cosmic microwave background

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pages: 420 words: 119,928

The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth's Past) by Cixin Liu

back-to-the-land, cosmic microwave background, Deng Xiaoping, game design, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Norbert Wiener, Panamax, RAND corporation, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Von Neumann architecture

Do you know if there are any facilities in China that are observing the cosmic microwave background?” Wang had the urge to talk to someone about what was going on, but he thought it best to not let too many people know about the countdown that only he could see. “The cosmic microwave background? What made you interested in that? I guess you really have run into some problems.… Have you been to see Yang Dong’s mother yet?” “Ah—I’m sorry. I forgot.” “No worries. Right now, many scientists have … seen something, like you. Everyone’s distracted. But I think it’s still best if you go visit her. She’s getting on in years, and she won’t hire a caretaker. If there’s some task around the home that she needs help with, please help her.… Oh, right, the cosmic microwave background. You can ask Yang’s mother. Before she retired, she was an astrophysicist.

Sha’s lab was mainly responsible for receiving the data transmitted from three satellites: the Cosmic Background Explorer, COBE, launched in November of 1989 and about to be retired; the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, WMAP, launched in 2003; and Planck, the space observatory launched by the European Space Agency in 2009. Cosmic microwave background radiation very precisely matched the thermal black body spectrum at a temperature of 2.7255 K and was highly isotropic—meaning nearly uniform in every direction—with only tiny temperature fluctuations at the parts per million range. Sha Ruishan’s job was to create a more detailed map of the cosmic microwave background using observational data. The lab wasn’t very big. Equipment for receiving satellite data was squeezed into the main computer room, and three terminals displayed the information sent by the three satellites. Sha was excited to see Wang. Clearly bored with his long isolation and happy to have a visitor, he asked Wang what kind of data he wanted to see. “I want to see the overall fluctuation in the cosmic microwave background.” “Can you … be more specific?”

“What I mean is … I want to see the isotropic fluctuation in the overall cosmic microwave background, between one and five percent,” he said, quoting from Shen’s email. Sha grinned. Starting at the turn of the century, the Miyun Radio Astronomy Observatory had opened itself to visitors. In order to earn some extra income, Sha often played the role of tour guide or gave lectures. This was the grin he reserved for tourists, as he had grown used to their astounding scientific illiteracy. “Mr. Wang, I take it you’re not a specialist in the field?” “I work in nanotech.” “Ah, makes sense. But you must have some basic understanding of the cosmic microwave background?” “I don’t know much. I know that as the universe cooled after the big bang, the leftover ‘embers’ became the cosmic microwave background. The radiation fills the entire universe and can be observed in the centimeter wavelength range.


pages: 634 words: 185,116

From eternity to here: the quest for the ultimate theory of time by Sean M. Carroll

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, cellular automata, Claude Shannon: information theory, Columbine, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, dematerialisation, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, gravity well, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Lao Tzu, Laplace demon, lone genius, low earth orbit, New Journalism, Norbert Wiener, pets.com, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Richard Stallman, Schrödinger's Cat, Slavoj Žižek, Stephen Hawking, stochastic process, the scientific method, wikimedia commons

True, it contains complicated things like galaxies and sea otters and federal governments, but if we average out the local idiosyncrasies, on very large scales the universe looks pretty much the same everywhere. Nowhere is this more evident than in the cosmic microwave background. Every direction we look in the sky, we see microwave background radiation that looks exactly like that from an object glowing serenely at some fixed temperature—what physicists call “blackbody” radiation. However, the temperature is ever so slightly different from point to point on the sky; typically, the temperature in one direction differs from that in some other direction by about 1 part in 100,000. These fluctuations are called anisotropies—tiny departures from the otherwise perfectly smooth temperature of the background radiation in every direction. Figure 8: Temperature anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background, as measured by NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. Dark regions are slightly colder than average, light regions are slightly hotter than average.

Although it seems like a fairly innocent assumption, we have an intuitive feeling that we don’t know something only about the present; we know something about the past, because we see it, in a way that we don’t see the future. Cosmology is a good example, just because the speed of light plays an important role, and we have a palpable sense of “looking at an event in the past.” When we try to reconstruct the history of the universe, it’s tempting to look at (for example) the cosmic microwave background and say, “I can see what the universe was like almost 14 billion years ago; I don’t have to appeal to any fancy Past Hypothesis to reason my way into drawing any conclusions.” That’s not right. When we look at the cosmic microwave background (or light from any other distant source, or a photograph of any purported past event), we’re not looking at the past. We’re observing what certain photons are doing right here and now. When we scan our radio telescope across the sky and observe a bath of radiation at about 2.7 Kelvin that is very close to uniform in every direction, we’ve learned something about the radiation passing through our present location, which we then need to extrapolate backward to infer something about the past.

Our picture of the early universe is not based simply on theoretical extrapolation; we can use our theories to make testable predictions. For example, when the universe was about 1 minute old, it was a nuclear reactor, fusing protons and neutrons into helium and other light elements in a process known as “primordial nucleosynthesis.” We can observe the abundance of such elements today and obtain spectacular agreement with the predictions of the Big Bang model. We also observe cosmic microwave background radiation. The early universe was hot as well as dense, and hot things give off radiation. The theory behind night-vision goggles is that human beings (or other warm things) give off infrared radiation that can be detected by an appropriate sensor. The hotter something is, the more energetic (short wavelength, high frequency) is the radiation it emits. The early universe was extremely hot and gave off a lot of energetic radiation.


pages: 198 words: 57,703

The World According to Physics by Jim Al-Khalili

accounting loophole / creative accounting, Albert Einstein, butterfly effect, clockwork universe, cognitive dissonance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, double helix, Ernest Rutherford, Fellow of the Royal Society, germ theory of disease, gravity well, Internet of things, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, publish or perish, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, supercomputer in your pocket, the scientific method

This remarkable conclusion is supported beautifully by data showing subtle fluctuations in the temperature of deep space, the imprint of the very young universe on the cosmic microwave background radiation. It was recognised back in the late 1970s that these fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, while helpful in providing the seeding for the present-day distribution of matter in the universe, were too tiny to explain how galaxies could form. Dark matter helped provide the extra clumping that was needed. It was one of the great scientific triumphs of the end of the twentieth century when the COBE satellite2 measured these fluctuations to be just what had been predicted. Since then, further space missions have mapped these wrinkles in the cosmic microwave background with ever-increasing resolution: NASA’s WMAP mission in the first decade of this century, then the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, which launched in 2009.

The further out we look, the further back in time we are probing, since the light we see will have taken billions of years to reach us and is thus bringing us information about the distant past. And if we know how fast the universe has been expanding, we can wind back the clock to a time when everything was squeezed together in the same place: the moment of the universe’s birth. Quite separately, by studying the tiny variations in the temperature of deep space (the so-called cosmic microwave background) we can get an accurate snapshot of the universe as it was before any stars and galaxies had even formed, just a few hundred thousand years after the Big Bang. This allows us to pinpoint the age of the universe even more precisely. While it is one thing to say that physics allows us to learn about the universe at the shortest and longest distance and time scales, what I find equally remarkable is that we have discovered laws of physics that apply across the entirety of these ranges.

The light we collect in our telescopes carries within it the telltale signature of the distant atoms that have produced it or that it has passed through on its journey to Earth. The fact that we can learn about the ingredients of the universe just by studying the light that reaches us from space is one of the most beautiful notions in science. The other piece of evidence in support of the Big Bang—the discovery of which in 1964 finally confirmed the theory beyond reasonable doubt—is the existence of the so-called cosmic microwave background (or CMB) radiation. This ancient light that fills all of space originated at a time, not long after the Big Bang, when neutral atoms first formed, during a period in the universe’s history called the ‘era of recombination’. It took place 378,000 years after the Big Bang, when space had expanded and cooled enough for positively charged protons and alpha particles3 to capture electrons and form hydrogen and helium atoms.


pages: 492 words: 149,259

Big Bang by Simon Singh

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, All science is either physics or stamp collecting, Andrew Wiles, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Astronomia nova, Brownian motion, carbon-based life, Cepheid variable, Chance favours the prepared mind, Commentariolus, Copley Medal, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dava Sobel, Defenestration of Prague, discovery of penicillin, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Erwin Freundlich, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Hans Lippershey, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, horn antenna, if you see hoof prints, think horses—not zebras, Index librorum prohibitorum, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Karl Jansky, Kickstarter, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, luminiferous ether, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Olbers’ paradox, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, Paul Erdős, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, scientific mainstream, Simon Singh, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, unbiased observer, Wilhelm Olbers, William of Occam

By comparing the star’s luminosity to the apparent brightness as seen from the Earth, its distance can be accurately determined. These stars therefore play an important role in determining the cosmic distance scale. CMB radiation See cosmic microwave background radiation. COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) A satellite launched in 1989 to make accurate measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. Its DMR detector provided the first evidence for variations in the CMB radiation, indicative of regions in the early universe that led to galaxy formation. Copernican model The Sun-centred model of the universe, proposed by Nicholas Copernicus in the sixteenth century. cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation A pervasive ‘sea’ of microwave radiation emanating almost uniformly from every direction in the universe, which dates back to the moment of recombination.

