Sean M. Carroll

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Sean M. Carroll
Sean Carroll
Born (1966-10-05) 5 October 1966 (age 53)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Residence Los Angeles, California
Nationality United States
Fields Physics, cosmology, astrophysics, general relativity
Institutions California Institute of Technology
Alma mater
Thesis Cosmological Consequences of Topological and Geometric Phenomena in Field Theories (1993)
Doctoral advisor George B. Field
Doctoral students Ignacy Sawicki, Eugene Lim, Mark Hoffman, Jennifer Chen, Heywood Tam, Lotty Ackerman, Kimberly Boddy
Influences Albert Einstein, Ludwig Boltzmann, Richard Feynman
Notable awards Andrew Gemant Award (2014)
Spouse Jennifer Ouellette

Sean Michael Carroll (/ˈkærəl/; born 5 October 1966) is a cosmologist and Physics professor specializing in dark energy and general relativity. He is a research professor in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology.[1] He has been a contributor to the physics blog Cosmic Variance, and has published in scientific journals and magazines such as Nature, Seed, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist.

He has appeared on the History Channel's The Universe, Science Channel's Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, and Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. Carroll is the author of Spacetime And Geometry, a graduate-level textbook in general relativity, and has also recorded lectures for The Great Courses on cosmology, the physics of time, and the Higgs boson.[2] He is also the author of two popular books: one on the arrow of time entitled From Eternity to Here and one on the Higgs boson entitled The Particle at the End of the Universe.


Carroll received his PhD in astronomy and astrophysics in 1993 from Harvard University, where his advisor was George B. Field. His dissertation's title is "Cosmological Consequences of Topological and Geometric Phenomena in Field Theories". He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and as an assistant professor at the University of Chicago until 2006 when he was denied tenure.[3] He is now a research faculty member at Caltech.

His most-cited work, "Is Cosmic Speed-Up Due To New Gravitational Physics?", was written with Vikram Duvvuri, Mark Trodden, and Michael Turner. With over 1,000 citations, it helped pioneer the study of f(R) gravity in cosmology.[4]

In 2010, Carroll was elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society, for "contributions to a wide variety of subjects in cosmology, relativity, and quantum field theory, especially ideas for cosmic acceleration, as well as contributions to undergraduate, graduate, and public science education".[5] In 2014 he was awarded the Andrew Gemant Award, a prize given by the American Institute of Physics for "significant contributions to the cultural, artistic or humanistic dimension of physics."[6]

Personal life

Carroll is married to Jennifer Ouellette, a science writer and the former director of the Science & Entertainment Exchange.[7]


Carroll has worked on a number of topics in theoretical cosmology, field theory, and gravitation theory. His research papers include models of, and experimental constraints on, violations of Lorentz invariance; the appearance of closed timelike curves in general relativity; varieties of topological defects in field theory; and cosmological dynamics of extra spacetime dimensions. In recent years he has written extensively on models of dark energy and its interactions with ordinary matter and dark matter, as well as modifications of general relativity in cosmology.

Carroll has also worked on the arrow of time problem. He and Jennifer Chen posit that the Big Bang is not a unique occurrence as a result of all of the matter and energy in the universe originating in a singularity at the beginning of time, but rather one of many cosmic inflation events resulting from quantum fluctuations of vacuum energy in a cold De Sitter space. Carroll and Chen claim that the universe is infinitely old, but never reaches thermodynamic equilibrium as entropy increases continuously without limit due to the decreasing matter and energy density attributable to recurrent cosmic inflation. They assert that the universe is "statistically time-symmetric" insofar as it contains equal progressions of time "both forward and backward".[8][9][10] Some of his work has been on violations of fundamental symmetries, the physics of dark energy, modifications of general relativity, and the arrow of time. Recently he started focusing on issues at the foundations of cosmology, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and complexity.

Views on religion

Carroll is an atheist. He turned down an invitation to speak at a conference sponsored by the John Templeton Foundation, on the grounds that he did not want to appear to be supporting a reconciliation between science and religion.[11] In 2004, he and Shadi Bartsch taught an undergraduate course title at the University of Chicago on the history of atheism. In 2012 he organized the workshop "Moving Naturalism Forward", which brought together scientists and philosophers to discuss issues associated with a naturalistic worldview. His article, "Does the Universe Need God?" in The Blackwell Companion to Science and Christianity develops the claim that science no longer needs to posit a divine being to explain the existence of the universe. The article generated significant attention when it was discussed on The Huffington Post.[12]

Carroll occasionally takes part in formal debates or discussions with theists. In 2012, Carroll teamed up with Michael Shermer to debate Ian Hutchinson of MIT and author Dinesh D'Souza at Caltech in an event titled "The Great Debate: Has Science Refuted Religion?"[13] In 2014, Carroll debated Christian apologist William Lane Craig as part of the Greer-Heard Forum in New Orleans. The topic for the debate was "The Existence of God in Light of Contemporary Cosmology". Carroll received an "Emperor Has No Clothes" award at the Freedom From Religion Foundation Annual National Convention in October 2014.[14]


  • Carroll, Sean (2003). Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity. ISBN 0-8053-8732-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Carroll, Sean (2010). From Eternity To Here. ISBN 0-525-95133-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> It tackles a fundamental open principle in physics: the arrow of time.
  • Carroll, Sean (2012). The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World. ISBN 0-525-95359-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> It describes the hunt for and discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and was the 2013 winner of the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.[15]
  • Research publication list, from the INSPIRE-HEP digital library.


  1. "Caltech Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics Faculty Page".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Sean Carroll profile page at
  3. "How To Get Tenure at a Major Research University | Cosmic Variance | Discover Magazine". Retrieved 2012-04-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. inSPIRE High-Energy Physics Database
  5. American Physical Society
  6. ""Outspoken" Caltech Scientist Wins 2014 Gemant Award".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Claudia Dreifus, "Sean Carroll Talks School Science and Time Travel", The New York Times, April 19, 2010
  8. Sean M. Carroll, Jennifer Chen, "Spontaneous Inflation and the Origin of the Arrow of Time"
  9. Adam Frank, "3 Theories That Might Blow Up the Big Bang", Discover, April 2008, pp. 57–58
  10. Henderson, Harold (12 August 2005). "The Cosmic Jiggle" (PDF). Chicago Reader. p. 14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Carroll, Sean "Science and Religion Can’t Be Reconciled. Why I won’t take money from the Templeton Foundation." Slate. May 9, 2013. Retrieved May 6, 2015.
  12. Walchover, Natalie. "Science & God: Will Biology, Astronomy, Physics Rule out Existence of Deity?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
  13. Carroll, Sean M. "Science/Religion Debate Live-Streaming Today : Cosmic Variance." Cosmic Variance. N.p., 25 Mar. 2012.
  14. Freedom From Religion 37th Annual National Convention Weekend of Oct. 24-25, 2014
  15. "Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books". Royal Society. Retrieved 26 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links