Friday, September 30, 2011

Some science

I have put it off long enough, time for some science. Some pretty fundamental and serious science. Cosmology and quantum physics, enough to make people run for cover or pretend to have to go to the bathroom rather urgently. Connie sometimes asks me to talk about it when she has trouble sleeping because as soon as I mention the word 'quark', she will be gone. me, having an inquisitive and scientific mind that needs hard data and reason over spiritual vagueness, contemporary physics and cosmology are rather fascinating. As far as I understand it, the universe as we know it came from nothing. Yep, nothing. Actually, there is no such thing as nothing, empty space at the quantum scale (think extremely, ridiculously tiny) is frothing with energy, virtual particles popping in and out of existence like bubbles in boiling water. Under the right circumstances, this leads to the birth of a universe, inflation (not the monetary kind, more the things getting very big in a hurry kind), condensation of matter, galaxies, stars, and so on.

Some profound things come out of cosmology. Like all the matter in your immediate surroundings, you, your computer, the air you breathe, and so on has been created by exploding stars. Runaway nuclear reactions in supernovae will generate an abundance of heavy elements that later cluster around new stars and form useful things like planets. A bit of chemical magic later we have life, evolution and eventually self-aware life forms wondering where it all came from.

Now I can babble on about this for ages. There are people far more qualified, intelligent and eloquent that can do a much better job. Like Lawrence Krauss in this fascinating and brilliant talk. Yeah it's an hour long so make a cup of tea and settle in. The guy is a great speaker and there are more profound statements and food for thought in his one hour talk than in many pages of certain books that people are so strangely fond of...

Open your mind wide and enjoy!

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