This wavelength is invisible to the human eye, and is located in the so-called microwave region of the spectrum. Alpher and Herman were making a specific prediction. The universe should be full of a feeble microwave light with a wavelength of one millimetre, and it should be coming from all directions because it had existed everywhere in the universe at the moment of recombination. Anybody who could detect this so-called cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB radiation) would prove that the Big Bang really happened. Immortality was waiting for whoever could make the measurement. Unfortunately, Alpher and Herman were completely ignored. Nobody made any serious effort to search for their proposed CMB radiation. There were various reasons why the academic community shunned the prediction of CMB radiation, but first and foremost was the interdisciplinary nature of the research.

First, based on the redshifts of the galaxies, the age of the Big Bang universe was less than the age of the stars it contained, which was clearly nonsensical. Second, attempts to build atoms out of the Big Bang had hiccupped at helium, which was embarrassing because this implied that the universe should not contain any oxygen, carbon, nitrogen or any other heavy elements. But although the outlook was grim, the Big Bang was not yet a lost cause. The model could be salvaged and its credibility boosted if somebody could detect the cosmic microwave background radiation predicted by Alpher and Herman. Unfortunately, nobody could be bothered to look for it. Meanwhile, the situation for those who supported the idea of an eternal universe was looking more positive. They were about to fight back with their own revamped model. A team of cosmologists based in Britain were developing a theory that not only gave rise to an eternal universe, but was also capable of explaining Hubble’s observations of redshifts.


pages: 203 words: 63,257

Neutrino Hunters: The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe by Ray Jayawardhana

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anti-communist, Arthur Eddington, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, New Journalism, race to the bottom, random walk, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Skype, Solar eclipse in 1919, South China Sea, Stephen Hawking, undersea cable, uranium enrichment

Findings of NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), a space observatory mapping the tiny ripples in the afterglow of the big bang, have cast doubt on the existence of a fourth neutrino type, however. The pattern of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background holds clues to the stew of particles that existed in the early universe. Cosmologists who analyzed the full nine years of WMAP data concluded that there were most likely only three neutrino families at that time. In March 2013, scientists released maps of the cosmic microwave background that are even more exquisite, made by the European Space Agency’s Planck spacecraft. Again, they did not find evidence for sterile neutrinos, disappointing some researchers who had hoped for a more exciting result. However, Janet Conrad of MIT, who was involved in the MiniBooNE experiment, isn’t quite ready to give up on the possibility of a fourth neutrino type yet.

They could reveal how the universe came to be dominated by matter over antimatter, as we discussed in the last chapter, and could also help us understand the growth of large-scale cosmic structures such as clusters of galaxies. In fact, one of the best limits on the absolute mass of the neutrino comes from comparing the distribution of galaxies in space to the pattern of ripples in the big bang’s afterglow called the cosmic microwave background. According to Licia Verde of the University of Barcelona in Spain, future sky surveys offer our best hope for pinning down the neutrino mass. “If the total mass is below 0.2 electron volts … then no planned neutrino experiment can determine the neutrino mass in a model-independent way,” she explains. So instead of relying on Earth-bound experiments, we may have to look upward. As Verde says, “Planned cosmological surveys have enough statistical power to see in the sky the effect of a neutrino mass as small as the minimum allowed by oscillations.”

Data from the KamLAND experiment, which measured antineutrinos from nuclear reactors, provided independent confirmation of neutrino oscillations. 2002: Ray Davis and Masatoshi Koshiba won shares of the Nobel Prize for their roles in the detection of neutrinos from the Sun and Supernova 1987A. 2005: KamLAND researchers reported measuring “geoneutrinos” produced by radioactive elements in the Earth’s interior. 2011–2012: Tokai-to-Kamioka (T2K), Double Chooz, and RENO collaborations presented evidence that the third mixing angle (θ13) is nonzero, and the Daya Bay experiment measured its value. 2012: Two experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN discovered the long-sought Higgs boson, confirming a key prediction of the standard model. 2013: Planck spacecraft’s observations of the cosmic microwave background favored the existence of only three flavors of light neutrinos, and provided a new limit on the sum total of the three neutrino masses when combined with other cosmological data. GLOSSARY alpha ray (or alpha particle): A bundle comprising two protons and two neutrons; the same as the nucleus of helium. When a radioactive nucleus releases an alpha particle, the nucleus transforms into a different element, which comes two places earlier in the periodic table.


What We Cannot Know: Explorations at the Edge of Knowledge by Marcus Du Sautoy

Albert Michelson, Andrew Wiles, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Arthur Eddington, banking crisis, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Black Swan, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Edmond Halley, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, Georg Cantor, Hans Lippershey, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, MITM: man-in-the-middle, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, Necker cube, Paul Erdős, Pierre-Simon Laplace, Richard Feynman, Skype, Slavoj Žižek, Solar eclipse in 1919, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, technological singularity, Thales of Miletus, Turing test, wikimedia commons

He compares it to a pond into which many pebbles have been thrown. Once the black holes or pebbles have disappeared, we will have a pattern of ripples that results from these interacting expanding circles. Penrose believes that this is something that we could look for in the cosmic microwave background radiation, the radiation left over after the Big Bang that started our universe. Although the fluctuations across this radiation look random, perhaps some of them are the result of black holes bouncing off each other towards the end of the last aeon. The trouble is that the cosmic microwave background radiation is notoriously difficult to analyse, partly because there isn’t enough of it. You may consider this crazy, given that it makes up the surface of the sphere enclosing the observable universe. And yet if you are surveying sections of this sphere that surrounds the universe and you need to take sections which span 10 degrees of arc, you are very quickly going to run out of bits you haven’t looked at.

