« Desert Island Discs

Professor Carlos Frenk

2018-06-10 | 🔗
Professor Carlos Frenk is a cosmologist and one of the originators of the Cold Dark Matter theory for the formation of galaxies and the structure of the universe. He has worked at Durham University since 1985, where he was appointed the inaugural Ogden Professor of Fundamental Physics in 2001 and has been Director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology since 2002. Born in Mexico in 1951, he is the son of a German Jewish immigrant father and a Mexican mother with Spanish roots. After completing his physics degree in Mexico, he came to Cambridge University in the mid-1970s to do a PhD in Astronomy. His first postgraduate job took him to the University of California where he worked on a computer simulation of the universe with three fellow cosmologists, disproving the idea that the universe contains hot dark matter and establishing the theory of cold dark matter instead. Professor Frenk's papers have received more than 100,000 citations, making him one of the most frequently cited authors in the field of space science and astronomy. He has won a number of prizes for his work, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. He was awarded a CBE in 2017. Presenter: Kirsty Young Producer: Cathy Drysdale.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is the bbc hello, I'm kirsty young welcome to desert on an discs where, every week I asked my guests to choose the eight tracks, the book and the luxury item that they want to take with them. If they were cast away on a desert island for rights reasons, the music on these podcast versions is shorter than in the original broadcast. You can find over two thousand more additions to listen to and download on the desert. Island discs website, Michael. today is the cause, professor Carlos Frank. Whilst most of us have fretting about office, politics
or how to get the most out of the lawn. He is kept awake at night, brooding on the origin and development of the universe, widely regarded as the most influential scientific minds of his generation. He spends is too An grappling with the galaxies and is one of the original of something called cold dark matter. Siri we'll get there he's predominantly interested in how gallic his form where the large scale structure of the universe comes from and what its face he works mostly building model universes using so of the most powerful supercomputers in the world born raised in mexico. He was beguiled at school by the elegance and beauty of mass. Takes going on to study at cambridge and in california. He has spent the last thirty years of his academic life at the university in durham, where the smallest room in his house boasts a magnificent view of the cathedral. He says there
nothing more beautiful than the universe. When you see something extraordinary, you want to share it, and I want to here. The magic and beauty of the universe with as many people as I can so welcome. Professor Frank, am, I think, all of us to a certain degree can appreciate that these stunning images that we occasionally see beamed back to earth from distant stars in Ghana, but most of us ass, because one are absolutely not scientists. How would you describe to us the magic of what you see when we look out of the universe? We see these wonders architecture that has emerged from what we know was very simple beginning. The big bang trying to understand that transition between the early simplicity of our universe and the beautiful complexity of the universe, which of course has not only Alex easy sties planets and people is what goes molluscs and the tendering say. You are a computer.
additional cosmology east, and that means that you spend a lot of time with these supercomputers modeling. Ideas. Your ideas in your teams, ideas of how the universe was built. What is involved in that and how much patience? Does it take because monitored is a unique science, because, unlike say by already chemistry of the rest of physics, we cannot do experiments, there's no way we can travel to a star and take its temperature or go to a galaxy and where it. So. What we do is relatively simple? We know the laws of physics, so what we do is we programme the computer to solve the equations of physics. Computers are very good at that. and then you lead ingredients that we need is to tell the computer what we call He shook conditions ones, you know the beginning state, then the computer, yes chunks away solving equations, but of course
before that that often many years of writing the computer codes of coaxing the computer to the bug it then you programme at all, and you wait several months. perhaps a year, no more than a year really because our patience is limited, you have a vague optimist, face and a very light spirits. I notice that you commented it. Would you have to have that to do your work? Well, yes, I think of knowledge is not for the depressive. It would be very difficult to be the press when you witness. The wonders of the universe is not used what we can see with her eyes and we begin to understand the youth, fascinating phenomena that have occurred in the universe. You become an optimist, even if you went to begin with, but because you you do need basis, then have to be resilient because, most of the time you fail what about it is music play. A part in your life is ill music. I love music by early days, will use filled with music because half
I finally admission. Ok, we'll tell me what your first piece of music and what are we gonna hear wifey chestnut. My first piece of music is part of the magic flute which is my favorite opera and it's an area the queen of an right where you see the whole power of opera. You see the drama, see the tension, you see the wonderful melody, and you see the challenge that these particular area poses to the soprano
