Linde Wasn’t Alone That Day

What you didn’t know about the physicist in the viral video might surprise you

The following video captures the moment when a Russian-American physicist learns that the “chaotic inflation” theory, postulated 30 years ago, has been validated. What you learn afterwards about that physicist might surprise you.

It’s quite moving to watch as the reality sets in. Scientists dream of these moments. Many scientists never experience such validation. Fewer have documentation of the instant they realize their life’s work has been substantiated.

The video provides a glimpse inside the scientific discovery process, however there is one thing missing for the viewers. We hardly have any information about the scientist in the video. I wanted to know more so I did some research.

Here are a few details I found, some of which may surprise you:

  • Born in 1943
  • Completed a Bachelors from Moscow State University in 1966
  • Obtained a Ph.D. (1968) and was a professor at Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow
  • Was on a list of people who were not allowed to exit the USSR
  • Was invited by Stephen Hawking to visit Cambridge in 1978 and subsequently gained access to the world of physics
  • Moved to CERN for a year in 1989
  • Joined Stanford in 1990 and continued to work there (as of 2011)
  • Well known for contributions to string theory, in particular finding (along with others), the first models of accelerated expansion of the universe in low energy supersymmetric string.
  • Published 176 scientific papers (according to SPIRES)
  • Invited to speak at Stephen Hawking’s 70th Birthday Symposium
  • Gave birth to 2 sons

No, the last point is not a joke.

The physicist in the video who I am describing is Renata Kallosh. She is Andrei Linde’s wife. I was struck by the emotion Dr. Kallosh displayed upon hearing the news about the BICEP2 data. She clearly was as invested in the results as her husband. Any supportive wife would be, but Dr. Kallosh has a greater understanding of her husband’s work than most.

Dr. Kallosh accepting the “LISE MEITNERPRISET 2009"

Here is a short bio clip about her from the University of Gothenburg:

“Prof. Renata Kallosh is a leading theoretical physicist working in the fields of cosmology and string theory.
“For pioneering contributions to theoretical physics and cosmology which led to the construction of models of accelerated expansion of the universe in string theory.”
Amongst her many groundbreaking contributions to the subject, in 2003 she (together with Sandip Trivedi, Andrei Linde, and Shamit Kachru) constructed the first models of accelerated expansion of the universe in string theory. This paper alone has more than a thousand citations in the Web of Science and has been a driving force in the field of string cosmology ever since.”

Dr. Kallosh and Dr. Linde are a power couple in the true sense of the word. In 2002, they jointly proposed that the entire universe will collapse and end with a “Big Crunch” in the next 10 billion years or so. I’m not sure we want to be around to see the validation of that theory.

We can only imagine the conversations they have over dinner.

Now that you know a little more about Dr. Kallosh, take another look at her reaction to the news.

Keep your eyes on Renata. It’s literally breathtaking.