Acta Mathematica (Royal Swedish Academy of Science journal) 39 aeons 292–6 ageing 5, 8, 258, 269, 318 al-Sufi, Abd al-Rahman 203 algebra 89, 372–3, 374 Alhazen: Book of Optics 198 Allen Institute for Brain Science 347, 348 Allen, Paul G. 347 Allen, Woody 303 Alpha Centauri 188 alpha particles 98–100, 119, 131, 133, 166–7, 171, 172, 173, 176 alpha waves 314–16 American Association for the Advancement of Science 46 Amiot, Lawrence 280 anaesthesia 334–5, 345 Anderson, Carl 104 Andromeda nebula 203, 204 animals: consciousness and 317–19, 322, 325; evolution and 56, 57, 61; mathematics of animal kingdom 393–4; population dynamics 48–51; species classification 107 Aniston, Jennifer 4, 324–7, 347, 359 antimatter 104 Apple 321, 322, 355 Aquinas, Thomas 297, 390–1, 406 Arago, Francois 197 Archimedes 86 Aristarchus of Samos 189–90 Aristotle 22, 32, 82, 86, 87, 95, 101, 198, 306, 368, 369, 390; Metaphysics 1, 2 Armstrong, Karen 181, 410 artificial intelligence 8, 281, 303–4, 313, 317, 322, 337–9, 345–6, 417 asteroids 2, 182 Asteroids (game) 205–6, 207, 209 astronomy 10, 40, 63, 187–211, 213–16, 218, 222, 223, 236–7, 238–9, 271, 280, 296, 413 see also under individual area of astronomy asymmetrical twins 269–72, 283 atom 78–9, 80; atomic number 90; Brownian motion and 92, 93–5; charge and 96, 97, 98, 99–101, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110–11, 117, 118, 119, 125, 136, 142, 230, 356; dice and 64, 78, 79, 80, 91–2, 94, 103; discovery of 79–80, 95–101, 103, 104; discovery of smaller constituents that make up 95–127; electron microscopes and 78, 79; experimental justification for atomistic view of the matter, first 80, 89–92; LHC and 3–4, 98; measuring time and 123, 249, 251–2, 252, 254, 269; periodic table and 86–92; quantum microscopes and 79; strangeness and 108, 109–11, 115–16; symmetry and 111–17, 120, 121, 125; theoretical atomistic view of matter, history of 78–88, 93 atomic clock 123, 252, 254, 269 axioms 52, 367–8, 371, 377, 378–9, 383, 384–6, 387, 388, 397–8, 400, 401, 402, 403, 404, 413 Babylonians 83, 251, 366, 368, 417 Bach 77, 121, 304 Bacon, Francis 399 banking, chaos theory and 54 Barbour, Julian: The End of Time 299–300 Barrow, Professor John 236–40, 242 baryons 107, 108, 109, 110, 115, 119 Beit Guvrin, Israel, archaeological dig in 20–1 Bell, John/Bell’s theorem 170, 171, 173, 174 Berkeley, Bishop: The Analyst 87 Berger, Hans 314 Berlin Academy 382 Berlin Observatory 197 Bessel, Friedrich 201 Besso, Michele 296–7 beta particles 98, 131 Bible 192 Big Bang 237, 377; cosmic microwave background and 226, 228, 289; as creation myth 235; emergence of consciousness and 319, 377, 407; infinite universe and 219–21; singularity 278, 281–2, 284; testing conditions of 234; time before, existence of 7, 9, 248–9, 262–7, 284, 290, 291–6, 407 biology 237, 405, 416; animal see animals; breakthroughs in 4; consciousness see consciousness; emergence concept and 332; evolution of life and 56–62, 230; gene therapy 416; hypothetical theory and 405; limitations of our 406; telomeres, discovery of 5; unknowns in 7–8 Birch–Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture 376 black holes: Big Bang and 293–4; computer simulation of 352; cosmic microwave background and 293–4; Cygnus X–1 276–7; discovery of 274–6; electron creation of tiny, possibility of 126; entropy and 285–7, 288, 290, 293; future of universe and 291, 293; Hawking radiation and 182, 288–90; infinite density and 277–8; information lost inside of 167, 284–5, 287, 288, 289–90, 293, 355; ‘no-hair theorem’ 285; second law of thermodynamics and 285–6, 290; singularity 278, 279, 280, 281–2; time inside 282–4 black swan 239–40 Blair, Tony 52 Bohr, Niels 103, 123, 131, 159, 178, 418 Bois-Reymond, Emil du 382, 383 Boisbaudran, Lecoq de 90–1 Boltzmann, Ludwig 92 Bombelli, Rafael 372 Borges, Jorge Luis: The Library of Babel 187 bottom quark 120, 121 Boyle, Robert 86; The Sceptical Chymist 86–7 Bradwardine, Thomas 391–2 Brady, Nicholas: ‘Ode to Saint Cecilia’ 88 Brahmagupta 371, 372 brain: alpha waves and 314–16; Alzheimer’s disease and 313–14; animal 317–19; artificial 351–3; Broca area 308, 352; cells, different types of 348; cerebellum 306, 307, 344; cerebrum 306; consciousness and see consciousness; corpus callosum/corpus callosotomy 309–11; EEG scanner and 305, 314–16, 323, 340; fMRI scanner and 4, 305, 316, 323, 333–9, 350, 351, 354, 357; free will and 335–9; integrated information theory (IIT) and 342–5; left side of 308, 310; limits of understanding 5, 9, 376, 377, 387, 408–9, 415, 416; mind-body problem and 330–2; music and see music; neurons and 4, 5, 258, 259, 309, 311–14, 323–9, 340, 341, 342, 343–6, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 353, 359, 376–7; out-of-body experiences and 328–30; pineal gland 307; right side of 308–9, 310; self-recognition test and 317–19; synapses 5, 313, 314, 324, 376; two hemispheres of 308–11; unconscious 315, 336–7, 339–41; vegetative state/locked in and 333–5; ventricles 306–7, 308; visual data processing 320–30 Braudel, Fernand 54–5 British Association of Science 10 Broca, Paul 308 Bronowski, Jacob: Ascent of Man 2, 420 Brown, Robert/Brownian motion 92, 93, 141 Bruno, Giordano: On the Infinite Universe and Worlds 192, 393 Buddhism 113, 354 C. elegans worm 4, 345, 349 caesium fountain 252 calculus 30–2, 33, 34, 36, 87, 88, 369 Caltech 104, 105–6, 115, 175, 289, 321, 323, 324, 347 Cambrian period 58 Cambridge University 30, 69, 174–5, 179, 236, 275, 334 cancer 8, 204 Candelas, Philip 155 Cantor, Georg 65–6, 393–402, 406 Cardano, Girolamo 23–4, 25; Liber de Ludo Aleae 24 Carroll, Lewis: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland 159 Carroll, Sean 236 cascade particles 110 Cassini, Giovanni 199 Castro, Patricia 226 cathode rays 96 Catholic Church 192, 235 cello 77, 78, 79, 80–1, 82, 90, 121, 122, 126, 127, 137, 138, 139, 140, 191, 225, 285, 304, 305, 308, 313, 314, 315 celluloid 91 Cepheid star 202–3, 204 Chadwick, James 100–1 Chalmers, David 347 Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan 275 Chaos 67 chaos theory 39–41, 43–53, 54, 55, 56, 58–9, 60, 61, 62–4, 68–72, 157, 168, 178, 179, 242, 402–3, 408, 419 charm quark 120, 121 China 15, 344, 371 chemistry: atomistic view of matter and chemical elements 81, 82, 86–8, 89–92 see also periodic table; brain see brain; breakthroughs in 4; elements and 81–2; emergence concept and 332; Greek, ancient 81–2 Chomsky, Noam 388 Christianity 13, 22, 69, 240, 390–1, 398 see also God and religion Church, Alonso 414 Cicero 188 Clairaut, Alexis 29 Cleverbot (app) 303, 313, 317, 332 climate change 6, 53 cloud chambers 100, 104–6 Cohen, Paul 401–2 Compton wavelength 167 computers: chaos theory modelling on 61–2, 64; consciousness/artificial intelligence and 8, 281, 303–4, 313, 317, 322, 325, 336, 337–9, 345–6, 349, 351, 352, 355, 417; growth in power of 8, 53, 281 Comte, Auguste 10, 202, 243, 347, 409 Connes, Alain 300 ‘connectome’ 345 consciousness 303–60, 403; anaesthesia and 334–5, 345; animals and 317–20, 322; brain as location of 306–11; brain cell types and 348; brain switching between perceptions and 320–3; Buddhism and 354; building an artificial brain that has 351–3; Chinese Room experiment and 338–9; Cleverbot app and 303–4, 313, 315–16, 317, 332, 338; computers/machines and 8, 303–4, 313, 315–16, 317, 322, 337–9, 345–6; ‘connectome’ and 345; two sides of brain and 308–11; death and 353–5; Descartes and 304, 350, 359; different qualities of 305–6; EEG/fMRI and 305, 314–16, 323, 333–9, 340, 350, 351, 354, 356–7; emergence in child 319; first emergence in universe 319–20; focus and 327; free will and 334–5; God concept and 319–20, 348–9; hard problem of 304–6, 347, 360; Human Brain Project and 352; humanities and expression of 419; integrated information theory (IIT) and 341, 342–5, 346, 347, 349, 350, 352, 353–4; internet and 345–6; language and 356–8; mathematical formula for 341, 342–5, 346, 347, 349, 352, 353–4; mind-body problem and 330–2; mirror recognition test and 317–19; mysterianism and 349–50, 351; Necker cube and 321, 323; neurons and 311–14, 323–9, 340, 341, 342, 343–6, 347, 348, 349, 350, 351, 353, 359, 376–7; out-of-body experiences and 328–30; perceptronium and 356; qualia and 325, 350; sleep and 339–41, 342, 343; synesthesia and 305, 325–6; thalamocortical system and 343–4; transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and 339–41; unconsciousness and brain activity 334–7, 339–41, 342–3; unknowable nature of 347, 349–50, 353 355–60, 407–8; vegetative state/locked in and 333–4; virtual reality goggles and 330; vision and 322–3; wave function and 156; where is?

It took 378,000 years following the Big Bang before the density of particles dropped sufficiently for the first photons to start their uninterrupted journey through space. This is when space suddenly had enough room for these photons to zip through the universe without running into something which might absorb them. These first photons of light that are visible make up what we call the cosmic microwave background radiation, and they represent the furthest that we can see into space. They are like a cosmic fossil telling us about the early universe. Those first photons that we see today in the microwave background radiation were only 42 million light years away from the Earth when they started their journey. Today, the distance between that starting point in space and the Earth has stretched to an estimated 45.7 billion light years.


Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox, Andrew Cohen

a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, Johannes Kepler, Karl Jansky, Magellanic Cloud, Mars Rover, Solar eclipse in 1919, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, trade route

The Hubble expansion is one piece of evidence for the Big Bang, but there is another, perhaps more remarkable, fingerprint of the Universe’s violent beginning, delivered to us by the most ancient light in the cosmos THE BIRTH OF THE UNIVERSE Every second, light from the beginning of time is raining down on Earth’s surface in a ceaseless torrent. Only a fraction of the light present in the Universe is visible to the naked eye, though; if we could see all of it, the sky would be ablaze with this primordial light both day and night. However, some of this hidden light is not quite a featureless glow; the long wavelength universal glow known as the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) in fact displays minute variations in its wavelength. The CMB carries with it an image of our universe as it was just after its birth, and this discovery has provided key evidence that the beginning really did start with the Big Bang. It was at the Big Bang that all of spacetime came into existence. The stars and galaxies stretched away across an infinite universe and many are still to be found today.

