Glamorous Multimedia Lifestyle Update

By Sean Carroll | June 22, 2007 10:15 pm

Yesterday morning I woke up moderately early to hie myself down to the NPR West studio in Culver City, where the magic of electromagnetism enabled me to participate in a BBC Radio 4 program, The Material World. Also appearing as a guest was Peter Woit, as we talked about — wait for it — string theory. It was fun, but to be honest, it wasn’t the most enlightening fifteen minutes I’ve ever spent, as too much time was spent talking about whether this ambitious scientific idea was overhyped or not, rather than making the effort to elucidate the idea’s successes and shortcomings in any substantive way. But perhaps I am just spoiled by blogs, where the constraints of time and space are felt much less keenly.

More interestingly, Peter in his post points to a blog I hadn’t heard of, The Atom Smashers. It’s by Clayton Brown, a filmmaker who is presently working on a documentary about particle physics. I won’t give too much away, except to encourage you to read it, and note that one of our bloggers plays a crucial role!

Then, a couple of hours after the BBC interview, I had a really interesting and fun meeting in Beverly Hills, which I’m not going to tell you about, or at least not now. Ha!

Tomorrow morning I will wake up truly early, in order to hop on a plane to scenic Billings, Montana, from which I’ll join an intrepid crew of bone hunters on a trip to the Kedesh Ranch in beautiful Shell, Wyoming. This is one of my occasional chances to join up with Project Exploration, as Paul Sereno and the gang lead some enthusiastic amateur paleontologists to dig up honest-to-goodness Jurrasic dinosaur fossils. I’ve done this a couple of times before, as recounted (naturally) in blog posts about the 2004 trip:

  1. Dinosaur Report I
  2. Dnosaur Report II

Here’s a picture of Paul and me, laughing in the face of danger as we stand astride an interesting geological formation:
Paul Sereno and Sean Carroll
Paul is the one who looks like a paleontologist in the field; I’m the one who looks like a theoretical physicist who someone dragged into the sunlight. He was also voted one of People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1997. But I am better at calculus!

Sadly, the seeming ubiquity of the internet has not managed to extend its way to the Kedesh Ranch. So no blogging. Cell phones don’t work there, either. In fact I’m pretty sure that this particular part of Wyoming is absolutely free of electromagnetic radiation of any sort. That’s the only explanation I can think of.

  • Joseph Smidt

    Good luck Jurrasic hunting.

  • nigel

    It looks as if you had some water directly underneath the rock, so even if it fractured, it’s hardly as if you had a thousand feet drop and then sharp rocks to land on. If it had started to break, you’d have had time to jump into the water at the side. Also, I can’t actually see the dinosaur fossils in that photo!

  • Peter Curran


    I had high hopes that when CERN switched on the LHC in November of this year, they would inadvertently create a black hole, thus increasing the sales of my book, ‘The Ancient Order of Moridura’ (with a related theme of a nascent singularity created by a meteorite impact in Extremadura).

    But then I realised that the extinction of the planet – and probably the solar system – would prevent me from collecting my royalties. Life can be unfair sometimes!

    However, doomsday has been postponed until April/May of 2008 because of problems with magnets.

    The Higgs boson must be chuckling quietly in interstellar space, its anonymity preserved for a little longer.


    Peter Curran
    Edinburgh, Scotland

  • Dave

    Dear Peter Curran,
    Let’s leave the ads for your book off of this blog. I will certainly not buy your book because I find your ads annoying.

  • Van

    Haven’t you heard the rumours that the Higgs has been found at Fermilab near 180 GeV?

  • JMG3Y

    FWIW, that is “sandrock”, a very common sedimentary rock in that neck of the woods, and I’m betting that they are standing over more rock, the stream channel forming a sharp bend behind them. Sandrock at Billings lays in deep beds cut through by the Yellowstone River, hence the river name, and forming such structures as Pompey’s Pillar, a National Monument named by Captain Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. It was lays on top of (is younger than) the K-T boundary so the dinosaur fossils are buried deep under it here. Downriver toward Glendive the Yellowstone has eroded through into the older Cretaceous formations, exposing rocks that contain the dinosaur fossils.

