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Posts Tagged ‘Universe’

Stephen Hawking: Space Exploration Is Key To Saving Humanity

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 12, 2013


Stephen Hawking, Cambridge, Jason Bye, 19/09/08

LOS ANGELES — Stephen Hawking, who spent his career decoding the universe and even experienced weightlessness, is urging the continuation of space exploration – for humanity’s sake.

The 71-year-old Hawking said he did not think humans would survive another 1,000 years “without escaping beyond our fragile planet.”

The British cosmologist made the remarks Tuesday before an audience of doctors, nurses and employees at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he toured a stem cell laboratory that’s focused on trying to slow the progression of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Hawking was diagnosed with the neurological disorder 50 years ago while a student at Cambridge University. He recalled how he became depressed and initially didn’t see a point in finishing his doctorate. But he continued to delve into his studies.

“If you understand how the universe operates, you control it in a way,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »


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Why the Universe Is Our Home: It’s Not a Coincidence (Part 2)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 27, 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-chopraAt the human level everyone would like to feel that life has meaning, which implies that the setting for life — the universe at large — isn’t a cold void ruled by random chance.  There is a huge gap here, and for the past century science hasn’t budged from its grandest assumption, that creation is ruled by random events. There was good reason for this adamant position. The mathematics of modern physics is a marvel of precision and accuracy.  No guiding hand, creator, higher intelligence or deity was needed as long as the equations worked.

Now there is a crack in the theory, tiny at first but opening into a fissure, that casts doubt on how science observes the universe. The fault isn’t that the mathematics was wobbly and loose. Quite the opposite.  The universe is too finely tuned to fit the random model.  God isn’t going to leap into the breach, although religion has reason to feel better about not accepting the so-called “accidental universe.”  The real fascination lies in how to match reality “out there” with the potentiality of the human mind.  Both are up for grabs.

In the modern era, Sir Arthur Eddington and especially Paul Dirac first noticed that certain “coincidences” in dimensionless ratios can be found. These ratios link microscopic with macroscopic quantities. For example, the ratio of the electric force to gravitational force (presumably a constant), is a large number (about 1040), while the ratio of the observable size of the universe (which is presumably changing) to the size of an elementary particle is also a large number, surprisingly close to the first number (also about 1040).   It is hard to imagine that two very large and unrelated numbers would turn out to be so close to each other.  Why are they? (For earlier examples of fine tuning, please see our first post, which gives some general background as well.)

Dirac argued that these fundamental numbers must be related. The essential problem is that the size of the universe is changing as the cosmos expands, while the first relationship is presumably constant, given that it involves only two supposed “constants.” Why should two very large numbers, one variable and the other not variable, be so close to each other?  (It’s like seeing a person’s vocal chords vibrating in all kinds of ways and yet discovering that each word he speaks is exactly half a second apart — even this image is a simplification compared to the actual problem, which spans similar ratios in terms of light years and time in the trillionth of a second.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Why the Universe Is Our Home: It’s Not a Coincidence

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on March 19, 2013

By Deepak Chopra,

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

It would be reassuring to most people to discover that the universe is constructed to favor life.  If the human race isn’t a freakish outcome of highly improbable chance events, we have every right to see the universe as our home. But this psychological reassurance strikes physicists and biologists as wishful thinking; the bulwark of modern science, from the most minuscule events at the quantum scale to the Big Bang itself, is the assumption that creation is random, without guidance, plan, mind or purpose.

Only very slowly has such a blanket view been challenged, but these new challenges are among the most exciting possibilities in science. We’d like to outline the argument for a “human universe” with an eye to understanding why the human race exists. This question is too central to be left to a small cadre of professional cosmologists and evolutionary biologists; everyone has a personal stake in it.

The most accepted theory of the large-scale structure of the universe is Big Bang cosmology, which has achieved impressive results. Yet when you try to model the universe, you can’t escape the problems surrounding what seems like a simple act: observing it.  Measuring the cosmos is intricately interwoven with limits imposed by the process of observation itself. As you go back in time or ahead into the future, as you reach so far into space that light takes billions of years to reach Earth,  any possible model encounters horizons of knowledge at some ultimate, faint observational limit. Beyond such a horizon, observation is blocked, and so are physics, mathematics and the human mind.

For example, with the Big Bang theory, light cannot be used to observe further back in time or across immense distances to arrive close to the very beginning itself. The first instant of the Big Bang remains forever hidden from the present. Knowledge about the early universe has to be inferred. We can examine the parts that scattered after the Big Bang, but we cannot grasp the whole. Thus, our observational limitations prohibit verifying cosmological theories to any degree of accuracy for any observational test. So the Hubble telescope, marvelous as it is for sending back photos of distant galaxies, can’t reveal reality independent of cosmological theory.  Theory cannot be verified with complete certainty, which means that important topics like the expansion of the universe and the evolution of galaxies are our own mental constructs; they reflect who we are as observers, not independent reality. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tuning In to the Universe

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on February 26, 2013

By Honor Harger

Images of space are ubiquitous in our lives. We have been surrounded by stunning portrayals of our own solar system and beyond for generations. But in popular culture, we have no sense of what space sounds like. And indeed, most people associate space with silence.