The Universe has become cooler and more diffuse since, so this ancient light has been free to fly through space, and it is some of these wandering messengers that we collect with a detuned radio today. However, as the Universe has expanded, space has stretched and so too has the light – so much so that the light is no longer in the visible part of the spectrum. It has moved beyond even the infrared, and is now visible to us only in the microwave and radio parts of the spectrum. This faint, long, wavelength universal glow is known as the Cosmic Microwave Background, or CMB, and its discovery in 1964 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was key evidence in proving that the Universe began in a Big Bang Forget state-of-the-art kit, all you need to use to detect hidden forms of light is a simple radio. As you tune, it you will pick up information encoded in a wave of light. Only a fraction of light is visible in the Universe. This infrared image shows the massive scale of the Universe and demonstrates how the electromagnetic spectrum extends to wavelengths that are too long for our eyes to detect.

By this time the matter in these regions was dense enough and cool enough to begin to collapse under its own gravity, leading to the first star formation and the emergence of the cores of the galaxies, including our own Milky Way. This is the cosmic epoch we see in the most redshifted Hubble Space Telescope data – the formation of the first galaxies – and their seeds are the minute fluctuations visible in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation. This detailed picture of the Universe in its infancy was pieced together from data collected over several years by the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). The different colours reveal the 13.7-billion-year-old temperature fluctuations that correspond to the seeds from which the galaxies grew. NASA As the Universe expanded, the denser areas within it expanded more slowly than others because of their increased gravity.


pages: 661 words: 169,298

Coming of Age in the Milky Way by Timothy Ferris

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Atahualpa, Cepheid variable, Commentariolus, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, delayed gratification, Edmond Halley, Eratosthenes, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Henri Poincaré, invention of writing, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Harrison: Longitude, Karl Jansky, Lao Tzu, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, Menlo Park, Murray Gell-Mann, music of the spheres, planetary scale, retrograde motion, Richard Feynman, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Searching for Interstellar Communications, Solar eclipse in 1919, source of truth, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Thomas Malthus, Wilhelm Olbers

Time: 1988 Noteworthy Events: Quasars are detected near the outposts of the observable universe; their redshifts indicate that their light has been traveling through space for some seventeen billion years. Time: 1990 Noteworthy Events: COBE satellite measures cosmic microwave background radiation; confirms that it displays a black-body spectrum as predicted by the hot big-bang model. Time: 1992 Noteworthy Events: COBE satellite data show anisotropies—lumps—in the cosmic microwave background, supporting big-bang prediction that such lumps were the seeds of galaxies and other large-scale cosmic structures. Time: 1998 Noteworthy Events: Astronomers studying Supernovae find evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing down as had been presumed. Time: 2000 Noteworthy Events: Measurements of cosmic microwave background anisotropies indicate that cosmic spacetime is flat or nearly so, as predicted by inflationary versions of big-bang theory.

The ubiquitous cosmic gas has recently thinned sufficiently to permit light particles—photons—to travel for significant distances without colliding with particles of matter and being reabsorbed. (There are plenty of photons on hand, because the universe is rich in electrically charged particles, which generate electromagnetic energy, the quantum of which is the photon.) It is this great gush of light, much redshifted and thinned out by the subsequent expansion of the universe, that human beings billions of years hence will detect with radiotelescopes and will call the cosmic microwave background radiation. This, the epoch of “let there be light,” has a significant effect on the structure of matter. Electrons, relieved from constant harassment by the photons, are now free to settle into orbit around nuclei, forming hydrogen and helium atoms. With atoms on hand, chemistry can proceed, to lead, eons hence, to the formation of alcohol and formaldehyde in interstellar clouds and the building of biotic molecules in the oceans of the early earth.

Galaxies imaged by Hubble at vast distances showed evidence of cosmic evolution, with spirals evidently having once been more commonplace and many of them subsequently being stripped of interstellar gas by collisions with one another to turn them into bald-looking elliptical galaxies. The Hubble Deep Field, a patch of sky imaged in a very long exposure over ten full days of telescope time, revealed galaxies more than halfway across the observable universe and became a kind of scientific watering hole to which many other observers repaired to make comparison observations of their own. Studies of the cosmic background radiation—now more often called the cosmic microwave background, or CMB, to distinguish it from primordial neutrinos, gravity waves, or other sorts of useful big-bang relics that may soon be detected—reaped major insights for cosmologists. The COBE (for Cosmic Background Explorer) satellite, launched on November 18, 1989, mapped the CMB and confirmed two important predictions of the big-bang theory. First, the background radiation does indeed exhibit a black-body spectrum, as theorists had predicted.


pages: 334 words: 100,201

Origin Story: A Big History of Everything by David Christian

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, butterfly effect, Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, Cepheid variable, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, Columbian Exchange, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, creative destruction, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, demographic transition, double helix, Edward Lorenz: Chaos theory, Ernest Rutherford, European colonialism, Francisco Pizarro, Haber-Bosch Process, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, Isaac Newton, James Watt: steam engine, John Maynard Keynes: Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, Joseph Schumpeter, Kickstarter, Marshall McLuhan, microbiome, nuclear winter, planetary scale, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, trade route, Yogi Berra

We don’t know what Goldilocks conditions allowed a universe to emerge, and we still can’t explain it any better than novelist Terry Pratchett did when he wrote, “The current state of knowledge can be summarized thus: In the beginning, there was nothing, which exploded.”7 Threshold 1: Quantum Bootstrapping a Universe The bootstrap for today’s most widely accepted account of ultimate origins is the idea of a big bang. This is one of the major paradigms of modern science, like natural selection in biology or plate tectonics in geology.8 It wasn’t until the early 1960s that the crucial pieces of the big bang story emerged. That’s when astronomers first detected the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR)—energy left over from the big bang and present everywhere in today’s universe. Though cosmologists still struggle to understand the moment when our universe appeared, they can tell a rollicking story that begins about (deep breath, and I hope I’ve got this precise) a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second after the universe appeared (around 10-43 of a second after time zero).

So when the first atoms of hydrogen and helium formed, most of the matter in the universe suddenly went neutral, and the tingling plasma evaporated. Photons, the carriers of the electromagnetic force, could now flow freely through an electrically neutral mist of atoms and dark matter. Today, astronomers can detect the results of this phase change, because photons that escaped the plasma generated a thin background hum of energy (the cosmic microwave background radiation) that still pervades the entire universe. Our origin story has crossed its first threshold. We have a universe. Already it has some structures with distinctive emergent properties. It has distinct forms of energy and matter, each with its own personality. It has atoms. And it has its own operating rules. What’s the Evidence? Bizarre as this story may seem when you hear it for the first time, we have to take it seriously, because it is supported by vast amounts of evidence.

Baade’s revised calculations suggested that the big bang might have happened more than 10 billion years ago (current best estimates suggest it occurred as much as 13.82 billion years ago). This eliminated the chronology problem. Today we know of no astronomical objects older than 13.82 billion years, which is a strong argument in favor of big bang cosmology. After all, if the universe were unchanging and eternal, there really should be lots of objects more than 13.8 billion years old. The clinching evidence came in the mid-1960s, and it involved the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). This is the radiation released when the first atoms formed, about 380,000 years after the big bang. The CMBR turned out to be the crucial proof of an expanding universe. Why? By the 1940s, some astronomers and physicists were impressed enough by Hubble’s data that they tried to figure out what might have happened if there really had been a big bang. What would the universe have been like at the start if everything was crushed into a primordial atom?


pages: 476 words: 118,381

Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson, Avis Lang

Albert Einstein, Arthur Eddington, asset allocation, Berlin Wall, carbon-based life, centralized clearinghouse, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, Gordon Gekko, informal economy, invention of movable type, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Karl Jansky, Kuiper Belt, Louis Blériot, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, mutually assured destruction, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, RAND corporation, Ronald Reagan, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, SETI@home, space pen, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, the scientific method, trade route

Without a doubt, the most important single discovery in astrophysics was made with a microwave telescope: the heat left over from the origin of the universe. In 1964 this remnant heat was measured in a Nobel Prize–winning observation conducted at Bell Telephone Laboratories by the physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. The signal from this heat is an omnipresent, omnidirectional ocean of light—often called the cosmic microwave background—that today registers about 2.7 degrees on the “absolute” temperature scale and is dominated by microwaves (though it radiates at all wavelengths). This discovery was serendipity at its finest. Penzias and Wilson had humbly set out to find terrestrial sources of interference with microwave communications; what they found was compelling evidence for the Big Bang theory. It’s a little like fishing for a minnow and catching a blue whale.

Black holes are voracious maws that emit no light—their gravity is too strong for even light to escape—but their existence can be tracked by the energy emitted from heated, swirling gas nearby. Ultraviolet and X-rays are the predominant form of energy released by material just before it descends into the black hole. It’s worth remembering that the act of discovery does not require that you understand, either in advance or after the fact, what you’ve discovered. That’s what happened with the cosmic microwave background. It also happened with gamma-ray bursts. Mysterious, seemingly random explosions of high-energy gamma rays scattered across the sky were first detected in the 1960s by satellites searching out radiation from clandestine Soviet nuclear-weapons tests. Only decades later did spaceborne telescopes, in concert with ground-based follow-up observations, show them to be the signature of distant stellar catastrophes.