Mary. meaning the queen of the night area from the three broadcasts of Mozart's magic flute performed in April of twenty fifteen, the sailors there was and she means go with. The royal opera has orchestra and corliss conducted by Cornelius my step so, professor those frank? It is my understanding here we go and do correct me if I'm wrong five percent of the universe
lists, of something known as ordinary matter. That's all the things we can actually see. Twenty five percent consists of dark matter. Seventy percent is what's been termed, dark energy, which is nothing like dark matter. Am I right so far, you're, absolutely right. So fine example, once more be the bovine pretend ethan need ordinary matter. Right is the method that we and stars and planets are made of the elements that we learn about chemistry and periodic table, but actually more Of the ordinary method itself is, in fact, not visible because he's not in the form of stars. dark matter then, which is europe preoccupied ass it creates clusters. Is that right? Is it attracts bogdan repels, exactly so with us that dark energy pushes the dogmatic pools, dogmatic, produces gravity and the reason why dagmar it is sold? crucial is because, as I like to see what here, thanks to it, because all
structure in the universe is produced as a result of the gravitational attraction off the dogmatic, so without dark matter. Galaxies would have never. Formed. I described in my introduction rather carefully as you're cold, dark matter siri, because the because this is what you believe to be true, yes, but it has yet to be proven. Well, this is where the concept of evidence becomes so interesting. I'm a practical person, and I think that until an experimental, physicists, just one of these callback right particles and brings it to me, I won't be completely convinced that it exists, but the circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Let me just say one thing: in physics, we are free to put word ideas and it doesn't minded davy S, crazy. That's fine! You stick it paid at the end of the month. So long as your is testable empirically the idea that the dogmatism,
that money and that it is the agent that gave rise to structuring the universe, is eminently testable. But to explain this, we need to go back emir. Thirteen point: seven billion years of canvas here, backing to the big bang that the big bang was full of radiation and the early phases of our universe. What opaque, however, when the universe was three hundred and eighty thousand years old, which sounds a lot by standards, but I it is only the human equivalent of one day if we scale to human life thing at that point, the universe became transparent and the particles of light. The radiation of the big bang was free to us ape that radiation was discovered on earth in nineteen sixty seven,
These were the asian can now be studied in tremendous detail and in printed in the progress of these radiation is information about the contents of our universe. That's why we know this five percent, ordinary matter. Twenty five percent are mighty. Seventy percent that Kennedy is because of the things that are establishing these radiation, whilst we less artlessness allow that to shake out in their heads were going to listen to you next piece of music. Tell me about your second. This than I was born in mexico and the central type of mexican music is my reaction music and it captures the essence of the mexican soul. The song I chosen is cool. It's on in a europe which means that the son of the black woman of the black here in this context, we means dark woman and negative is a term of endearment that makes you can use often too referred to people they love, and it's about a man
who says too dark scheme woman say yes to everyone, just don't tell him when that's what she said to me and that's why leaving torpid joyous music, but just happens that damn my dad, who easy german emigre ones, these piece of music, played his kennel somnolent performed by maria and so cuddle. Professor com,
thank you have to share with the looseness. What you just shared with me, can you just repeat: foolishness what you got it? Yes, so the particles of light from the big bang have been troubling or unimpeded for thirteen point four billion years, if you stand outside Instead, you hand out using money to his night or day they will be for every square. Centimeter of your hand, hundred particles of light that we called photons hitting your hand and these particles that I've been traveling since a big bang. They have not hear anything. Having dinner it was nothing until the hit you hand, so you can have your own unique interaction with the cosmos in that way. Yes, you don't feel anything, but you have to recognise that you'd being bathed in the light of the big bang for an incredible We are focusing today in your focus is asking you what I'm asking very difficult lessons, but you spend your life asking difficult questions about the universe. When did that begin? Where you one of those little guys who was sort of always asking
questions but of virginia. Finally, I was even somewhat obnoxious little kid well, because I was curious- I own, I think all children acute- is always a little bit more outspoken that many, but my face memories. Actually a very standing in the garden just marvelling at worms and other insects, but in due course site and rolling The school of engineering! Actually, you mentioned that sir, your father was german. He had fled persecution in germany in the very early thirties headed the end up in mexico. Well, my friend he's ninety four years old and I use retirement. Actually, after seventy years working ass, a doktor, he emigrated age, seven with his mother father anne sister. They were originally going to canada, but the story that my grandmother tell susceptible to into bookshop to buy a guy to Canada.
