Sean Carroll speculates on the next big breakthrough in physics

Michael Brooks interviews Sean Carroll for New Scientist:

Are you enjoying the current popularity of physics that’s come as a result of discoveries like the Higgs boson and gravitational waves?

ScreenHunter_1855 Apr. 14 17.50It’s interesting, because physicists sort of ruled the 20th century with quantum mechanics, the atomic bomb and all sorts of technologies. We had the most political power and intellectual heft. Now the biologists are stealing that from us. Biology is advancing enormously quickly, and has a much more direct impact on our lives. But such advances – gene editing, for example – can be double-edged swords. In a sense, this works in favour of physics: the kinds of discoveries we’re making now don’t have immediate implications for technology or our everyday lives. No one’s worried about how the Higgs boson or gravitational waves are going to be used – they’re just really cool.

These physics breakthroughs have come from proving mathematical theorems. Should we continue to use maths to guide research?

It’s not just that mathematics is helpful in understanding nature, it’s the scientific methodology too. The bigger point is that these things illustrate the knowability of our world. There’s a quiet debate between people who think nature is fundamentally mysterious versus those who think it is fundamentally intelligible. These kinds of discoveries remind us is that our puny little brains have the power to make amazing predictions about far away and very difficult-to-access aspects of the natural universe.

More here.