But as of this writing, these waves, predicted in Einstein’s 1916 theory of general relativity as “ripples” in space and time, have not yet been directly detected from any source. A good gravitational-wave telescope would be able to detect black holes orbiting one another, and distant galaxies merging. One can even imagine a time in the future when gravitational events in the universe—collisions, explosions, collapsed stars—are routinely observed. In principle, we might one day see beyond the opaque wall of cosmic microwave background radiation to the Big Bang itself. Like Magellan’s crew, who first circumnavigated Earth and saw the limits of the globe, we would then have reached and discovered the limits of the known universe. Discovery and Society As a surfboard rides a wave, the Industrial Revolution rode the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on the crest of decade-by-decade advances in people’s understanding of energy as a physical concept and a transmutable entity.


pages: 279 words: 75,527

Collider by Paul Halpern

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Gary Taubes, gravity well, horn antenna, index card, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, pattern recognition, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, statistical model, Stephen Hawking

“Things are out of whack,” he said. “Condensed-matter physics is at the heart of modern technology, of computer chips, of all the electronic gadgets behind the new industrial order. Yet relative to the big projects, it’s neglected.”15 Another leading critic of “big science,” who was skeptical about channeling so much funding into the Super Collider, was Arno Penzias, codiscoverer of the cosmic microwave background. Penzias said, “One of the big arguments for the S.S.C. is that it will inspire public interest in science and attract young people to the field. But if we can’t educate them properly because we’ve spent our money on big machines instead of universities, where’s the point? As a nation we must take a new look at our scientific priorities and ask ourselves what we really want.”16 On the other hand, who could anticipate what would have been the long-term spin-offs of the SSC?

You would thereby be able to use its relative brightness to estimate its distance. Similarly, astronomers rely on standard candles such as Supernova Ia to gauge distances for which there would be no other measure. The team led by Perlmutter, called the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP), has deep connections with the world of particle physics. First of all, along with George Smoot’s Nobel Prize- winning exploration of the cosmic microwave background using the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite, it represents an expansion of the mission of Lawrence’s lab. Given that Lawrence was always looking for connections and applications, such a broad perspective perfectly suits the former Rad Lab. Also, one of the SCP’s founding members is Gerson Goldhaber, who won acclaim for his role in the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center- led group that jointly discovered the J/psi particle.

Quintessence is a hypothetical material with negative pressure that pushes things apart (like an elemental Samson on the Philistines’ columns) rather than pulling them together (like ordinary, gravitating matter). Its name harks back to the four classical elements of Empedocles—with quintessence representing the fifth. The distinction between a cosmological constant and quintessence is that while the former would be as stable as granite, the latter could vary from place to place and time to time like moldable putty. Findings of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe of the cosmic microwave background support the idea that the cosmos is a mixture of dark energy, dark matter, and visible matter—in that order. The satellite picture has not been able to tell us, however, what specific ingredients constitute the duet of dark substances. Physicists hope that further clues as to the nature of dark energy, as well as dark matter, will turn up at the LHC. The discovery of quintessence at the LHC, for example, would revolutionize the field of cosmology and transform our understanding of matter, energy, and the universe.


pages: 335 words: 95,280

The Greatest Story Ever Told—So Far by Lawrence M. Krauss

Albert Einstein, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, RAND corporation, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, the scientific method

Not only have our explorations revealed the existence of dark matter, which, as I have described, is likely composed of new elementary particles not yet observed in accelerators—although we may be on the cusp of doing so—but far more exotic still, we have discovered that the dominant energy of the universe resides in empty space—and we currently have no idea how it arises. Our observations have now taken us back to the neonatal universe. We have observed the fine details of radiation, called the cosmic microwave background, which emanates from a time when the universe was merely three hundred thousand years old. Our telescopes take us back to the earliest galaxies, which formed perhaps a billion years after the Big Bang, and have allowed us to map huge cosmic structures containing thousands of galaxies and spanning hundreds of millions of light-years across, sprinkled amid the hundred billion or so galaxies in the visible universe.

Even better, a year after Guth proposed his picture, a number of groups performed calculations of what would happen to particles and fields as the universe rapidly expanded during inflation. They discovered that small inhomogeneities resulting from quantum effects at early times would then be “frozen in” during inflation. After inflation ended, these small inhomogeneities could grow to produce galaxies, stars, planets, etc., and would also leave an imprint in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation that resembles precisely the pattern that has since been measured. However, it is also possible, by using different inflationary models, to get different predictions for the CMB anisotropies (inflation is, at this point, more of a model than a theory, and since no unique Grand Unified Theory transition is determined by experiment, many different variants might work). Another exciting and more unambiguous prediction from inflation exists.

