues. And if since childhood you were forced to listen to all these lies, it is difficult then to stop believing. Religion has access to children, and as long as religious institutions influence the younger generation, they will not go anywhere.

VD: Speaking of children and religion. Often, as an argument in favor of religion, they say: “ How can death be explained to a child?". Without resorting to fabrications, how to explain that someone close died?

L. Krauss: Well, it is important to understand what is appropriate for children and what is not. But to lie only so as not to upset them? No, it’s ok if later at some moment we explain: “ You know, in childhood we told you like this, but ... ». : . , . , , . , , , , - . … , : , , . , (, ), . , , . . , , , , , , — . , , , . , , . , — . .

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