Dr. Bram Boroson, assistant professor of Physics at Clayton State University, brings real conversations with modern day scientists to his Astronomy 1020 class.
Garrett Lisi, independent theoretical physicist best known for his paper titled “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything” which offers a start to a theory that may replace Superstring Theory, spoke with Boroson’s class recently through a video Skype call from his home office in Maui, Hi.
“We asked a range of questions, from technical, to Star Trek, to personal,” business major Katy Bell says.
Boroson had met Lisi in 2009 when the Clayton State professor was a post-doctoral researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. At the time, Lisi was already well known in the news for his theory that challenged the more mainstream Superstring Theory. When Boroson contacted Lisi about speaking to his class, Lisi was excited to be involved.
“While facts and math seem inhuman, personal connections make science less intimating,” Boroson explains. Speaking with Lisi allowed students to see how modern science is constantly growing, and how theories go through controversial phases, he adds.
Lisi’s nomadic lifestyle on the island of Maui also opened more possibilities about what it means to be a professional. The theoretical physicist began his work while living in a van and using a majority of his research through online articles. He is working to encourage other researchers to operate similarly in this now ever growing technologically savvy world by developing his own scientific institute that will board scientists in different beautiful locations while they research.
Casey Shultis, Clayton State business major, expressed, “It was inspiring how he didn’t go the same way as everyone else but is still successful.”
When a student asked what Lisi’s theory means for further innovations in science, Boroson responded with a scientific urban legend quote that has been attributed at times to James Clerk Maxwell, others to Benjamin Franklin, and even Michael Faraday. “When asked, what particular use is this electricity? He responded, what particular use is a newborn baby?”
One might ask Lisi what use it is to speak with aspiring students, but much the same answer would apply. A physicist surfer who goes with his own flow recognizes importance in understanding smaller parts of a bigger picture.
Boroson’s next virtual correspondents include Sarah Gibson and Mark Miesch, and husband and wife team of solar astronomers from the High Attitude Observatory in Boulder, Col., to shed some solar light on a more conventional track of scientists.