0101: An Exceptionally Splendid Discussion of Everything with Garrett Lisi (Interview)

E8 root system

E8: with each root assigned to an elementary particle field.

One sunny afternoon on Maui, I had the honor of sitting down with theoretical physicist Garrett Lisi for an exceptionally splendid discussion of everything.

UPDATE: In the intervening years since this interview came out, my old podcast, Aravinda Show, has been retired. To listen to this classic episode, see the episode list over at the podcast page →

When I’d landed on Maui a few weeks before, I’d hoped that he would be up for a short interview with a fellow truth-seeker, but I was shocked when he went so far as to invite me over for lunch.

What I originally planned to be a rather short interview grew into a much deeper discussion of the nature of everything, whether or not there are other universes, and Garrett’s plan for a flagship “science hostel” — an idea whose time has certainly come.

I had also originally planned to transcribe this interview into text, but after attempting it, I realized I didn’t enjoy the result nearly as much. Too much of the flavor and personality (not to mention humor!) of the moment was lost, so I set about painstakingly editing 108 minutes down to a tight 67 minute interview.

Today, I present the exceptional result, which features a surprise visit by his long-time girlfriend Crystal. At the time, I had no idea this would become the first episode of The Aravinda Show, but when I considered I’d been preparing for a proper interview podcast for months, I realized this would be a good “pilot” episode for the show, which is a natural companion to this blog and the rest of my work. So that’s what “101” means: season 1, episode 1.

Our interview starts with a short discussion of how everything changed because of the internet (and specifically ArXiv.org), which helped set into motion the events that would lead to Garrett giving his famous TED Talk, now with over 1,300,000 views! (The conversation really hits its stride about 16 minutes in, so keep in mind that it’s all building up to something, including some excellent observations on investing and leveraging wealth.)

In fact, if you haven’t seen his remarkable TED Talk, that would be a good place to start. (It’s probably the most remarkably beautiful one you’ll ever see.) And then, enjoy the interview at the bottom of this article.

Pretty amazing. Now, enjoy the interview, which is over here. And thanks so much to Garrett for being so graceful and allowing this interview to be possible. I’ve interviewed a lot of people over the years, and I haven’t had that much fun in a long, long time. Garrett is a true gentleman.

More episodes to follow, recorded with my new mic, no less.

Questions Addressed

Doves in an Elvish Tree painting

A painting by Garrett’s girlfriend Crystal that I mention

  • How does a physicist detach from any bias they may have?
  • What does a Lie Group actually look like?
  • What would a Theory of Everything tell us?
  • Could the Universe be a massive simulation?
  • Why are YOU the most atypical creature?
  • How to find balance between work and play on Maui?
  • What does it mean if our universe is infinitely old?
  • Why is it unhelpful to make cosmological analogies?
  • Are there really other universes?
  • What is the smartest way to invest your money?

Show Notes

  1. Garrett’s website: [http://li.si]
  2. “An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything” on ArXiv.org: [https://arxiv.org/abs/0711.0770]
  3. “Garrett Lisi: An 8-dimensional Model of the Universe” TED Talk: [http://www.ted.com/talks/garrett_lisi_on_his_theory_of_everything] (with over 1.3M views)
  4. The New Yorker article we referenced, called “Surfing the Universe” by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, is here: [http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/07/21/surfing-the-universe]
  5. Garrett’s Science Hostel website: [http://www.pacificscienceinstitute.org]