See Plato’s cave allegory Chadwick, James, 117–19, 121, 123, 128 Chandrasekhar, Subrahmanyan (“Chandra”), 153 Chew, Geoffrey, 192, 235 Chopra, Deepak, 86, 99 Clay Mathematics Institute, 244 Cline, David, 251 CMS detector, CERN, 263–64, 267–68, 272 CNO cycle, 136 coincidence methods, 116 Coleman, Sidney, 220, 238, 239 color photograph, Maxwell’s work on, 33, 35 Columbus, Christopher, 52 Condon, Edward, 169 Cooper, Leon, 184, 185 Cooper pairs, 185–86, 187–88, 197–98, 199 Cornell, Eric, 186 cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, 290, 292–93 cosmological constant, 295–96 Coulomb, Charles de, 30 creativity, 51–52 Curie, Marie, 117, 119 D Darwin, Charles, 5, 20, 21 Davis, Ray, 280–81 Davy, Humphry, 25, 26 Dawkins, Richard, 22 Dent, James, 297 Descartes, René, 22 Dick, Philip K., 12 dimensional analysis, 36 Dirac, Paul Adrien Maurice, 85, 91–95 antiparticle discovery by, 95, 97, 114, 115 combination of quantum mechanics and relativity by, 92, 95, 151 Einstein on, 91 electron equation of, 92–94, 99, 114 Feynman compared with, 97–98 Feynman’s first meeting with, 92 Feynman’s research based on, 99 mathematical prediction of new particle by, 93–94, 143 personality of, 91–92, 98 quantum theory of radiation and, 98, 99 Dirac equation, 92–94 displacement current, 37 double-slit experiment with light, 74–76, 77, 88 Dyson, Freeman, 85, 106, 235 E Eddington, Sir Arthur Stanley, 135 Eightfold Way (Gell-Mann), 193–94 Einstein, Albert, 4, 42, 49–68 background of, 46 Bose-Einstein condensation research by, 185–86 clocks relative to moving objects (time dilation) research of, 58–61 creativity and intellectual confidence of, 52 Dirac described by, 91 Galileo-Maxwell paradox resolution by, 49–54, 58, 64–65 General Theory of Relativity of, 10, 42, 68, 85, 110, 126, 295 gravity and, 114 inferences about real world using measurements and, 61–65 letter to President Roosevelt from, 129 Minkowski’s four-dimensional “space-time” theory and, 66–68, 71 Planck’s relationship with, 80–81 relativity discovery of, 95 ruler measurement example of relativity and, 65–67 space and time theory of, 55–58, 66, 68 Special Theory of Relativity of, 68, 80 electric charges Faraday’s research on, 25–30, 37–38, 68, 195 quantum electrodynamics (QED) and symmetry of, 106, 107 electric fields, Farady’s visualization of action of, 27–30, 193–94 electricity, Maxwell’s theory of magnetism and, 36–39, 48, 94, 218, 219 electromagnetic waves calculation of speed of, 42, 50–51 Faraday cage shield against, 195 Maxwell on light as, 42, 219 Maxwell’s discovery of, 41, 42, 46, 74 as particles, 81, 82 superconductors and different polarizations of, 199–200 electromagnetism gauge symmetry in quantum theory of, 111 Maxwell’s research on, 39–43, 46, 50–51, 68, 74, 109 electrons Dirac’s equation describing, 92–94 electric charge configurations of, 93–94 Feynman’s measurement of trajectories of, 100–102 mathematical expression of wave function of, 77 spin angular momentum of, 127, 164 spin configurations of, 93 Young’s double-slit experiment with beams of, 75–77 electroweak symmetry, 254, 277, 282, 283–84, 285, 287, 290, 294, 296–97 electroweak theory, 229, 278 publications questioning, 227 validation of, 228, 259 electroweak unification, 216–17, 218, 222, 231, 250, 259, 278 Englert, François, 206–7, 211, 271 European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), 225, 236 as dominant particle physics laboratory, 259, 262 Gargamelle detector at, 223–24, 225 Large Electron-Positron (LEP) Collider at, 262–63 Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at, 61, 263–74, 275, 284, 285, 286–87, 299 proton accelerator at, 222–23, 251 Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) at, 251–52, 260, 262 evolution, 3, 5, 20 exclusion principle (Pauli), 123, 127 F Faraday, Michael, 24–30, 38 background of, 24–25 impact of discoveries of, 30, 31, 46, 68, 109 magnetic induction discovery of, 26–27, 30, 36 Maxwell’s meetings with, 36 Maxwell’s research and, 37, 38 research on electric charges and magnets by, 25–30, 37–38, 68, 195 visualization of action of fields by, 27–30, 193–94 Faraday cage, 195 Feenberg, Eugene, 169 Fermat, Pierre de, 98–99 Fermi, Enrico, 125–32 artificial radioactivity and, 128 background of, 126–27 experimental approach to physics used by, 129–30, 142 impact of research of, 125–26 neutrino named by, 123, 127, 130 neutron decay theory of, 127–29, 130–32, 136, 142, 143, 145–46, 149 nuclear research in Manhattan Project and, 129 potential dangers in releasing energy of atomic nucleus and, 129 statistical mechanics established by, 127 weak interaction theory of, 161, 162, 164 Yang’s work with, 153 Yukawa’s research and, 143, 144, 145–46 Fermi interaction, 136 Fermilab (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Batavia, Illinois), 31, 251, 261, 262–63 fermions, 155, 185, 186, 233, 282, 283 Fermi Problems, 130 Feynman, Richard, 85, 97–106, 125, 159, 160, 228 antiparticles and, 100, 102 atomic bomb research of, 134 Bethe’s approach and, 134 Bjorken’s research on quarks and, 233 Block’s research on weak interaction and, 157–58 Dirac compared with, 97–98 Dirac’s first meeting with, 92 Dirac’s research used by, 99 electron trajectory measurement in time and, 100–102, 130 quantum electrodynamics (QED) and, 99, 102–6, 142, 175, 221, 235 research approach used by, 175, 245 on understanding quantum mechanics, 71 weak interaction research of, 159, 163–64 Fizeau, Hippolyte, 42 Fourier analysis, 126 Franklin, Benjamin, 170–71 Friedman, Jerry, 160, 232–33 G Galileo Galilei, 5, 21, 45–48 Catholic Church’s trial of, 45, 47 Einstein on Galileo-Maxwell paradox, 48–54, 58, 64–65 motion and rest state theory of, 45–48, 49, 70, 97, 168, 245 gamma rays, 116 neutron mass measurement using, 119 Rutherford’s discovery of, 119–20 Gargamelle detector, CERN, 223–24, 225 Garwin, Dick, 160 gauge bosons, 214, 217, 233, 254, 277, 278 gauge invariance, 109, 172, 198, 199, 228 gauge symmetry chessboard analogy to explain conservation of energy in, 108–9 description of, 108 differences in philosophical viewpoints on, 109–10 quantum electrodynamics and, 111–12 understanding nature of reality using, 110 Weyl’s naming of, 110–11 gauge transformation, 109 Geiger, Hans, 116, 118 Gell-Mann, Murray Glashow’s work with, 178 quarks and, 163, 193–94, 231–32, 233–34, 236, 240 scale equations of, 237 symmetry scheme of, 193, 214 weak interaction research of, 163–64 Yang-Mills theory and, 240–41 General Theory of Relativity (Einstein), 10, 42, 68, 85, 110, 126, 295 Genesis, 19, 43 Georgi, Howard, 276–77, 278, 279 Gilbert, Walter, 204–5 Gladstone, William, 26 Glashow, Sheldon, 177–79 approach to research used by, 178 background of, 177–78, 212 CERN research and, 252 electroweak unification and, 216–17, 218, 222, 278 Grand Unification and, 277, 279 on Higgs’s research, 207, 254, 276 Krauss’s career and, 213, 214 neutral currents and, 222, 225, 234 quarks and, 234, 241 Scottish Universities Summer School courses from, 203–4 weak interaction research of, 178–79, 207, 219, 223, 225, 276–77 Weinberg’s research and, 212–13, 218 Gold, Tommy, 113, 121 Goldstone, Jeffrey, 188, 203, 204, 206, 214 Goldstone bosons, 206, 214–15, 217 Grand Unified Theory (GUT), 277–79, 282–83, 290, 291, 292–93, 294 gravity dimensional analysis of, 36 Einstein’s research on, 114 Newton’s research on, 5, 27–28, 38, 48 quantum theory of, 110 Greenberg, Oscar, 233, 240 Gross, David, 235–41, 277 asymptotic freedom discovery of, 238–41, 245 background of, 235 Gell-Mann’s influence on, 236 quantum chromodynamics and, 241 research on quarks by, 236–37 scaling research of, 237–39 Yang-Mills theory and, 239, 240–41 group theory, 276 Guralnik, Gerald, 207 Gürsey, Feza, 123 Guth, Alan, 290, 291–92 H Hagen, C.


pages: 209 words: 68,587

Stephen Hawking by Leonard Mlodinow

Albert Michelson, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, dark matter, Dmitri Mendeleev, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Nelson Mandela, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method

Nor did anyone, in the early 1960s, know of any indirect way to test a theory of the universe’s origin. As a result of such issues, physicists tended to consider cosmology a pseudoscience, a mathematical playground outside the realm of experimental testing. That would begin to change after the accidental discovery in 1964 of the faint afterglow left over from the big bang, called the cosmic microwave background radiation. When Stephen was starting out at Cambridge, that was still a year or two away. Another issue back then was the difficulty of understanding just what Einstein’s theory actually does predict. Like any theory in physics, Einstein’s is a scheme of mathematics and rules about what it represents and how to apply it. To extract what the theory has to say about a particular system, you have to use the scheme to set up equations tailored to that system and solve them, or at least approximate the solution.

Nuclear physics had shown that, in the first minutes after that event, the extremes of temperature and pressure would cause some hydrogen nuclei (protons) to fuse together, forming helium. Detailed calculations had indicated that we ought to find about one helium nucleus for every ten hydrogen nuclei, and astronomical observation confirmed this. The big bang theory also predicted that some radiation from that event should persist to this day—the cosmic microwave background radiation. That, too, had been discovered, two years before Stephen’s dissertation. But the mathematics proving that the big bang is a necessity of Einstein’s equations—that came from Stephen, in his first major foray into the world of physics. *1 By “unchanging” they meant on the cosmic scale. Obviously, small-scale change is part of nature—planets orbit, rocks fall, people live and die

They were also his least influential. As is usual in work on the frontiers of physics, some colleagues were skeptical of the assumptions he’d made. Some were suspicious of his mathematical approximations. Some didn’t understand his theory. And some simply found alternative theories more convincing. To this day the jury is still out regarding both initiatives. Stephen proposed that analysis of the cosmic microwave background radiation might provide supporting evidence, but such an analysis will depend upon technology that doesn’t yet exist. So, like most theories in modern cosmology, the no-boundary proposal and top-down cosmology are mathematically intriguing but difficult to test. * * * Most days, when Stephen got to the office in the late morning, he’d reply to a few emails and would read any articles of interest that had been posted on the ArXiv.org website.


pages: 124 words: 40,697

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow

airport security, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, Buckminster Fuller, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, fudge factor, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, John Conway, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Mercator projection, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, the scientific method, Turing machine

Not everyone liked the big bang picture. In fact, the term “big bang” was coined in 1949 by Cambridge astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, who believed in a universe that expanded forever, and meant the term as a derisive description. The first direct observations supporting the idea didn’t come until 1965, with the discovery that there is a faint background of microwaves throughout space. This cosmic microwave background radiation, or CMBR, is the same as that in your microwave oven, but much less powerful. You can observe the CMBR yourself by tuning your television to an unused channel—a few percent of the snow you see on the screen will be caused by it. The radiation was discovered by accident by two Bell Labs scientists trying to eliminate such static from their microwave antenna. At first they thought the static might be coming from the droppings of pigeons roosting in their apparatus, but it turned out their problem had a more interesting origin—the CMBR is radiation left over from the very hot and dense early universe that would have existed shortly after the big bang.

Baryon • a type of elementary particle, such as the proton or neutron, that is made of three quarks. Big bang • the dense, hot beginning of the universe. The big bang theory postulates that about 13.7 billion years ago the part of the universe we can see today was only a few millimeters across. Today the universe is vastly larger and cooler, but we can observe the remnants of that early period in the cosmic microwave background radiation that permeates all space. Black hole • a region of space-time that, due to its immense gravitational force, is cut off from the rest of the universe. Boson • an elementary particle that carries force. Bottom-up approach • in cosmology, an idea that rests on the assumption that there’s a single history of the universe, with a well-defined starting point, and that the state of the universe today is an evolution from that beginning.


pages: 695 words: 219,110

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

airport security, Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, Brownian motion, clockwork universe, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, dematerialisation, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, urban renewal

If your eyes could see light whose wavelength is much longer than that of orange or red, you would not only be able to see the interior of your microwave oven burst into activity when you push the start button, but you would also see a faint and nearly uniform glow spread throughout what the rest of us perceive as a dark night sky. More than four decades ago, scientists discovered that the universe is suffused with microwave radiation—long-wavelength light—that is a cool relic of the sweltering conditions just after the big bang.4 This cosmic microwave background radiation is perfectly harmless. Early on, it was stupendously hot, but as the universe evolved and expanded, the radiation steadily diluted and cooled. Today it is just about 2.7 degrees above absolute zero, and its greatest claim to mischief is its contribution of a small fraction of the snow you see on your television set when you disconnect the cable and turn to a station that isn’t broadcasting.

