14 posts tagged universe
What is the purpose of the Universe? Here is one possible answer.
The more we learn about the universe, the more we discover just how diverse all its planets, stars, nebulae and unexplained chunks of matter really are. So what is all this matter doing in our universe, other than just floating in space? Well, it just so happens that there is a theory that gives a kind of raison d’etre to our universe and all the objects flying through it. If true, it would mean that our universe is nothing more than a black hole generator, or a means to produce as many baby universes as possible. To learn more, we spoke to the man who came up with the idea. It’s called the theory of Cosmological Natural Selection and it was conjured by Lee Smolin, a researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and and an adjunct professor of physics at the University of Waterloo. (via What is the purpose of the Universe? Here is one possible answer.)
Has the cosmos existed forever, or did something bring it into existence? Time to grapple with the universe’s greatest mystery AS BIG questions go, it’s hard to beat. Has the universe existed forever? Over the years, some of the greatest minds in physics have argued that no matter how far back in time you go, the universe has always been here. Others have argued that the opposite must be true - something must have happened to bring the cosmos into existence. With both sides claiming that observations support their view, until recently an answer seemed as distant as ever. However, earlier this year, cosmologists Alex Vilenkin and Audrey Mithani claimed to have settled the debate. They have uncovered reasons why the universe cannot have existed forever. Yet what nature grudgingly gives with one hand, it takes back with the other - even though the universe has a beginning, its origins may be lost in the mists of time. Modern cosmology began in 1916 when Einstein applied his newly formulated theory of gravity, general relativity, to the biggest gravitating mass he could think of: the entire universe. Like Newton, Einstein favoured an unchanging universe - a universe that had existed forever and therefore had no beginning. To achieve this, Einstein realised that the gravity pulling together all the matter in the universe had to be countered by a weird cosmic repulsion of empty space. Einstein’s static universe was unfortunately unstable. As the English physicist Arthur Eddington pointed out, such a universe was balanced on a knife-edge between runaway expansion and runaway contraction. A further blow came in 1929 when American astronomer Edwin Hubble observed that galaxies were flying apart from each other like pieces of cosmic shrapnel. The conclusion was that the universe was expanding. Yet if the universe was expanding, an unavoidable consequence must be that it had been smaller in the past. Imagine rewinding that expansion back to a time when everything was compressed into the tiniest of volumes. This was the big bang.
The universe may grow like a giant brain, according to a new computer simulation. The results, published Nov. 16 in the journal Nature’s Scientific Reports, suggest that some undiscovered, fundamental laws may govern the growth of systems large and small, from the electrical firing between brain cells and growth of social networks to the expansion of galaxies. “Natural growth dynamics are the same for different real networks, like the Internet or the brain or social networks,” said study co-author Dmitri Krioukov, a physicist at the University of California San Diego. The new study suggests a single fundamental law of nature may govern these networks, said physicist Kevin Bassler of the University of Houston, who was not involved in the study. [ What’s That? Your Physics Questions Answered ] “At first blush they seem to be quite different systems, the question is, is there some kind of controlling laws can describe them?” he told LiveScience. By raising this question, “their work really makes a pretty important contribution,” he said. (via Universe may grow like a giant brain - Technology & science - Science - LiveScience | NBC News)
The further we look into space, the further back in time we go and the last thing we see is left-overs from the Big Bang. This pattern in the sky could give us clues to the Universe next door. The Universe that we can observe is fantastically large. If the entire Earth were scaled down to a nearly invisible mote of dust, even the most nearby stars would be many miles distant. Those stars are light-years away, and we’re now receiving light that was emitted by them years ago. Using state-of-the-art instruments, astronomers can see back through 13.7 billion years, viewing regions of space that — due to the cosmic expansion — are now about 45 billion light-years away. At earlier times, the Universe was so dense that light could not propagate, so this distance forms a spherical boundary in all directions. The ball inside this boundary — our “observiball” if you will — contains all we can observe. Astronomers peer into the distant Universe through progressively earlier concentric shells within this ball: back through the era of galaxy formation, through “dark ages” prior to the first stars, and finally to the opaque outer shell. (via BBC News - The observable Universe and beyond)
“Arithmetic! Algebra! Geometry! Grandiose trinity! Luminous triangle! Whoever has not known you is without sense!” -Comte de Lautréamont When you think about it, it’s amazing that our physical Universe makes sense at all. The fact that we can observe what’s happening, determine the laws that govern it, and predict what will happen under the same or similar circumstances is the most remarkable power that science has. If that’s what you’re doing in any aspect of your life, congratulations, you are a scientist. But that doesn’t tell us, fundamentally, what the Universe is like at its most basic level. Are we made up of point-like particles? Or are they geometric constructions? Are we ripples in the Universe itself? In a way, They Might Be Giants might be pondering exactly this in their song that I present to you this weekend, (via Weekend Diversion: Triangles, a Puzzle, and Beauty – Starts With A Bang)
“But some of the greatest achievements in philosophy could only be compared with taking up some books which seemed to belong together, and putting them on different shelves; nothing more being final about their positions than that they no longer lie side by side. The onlooker who doesn’t know the difficulty of the task might well think in such a case that nothing at all had been achieved.” -Wittgenstein