    To the east (Colstrip, MT) and southeast (Gillette, WY) of Billings the same geological processes (large shallow inland seas) that led to these rock formations also led to the formation of deep coal beds, such as those in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. These produce 25% of the US coal according to the “Powder River Basin” wikipedia entry, much of it burned for electricity production in midwest power plants. Flying over that country at 30K feet on a clear day you can see the open pit coal mines and the distinct color change in the rocks between the younger and the older.

    The “Roadside Geology of Montana”, a book in the series started by two U of Montana geologists, likely has a good description of the geology of the area.

  • citrine


    I notice that you are sporting what appear to be a black hat and a black t-shirt. For long stretches of outdoor work in the summer, isn’t white a better choice (as it is a better reflector of heat)?

  • Dylab

    There’s no electromagnetic radiation so it isn’t a problem.

  • Chris W.

    “.. absolutely free of electromagnetic radiation of any sort” — except the sort that is doing its damndest to turn skin cells cancerous in those disturbingly pink arms and legs of yours. Man, I hope you were wearing at least SPF 30!

  • citrine

    Chris W.

    Thanks for voicing my own thoughts in such an upfront manner :). It’s one thing to be a theoretician writing EM equations but one needs to keep in mind their practical ramifications. The mass extinction of dinosaurs supposedly happened due to excess EM radiation, right?

  • Penny


    You look very snazzy in your hat, and I truly enjoy reading your blog entries.

    However, I keep getting that weird message about too much CPU when I try to access this site. I had to try a couple of times before I could access this entry.

    Most frustrating!

  • island

    24 June, 2525
    …It was recently discovered that the mysterious mass extinction of Seancarrolls that occurred in the first decade of the second recorded century was caused by some strange unexplained combination of sunburn and sandrock astroids that rapidly, (almost instantly), made the environment too wet for the SC’s… It has long been suspected that the oily lotion-like substance found mixed with the DNA of these Black Crested Carrolls is what gave them the misleading, duck-out-of-water appearance…

  • Tim

    C’mon guys, give Sean a break. He’s a Carroll (like myself), which means he’s at least partially Irish and most Irish have fair skin.

  • island

    So am I, and I for one, wasn’t. I was making light humor out of what people had said, including Sean. Don’t be such a redhead… 😉

  • Mark

    On behalf of all people with predominantly Irish blood I say Fry you Freckled Fool, Fry!

  • Lab Lemming

    Just out of curiosity, during the winter months do you host a gaggle of professional paleontologists who come down to Caltech to do some amateur field theory over christmas break?

  • TBB

    I don’t feel so bad about being pale now!

    Off-topic: Sean, I was reminded of this thread and “smackdown” as it has been announced that:

    Merriam-Webster editors are giving the following words serious consideration for entry in a Merriam-Webster dictionary:

    * smackdown noun 1 : the act of knocking down or bringing down an opponent 2 : a contest in entertainment wrestling 3 : a decisive defeat 4 : a confrontation between rivals or competitors

    Officially speaking, you were ahead of the curve. :-)

  • Meghan

    Paul Sereno’s mom was my grade school art teacher, and he and his wife came in and gave a presentation the year they discovered Sue.

    Just further proof that it is an extremely small world.

  • Maynard Handley

    I hate to always be complaining but, honestly, a blog and a documentary called The ATOM Smashers is not going to attract any of my attention. I mean, even the military industrial complex could get its act together enough in the 50s to switch from atom bombs to nuclear weapons.

    Language matters, and as I grow older I have ever less patience with sloppy, or flatout inaccurate, language.

  • Pingback: Dinosaur Report III: The Journey Home | Cosmic Variance()


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About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] .


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