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Posts Tagged ‘Dark energy’

What Would God Think of the God Particle? (Part 2)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 29, 2013

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP and Menas Kafatos, Ph.D., Fletcher Jones Endowed Professor in Computational Physics, Chapman University

Deepak ChopraThe “God particle” seems to be well and truly with us. The award on October 3 of the Nobel Prize in physics that focused on the Higgs boson – the technical term for the God particle – capped a decades-long search that has cost billions of dollars. In the first post we discussed why the discovery of the elusive, fleeting Higgs boson is two-edged. It represents a triumph in human curiosity and our drive to understand the universe. At the same time, however, a huge stumbling block hasn’t been overcome. In fact, the Higgs boson may indicate that creation (whether God exists or not) is becoming ever more mysterious.

The mammoth collider at CERN Switzerland blasted the Higgs boson out of the invisible quantum field so that it could be observed, at the faintest level of measurement and then only for precious milliseconds. But this was enough to disclose the finest level of the subatomic realm so far known to be real. The problem with getting this close to the source of creation is that space, time, gravity, matter, and energy have become more and more ambiguous, as if the quantum revolution hadn’t already done enough in that department. With the probability that so-called “dark” matter and energy may account for 96 percent of the universe – along with another probability, that “dark” stuff doesn’t obey the same laws as visible mater and energy – the picture of creation is undergoing radical revision.

Stephen Hawking added to the ambiguity in his last book, The Grand Design, by siding with those who have basically given up on a Theory of Everything and are settling for a piecemeal patchwork or mosaic of theories, each pertaining to distinct regions of creation while never being synthesized into one grand design. If God exists, the deity must be smiling. For behind the high fives and hoopla over the Higgs boson, there’s a growing doubt that we are anywhere near to understanding the nature of reality. These doubts arise from two major sources.

First, there’s broad agreement that science doesn’t comprehensively describe reality to begin with. Over a century ago the pioneers of quantum theory dismantled the common-sense notion that the world “out there” consists of hard, solid, tangible things. As one of the greatest of these pioneers, Werner Heisenberg, noted, “The atoms or elementary particles themselves are not real; they form a world of potentialities or possibilities rather than one of things or facts.” No one has ever refuted this claim, and when you add into the mixture the Uncertainty Principle, which says that quantum objects can be located only by the probability that they will appear at a certain place (only after it is observed does a particle actually settle into a measurable position), the solid, tangible world is radically undermined. Read the rest of this entry »

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Your Brain Is the Universe (Part 2)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 11, 2013

By Deepak Chopra, Co-author, ‘Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being’; founder, The Chopra Foundation

Deepak-chopraWe all take the physical world for granted, with no doubt that it will still be here when we wake up tomorrow morning. But in fact the subatomic particles that construct the physical world aren’t “here” when they assume the state of a wave, and it appears that 96 percent of the universe is “dark” matter and energy. “Dark” may mean unknowable, since we seem to be talking about matter not based on atoms and energy not based on quantum interactions like electromagnetism.

In the first post we addressed the fact that the source of reality cannot be physical.  In fact, it is almost certain to be inconceivable.  Our brains are constructs of billions of years of hardware-building, known as evolution.  Even if you accept that the brain is a quantum device (please see our first post for an explanation of this notion), what the quanta spit out are thoughts, wishes, hopes, fears, dreams and science. A seemingly random jumble of processes happening at the very boundary of time and space gives birth to experience. Quarks are allowed to be “spooky,” as quantum physics declares, but not your car, orange juice, and armchair. The physical world, and how we think about it, is limited by time and space.  They are the foundation of our home. Asking the brain to understand where reality comes from is like asking a robot to dismantle itself to find out what it’s made of — you won’t have a machine after the dismantling is done, and therefore no answer.

Yet even if the source of reality is inconceivable, the uncanny match between your brain  and the world “out there” cannot be doubted.  Very well known is how the ring-like structure of benzene was discovered in a dream by Friedrich August Kekulé. More obscure is the fact that using no scientific data, the ancient sages of India made remarkable calculations recorded in the Puranas regarding the age of the universe and the distance to the Sun, to name two out of many. In the Western ancient world, Archimedes made an amazing calculation about the universe’s size in the “Sand Reckoner,” asking how many grains of sand it would take to fill the Greek Kosmos. He had to invent a new number system, since the ancient Greek system was woefully inadequate. When you convert the number of grains of sand that Archimedes found to protons, you come up with the actual number of particles in the universe, known as Eddington’s number. A “coincidence”? Read the rest of this entry »

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‘Scientists understand only 4% of universe’

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 30, 2012

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TIME Talks to the Physicists Who Found the Higgs

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 14, 2012


The Tevatron typically produces about 10 million proton-antiproton collisions per second.

