UNIVERSE

IS THERE A HIGGS?

[3.4.09]

In a very pure sense you build the accelerator you need when you know what the question is.

INTRODUCTION

As an astronomer I'm lucky to work in a subject where there is already public interest, and where it's not too difficult to convey the key ideas and new discoveries in a non-technical and accessible way. It's far harder to make particle physics accessible and interesting. Brian Cox is one of the few scientists who succeed in doing this, and I much admire him for it. It's fortunate that he's been willing to devote so much time and effort to 'outreach'—and especially to seize the opportunity to publicise the LHC launch so effectively. Scientists—not just particle physicists—should be grateful to him for raising the profile of 'blue skies' research so engagingly and effective.

—Martin Rees

Martin Rees, President, The Royal Society; Professor of Cosmology & Astrophysics; Master, Trinity College, University of Cambridge; Author, Our Final Century: The 50/50 Threat to Humanity's Survival.

BRIAN COX is a Royal Society University Research Fellow based in the Particle Physics group at the University of Manchester, where he holds a chair in Particle Physics. He works on the ATLAS experiment at CERN in Geneva. A former rock star, he has become a well-known public communicator of science to the public through highly-regarded television and radio presentations on the BBC and other networks.

Brian Cox's Edge Bio Page

ENGINEERS' DREAMS

[7.13.08]

Only one third of a search engine is devoted to fulfilling search requests. The other two thirds are divided between crawling (sending a host of single-minded digital organisms out to gather information) and indexing (building data structures from the results). Ed's job was to balance the resulting loads.

When Ed examined the traffic, he realized that Google was doing more than mapping the digital universe. Google doesn't merely link or point to data. It moves data around. Data that are associated frequently by search requests are locally replicated—establishing physical proximity, in the real universe, that is manifested computationally as proximity in time. Google was more than a map. Google was becoming something else. ...

Introduction by Stewart Brand

How does one come to a new understanding? The standard essay or paper makes a discursive argument, decorated with analogies, to persuade the reader to arrive at the new insight.

The same thing can be accomplished—perhaps more agreeably, perhaps more persuasively—with a piece of fiction that shows what would drive a character to come to the new understanding. Tell us a story!

This George Dyson gem couldn't find a publisher in a fiction venue because it's too technical, and technical publications (including Wired) won't run it because it's fiction. Shame on them. Edge to the rescue.

—SBB

GEORGE DYSON, a historian among futurists, is the author Baidarka; Project Orion; and Darwin Among the Machines.

George Dyson's Edge Bio Page


BREAKING THE GALILEAN SPELL

[4.11.08]

Even deeper than emergence and its challenge to reductionism in this new scienti?c worldview is what I call breaking the Galilean spell. Galileo rolled balls down incline planes and showed that the distance traveled varied as the square of the time elapsed. From this he obtained a universal law of motion. Newton followed with his Principia, setting the stage for all of modern science. With these triumphs, the Western world came to the view that all that happens in the universe is governed by natural law. Indeed, this is the heart of reductionism. Another Nobel laureate physicist, Murray Gell-Mann, has de?ned a natural law as a compressed description, available beforehand, of the regularities of a phenomenon. The Galilean spell that has driven so much science is the faith that all aspects of the natural world can be described by such laws. Perhaps my most radical scienti?c claim is that we can and must break the Galilean spell. Evolution of the biosphere, human economic life, and human history are partially indescribable by natural law. This claim ?ies in the face of our settled convictions since Galileo, Newton, and the Enlightenment.

STUART A. KAUFFMAN is a professor at the University of Calgary with a shared appointment between biological sciences and physics and astronomy. He is also the leader of the Institute for Biocomplexity and Informatics (IBI) which conducts leading-edge interdisciplinary research in systems biology.

Dr. Kauffman is also an emeritus professor of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania, a MacArthur Fellow and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. He is the author of The Origins of Order, At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization, Investigations and Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion (Basic Books, forthcoming, May 5th).

Stuart A. Kauffman's Edge Bio Page

MODELING THE FUTURE

Topic: 

  • UNIVERSE
http://vimeo.com/80904106

"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."

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

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