The properties of these particles and the relationships between them would show unmistakably that they’re all part of the same cosmic score, that they’re all different but related notes, that they’re all distinct vibrational patterns of a single kind of object—a string. For the foreseeable future, this is the most likely scenario for a direct confirmation of string theory. Cosmic Origins As we saw in earlier chapters, the cosmic microwave background radiation has played a dominant role in cosmological research since its discovery in the mid-1960s. The reason is clear: in the early stages of the universe, space was filled with a bath of electrically charged particles—electrons and protons—which, through the electromagnetic force, incessantly buffeted photons this way and that. But by a mere 300,000 years after the bang (ATB), the universe cooled off just enough for electrons and protons to combine into electrically neutral atoms—and from this moment onward, the radiation has traveled throughout space, mostly undisturbed, providing a sharp snapshot of the early universe.

By comparing WMAP’s initial results, Figure 14.4b, with COBE’s, Figure 14.4a, you can immediately see how much finer and more detailed a picture WMAP is able to provide. Another satellite, Planck, which is being developed by the European Space Agency, is scheduled for launch in 2007, and if all goes according to plan, will better WMAP’s resolution by a factor of ten. Figure 14.4 (a) Cosmic microwave background radiation data gathered by the COBE satellite. The radiation has been traveling through space unimpeded since about 300,000 years after the big bang, so this picture renders the tiny temperature variations present in the universe nearly 14 billion years ago. (b) Improved data collected by the WMAP satellite. The influx of precision data has winnowed the field of cosmological proposals, with the inflationary model being, far and away, the leading contender.


pages: 298 words: 81,200

Where Good Ideas Come from: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, carbon-based life, Cass Sunstein, cleantech, complexity theory, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, creative destruction, crowdsourcing, data acquisition, digital Maoism, digital map, discovery of DNA, Dmitri Mendeleev, double entry bookkeeping, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, Douglas Engelbart, Drosophila, Edmond Halley, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, Ernest Rutherford, Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute, greed is good, Hans Lippershey, Henri Poincaré, hive mind, Howard Rheingold, hypertext link, invention of air conditioning, invention of movable type, invention of the printing press, invention of the telephone, Isaac Newton, Islamic Golden Age, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, Johannes Kepler, John Snow's cholera map, Joseph Schumpeter, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Kevin Kelly, lone genius, Louis Daguerre, Louis Pasteur, Mason jar, mass immigration, Mercator projection, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, online collectivism, packet switching, PageRank, patent troll, pattern recognition, price mechanism, profit motive, Ray Oldenburg, Richard Florida, Richard Thaler, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, silicon-based life, six sigma, Solar eclipse in 1919, spinning jenny, Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, Stewart Brand, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, The Great Good Place, The Wisdom of Crowds, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, transaction costs, urban planning

GPS (1958) GPS, or Global Positioning System, a navigational system that uses satellites as reference points to calculate geographical positions, was developed by the American engineer Ivan Getting and his team at the Raytheon Corporation, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Defense, after the initial foundational work of Guier and Weiffenbach tracking the orbit of Sputnik in 1957. COSMIC MICROWAVE BACKGROUND RADIATION (1965) While working with receiver systems at Bell Labs, American astronomers Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson were confounded with a sound they could not identify, which they ultimately realized was cosmic microwave background radiation, a remaining radio trace of the Big Bang. PULSARS (1967) Pulsars—pulsating neutron stars that appear to blinking—were observed and discovered in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a graduate student working under the British astronomer Antony Hewish, who would later receive a Nobel.


pages: 283 words: 81,376

The Doomsday Calculation: How an Equation That Predicts the Future Is Transforming Everything We Know About Life and the Universe by William Poundstone

Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, Bayesian statistics, Benoit Mandelbrot, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Black Swan, conceptual framework, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, digital map, discounted cash flows, Donald Trump, Doomsday Clock, double helix, Elon Musk, Gerolamo Cardano, index fund, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Jeff Bezos, John Markoff, John von Neumann, mandelbrot fractal, Mark Zuckerberg, Mars Rover, Peter Thiel, Pierre-Simon Laplace, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, RAND corporation, random walk, Richard Feynman, ride hailing / ride sharing, Rodney Brooks, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan: Tear down this wall, Sam Altman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, Skype, Stanislav Petrov, Stephen Hawking, strong AI, Thomas Bayes, Thomas Malthus, time value of money, Turing test

That thing that happened 14 billion years ago was the abrupt inflation of our bubble universe. It was neither the first big bang nor the last. As far as we know, it was just an average big bang, nothing special. Cosmic inflation is taken seriously because it makes many testable predictions. One is that quantum-scale fluctuations in the original dot of vacuum would be blown up to cosmic scale. That would explain why the universe and the cosmic microwave background are so uniform. We can see 14 billion light-years in one direction and then turn our heads (radio telescopes) around to look 14 billion light-years in the opposite direction. What we see looks almost exactly the same. That’s odd enough to rate a name—the “horizon problem.” It’s odd because evenness is normally the result of mixing. A cake batter starts as a mass of eggs, flour, milk, and sugar.

Yet distant regions of the observable universe are so far apart from each other (up to about 28 billion light-years) that they wouldn’t have been able to contact or influence each other in the time since our big bang. Relativity says no object or signal can travel faster than the speed of light. But in cosmic inflation space itself expands much faster than the speed of light. We observe a greatly magnified point sample of the original “batter.” The detail we see, in the form of the large-scale distribution of galaxies and the structure of the cosmic microwave background, corresponds to the quantum grain of the original vacuum. Space can be curved or flat. We observe it to be remarkably flat, with curvature as close to zero as we can measure it. This is easily understood to be a consequence of inflation. The Earth is a sphere, but it’s so big that it seems flat. The space in an infinite bubble universe would likewise be completely flat as measured by its inhabitants.


pages: 360 words: 101,636

Engineering Infinity by Jonathan Strahan

augmented reality, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, gravity well, low earth orbit, planetary scale, Pluto: dwarf planet, post scarcity, Schrödinger's Cat, technological singularity, Ted Kaczynski

The galaxy was alive with the Network, with the blinding Hawking incandescence of holeships, thundering along their cycles; the soft infrared glow of fully grown servers, barely spilling a drop of the heat of their stars; the faint gravity ripples of the darkships' passage in the void. But the galaxy was half a million light years away. And the only thing the server could hear was the soft black whisper of the cosmic microwave background, the lonely echo of another birth. It did not take the server long to understand. The galaxy was an N-body chaos of a hundred billion stars, not a clockwork but a beehive. And among the many calm slow orbits of Einstein and Newton, there were singular ones, like the one of the star that the server had been planted on: shooting out of the galaxy at a considerable fraction of lightspeed.

But he was not a Surface Tactical anymore and there was no surface here, no city with its weak gravity and strong spin to complicate the equations, only speed and darkness and somewhere in the darkness the target. There was no knowing what instruments the nomads had but Ish hoped to evade all of them. The platform's outer shell was black in short wavelengths and would scatter or let pass long ones; the cold face it turned toward the nomad weapon was chilled to within a degree of the cosmic microwave background, and its drives were photonic, the exhaust a laser-tight collimated beam. Eventually some platform would occlude a star or its drive beam would touch some bit of ice or cross some nomad sensor's mirror and they would be discovered, but not quickly and not all at once. They would be on the nomads long before that. - Third company, Ninurta said. - Fire on the ring. Flush them out.


pages: 385 words: 98,015

Einstein's Unfinished Revolution: The Search for What Lies Beyond the Quantum by Lee Smolin

Albert Einstein, Brownian motion, Claude Shannon: information theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Ernest Rutherford, Isaac Newton, Jane Jacobs, Jaron Lanier, John von Neumann, Murray Gell-Mann, mutually assured destruction, Richard Feynman, Richard Florida, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, the scientific method, Turing machine

There have been a few attempts to drive quantum systems out of quantum equilibrium and test these predictions, but, so far, they haven’t succeeded in either discovering quantum non-equilibrium or ruling out pilot wave theory. One place to look for out-of-quantum-equilibrium physics is in the very early universe. Valentini and collaborators have hypothesized that the universe began in the big bang out of equilibrium, and equilibrated as it expanded. This might have left traces in the cosmic microwave background, or CMB, which are being searched for, but there is no clear evidence yet.15 * * * — LET’S COME BACK TO the Schrödinger’s cat experiment and see how pilot wave theory resolves it. Pilot wave theory asserts that quantum mechanics applies universally. There is only Rule 1, and it applies to all cases. This means that measurements are no different from other processes. Everything—atoms, photons, Geiger counters, cats, and people—has a dual existence, as a wave and a particle.

