Cosmology
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Episode 46
Featuring Brian Keating
Cosmologists stare into the abyss of space in an attempt to uncover the origins of the cosmos and the beginnings of time itself. However, they're often waylaid on their quest. Here, Brian Keating discusses the most remarkable discoveries in physics and the biases and incentives that are shredding the fabric of modern science.

When we think about competition, we don’t typically think about scientists. Instead of seeing these individuals as adversaries competing for fickle prizes or glory, we see them as impartial explorers of the cosmos. We see them as the selfless gatekeepers of knowledge. This view, as we are coming to learn, is more than a little askew.


The darker sides of science — the prejudices and egos and dubious incentives — are realities that we are forced to face almost as soon as we start investigating what it is that drives scientists in their pursuits.


And they are realities that Brian Keating knows all too well.


Keating is an astrophysicist at UC San Diego's Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences. He is also the author of Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor and is credited as being the driving force behind BICEP2, the most powerful cosmology telescope ever made. BICEP2 was tasked with answering some of the biggest questions in physics, such as how our cosmos came to be and what the universe was like at the beginning of time. Specifically, the telescope was created to detect the unique B-mode polarization signature of the cosmic microwave background (CMB), a byproduct of the cosmos’ first moments of expansion.


For a time, Keating and his team believed they had detected this signature. The work almost won Keating the Nobel Prize in Physics. Almost.


In this episode, Keating joins host Demetri Kofinas to walk us through the history of experimental cosmology and trace its course to modern science. He starts with an examination of the early geocentric models of the universe and shows how the scientific revolution, and the introduction of empiricism, altered the course of history and set us on the path to modern physics. The episode culminates with a discussion of what it is that drives scientists in their pursuits. From wealth to fame, from a genuine desire to understand the origins of the cosmos to an egotistical desire to wage war on religion, Keating outlines some of the most remarkable discoveries in physics and how biases and incentives are slowing innovation and shredding the fabric of modern science.

 

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hiddenforcespod

 

Brian Keating is an astrophysicist with UC San Diego’s Department of Physics. He and his team develop instrumentation to study the early universe at radio, microwave and infrared wavelengths. He is the author of over 100 scientific publications and holds two U.S.Patents. He received an NSF CAREER award in 2006 and a 2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers at the White House from President Bush for a telescope he invented and deployed at the U.S. South Pole Research Station called “BICEP".

 

Professor Keating became a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 2016. He co-leads the Simons Observatory Cosmic Microwave Background experiments in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and is the author of Losing the Nobel Prize: A Story of Cosmology, Ambition, and the Perils of Science's Highest Honor, selected as one of Amazon.com’s Ten Best Nonfiction Books of the Month and one of Nature Magazine’s Six Best Books of the Season.

 

@DrBrianKeating

BrianKeating.com

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