Already the boat tickets for canada and had a collision with a very charming lady who tend to be mexican and convince her and then took her to the embassy which he worked, that mexico with much warmer under hostile, double plays in canada and adjusting the lamented the change of mind and ended up in mexico in I was born ass, an excellent, and so you the eldest son of six siblings, not the eldest child, though what do you recall of that very early family life than in mexico? Well My family life was fascinating because there was this very year some way Congress combination of the german jewish side of my father with the mexican spanish catholic side of my mother, but the family was also split in that half of my family doctors. My grandfather was a doctor,
other. My sister is the doktor. My brother, another of my sisters and molecular biology is the other side where the musicians, my mom, was a pianist. Two of my sisters had professional the musicians and my other systems, not a professional musician, but she sings wonderfully. I did not evade the mythical fell into the family. The sight of blood made me faint, saw was there a miscarriage and just like my ancestors, there was only one way for me, which was to emigrate, and I ended up in this country more to come. Professor cut his friend tell me about your. we're gonna hear discs. Rina will discuss three. It's a piano contrived, a number twenty by muttered, and that is a piece of music that is possibly the one plus
my heart, because that's the conjecture that my mother played with an auction and mexico when she was seventeen and to add that same ghana contractor was played fifty years later by my sister terry, who says in concert pianist with It makes it an orchestra as well. When did you last heal your mother planet? Well, something remarked. what happened last year, when my wife, Susan and I went to visit my parents, my father, the door and we came in- and there was my mom- was all now. Eighty eight years old, I sat at these grand piano playing bottle. Conjectures number twenty from memory. The skill was still there and, above all, the emotion was still. There will listen until it finished and my dad said she hasn't play these forty
that was my sounds piano concerto number. Twenty two second movement play their by your sister, terry from with the national autumn, the university of mexico's philharmonic orchestra conducted by enrique burials- u yours are seeing their kind of strange. You can listen to that all day. principally I imagine because it's your sister, it strikes me as you describe your family. This was a family You were born into of terrifically high achievers. What were you expect to do? Well in school? Oh yes, we would definitely expected to do well women who told off my dad when even look at it report guides, but somehow he was expected by the teachers. He was expected by everybody that damn, if you came from these family had while we had to play the game under study, and try to keep up with expectation, and so you mentioned studying engineering. He started off at the university of mexico that didn't really worked out. So what? What did you end up study when I went to physics
the engineering professors told me your misfit here going steady physics, you ezra questions. You went in a why. We can only tell you how- and it was like a rebirth for me, because that was what I belong. That's the air I wanted to breathe to me. It was just a revelation because of the intrinsic beauty of the laws of nature and the logic of it all and the power of size. The fact we can use physics to understand how nature works, and so after graduation you secured a british cancel fellowship. We went to cambridge to do you phd that was run about nineteen. Seventy six in terms of not signs but culture. You know things were kicking off. Punk was exploding. How did you find it arising in Britain? well coming from one of the most modern cities in the world. Suddenly He being emerged in almost medieval times with quite a shock, but one that I took two very well. I was fascinated by tradition by the beauty of the old buildings. A few things grated with me lay the fact that
the whole of kings college, and I was a student. I would only about two or three showers, and that was about it, and I remember that his gates, ain't me. Where were you need more steam thoroughly here for eight weeks at a time, ass, god of things, I thought what a bit odd tell me that you next piece of music Alice, frank, the beatles elinor ribby the beatles were crucial musical influence during my teenage years, and every friday afternoon would get together to listen to beetles music and we even form the band. I have no musical talent. I play the guitar. I stay scratched the guitar, not that we would have been able to play eleanor wrigley, because there's no guitar in alone are ready and that's one of the resources with such a revolutionary piece of music, because there's no bob back up. There is just orchestra, music, this played by a string of debt and unlike most from music, which used to be about love and passion, and things like that in a rigged me
he's about loneliness and death was true. Turning point in the development of music up her eyes in charge were a wedding, the winner wearing a job oh welcome from tools and Elinor would be- which is mentioned to me during that professor Carlos Frank, about this. The cultural step change that the beatles in their music marked, where you somebody who was a rebel, absolutely says that scientists sceptics, but the main thing is you have to be a rebel because otherwise you don't
