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Posts Tagged "cosmology"

@ScientificAmerican

Physics, Metaphysics and Cosmology Collide in New E-Book, Possibilities in Parallel: Seeking the Multiverse

Possibilities in Parallel: Seeking the Multiverse

Parallel universes are a staple of science fiction, and it’s no wonder. They allow us to explore the question, “What if?” in a way that lets us step completely outside of the world we know, rather than question how that world might have turned out differently. For cosmologists, the question isn’t “What if the South [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Getting Ready for Scientific American Tweet-Up at the American Museum of Natural History

We’re counting down the days here until the Scientific American tweet-up at the American Museum of Natural History on Wednesday, January 18, starting at 6 p.m. Full details are on my earlier blog post. We’ll enjoy talks, a tour of the “Beyond Planet Earth” exhibition–and some conversations over cocktails. Attendance is free for followers of [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Physicists Think They Can Solve the Mysteries of Quantum Mechanics, Cosmology, and Black Holes in One Go [Guest Post]

It’s lucky that debates over the meaning of quantum mechanics are so entertaining, because they seem to go on forever. The sundry proposed interpretations make the same experimental predictions, so many people fret that there’ll never be a way to decide among them. Fret no longer. Some “interpretations” aren’t really interpretations so much as separate [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Gravitational Waves Reveal the Universe before the Big Bang: An Interview with Physicist Gabriele Veneziano

It’s not usually put like this, but the discovery of primordial gravitational waves two weeks ago has given us our first direct glimpse of a period before the big bang. The term “big bang” is sometimes taken to mean the beginning of the universe, and that’s the impression you get from diagrams such as the [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Cosmological Data Hint at a Level of Physics Underlying Quantum Mechanics [Guest Post]

Two weeks ago, I blogged about David Bohm’s interpretation of quantum mechanics. Like Einstein and Louis de Broglie before him, Bohm argued that quantum randomness is not intrinsic to nature, but reflects our ignorance of a deeper level of reality. One physicist who has developed the idea further is Antony Valentini of Clemson University. Last [...]

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Critical Opalescence

What Would It Be Like to Fall into a Naked Singularity? [Guest Post]

Last year, novelist Sergio De La Pava compared the American criminal justice system to the strange physics concept of naked singularities. That inspired me to ask the author of Sci Am’s article on the concept, theoretical physicist Pankaj Joshi of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai (right in photo), for an update. Watch [...]

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Critical Opalescence

What Would It Mean for Time to Come to an End? [Video]

Could time come to an end? What would that even mean? Last month I gave a talk about this strange physics idea at a TEDx event in Trento, Italy, based on a Scientific American article I wrote in 2010. My conceit was that time’s end poses a paradox that might be resolved if time is [...]

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Critical Opalescence

How Do You Count Parallel Universes? You Can’t Just Go 1, 2, 3, …

Cosmologists have been thinking for years that our universe might be just one bubble amid countless bubbles floating in a formless void. And when they say “countless,” they really mean it. Those universes are damned hard to count. Angels on a pin are nothing to this. There’s no unambiguous way to count items in an [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Is Dark Matter a Glimpse of a Deeper Level of Reality?

Two years ago several of my Sci Am colleagues and I had an intense email exchange over a period of weeks, trying to figure out what to make of a new paper by string theorist Erik Verlinde. I don’t think I’ve ever been so flummoxed by physicists’ reactions to a paper. Mathematically it could hardly [...]

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Guest Blog

The Logic and Beauty of Cosmological Natural Selection

Time and Space. (Credit: Brisbane Falling via Flickr)

I have a prediction. There is a scientific hypothesis, formulated over 20 years ago, that we will one day look back on, when the evidence is in, and say “Of course that was right! What a spectacularly powerful idea!” The hypothesis is cosmological natural selection, and its power, beauty and logic provide what may be [...]

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Guest Blog

Habitable and not-so-habitable exoplanets: How the latter can tell us more about our origins than the former

On 29th September this year, astronomers announced the discovery of an exoplanet called Gliese 581 g. This planet, they said, was exactly the right distance from its star for water to exist on its surface, with a good chance that it could hold an atmosphere. These two properties are very important when judging whether a [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Copernicus in Cleveland

514px-Nikolaus_Kopernikus

What is our cosmic significance? Does it even make sense to ask a question like that? If you happen to find yourself in Cleveland, Ohio this coming Thursday evening, and stop by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History at 8pm you can catch me talking about this. As part of their Frontiers of Astronomy series [...]

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Life, Unbounded

This Is What We Don’t Know About The Universe

dont panic.001

In recent days I’ve had some interesting conversations. There’s a giddiness going around, related to an outpouring of science love – the kind you get from President Obama introducing TV science shows, the kind that has wonderful visuals, but is, well, a wee bit simplistic (a sin that none of us could ever, ever be [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Cosmic Cartography: Here Is Your (Local) Universe

Our local cosmic terrain (Credit: Helene Courtois)

A new video tours the nearby universe and makes it charmingly familiar. When I was a graduate student I spent a lot of time studying maps of our universe. These were being constructed using great surveys of galaxies. Each of these fuzzy specks was triangulated on the sky and located in depth by its apparent [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Subatomic to Superhorizon – Abandon All Hope!

