Lawrence Krauss Presents “Secular Sermon” on Theoretical Physics and the Meaning of Life

Alain de Bot­ton, the writer who “has always tried to get ideas to impact on the way we actu­al­ly live,” start­ed The School of Life in order to offer an edu­ca­tion craft­ed “accord­ing to things we all tend to care about: careers, rela­tion­ships, pol­i­tics, trav­els, fam­i­lies.” At its cen­tral Lon­don loca­tion, you can enroll in cours­es like “How to Have Bet­ter Con­ver­sa­tions,” “How to Bal­ance Work with Life,” and, per­haps most crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant of all,  “How to Be Cool.” This seems like just the sort of insti­tu­tion which won’t con­front you with the sort of numer­i­cal­ly rig­or­ous, seem­ing­ly abstract math and sci­ence class­es that gave us grief in our reg­u­lar edu­ca­tions. Yet de Bot­ton and his School of Life co-founders under­stand that just because a sub­ject assigns aggra­vat­ing home­work does­n’t mark it out as irrel­e­vant. Accord­ing to Lawrence Krauss, Foun­da­tion Pro­fes­sor in the School of Earth and Space Explo­ration and Physics Depart­ments at Ari­zona State Uni­ver­si­ty and direc­tor of the Ori­gins Ini­tia­tive, physics could hard­ly have more to do with your dai­ly expe­ri­ences.

The School of Life brought Krauss to Lon­don’s Con­way Hall to deliv­er one of their sig­na­ture “Sec­u­lar Ser­mons.” (De Bot­ton, you may know, recent­ly pub­lished a man­i­festo call­ing for a reli­gion for athe­ists.) You can watch his 45-minute pre­sen­ta­tion free online and learn how sci­ence, as he tells it, both describes and offers an escape from real­i­ty. Using exam­ples from his field of physics, Krauss demon­strates how sci­ence, by zoom­ing in as close as pos­si­ble or zoom­ing out as far as pos­si­ble, puts our every­day con­cerns and quib­bles in prop­er con­text. What’s more, he notes,physics has it that we’re all made up of the same bits and pieces as every­thing, and thus every­one, else. Have you ever heard a more ele­gant argu­ment for the notion of uni­ver­sal con­nect­ed­ness? But this isn’t to say that Krauss mar­shals the fruits of such rig­or­ous study in the name of warm-and-fuzzy pro­nounce­ments. When you hear him declare how physics will make you under­stand that “you’re even more insignif­i­cant than you thought,” you’ll know just how far his sen­si­bil­i­ty lays from either warmth or fuzzi­ness. The life of a physi­cist, so I’ve heard, ben­e­fits from a lit­tle gal­lows humor.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Lawrence Krauss: Every Atom in Your Body Comes From a Star

Lawrence Krauss Explains How You Get ‘A Uni­verse From Noth­ing’

Lawrence Krauss on the Mys­te­ri­ous Allure of Extra Dimen­sions

Life-Affirm­ing Talks by Cul­tur­al Mav­er­icks Pre­sent­ed at The School of Life

Alain de Bot­ton Wants a Reli­gion for Athe­ists: Intro­duc­ing Athe­ism 2.0

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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