It’s not often that the world stops, cheers and generally goes nuts over a new discovery in particle physics. But that’s what happened on July 4, when physicists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that they had at last confirmed the existence of the elusive Higgs boson, the particle that gives the universe mass. The Higgs suffuses an energy field that permeates space, and as particles move though it, they acquire a degree of mass that corresponds to their own energy level. Failing to find the Higgs would not only have meant that a new theory would have to be developed, but that the standard model of particle physics — one of the great pillars of the field for the past several decades — would fall apart.

But the Higgs was indeed run to ground, thanks to work conducted at the massive new Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which straddles the border of Switzerland and France (read more about it in the new issue of TIME, available to subscribers here). Thousands of physicists from dozens of countries contributed to the work, but there are three undisputed leaders: Joe Incandela and Fabiola Gianotti, who led the two research teams that made the discovery; and Rolf Heuer, CERN’s Director General. TIME spoke to them all by phone in Melbourne, Australia, where just three days earlier they had presented their momentous findings to the International Conference on High Energy Physics. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dark Matter, Darker Still: The Cosmos’ Greatest Mystery Deepens

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 27, 2011


The galaxy of Andromeda, the nearest large galaxy to our own, circa 1990 Space Frontiers / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Like Hollywood legends Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn, dark energy and dark matter are completely unrelated, even though they share a name. Dark energy, a force that makes the universe expand faster and faster all the time, is called dark because it’s mysterious. Nobody knows what it is. Dark matter, on the other hand, a type of matter that outweighs ordinary stars and galaxies 5 to 1, is called dark because it’s utterly invisible. We know it’s there because its gravity yanks galaxies and stars around, but it neither emits nor reflects any light.

Both darks are a big deal in astronomy. The accelerating universe, the first evidence that dark energy exists, earned three physicists the Nobel Prize just a few weeks ago. But dark matter has somehow failed to impress the Nobel committee, even though the idea has been around a lot longer. In the 1930s, astronomer Fritz Zwicky first suggested that given how fast galaxies whip around in space, they ought to fly apart — and would, if there weren’t some invisible matter holding them gravitationally together. In the 1970s, physicists Vera Rubin and Kent Ford came in with stronger evidence for the existence of dark matter, but their work too was received with shrugs. Over time, however, dark matter has become an accepted part of modern astronomy — and now that it is, a new study, soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, is calling some of the fundamental assumptions about it into question.(Read about dark matter and how starburst galaxies are formed.)

The conventional wisdom since the early 1990s has been that dark matter consists of giant clouds of still undiscovered subatomic objects known as “weakly interacting massive particles,” or WIMPs (an example of astronomer humor that will undoubtedly appeal to fans of the Big Bang theory). Recently, astronomer Matt Walker of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a colleague undertook a study of two dwarf galaxies hovering on the edges of the Milky Way, looking for new clues to the behavior of WIMPs — and came away questioning whether the particles were there at all. “Our results,” Walker says, “pose a real challenge to cold dark matter. I think it’s certainly a problem.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Studies of Universe’s Expansion Win Physics Nobel

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 5, 2011


Three astronomers won the Nobel Prize in Physics on Tuesday for discovering that the universe is apparently being blown apart by a mysterious force that cosmologists now call dark energy, a finding that has thrown the fate of the universe and indeed the nature of physics into doubt.

The astronomers are Saul Perlmutter, 52, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley; Brian P. Schmidt, 44, of the Australian National University in Canberra; and Adam G. Riess, 41, of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“I’m stunned,” Dr. Riess said by e-mail, after learning of his prize by reading about it on The New York Times’s Web site.

The three men led two competing teams of astronomers who were trying to use the exploding stars known as Type 1a supernovae as cosmic lighthouses to limn the expansion of the universe. The goal of both groups was to measure how fast the cosmos, which has been expanding since its fiery birth in the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago, was slowing down, and thus to find out if its ultimate fate was to fall back together in what is called a Big Crunch or to drift apart into the darkness.

Instead, the two groups found in 1998 that the expansion of the universe was actually speeding up, a conclusion that nobody would have believed if not for the fact that both sets of scientists wound up with the same answer. It was as if, when you tossed your car keys in the air, instead of coming down, they flew faster and faster to the ceiling. Read the rest of this entry »

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