Broadcast 3269 Dr. William Dawson

15 Feb 2019 Dr. William Dawson
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Guest:  Dr. William (Will) Dawson; Topics:  Dark matter, dark energy, physics research, black holes, research goals and legacy, gravitational waves, gravitational lensing and much more. 

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We welcomed  Dr. Will Dawson to the show to discuss both dark matter and dark energy during our one segment sixty-six minute discussion.  Dr. Dawson started out by discussing both dark matter and dark energy, then he told us why he chose to focus his research on dark matter.  This was an interesting and detailed discussion regarding both dark matter and dark energy, both of which are different and both of which seem to lead in different research directions.  We talked about both, the research, the unknowns, and the physics of dark matter and dark energy for most of the first half of the program.  Here is a link to a LLNL story about our guest and other researchers at LLNL regarding dark matter and the related dark energy research at the Lab:  https://www.llnl.gov/news/quest-source-black-hole-dark-matter.

Our guest discussed gravitation waves plus he brought the WIMP particle which stands for the "weakly interacting massive particle" which is thought to contribute to dark matter.  Dr. Dawson discussed this in detail along with a detailed black hole discussion including the creation of black holes.  Also referenced were galaxy clusters, gravitational waves, lensing and the inflationary model.  Don't miss all of what our guest had to say as it was most informative and educational, especially for those of us without an advanced physics background.

As our discussion evolved, Dr. Dawson got a few questions about research goals in this area since breakthrough discoveries were rare and progress was typically incremental and slow.  Will had much to say about research goals in physics, satisfaction, historical trends and progress.  He also talked about undertaking high risk high reward research, plus low odds research.  In a somewhat related question, he got an email from a Philadelphia listener wanting to know about supersymmetry.  The listener referenced a recent episode of the Big Bang Theory regarding Sheldon and his goal of getting a Nobel Prize in supersymmetry, finding out through citation research by Leonard that the concept had been refuted decades ago by a Russian scientist.  The question was about doing cutting edge research only to find out later that someone else did similar research years or decades earlier that may have refuted the current research or impacted it in ways not initially considered by the modern day researcher.  Dr. Dawson spoke to this and said finding previous research that refutes or impacts current research is common and he stressed the need to do comprehensive literature and citation/references searching just because of the probability that older research might exist that might influence the current research.  This was an important topic, especially when it resurfaced later in our discussion regarding researcher bias in his or her own work

John from Ft. Worth called to talk about black hole theory, the LHC in CERN, black hole mass range and radiation boundaries.  This was an interesting discussion so don't miss it.  I then asked Will about setting research priorities as a group or institution for say dark matter research.  Were there genre research priorities?  Will said yes and no, then went on to talk about research topics, the nature and importance of independent research, The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST which will soon be online, DOE and high energy physics, radical research ideas and acceptance, plus the idea of rogue physics research.  The rogue research question was asked in reference to what was recently reported in the news regarding cloning in China. Again, don't miss this unique discussion on these and other topics. 

Before our program came to an end, listener Paul asked Will what he wanted his legacy to be regarding his physics work.  Will suggested that it would be real stretch in goals to make a radical discovery though not impossible.  He did say he wanted to be responsible scientist, to build on the work of others in advancing the field and to be known for doing research that avoided bias.   We spent some time talking about research bias, how to avoid it and some of the steps Will applies to help avoid research bias.  Being skeptical was an important part of being able to avoid bias.  Will also talked about how to avoid being fooled by your own work.  I believe we can all apply what our guest said to our own work, including space advocacy.

Please post your comments/questions on TSS blog for this show.  You can reach Dr. Dawson through me or his website bio page at the LLNL.

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