tribute to new ideas and he's very lucky, because when I started working cosmology the subject of cosmology then even exist. At least he wasn't a discipline and is not a reputable one, and that was terrific. There were none, forty days there were no eminent scientists that we had to look up. Do we could invent- and we could the eight new ideas and new techniques, and you met You did do something rather conventional due in the late seventies, because you know celebrating forty years of marriage. You got married to Susan, you met at cambridge and you got married quite quickly. Oh yes to everybody! scepticism is, I think, a friends we're making better to come along. These mileage would last related longest one with nine months we met and gave me she was an underground hate, her was it postgraduate and them there was some chemistry there that still very much with us today, you travel together in the early years of your marriage to berkeley in california at the beginning of the eighties, and at the time this first attempt to map the galaxies
The universe was going on, and am I right in thinking that the research, when that I am also revealed that galaxies kind of congregate in light of webs? Why is that interesting and important? Well, interestingly, when I arrived in berkeley mike babies had completed the biggest area of the time had realized that galaxies another street at random. They make up what with today called the cosmic web right, and he said to me: we ve hire you to figure out how these came to be This is more than ever. I was very lucky. I was surrounded by a group of really talented collar, and the only way we realise we could answer might babies. This question was by developing this technique. That is now in widespread use of computer simulations, and what do these path in the calls me with tells us something very intimate above the universe. It tells us about phenomena that happen a tiny fraction of a second.
after our universe came into existence. Does that have an emotional impact on you? Well, I still remember, when you spend months years, running a computer program to stimulate the universe when you get an image that comes out of the computer. With the fairest, realistic universe. This is what you do size you doesn't happen often, I'm very lucky. I then put it very well that the science is ninety nine percent perspiration. One percent inspiration you have these moments of relation suddenly realized? Yes, that's it. I've had a few of those me my life. That was one. That's goes the music professor. and I think we are on your face of the day, but this is our greatest I'll. Have him, which means thanks to life, written by h, lan composer of you, let the para. She wrote these in the nineteen seventies,
at a time of effervescence in latin america, and you let the para Thanks life furtively gives life has given here than the first gift. She thanks life for he's got eyes with which she can see the stars in the sky and the man. She loves that he's a tragic side to the song, because some of you let the by a few months of the writing these owed to life, she aged forty, nine. two can on life. Why and nobody knows, but does this was farewell cs media this Dollar benefit through this thing, Let us hear
you less poor people. alone, yes levied on written by Violeta, potter and sung, thereby mercedes saucer. Professor Carlos frank, this is a cheeky question. What's the biggest thing so far that you ve got wrong the universe, All thing tell me in your work. What's the thing what you saw, I thought that looks. That's not true. Well, when we started My colleagues and I tried to replicate humbly the creation of the universe. We thought that the first thing to try would be to assume that the dark matter was made of I meant that particles but particles that at least we knew existed. These elusive particles call neutrinos, also known as well. Like my dad and we then programme a computer to tell us what the universe would look like and out came a failure, innovation,
now me being an optimist. I was trying to see the good angle and look it's not so bad, and my colleagues who said to me forget it. This is wrong, but that's the way science advances. How many years ago is that that was nineteen. Eighty three, but perhaps the biggest failure was some. I long to the idea that there was no such thing as dark energy and fortunately, astronomers, went and found these dark and, that spoils the party and I was forced to recant publicly at the end of the conference and up and acknowledge that dying technical terms. The universe did not have a critical density, as we call it. Then side to me was the biggest shock of my life is the only time in my life what I've actually have been kept awake at night. Thinking. How did you do this to me? What have we done in that failure? Then What did it led to questioning? But it wasn't my bad luck to live in a universe
only noisy, didn't wonder if you add up to the job Well, you as I do that almost every day, insecurity and the lack of confidence is something that I think even the greatest scientists, which I am not one of them, but experience at some point in their life because science, his heart, a science, is challenging and science is full of failure. Tell me about your six piece of music What are we gonna hear? My six piece of music is one the green dominated my I'm late, teens and early twenties, it's a bit of inside triple concerto, and the recently was so important to me is not only because this beautiful music, but I like the whole structure of these concerto, where the three instruments that are competing with one another. It's almost like fencing.
