UNIVERSE

LOOP QUANTUM GRAVITY: LEE SMOLIN

[2.23.03]

Science is a kind of open laboratory for a democracy. It's a way to experiment with the ideals of our democratic societies. For example, in science you must accept the fact that you live in a community that makes the ultimate judgment as to the worth of your work. But at the same time, everybody's judgment is his or her own. The ethics of the community require that you argue for what you believe and that you try as hard as you can to get results to test your hunches, but you have to be honest in reporting the results, whatever they are. You have the freedom and independence to do whatever you want, as long as in the end you accept the judgment of the community. Good science comes from the collision of contradictory ideas, from conflict, from people trying to do better than their teachers did, and I think here we have a model for what a democratic society is about. There's a great strength in our democratic way of life, and science is at the root of it.

It's only since the middle 1980s that real progress began to be made on unifying relativity and quantum theory. The turning point was the invention of not one but two approaches: loop quantum gravity and string theory. Since then, we have been making steady progress on both of these approaches. In each case, we are able to do calculations that predict surprising new phenomena. Still, we are not done. Neither is yet in final form; there are still things to understand. But the really important news is that there is now a real chance of doing experiments that will test the new predictions of these theories.

This is important, because we're in the uncomfortable situation of having two well-developed candidates for the quantum theory of gravity. We need to reduce these to one theory. We can do this either by finding that one is wrong and the other right, or by finding that the two theories can themselves be unified.

LEE SMOLIN, a theoretical physicist, is concerned with quantum gravity, "the name we give to the theory that unifies all the physics now under construction." More specifically, he is a co-inventor of an approach called loop quantum gravity. In 2001, he became a founding member and research physicist of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, in Waterloo, Ontario. Smolin is the author of The Life of The Cosmos and Three Roads to Quantum Gravity.

Lee Smolin's Edge Bio Page

THEORIES OF THE BRANE: LISA RANDALL

[2.9.03]

Additional spatial dimensions may seem like a wild and crazy idea at first, but there are powerful reasons to believe that there really are extra dimensions of space. One reason resides in string theory, in which it is postulated that the particles are not themselves fundamental but are oscillation modes of a fundamental string. 

LISA RANDALL is a professor of physics at Harvard University, where she also earned her PhD (1987). She was a President's Fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, a postdoctoral fellow at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and a junior fellow at Harvard before joining the MIT faculty in 1991. Between 1998 and 2000, she had a joint appointment at Princeton and MIT as a full professor, and she moved to Harvard as a full professor in 2001. Her research in theoretical high energy physics is primarily related to exploring the physics underlying the standard model of particle physics. This has involved studies of supersymmetry and, most recently, extra dimensions of space.

Lisa Randall's Edge Bio Page

SEVEN SCIENTISTS: AN EDGE OBSEQUY FOR THE ASTRONAUTS OF SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA

[2.9.03]

Amidst all the self serving rhetoric, I think Edge should contribute its own obsequy. The people who died were scientists. Whatever else they may have believed in, their goal was to learn and to explore.

The Crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia


Rick D. Husband

William C. McCool

Michael P. Anderson

David M. Brown

Kalpana Chawla

Laurel Blair Salton Clark
 
Ilan Ramon
 

THE ULTRA EARLY UNIVERSE: MARTIN REES

[12.15.02]

SIR MARTIN REES is Royal Society Professor at Cambridge University, Fellow of Kings College, and the UK's Astronomer Royal. He was previously Plumian Professor of Astronomy and Experimental Philosophy at Cambridge, having been elected to this chair at the age of thirty, succeeding Fred Hoyle. He is the author of several books, including Gravity's Fatal Attraction (with Mitchell Begelman); Before the Beginning; Just Six Numbers; and Our Cosmic Habitat.

THE CYCLIC UNIVERSE: PAUL STEINHARDT

Topic: 

  • UNIVERSE
http://vimeo.com/79446733

"...in the last year I've been involved in the development of an alternative theory that turns the cosmic history topsy-turvy. All the events that created the important features of our universe occur in a different order, by different physics, at different times, over different time scales—and yet this model seems capable of reproducing all of the successful predictions of the consensus picture with the same exquisite detail."

THE CYCLIC UNIVERSE: PAUL STEINHARDT

[11.19.02]

...in the last year I've been involved in the development of an alternative theory that turns the cosmic history topsy-turvy. All the events that created the important features of our universe occur in a different order, by different physics, at different times, over different time scales—and yet this model seems capable of reproducing all of the successful predictions of the consensus picture with the same exquisite detail.

PAUL STEINHARDT is the Albert Einstein Professor in Science and on the faculty of both the Departments of Physics and Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton University.

He is one of the leading theorists responsible for inflationary theory. He constructed the first workable model of inflation and the theory of how inflation could produce seeds for galaxy formation. He was also among the first to show evidence for dark energy and cosmic acceleration, introducing the term "quintessence" to refer to dynamical forms of dark energy. With Neil Turok he has pioneered mathematical and computational techniques which decisively disproved rival theories of structure formation such as cosmic strings. He made leading contributions to inflationary theory and to our understanding of the origin of the matter-antimatter asymmetry in the Universe. Hence, the authors not only witnessed but also led firsthand the revolutionary developments in the standard cosmological model caused by the fusion of particle physics and cosmology in the last 20 years.

Paul Steinhardt's Edge Bio Page


[11:45 minutes]

THE INFLATIONARY UNIVERSE

[11.19.02]

Inflationary theory itself is a twist on the conventional Big Bang theory. The shortcoming that inflation is intended to fill in is the basic fact that although the Big Bang theory is called the Big Bang theory it is, in fact, not really a theory of a bang at all; it never was.

 
ALAN GUTH, father of the inflationary theory of the Universe, is Victor F. Weisskopf Professor of Physics at MIT; author of The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins.

THE EMOTION UNIVERSE: MARVIN MINSKY

[11.5.02]

To say that the universe exists is silly, because it says that the universe is one of the things in the universe. So there's something wrong with questions like, "What caused the Universe to exist?

MARVIN MINSKY, mathematician and computer scientist, is considered one of the fathers of Artificial Intelligence. He is Toshiba Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; cofounder of MIT's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory; and the author of eight books, including The Society of Mind.

Marvin Minsky's Edge Bio Page

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