The spiral galaxy M106. Photo courtesy of NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), R. Gendler (for the Hubble Heritage Team), and G. Bacon (STScI).

There are, of course, perfectly valid scientific reasons for assuming so. Space is a vacuum. But through radio, we can listen to the Sun’s fizzling solar flares, the roaring waves and spitting fire of Jupiter’s stormy interactions with its moon Io, pulsars’ metronomic beats, or the eerie melodic shimmer of a whistler in the magnetosphere.

Radio waves emitted from celestial bodies can be turned into sound by ordinary radio receivers, which contain amplifiers and speakers that convert electrical signals into sound waves. Using this century-old process, the universe becomes soundful.

This is all possible due to the science of radio astronomy. The study of celestial phenomena at radio wavelengths, radio astronomy came into being after the accidental discovery of cosmic radiation by radio engineer, Karl Jansky in 1933. Whilst optical astronomers use telescopes to look at the visible light emitted by stars, radio astronomers use radio telescopes to detect radio waves.

Back in 2001, my artistic group, r a d i o q u a l i a, created Radio Astronomy to allow listeners to encounter different celestial frequencies, hearing planets, stars, nebulae, and the constant hiss of cosmic noise. The intention was to unearth the sonic character of objects in our universe, and in the process, perhaps make these phenomena more tangible and comprehensible. Radio enabled us to hear something which was physically present, but imperceptible to our senses, which as radio artists, appealed to us. Read the rest of this entry »

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God Will Be Back Tomorrow (Really)

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 2, 2012

By Deepak Chopra, Author, ‘Spiritual Solutions’; founder, The Chopra Foundation

Can a secular age return to an age of faith? No. Despite the hopes of people who still follow traditional religions, the modern age is too entrenched in its values to ever regain faith as it was once known. The issue isn’t church attendance, which has been declining in every developed country for decades. Nor is it fundamentalism, which is like a family squabble among believers. The core issue that has led to the decline of religion has to do with reality itself.

In the modern age, reality has been defined by science, and wherever science goes, so will God. Many people assume that God has no chance of returning, that science has permanently vanquished the reality defined by religion. But the story is more complicated than that. Let me look at the picture in the broadest terms. What would it take to make the universe a living thing? What would it take to make it human once again, a secure home for us instead of a cold, meaningless place? What would it take to give God a future?

As disconnected as these questions may seem, the deeper one looks, all three issues – a living universe, a human universe, and a universe that holds a place for God – start to merge. If they actually do merge, our view of reality will radically shift. There have been great physicists who were deeply religious, such as Sir Isaac Newton, or who had a religious feeling when confronting the universe, such as Albert Einstein, but God isn’t the right place to start with these huge issues. No matter who or what created the universe, it’s here now, and we have to relate to it.

How? One of the oldest ideas, which can be found in every culture, holds that Nature is a mirror. We relate to it by seeing ourselves, but not passively. Messages are constantly going back and forth about birth and death about constant change and the bond between our life and Nature itself. To the ancients, a natural disaster – fire, flood, earthquake – showed that the gods were angry. If the gods were appeased, the harvest was good and the sun shone. It was unquestioned that the universe meant something, and usually it meant that a loving deity had created a special place for his children.

It’s astonishing how quickly a timeless worldview was utterly destroyed by science. Now we relate to a completely mechanistic universe devoid of purpose, one that operates through random chance perfectly meshed with evolution operating through random genetic mutations. The mirror has shattered. We no longer see ourselves in it, because there’s nothing meaningful to see, no purpose, no Creator. Even more absurd is the notion that Nature is sending us messages – from the collision of quarks to the collision of galaxies, nothing is happening “out there” to reflect human existence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Philosophy v science: which can answer the big questions of life?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 10, 2012

Philosopher Julian Baggini fears that, as we learn more and more about the universe, scientists are becoming increasingly determined to stamp their mark on other disciplines. Here, he challenges theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss over ‘mission creep’ among his peers

By  and 

philosophy science

Does philosophy or science have all the big answers?

Julian Baggini No one who has understood even a fraction of what science has told us about the universe can fail to be in awe of both the cosmos and of science. When physics is compared with the humanities and social sciences, it is easy for the scientists to feel smug and the rest of us to feel somewhat envious. Philosophers in particular can suffer from lab-coat envy. If only our achievements were so clear and indisputable! How wonderful it would be to be free from the duty of constantly justifying the value of your discipline.