One another. They build up this tension. Yorkists then join seen as his wait a minute, I'm part of these two, but in the end everything is resolved and that I think, reflected by feelings ass, a teenager of insecurity in the conflict, sure not only what and when I I guess the optimism of these complex and eventually result in a peaceful and happy way
part of the heavens triple consensus. Certain movement performed by union marked Daniel Burton buoyant and it's a problem with the berlin philharmonic professor Frankie, you said, wants that you do believe in god, but not while I'm working tell me more about that. Well, I think that one of the most stir, Amazing things. I've discovered, as it goes, is that dumb the very same laws of physics that govern phenomena here on earth. For some reason, these laws apply not just in a laboratory. He's here on earth, but everywhere, at all times, and in all places I hit is we ve got- is to be found in the universality individually. parity of our universe. I mean. Are you a religious person? Do you think there is something greater? I guess I think that dumb god was a physicist I don't see how the
or that of the universe, can be explained intrinsically within the universe itself. Now I should case and to add that in physics, without provide you with any evidence in favour or against god, so physics is limited in his reach. It has some very well defined questions and god is not part of those. So that's why I only talk about god. Out of ours. I understood to be. Europe was look at the universe back to me this and he has one conclusion. I see, for us mere mortals, the people who are not cosmology S. I get the sense that there can He certainly for me and other people have chastity a considerable existential overwhelm when we look at what you do and it can feel that life here on earth ass might be without much point. You know if we are the tiniest of contributors to the greater scientific picture. Do you understand? I understand exactly brick
we tell you might might taken these now we live in a galaxy, the milky way we trouser tens of billions of stars. There are hundreds billions of galaxies, like the milky way within a visible universe, so you're right what an insignificant part of the universe. Yet this insignificant component of the universe, for reasons that I don't fully understand, has developed the ability to study the universe and the ability to understand it. To me, these are the great this gift we have as human
tell me about your sentence, piece of music kind of living. My seven piece of music is simply by mendelson mendelson somebody. I identify very much with like my father. He was born in hamburg. Like my family, he experienced anti semitism. Like my grandfather, he was baptist even though he was jewish. Like me, he was an angry file and that's why I have chosen the scottish symphony. Scotland is a country very close to my heart because a scotland's giving me the grid,
gift. I've had my wife's
that was the second movement of mendelson scottish symphony, performed by the scottish chamber orchestra conducted by Joseph swenson. You said a moment: go. You were saying. If you aren't, you know what happened to be one of the world's greatest scientists, I'm not one of the world's greatest sizes. I think a lot of people would argue with you about that, and I am very interested that one of the world's greatest scientists has chosen for the last few decades since nineteen eighty five to make their whom durham university. What was it
durham university. What is it about durham? That means that you want to continue work. They because you have made it a centre of absolute world excellence, foreclose malagigi, but thank you done. It misses the wonderful place, the university is much smaller than game reach at oxford. So there's much more opportunity for things to be done. I was very lucky to attract many very talented people. The seat is beautiful and the people are so great, friendly hospitable open. I just add that I have nothing more to say about dunham apart from the web, but yeah, and even you can't fix that and I dont know density how much contact you have with students, but what an important message to you in part about how they should conduct themselves and their science
tell them that they should not listen to what I say that they should not do what I tell them that they should rebuild because sir, I am now a member of the establishment and progress will come by killing off the establishment. That's how science progresses they encourage them to be rebels. I encourage them to do their own thing. You have what very collaboratively over the decades. When I cast your way, you're going to be all alone on this island. How will you be with your own company? Well, I you will love have to then a new way of living, because I'm by major gregarious person, I like to talk a lot, as you have probably appreciate it, so you we'll be hard, but there are other parts of oneself that, when discoveries, when one is put in a situation like that of a castaway in that case,
let's go to the comfort of the music and hear your eighth. What's it going to be kind of strength, but my choice is say you very simple bees that Robert Schuman road for these three daughters and is very close to my heart because map two sons, both of whom many gifted musicians David, would play any when you put in front of him a steve any said really billion drama, but David played these bees. Would it be he programme twenty years ago called the stephen hawking universe. I remember talking to the producer. I said the universe may be very big, This essentially simple, like my son, who was twelve at the time, and he was very complex impossible for me to understand she like that, and she got him to play. Schumann's melody for the stephen hawking programme.
