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A Physicist Inspires Female Scientists

Theoretical physicist and professor at Harvard University, Lisa Randall is making incredible breakthroughs in the disciplines of particle physics and cosmology, areas of study that analyze the makeup of the universe.  

As the first woman to be tenured at Harvard, Princeton, and MIT and listed in 2007 as one of TIME’s 100 most influential people, Randall is often heralded as a potential Nobel Prize winner for her work. In 2004 she was called “the most cited theoretical physicist in the world.” At that time she had over 10,000 citations of her work. In addition to her remarkable research, Randall also serves on the editorial boards of several theoretical physics journals and is the critically-acclaimed author for three New York Times best–sellers, most recently her novel, Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe, published in 2015.

Beginning as a prodigious youth in Fresh Meadows, Queens, as the middle child of three daughters, the eldest of which suffered from an undiagnosed disability related to Asperger’s syndrome, Randall compared herself to Tom Cruises character in the ‘80s blockbuster, Rain Man. Alongside her younger sister, Randall went on to study at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, a specialized institution distinguishable in the fields of math and science. While there, Randall received first place in the Westinghouse Science Talent Search for her project on the complex Gaussian integers and also became Stuyvesant’s first female captain of the math team.

In Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs, the Harvard cosmologist proposes that the extinction of the dinosaurs is a result from thin disks of dark matter within the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. This dark matter launched a series of minor disturbances in space and an incredible catastrophe on Earth.

Her dark matter disk theory dates back 66 million years, when perturbations in space catalyzed a monolithic comet to rocket towards Earth at hyper-speed, and the resulting collision unearthed the most powerful earthquake the world had ever experienced, equivalent to a billion atomic bombs.

The impact of the comet turned the world into a furnace that destroyed 75 percent of living things over 55 pounds, most notably the dinosaurs. Randall explains in an interview with NPR the makeup of dark matter, describing it as “transparent matter,” which makes up three-quarters of the universe, the other 25 percent made up of visible billions of galaxies.

“It is about five times as much dark matter as ordinary matter,” explains Randall. “We don’t see it. We see its gravitational influence, but we don’t see it directly. It does not interact with light.”

Currently, Randall is among the most cited particle physicists for her published papers and theories on dark matter and the weakness of gravity in comparison to other fundamental physical forces. Her influence in cosmology and particle physics make her an amazing idol for women in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), especially in regards to physics.

In a 2010 statistic, women made only 14 percent of America’s physics faculty. With her groundbreaking research and published works, Randall continues making great leaps for women not only in physics, but in many aspects of the STEM world.

Featured Image by U.S. Department of Agriculture on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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