However – and I’m sure you could see a “but” coming – I do wonder whether science hasn’t suffered from a little mission creep of late. Not content with having achieved so much, some scientists want to take over the domain of other disciplines.

I don’t feel proprietorial about the problems of philosophy. History has taught us that many philosophical issues can grow up, leave home and live elsewhere. Science was once natural philosophy and psychology sat alongside metaphysics. But there are some issues of human existence that just aren’t scientific. I cannot see how mere facts could ever settle the issue of what is morally right or wrong, for example. 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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The Greatest Speech Ever Made – Charlie Chaplin

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 6, 2012

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Einstein on God

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 22, 2012

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Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday: 17 things you need to know about the physicist

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday to Professor Stephen Hawking, who today celebrates his 70th birthday – nearly fifty years after he was first diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

Here are 17 things you need to know about the most famous theoretical physicist in the world.

1) Born in Oxford on January 8 1942 – 300 years after the death of astronomer Galileo Galilei – Professor Hawking grew up in St Albans, Hertfordshire.

2) After being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – at the age of 22, Hawking was given just a few years to live.

3) Hawking is as much a celebrity as he is a scientist, having appeared on The Simpsons, Star Trek and having provided narration for a British Telecom commercial that was later sampled on a Pink Floyd album.

4) He had a difficult time at the local public school and was persecuted as a “swot” who was more interested in jazz, classical music and debating than sport and pop. Read the rest of this entry »

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What Happened Before Creation?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 6, 2012

By Robert Lanza 

Everyone knows that something is screwy with the way we visualize the cosmos. Theories of its origins screech to a halt when they reach the very event of interest — the moment of creation, the “Big Bang.”

The current scientific model proposes that the universe is like a watch that somehow wound itself and that will unwind in a semi-predictable way. Life arose by an unknown process, and then proceeded to change form under Darwinian mechanisms that operate under these same physical rules. Life contains consciousness, but the latter is poorly understood and is, in any case, solely a matter for biologists.

But there’s a problem. Consciousness isn’t just an issue for biologists; it’s a problem for physics. Nothing in physics explains how molecules in your brain create consciousness. The beauty of a sunset, the miracle of love, the taste of a delicious meal — these are all mysteries to science. It can’t explain how consciousness arose from matter; our understanding of this basic phenomenon of our existence is nil. Not coincidentally, consciousness comes up again in a completely different realm of science. Quantum theory, while working well mathematically, makes no logical sense. As new experiments show, particles seem to behave as if they respond to a conscious observer. Because that can’t be right, physicists have deemed quantum theory inexplicable. The simplest explanation — that particles actually do interact with consciousness at some level — is too far outside the model to be seriously considered.

But even putting aside the issues of consciousness, the current model leaves much to be desired when it comes to explaining the universe. The cosmos sprang out of nothingness 13.7 billion years ago, in a titanic event humorously labeled the Big Bang. We don’t understand where it came from and we continually tinker with the details, including adding an inflationary period with physics we don’t yet understand. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Secret

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 15, 2011

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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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Opinion: Einstein the realist

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 19, 2011

Einstein’s ‘biggest blunder’, his proposal that the universe is not static, was a step towards discovering dark matter.
It was recently discovered that the universe’s expansion is accelerating, not slowing, as was previously thought. Light from distant exploding stars revealed that an unknown force (dubbed “dark energy”) more than outweighs gravity on cosmological scales.Unexpected by researchers, such a force had nevertheless been predicted in 1915 by a modification that Albert Einstein proposed to his own theory of gravity, the general theory of relativity. But he later dropped the modification, known as the “cosmological term”, calling it the “biggest blunder” of his life.

So the headlines proclaim: “Einstein was right after all”, as though scientists should be compared as one would clairvoyants: Who is distinguished from the common herd by knowing the unknowable – such as the outcome of experiments that have yet to be conceived, let alone conducted? Who, with hindsight, has prophesied correctly?

But science is not a competition between scientists; it is a contest of ideas – namely, explanations of what is out there in reality, how it behaves, and why. These explanations are initially tested not by experiment but by criteria of reason, logic, applicability, and uniqueness at solving the mysteries of nature that they address. Predictions are used to test only the tiny minority of explanations that survive these criteria.

The story of why Einstein proposed the cosmological term, why he dropped it, and why cosmologists today have reintroduced it illustrates this process. Einstein sought to avoid the implication of unmodified general relativity that the universe cannot be static – that it can expand (slowing down, against its own gravity), collapse, or be instantaneously at rest, but that it cannot hang unsupported. Read the rest of this entry »

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