UNIVERSE

MODELING THE FUTURE

[3.30.08]

Warming is unequivocal, that's true. But that's not a sophisticated question. A much more sophisticated question is how much of the climate Ma Earth, a perverse lady, gives us is from her, and how much is caused by us. That's a much more sophisticated, and much more difficult question.

 

STEPHEN H. SCHNEIDER, a climatologist, is Professor in the Biological Sciences Department at Stanford University. He is internationally recognized as one of the world's leading experts in atmospheric research and its implications for environment and society. He is author of Laboratory Earth: The Planetary Gamble We Can't Afford to Lose.

Stephen Schneider's Edge Bio Page

 

THE CHANGING ARCTIC

[8.13.07]

[Photo Credit: John McConnico]

Knowing that Arctic climate models are imperfect, it would be reassuring for me, if not for the scientists, to be able to write that scientists keep making grim predictions that just that don't come true. If that were so, we could follow Dyson's line that the models aren't so good and "the fuss is exaggerated". Scarily, the truth is the other way around. The ice is melting faster than the grimmest of the scientist's predictions, and the predictions keep getting grimmer. Now we are talking about an Arctic free of ice in summer by 2040. That's a lot of melting given that, in the long, dark winter the ice covers an area greater than that of the entire United States.

THE CHANGING ARCTIC: A RESPONSE TO FREEMAN DYSON'S "HERETICAL THOUGHTS"
By Alun Anderson

ALUN ANDERSON has been the U.S. Editor of the journal Nature, International Editor of the journal Science; and for 12 years, Editor, then Editor-in-Chief and Publishing Director, of the weekly magazine New Scientist.

Alun Anderson's Edge Bio Page

THE CYCLIC UNIVERSE

[5.16.07]

"In recent years, the search for the fundamental laws of nature has forced us to think about the Big Bang much more deeply. According to our best theories — string theory and M theory — all of the details of the laws of physics are actually determined by the structure of the universe; specifically, by the arrangement of tiny, curled-up extra dimensions of space. This is a very beautiful picture: particle physics itself is now just another aspect of cosmology. But if you want to understand why the extra dimensions are arranged as they are, you have to understand the Big Bang because that's where everything came from."

NEIL TUROK holds the Chair of Mathematical Physics in the department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics at Cambridge University. He is coauthor, with Paul Steinhardt, of Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang.

NEIL TUROK's Edge Bio Page

UNIVERSE REVEALING OUR MODERN MYTHOLOGY

[3.13.07]

As humans, we have a long history of projecting our great stories into the night sky. This leads us to wonder: if we were to make new constellations today, what would they be? If we were to paint new pictures in the sky, what would they depict? These questions form the inspiration for Universe, which explores the notions of modern mythology and contemporary constellations.

UNIVERSE
REVEALING OUR MODERN MYTHOLOGY
By Jonathan Harris
 

Introduction

[ED. NOTE: One of the highlights of this year's interesting and eclectic TED Conference in Monterey, California, organized by TED "curator" Chris Anderson, was the premiere a new work by Jonathan Harris, a New York artist and storyteller working primarily on the Internet. His work involves the exploration and understanding of humans, on a global scale, through the artifacts they leave behind on the Web.

"Universe, he writes, "was inspired by questions like: if we could draw new constellations in our night sky today, what would those be? What are our great stories? What are our great journeys? Who are our heroes and heroines? Who are our Gods and Goddesses? What is our modern mythology? Universe tries to answer these questions through analysis of global media coverage, as construed by Daylife."

"Universe presents an interactive night sky, composed of thousands of twinkling stars, which then connect to form constellations. Each of these constellations has a specific counterpart in the physical world — a story, a person, a quote, an image, a company, a nation, a mythic theme. Any constellation can be clicked, making it the center of the universe, and causing all other stars to enter its orbit. Universe is infinitely large, and each person's path through it will be different. For an explanation of how it works, read 'Stages'. For a longer discussion of the ideas behind the piece, read'Statement'."

Jonathan Harris invites you "to start exploring, get lost, find something amazing, and make your own mythology". Click here for Jonathan Harris's "Universe".

— JB

JONATHAN HARRIS is an New York artist and storyteller working primarily on the Internet. His work involves the exploration and understanding of humans, on a global scale, through the artifacts they leave behind on the Web.

