Eva Silverstein’s Spirals and Strings

Grand ideas have a way of turning up in unusual settings, far from an office or a chalkboard. Months ago, Quanta Magazine set out to photograph some of the world’s most accomplished scientists and mathematicians, including Eva Silverstein, former Member in the School of Natural Sciences, in their favorite places to think, tinker and create. This series explores the role of cherished spaces — public or private, spare or crowded, inside or out — in clearing a path to inspiration.

“My ideal day,” wrote Eva Silverstein, a leading string cosmologist and a professor at Stanford University and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), in an email to Quanta Magazine, “starts with a couple hours of uninterrupted thinking at home, then some midmorning exercise (a brief hill ride on my bike). After that I head to the office to continue working and to discuss with collaborators and colleagues.”

. . . Silverstein often tries to address questions about the Big Bang, dark energy or gravity using string theory — physicists’ best guess for how quantum gravity might work, but an idea strongly criticized as untestable. The theory allows researchers like Silverstein to write down sensible equations about what might happen inside black holes or during the Big Bang. But string theory describes invisibly tiny details of reality — vibrating strings at the hearts of point particles that are probably too small to detect directly, and that could come in a vast array of unique manifestations.

Read more at Quanta.