Contemplating vastness

                      Grasping for an understanding of the true scale of the cosmos is a vital part of how we try to conceptualize reality and our place among it all. But it’s tremendously difficult, whether we’re seeking that ‘oh wow’ moment, or trying to gain intuition [...]

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Life, Unbounded

The Stars Are Beginning To Go Out…

The galaxy NGC 1365 aglow with H-alpha light (Credit: ESO)

They really are. The universe is apparently well past its prime in terms of making stars, and what new ones are being made now across the cosmos will never amount to more than a few percent on top of the numbers already come and gone. This is the rather disquieting conclusion of a new and [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Holes to the Rescue

The birth of a galaxy. An overlay of the X-ray light (blue) and ultraviolet light (red) coming from a system 12 billion years ago (with thanks to Wil van Breugel and Ian Smail)

This post is the fourth in a series that accompanies the publication of my book ‘Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos’ (Scientific American/FSG). Ten years ago the universe was in trouble. Or rather, our puny human theories about the nature of all the stars and galaxies in [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Holes: Incredibly Loud and Extremely Distant

CygA-

This post is the third in a series that accompanies the upcoming publication of my book ‘Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos’ (Scientific American/FSG). In space it’s a good thing that you can’t hear black holes scream. Although some of the most incontrovertible evidence for the existence [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Black Holes are Everywhere

Holes are everywhere, if you look...

This post is the second in a series that accompanies the upcoming publication of my book ‘Gravity’s Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos’ (Scientific American/FSG). Black holes, even the really hugely massive ones, are tiny – positively microscopic pinpricks scattered throughout the vastness of spacetime. Even the largest, [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Stellar Sands Help Enrich The Universe

It's a desert out there...(Image created from source material by: NASA, ESA and A.Zijlstra (UMIST, Manchester, UK) and Rosino (Wikipedia))

One of the most widely known and repeated astrophysical facts is that stars produce all the heavy elements that eventually make planets, shrubberies, and the likes of us. It’s absolutely true, but how exactly do they get those elements out into the universe to do all that? A major route is stellar explosion. When supernovae [...]

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Life, Unbounded

Encounter at Dawn: Stephen Hawking, me, and an ATM

A black hole lenses the light of the Milky Way in the background (Credit: Ute Kraus amd Axel Mellinger)

This weekend Stephen Hawking turns 70, an extraordinary physical accomplishment to add to an extraordinary list of physics accomplishments. Seeing this news reminded me of the the first time that I crossed paths with Hawking. I’d love to be able to say that it was in intellectual debate, an exchange of brilliant ideas, but in [...]

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Observations

Shocked Physicist Learns His Big Bang Theory Is True [Video]

Andrei Linde Hears BICEP2 Results

Few people were as thrilled with the big physics news today as physicist Andrei Linde. One of the main authors of inflation theory—the idea that the universe expanded incredibly rapidly just after it was born in the big bang—Linde has reason to be excited. Physicists announced this morning that they have discovered imprints of gravitational [...]

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Observations

Cosmos Study Dashes Hope for New Neutrino

Planck CMB intensity map

First particle physicists discovered “a boring old Standard Model Higgs boson,” as my colleague Michael Moyer put it, meaning that the particle hewed closely to theoretical predictions and offered little in the way of guidance to new and exciting physics. This week the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite gave a significant boost to cosmology’s own [...]

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Observations

Physicists Debate the Many Varieties of Nothingness

Helix Nebula

What is nothing? Sounds like a simple question—nothing is simply the absence of something, of course—until you begin to think about it. The other night the American Museum of Natural History hosted its 14th annual Asimov Memorial Debate, which featured five leading thinkers opining (and sparring, sometimes testily, but more on that later) about the [...]

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Observations

Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting: From the Big Bang to the Big Controversy (aka Climate Change)

The first morning lecture series for the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, which is focused on physics for this, its 62nd anniversary year, got off to a cosmic start, tracing the origins and evolution of the universe, before crashing back to Earth with a discussion of climate change. (You can read all our coverage this week, [...]

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Observations

Astronomers Identify Very Distant (But Not the Most Distant) Galaxy

distant galaxy 13 billion years ago

The universe is a big place, and by peering across it astronomers get to look back in time. A galaxy or supernova so far away that it takes two billion years for its light to reach us will be seen here as it appeared two billion years ago. Remarkably, today’s best telescopes can look across [...]

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Observations

The Digital Cosmos: A Brief Reading List

GeV Gamma Ray Emission Regions from NASA

Do the laws of physics emerge from the laws of information? Perhaps, according to two World Science Festival events I attended this weekend on the connection between computers and the cosmos. The first examined the insight that all the information about a three-dimensional world can be encoded onto a two-dimensional surface. Taking this notion to [...]

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Observations

The universe is no fluke, Pope Benedict XVI says

Pope Benedict

Why are we here? Many cosmologists think that everything—not just life on Earth but the planets, the stars, the entire observable universe—is a roll of the dice writ large. Other universes within a grander multiverse have entirely different properties, not to mention completely different laws of physics, based on different rolls of those cosmic dice. [...]

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