3rd Confab With CosmosNow
Dr. Karan Jani is an astrophysicist and a scientist with the Nobel Prize-winning gravitational wave experiment LIGO. His primary research focuses on astrophysical black holes and testing Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.
Dr. Karan Jani earned his Ph.D. in black hole physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received two bachelor of science degrees in physics and astronomy-astrophysics, with a minor in mathematics, from the Pennsylvania State University. Over the last decade, Jani has held research appointments at leading centers in gravitational-wave astronomy and has co-authored several scientific publications in this field. He is a member of the International LISA Consortium, LIGO Scientific Collaboration, and the Indian Initiative in Gravitational-wave Observations.
CosmosNow – Hello Dr. Jani! Welcome! We are really honored to have you on the third Confab with CosmosNow. We are really excited to get some amazing and inspiring answers from you.
Dr. Karan Jani – Thank you CosmosNow for letting me indulge! I’m more than happy to answer your questions.
CosmosNow – Were you curious about Astronomy and space as a kid? When did it all start?
Dr. Karan Jani – The philosophical discussions with my grandfather kept me incredibly curious (and confused) as a kid. I didn’t know back then how to phrase the grand questions, let alone being aware that they fall in the domain of modern physics and astronomy. But I knew that conventional wisdom (through scriptures and listening to ‘enlightened’ people) will not get me any closer to the fundamental truth. That made me appreciate science a bit more.
CosmosNow – In your journey of becoming an Astrophysicist what has transformed you and in what way?
Dr. Karan Jani – It is very humbling. I am finding black holes in LIGO that started even before the birth of our Solar System. And from that stage, so many events in the universe have to have turned the way they did so we humans can talk about this. Even if this a “common sense”, with the worldly responsibilities it’s easy to forget such plain truth. In my profession, I am reminded about this every single working hour.
CosmosNow – Your view on India’s investment in science.
Dr. Karan Jani – It has been promising lately. But now is the time to chart a long term vision plan. I and others recently submitted proposals to a call from the European Space Agency for missions in 2050. This is the level of planning it takes to build a James Webb Space Telescope or LIGO. So we need to push our game.
CosmosNow – Whom you look up for inspiration?
Dr. Karan Jani – Students. Especially those that are still in schools. I always learn something while talking about physics or astronomy with them.
CosmosNow – If we had some way to communicate with physicists/astrophysicist from past whom would you ask your doubts or questions? What would you ask them to solve or answer?
Dr. Karan Jani – Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. To me personally, no scientist since Einstein has contributed to our knowledge of the universe to the degree Chandra did. Now that we find these really big black holes in LIGO that defy stellar evolution, I wish we all could sit down and just witness Chandra solve the basics with his signature elegance.
CosmosNow – All the discoveries that have been made with the fact that we’re at the cusp of new technology, what you see for future in terms of discoveries?
Dr. Karan Jani – The revolution of AI and deep learning is a game-changer. To solve the grandest questions about the universe, we need computers as much, if not more, than telescopes and mathematics inspired by the human brain. Dark Matter and Dark Energy are almost existential level questions – we know we need to solve them and as of now, there is no clear way forward.
CosmosNow – Your bold vision for humanity’s future beyond Earth.
Dr. Karan Jani – The world has to unite to solve the grand questions – why did the universe start? why do we exist at this epoch? why don’t we see aliens? It’s petty that instead, we are wasting all our energy talking about GDP and geopolitics.
CosmosNow – Some theory says that our universe is a 3D hologram of another universe with more dimension. How does this affect space-time? Is there any proof of this?
Dr. Karan Jani – There is no proof to any of it at the moment, nor it is clear if any proposed experiment in the next 20-30 years will find it. But that said, some of the most talented physicists in the world are working on string theory and similar ideas. So it has to be not too far off from fundamental truth.
CosmosNow – Is there any spot in the universe where you can find zero states of energy perhaps where even the cosmic background radiation does not permeate?
Dr. Karan Jani – I honestly don’t know. I had never thought about it.
CosmosNow – What one thing you want to impart to kids/your audience?
Dr. Karan Jani – Your journey is beyond you. The only meaningful work that counts in life is the one that can be picked by future generations. I study gravitational waves and black holes because of the work of Kip Thorne and Stephen Hawking, and they did because of the work of Einstein and so on. I truly believe this is true for all human endeavors and not just academia.
Connect with Dr. Karan Jani –
Next Interview: Interview With Dr. Henry Throop