Jonathan Harris' Edge bio page

NASA GOES DEEP

[2.26.07]

...instead of having a ubiquitous presence throughout the solar system, humans haven’t set foot on the Moon in 35 years, and even our robotic explorations in that time have been throttled because we deliberately reduced our access to deep space.

 

CAROLYN PORCO is a planetary scientist, the leader of the Imaging Science Team on the Cassini mission and director of the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations.

 

Carolyn Porco's Edge Bio Page

MY EINSTEIN'S SUSPENDERS

The 2006 Nobel Prize for Physics
[11.9.06]

Last month, Edge contributor Berkeley astrophysicist George Smoot was awarded the Nobel prize in Physics (along with Nasa's John Mather). In 1992, Smoot made headlines around the world with his images of the birth of the universe, the beginning of time itself, taken with the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) space probe. Backed by a large team, Smoot used COBE to pick up the faint whispers left by the cosmic explosion of creation almost 14 billion years ago, revealing embryonic structures in the baby universe. When he announced their astonishing find, Stephen Hawking said it was "the discovery of the century, if not all time."

Ever since, there has been increasing recognition of the importance of his work. Cobe was followed by WMap, and "Plank" will launch in 200x. Also, next year the Large hadron Collider (LHC) launches at Cern. Smoot's  Nobel prize is the confirmation of the importance of his work that has led to the elevation of cosmology to a precision science. Smoot's research stands at a momentous intersection of the empirical and the epistemological: by confirming the reality of the Big Bang with precise calculations, we have entered a new age, the golden age of cosmology.Last year Smoot was honored as the Albert Einstein scientist. he also wrote the following essay, "My Einstein's Suspenders" which was recently published in My Einstein.

GEORGE F. SMOOT is the leader of a group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that conducts experiments observing our galaxy and the cosmic background radiation. The best known of these is COBE (the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite), which has shown that the cosmic background radiation intensity has a wavelength dependence precisely that of a perfectly absorbing body, indicating that it is the relic radiation from the Big Bang. For this work, has been awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize for physics. He shares the award with John C. Mather of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. The citation reads "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation."

He is the author (with Keay Davidson) of Wrinkles in Time.

George F. Smoot's Edge Bio Page

THE PRINCIPLE OF MEDIOCRITY

[9.14.06]

A striking consequence of the new picture of the world is that there should be an infinity of regions with histories absolutely identical to ours. That's right, scores of your duplicates are now reading copies of this article. They live on planets exactly like Earth, with all its mountains, cities, trees, and butterflies. There should also be regions where histories are somewhat different from ours, with all possible variations. For example, some readers will be pleased to know that there are infinitely many O-regions where Al Gore is the President of the United States.

In this astonishing world view, our Earth and our civilization are anything but unique. Instead, countless identical civilizations are scattered across the infinite expanse of the cosmos. With humankind reduced to absolute cosmic insignificance, our descent from the center of the world, a process begun by Copernicus, is now complete.

Introduction

In 1981, Alan Guth made what some considered at the time to be the most important contribution to cosmology in a generation: the theory of inflation. In Guth's model, the very early universe underwent a period of rapid expansion; this accounts for, among other puzzles in big-bang theory, the present-day universe's puzzling homogeneity.

Today, more than 25 years later, Guth's inflationary model still holds sway, as other cosmologists have moved the theory in new directions, i.e. chaotic inflation, eternal inflation, brane inflation, among others.

The implications of inflation are particularly important in the context of the landscape of string theory. One of the leading researchers studying how inflationary cosmology evolves through the landscape is Alex Vilenkin, a theoretical physicist at Tufts who has been working in the field of cosmology for 25 years and is a pioneer in introducing the ideas of eternal inflation and quantum creation of the universe from nothing. Here he sets forth his ideas of how the set of theories which began with Guth's inflationary scenario are playing out.

—JB

 

ALEXANDER VILENKIN is Professor of Physics and Director of the Institute of Cosmology at Tufts University. A theoretical physicist who has been working in the field of cosmology for 25 years, Vilenkin has written over 150 papers and is responsible for introducing the ideas of eternal inflation and quantum creation of the universe from nothing.

Alexander Vilenkin's Edge Bio Page

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