Portrait of Albert Einstein and Others (1879-1955), PhysicistNote the signatures in the margins of the photo, from left to right): Niels Bohr, James Franck, A. Einstein, and I.I. Rabi (photo: photographer unknown/Smithsonian Institution/Flickr)

With each new program, we carefully consider the show’s title so that it reflects the tone and substance of Krista’s interview, but also so that it intrigues you, hopefully, and makes you want to listen. This week’s title, “Who Ordered This?,” comes directly from Krista’s interview with astrophysicist Mario Livio:

Krista Tippett: One of the places this takes me back to, and I don’t know what the future will be of the science/religion discussion, or interplay, or whatever that is, but part of where it came to in the 20th century was this idea that science was pushing religion farther and farther out of the picture because science ultimately was going to answer all the questions, right? But, as you’re saying, what’s happened in the 21st century, as we’ve built on these discoveries of the 20th century, is that in fact there’s just this exponential increase in questions and even in what you call mystery …

Mario Livio: Lord Kelvin, you know, has been claimed to have said that everything has actually been solved already and there are just two small problems that remain to be solved, and as it turned out those two problems led to quantum mechanics and general relativity — the two greatest scientific revolutions of the 20th century. So, you know, surely this is how things are happening, and we have had a number of occasions of, there are those things where — you know, another famous physicist once said “Who ordered this?” I mean, so, who ordered dark energy? As if we didn’t have enough to explain as it was already, and then suddenly this thing appears and its now the most perhaps intriguing question in all of physics.

Krista Tippett: Right.

Mario Livio: You know, some people sometimes ask me if I’m fascinated by science fiction, and I like to say that actually real science is way more fascinating than any science fiction I’ve ever read. Because, you know, there is really so much there to do and there is so much room for imagination and creativity ….

Livio is adapting a phrase by Nobel Prize winning-physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi who once said “Who ordered that?” when the muon was identified. A New York Times book review traces this line of scientific compounding back even farther, blaming Democritus.

Interestingly, in Livio’s dual passion for science and art, and his work to make a deeper understanding of the universe more accessible to humanity, it seems he shares the perspective of the man he quoted. According to one biographical entry, Rabi once wrote, “What the scientist really desires is for his science to be understood, to become an integral part of our general culture, to be given proper weight in the cultural and practical affairs of the world. Like the poet, the scientist would rather be read than praised.”

Share Your Reflection



I heard your interview this morning and was very impressed.
I loved the idea that you have discussed --- the tie between Mathematics and Art and the Human Consciousness.
I am particularly interested in the tie between math and the spiritual realm.
Now, I want to read the book he wrote.
Thank you for a wonderful interview.
Steven Londe

I listen to On Being every Sunday morning enroute to the small rural church I serve as an Ordained Minister.  This morning was especially wonderful as I listened to Krista and Marko sharing thoughts of the interaction between science and religion, neither of which diminishes the other.  As separate as they are from one another, they continue to overlap and empower each other.  Thank you for a well done show AGAIN.  Nancy B. in Meridian, MS  

My daughter is having problems with her pre-calc class and can't wait until it ends. I have tried to suggest she look at it like a life skill with value. Tonight's program with Mario was inspirational, especially the "3 worlds, 3 mysteries" It was a good foundation for a conversation and my daughter listened. I am not saying that a behavioral change has taken place, but we both recognized the truth in his words. thank you