Convergence Profile: Savas Dimopoulos

Savas Dimopoulos is a Distinguished Visiting Research Chair at Perimeter Institute, and a professor of physics at Stanford University. 

PI: What is your favourite scientific intersection?
The interface I’m very interested in is using small-scale experiments to explore deep theoretical ideas about the dimensionality of space – are there more dimensions of space, new forces, new particles? My belief is that this is an emerging convergence. In my past, I was one of the first to participate in the convergence of particle physics and cosmology. Right now it’s exceedingly fashionable, but back then it was unheard of to combine ideas of elementary particle physics and cosmology. It seemed like they were two completely different disciplines. One deals with very big things, one deals with very small things – how could they possibly be related? It turns out they were, in very fruitful ways.
PI: What keeps you up at night?
SD: I think a lot about the very interesting connection between the cosmos and elementary particles. When I was a student, I started to think about this connection. It keeps me up at night, but not in a bad way. I tend to wake up in the middle of the night and my mind is full of thoughts. I dont' know what happens when I'm asleep, but ideas and concepts crystalize in my mind somehow. It's not like there's no knowledge before sleep, but there's no order to the knowledge. As I sleep, things get put into order. So I wake up often with very clear thoughts – the same facts, but rearranged in a more meaningful way. 
PI: “I am a physicist because...”
SD: I want to discover the truth about nature. I believe physics and mathematics are the two venues that lead to the truth.  I believe physics has an advantage, because it relies on both mathematics and experimental verification of those mathematical structures. Physics, I believe, is the best shortcut to the truth. 
PI: When historians look back at this moment in science, is there something you think they’ll see as obvious, that we are just missing right now, or that this time will be noted for?
SD: I think the unification of the human being with the machine will be much more routine. Previous generations used to memorize poems like the Iliad and the Odyssey, which would go from generation to generation as songs. One of the great advances of civilization was having efficient means of encoding information, like the printing press, and now we have the internet. Human memory is a much less important commodity today than it was a few hundred years ago. I think we’ll continue to go in this direction – the unification of the culture and the technology.