Robert Schuman melody, perform their by recall Golda it's time for me to cost you awake on us, you will go empty handed. I'm gonna give you some books, you get the bible and the complete works of shakespeare and you gets take a book of your own along with those two what're you gonna take when I'm like big, we complete works, completing in poetry by and argentinian righted, jorge Luis borges. So complex has laid upon layer upon layer of meaning, so you can read it time: time again and every time it would be like reading it again, that's here's than your load, a luxury. When my looks you know besides we be that original had sure or the people have wanted to bring a telescope. But my telescope is a real luxury, because it's not just the telescope. It has done I imagine this island will be very hot during the day. I will then, in the dome and have some shave it. I would cover a comfortable chair pictures
and during the day we are really stretching it now and at night. I will look at the stars and try to wonder how the universe came to be so. Can we call that a planetary? Would that be fair? Yes, a planet enemies and more fit description for what I want as my lucky. Well, we ve given the british life, before now, and that was a mistake so I'll give you manage area, finally, which of these eight tracks. Would you like to save? I think I'm going to take the magic flute. The queen of the night is yours, then Carlos frank, professor conniston, Thank you very much for letting us here. Your desert island discs, pleasure. I hope you enjoy that falling into the stars with Carlos
if you'd like to hear more from people who studied cosmos in the treasure trove, but is the desert island discs back catalogue, you'll find additions with professor stephen hawking, professor compellingly and colonel rebellion in twenty ten? I spoke to space scientist, maggie adieu and poked. If said, magdalen per cop, that you consider yourself a very special relationship with the moon, the army, about mass. I think I am a bit of a lunatic literally, yet I find it. Miss is forbidden mostly slave there's. No, atmosphere and you'd have to walk or handed spacesuits all the time, but I think I might beautiful. You started this this wonderment in this fascination. With space a pretty early, will you teenager when you wanted to learn telescope home? I was about fifty when I made my intel escape. I wanted one from london that actually bought one, but it wasn't very good for it on with it suffered from something
chromatic aberration? So let me go looking at the moon. You have multiple images of the moon or made out in different colours and so that most people just put in the corner of the room and decided to save up for something else. You didn't you decide to make your own. Tell us this quite fatuity, because I was living in camden in london and I telescope, making classes in an adult education centre telescope making closest. Yes, that's what I think it's not very hard at all. It takes a while, but you can make your in telescope. How long does it take to took? Probably we have six months, because what you do is you actually grind your own mirror, and that was what made so wonderful. This is something I made myself. Did it work a date? yes I'm to create it myself and to look at the moon and see the greatest jump out. It was just magical a few years ago, ulitsa team working on something called the gemini observatory in chile. That was an interesting and quite solitary time for you. Can you explain a little of that that you might say
The tree is a beautiful eight me to tell escape in chile, eight metres telescope that some, the largest houseguest we have when you see eight metres, is that the diameter of the land of the damage of the mirror lenses, because the right policy through them, you can get sort of corruption of the night passing through if you use or effective surface, because the light points is off in get much better image. So much the big temiskaming talk about these days are mirrors. I call a telescopes like gathering buckets and the bigger the bucket immortal you can get into the fainter objects in the further you can see out and the work that you will do new you weren't changing the information that was coming to you, but you were analyzing it in a more detailed way. Lies with a teller that large you get so much light. What you want you want to do is analyze that light runs, and
can invest cottage london building an instrument that would achieve link up with the telescope quota, spectrograph and ethically it is, it makes rabies, so it takes the starlight from billions of miles away, puts through various optics stretches the light I into its rainbow colours and from that you got you work out was happening in the heart of a star. They can see. Chemical reactions got easy pats, cows of gas between us and the star, as it gives us a very detailed analysis by looking at its rainbow light, maggie adele and poked my next time with the world cup taking place in russia, my guest will be voice of football, John watson- I hope you can to us. This is the baby.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-11.