Interstellar Overdrive

September 11, 2008 at 5:57 pm | Posted in Musing + Mulling, World + People + Events | Leave a comment
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Today dawned as another beautiful (*coughnonstopraincough*) day. The furious winds, the cold so deep you can almost feel it under your skin, the the smell of the earth, the vivid, lush green of trees, the cloud-laden sky stretching endlessly overhead, glistening raindrops, umbrellas, thick blankets, crisp toast, a steaming cup of coffee…

…hang on. We’re alive!

The Big Bang 2.0 Experiment certainly created no minor waves. Even a nose-permanently-engrossed-in-some-fat-book-or-the-other-and-totally-immune-to-gossip person like me couldn’t escape the wild anticipation, rumours, hysteria and frenzy all around me.

JB: *fingersfuriouslycrossed* Go CERN go!
CG: Oooh! A baby universe, isn’t that pretty!
SA: Seriously, what is the point of this experiment? Isn’t it quite ridiculous to think that we can artificially recreate the conditions which created the Universe? When will these self-pompous scientists learn?
N: Ah dinniken why they ur daein it, jist fir tae prove at whit a hale lot aff canny folks they ur? Bliddy tubes aw dem. This ain’t gonnae work.
SF: Shair they ken whit they ur daein! Int nae hairm in tryin, is there? Ah hope fir the bes.
GL: Typical right-winged bullshit to make money off some stupid experiment while millions of children continue die of starvation. What a waste.
BBD: They can’t mess with the world like that! God made it. Only God can decide what to do it.
My wee brother: OMGOMG we’re all gonna die!

As for me, *I* find the whole thing incredibly exciting. It’s a huge undertaking all right. On the whole, I think the whole LHC thing is quite…astounding and a wee bit scary at the same time. I must admit, something on a scale as big as this fascinates me and frightens me. We’re treading dangerous grounds here. This is something that cut right to the core. Messing with Nature is a dangerous thing. The answer to the Big Bang – Universe’s biggest riddle – is something we’ve always sought to find. And yet, when (and if) we do find it…would it all be the same?

Whether we materialise the Higgs Boson particle or not, whether we identify the nature of the invisible dark matter that constitutes 25 per cent of the Universe or not, whether we modify the architecture of space-time or not, one thing is clear: we’re getting closer and deeper to an understanding of the Universe all the time. There is something about this whole thing – the whole element of mystery – the endless search, the maddening nature of the questions, and the hunger for answers.

Einstein put it very well in one of his most excellent essays, Physics and Reality:

The very fact that the totality of our sense experiences is such that by means of thinking, it can be put in order, this fact is one which leaves us in awe, but which we shall never understand. One may say that the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.’ It is in the sense of creating some sort of order among sense impressions – by the formation of general concepts and relations between them – that the world is comprehensible. The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.

The connections of elementary concepts of everyday thinking with complexes of sense experiences can only be comprehended intuitively and is unadaptable to scientifically logical fixation. The totality of these connections – none of which is expressible in conceptual terms – is the only thing which differentiates the great building which is science from a logical but empty scheme of concepts.

Some physicists, among them myself, cannot believe that we must abandon, actually and forever, the idea of direct representation of physical reality in space and time; or that we must accept the view that events in nature are analogous to a game of chance. It is open to every man to choose the direction of his striving; and also every man may draw comfort from Lessing’s fine saying, that the search for truth is more precious than its possession.

Humanity has always been in the search for truth…since the beginning of time. In my opinion, our existence is threatened more by the possibility of giving up this search, than it is by Global Warming or warfare.

On a related note: I was quite taken aback at the number of people who thought that it was their last day on earth. I just hate it when people jump to stupid illogical conclusions concerning the ‘end of the world’. All that talk about the world ending in 2012 is rubbish as well. Weren’t we supposed to die in 2000, or on the of sixth June in 2006? =P It seems that every now and then someone will turn up with their own prediction of the end of the world. Guess I’ll go and make a prediction myself and massively publicise it…I decide to switch on the toaster tomorrow morning and BAM! the world doesn’t exist anymore! People will fall even for that… :roll:

PS. I wonder just what Einstein and Orwell would have said were they to witness this experiment.


Astronomy Domine

January 9, 2008 at 6:13 pm | Posted in Me + Myself + I | Leave a comment
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I attended a physics conference yesterday, which later included stargazing and a quiz, which they’d arranged in honour of Stephen Hawking’s 66th birthday.

I felt that pleasant jolt and wild enthusiasm (that I generally get during every talk involving physics) when I reached the venue half an hour early. But I was a bit disappointed that they had limited it to stuff dealing with basic physics. What they had was a general background of physics and its history.

I was quite happy with the stargazing and stuff. We marked constellations and observed Mars and several stars through telescopes. They gave us loads of advice on the best approach of astronomy, its evolution and history. I am quite overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge already gleaned in this field and even more so by that of the countless questions and puzzles that need to be solved. Astronomy is the oldest of all sciences, and it has been with us for all this time. The sky is like a book that faithfully opens each day when the sun goes down and lies before us to be examined. There’s so much to observe, so much to speculate on, that all the squinting, pointing, and mapping can never be enough.

The most important thing required for study in astronomy is patience, they said. My neck was a bit strained with all the watching and observing and I earned a few funny looks with my wild exclamations whenever I spotted something, but apart from that, I had a really good time and the telescopes were enviable, considerably larger and more powerful than my own.

Stephen Hawking says that if we ever find a theory that describes the whole universe – which is the main goal of science today – it should be able to be unsderstood by everyone: this is how I myself have always viewed as the purpose of all science. It’s amazing how he’s stuck to his passion all his life, and it’s been said he doesn’t view his physical disability as a great barrier after all – the brain remains every bit as ingenious as it ever was. *sigh* I’d die to meet him!

I wish I’d have conferences like these more often (although I would prefer them to be dealing with stuff more than the basic things of course). I would have been overjoyed if we had had a discussion cutting directly to the core of physics. Time travel, black holes, antiparticles, dark matter and energy, the beginning, expansion and end of the universe. And of course, developments on the unified field theory. Perhaps that is asking a bit too much, but, when it comes to physics, you can’t have enough of it after all!

Defining Science

December 26, 2007 at 7:49 pm | Posted in Musing + Mulling | 2 Comments
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If I were to explain about what exactly science is, I’d say that science is questioning. Science is curiosity. Science is not everything that exists – but it is why a thing exists, how it exists and what it is. It’s not to be found in books, instead, it’s everywhere. It is something that teaches and transforms. People who argue that science creates problems forget that it also equips us with tools to solve those problems. In words of Isaac Asimov, ‘while it is true that knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.’

Overcoming obstacles is science. So is revolutionary thought and innovation. Science is creativity, and courage. Science is also an emotion; it is something that cannot be ignored however much you try. Science is a mystery; but it is perhaps more of a solution to that mystery, and the ways of finding it.

‘The whole of science is nothing but a refinement of everyday thinking,’ said Albert Einstein. I couldn’t think of a more succinct or elegant way of summing up what science is. It just goes on to show that science is not something to be understood by a few learned people; but it is something that connects each individual to their own life and to those of others’, and the world – why, it connects them to the Universe as a whole.

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