See also wave-function collapse gravity and, 139–40 models, beyond, 222–24 special relativity and, 141 spontaneous, 131 of wave function, 139, 186 collapse theory dynamical, 299 measurement problem and, 131–32, 133, 142, 144–45 noise and, 133 pilot wave theory and, 131 theory of relativity and, 133 collisions, 20, 73 communication, 46–47, 189 communism, 114–15, 115n commutativity, 18–20 complementarity, 84, 101, 114 Bohr and, 85–86, 90 consistency of, 90 definition of, 298 pilot wave theory and, 101 uncertainty principle and, 92–93 complex systems, 248 computation, definition of, 192 computers, 191–92 computer science, quantum physics and, 185 configuration space, 122–24, 123, 217–18 consciousness, xv conservation of momentum, 263 consistent histories approach, 218, 298 constitutive theories, 227 contextuality, 55–57 continuous spontaneous localization (CSL), 130–31 contrary states, 38–43, 45, 123, 298 Copenhagen interpretation, 94, 97, 107, 112, 113, 117, 184, 274 correlated states, 51, 145–47, 146n, 149 Cortês, Marina, 265–67 cosmic microwave background, 121 cosmology, 201, 207, 230–31, 253, 302 Crane, Louis, 193–94 creation rule of events, 267 critical realism, 154 CSL. See continuous spontaneous localization cycles, 268n Dalibard, Jean, 45 Davisson, Clinton, 81–82 de Broglie, Louis, xxviii, 12, 78–81 Einstein and, 81, 103 PhD thesis of, 81, 145 pilot wave theory of, 98–101, 100 Schrödinger and, 82 students of, 118 wave-particle duality and, 83–84, 103 de Broglie, Maurice, 79 de Broglie–Bohm theory.


pages: 124 words: 36,360

Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent by Douglas Coupland

British Empire, cable laying ship, Claude Shannon: information theory, cosmic microwave background, Downton Abbey, Hibernia Atlantic: Project Express, hiring and firing, Isaac Newton, Jeff Bezos, Marshall McLuhan, oil shale / tar sands, pre–internet, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, Turing machine, undersea cable, upwardly mobile, urban planning, Wall-E

Feldman and I are headed to a Bell Labs satellite called Crawford Hill, a small lab that, it turns out, resembles the technical skills wing of a community college. Cinder blocks? Check. Pale yellow enamel paint? Check. Doors with windows that have wire grids embedded in the pane? Check. Electrical-looking stuff everywhere? Check. In 1964, in Crawford Hill, two Bell Labs scientists, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, used a radar antenna called the Holmdel Horn to find cosmic microwave background radiation, evidence to confirm the expanding universe. For this, they won the 1978 Nobel Prize, so don’t be deceived by the unassuming community college facade. These days this Bell Labs satellite lab is largely researching fibre optics, where the breakthroughs have also been huge. We enter the building and walk down a narrow hallway like one you’d find in the basement of a church built in the 1950s.


pages: 452 words: 126,310

The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility by Robert Zubrin

Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, battle of ideas, Charles Lindbergh, Colonization of Mars, complexity theory, cosmic microwave background, cosmological principle, discovery of DNA, double helix, Elon Musk, en.wikipedia.org, flex fuel, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, gravity well, if you build it, they will come, Internet Archive, invisible hand, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, John von Neumann, Kuiper Belt, low earth orbit, Mars Rover, Menlo Park, more computing power than Apollo, Naomi Klein, nuclear winter, off grid, out of africa, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, Peter Thiel, place-making, Pluto: dwarf planet, private space industry, rising living standards, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, self-driving car, Silicon Valley, telerobotics, Thomas Malthus, transcontinental railway, uranium enrichment

While Kepler found thousands of previously unknown worlds, TESS could well find millions. Beyond these, NASA has plans for another generation of terrific space telescopes, able to study the universe with unprecedented power through windows blurred or completely blocked by the Earth's atmosphere. These include the WideField InfraRed Space Telescope (WFIRST),3 the Gravitational Wave Surveyor,4 the Cosmic Microwave Background Surveyor,5 the Far InfraRed Surveyor,6 the Lynx X-Ray Surveyor,7 the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission,8 the Origins Space Telescope,9 and, most important, the Large Ultra Violet Optical InfraRed (LUVOIR)10 Surveyor. Currently planned for a circa-2030 launch to Earth-sun L2, LUVOIR (previously designated the Advanced Technology Large-Aperture Space Telescope, or ATLAST) will be an ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared free-flying instrument whose 16-meter diameter will give it powers dwarfing both the 2.4-meter Hubble and the 6.5-meter Webb.

See carbon dioxide colonization of asteroids, 131–35, 142–43 chemistry for space settlers of, 150 leading to new types of societies, 143–45 list of what needs to be done, 327–34 of Mars, plate 7, 101–23 chemistry for space settlers of, 146–50 commercial benefits of, 114–17 “Dragon Direct” plan, 108 habitation module, plate 5 leading to a human asteroid mission, 131–32 as new frontier for humanity, 277–79, 316 as a public-private enterprise, 328 raising families on Mars, plate 8 use of greenhouses, 101, 113, 115, 278 of the moon, 69–99 achieving long-range mobility on, 80–81 chemistry for space settlers of, 145–46 energy sources, 82–91 phases of Moon Direct program, 75 as a public-private enterprise, 317 range and lunar accessibility of an LEV, 81 sending solar energy back to earth, 82–83 use of microwaves to extract water vapor, 79 need for low cost spaceflight, 25–26 Noah's Ark Eggs (seed spaceships), 209–14 of outer solar system Jovian system, 166–70 obstacles to settling, 173–74 Saturn system, 160–65, 173 reasons for pursuing for the challenges, 271–86 for the future we can create, 315–25 to gain more freedom, 301–25 for the knowledge gained, 249–69 for survival of humanity, 287–99 terraforming other worlds, 215–45 time needed for interstellar civilizations to spread, 266–67 vision of for the year 2069, 317 vision of for the year 3000, 319–24 Columbus, Christopher, 174, 182, 208, 316, 328 comets, 129, 130, 151, 170, 171, 195–96 commercial benefits of spaceflight, 66–68 on asteroids, 136–40 commercial energy system in space, 57–60 communications and data satellites, 51–56 CubeSat revolution, 54–56 fast global travel on Earth, 40–43 on Mars, 114–17 orbital industries, 48–50 orbital research labs, 47–48, 50 of outer solar system, 161–62 commercial development of Titan, 162–65 Jovian system, 166–70 in the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud, 171–72 space business parks, 50–51 space tourism, 45–47 space triangle trade (Earth-Mars-asteroids), 140–42 See also mining Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS), 330–31 Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), 176–77 communications and data satellites, 23, 52–56, 63, 64, 65, 277 CubeSat revolution, 54–56 potential impact of on World War II, 61–62 “Compact Fusion Reactor” (CFR) project, 180 complexity theory applied to the universe, 262–63 computers, early, 233–34 constants, role of in physics, 260–61 Coons, Steve, 148 Coppi, Bruno, 176–77 Cosmic Microwave Background Surveyor, 251 cosmic rays, 104, 132, 135, 167, 192, 253, 259, 339 cost-plus contracting, 22–24, 330–31 COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services), 330–31 Crèvecoeur, Jean de, 274 cryogenic hydrogen and oxygen, 102, 339–40 CT Fusion, 180 CubeSat revolution, 54–56 Curiosity rover (NASA), 13, 106 Customs and Border Protection (US), 138 Cygnus (constellation), 240 D. See deuterium (D) Dactyl (asteroid), 130 Darwinist natural selection, 304, 305 Dawn spacecraft (Jet Propulsion Lab), 130, 130, 142 Deep Space Gateway.


How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight by Julian Guthrie

Albert Einstein, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Charles Lindbergh, cosmic microwave background, crowdsourcing, Doomsday Book, Elon Musk, fear of failure, Frank Gehry, gravity well, high net worth, Iridium satellite, Isaac Newton, Jacquard loom, Jeff Bezos, Johannes Kepler, Leonard Kleinrock, life extension, low earth orbit, Mark Shuttleworth, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Oculus Rift, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, packet switching, Peter H. Diamandis: Planetary Resources, pets.com, private space industry, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman: Challenger O-ring, Ronald Reagan, side project, Silicon Valley, South of Market, San Francisco, stealth mode startup, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steve Jobs, urban planning

Created in the nineteenth century by MIT founder William Barton Rogers, the department had among its faculty and graduates a dazzling array of Nobel Prize winners and some of the field’s greatest minds, from Richard Feynman (quantum electrodynamics), Murray Gell-Mann (elementary particles), Samuel Ting and Burton Richter (subatomic particles), to Robert Noyce (Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel), Bill Shockley (field-effect transistors), George Smoot (cosmic microwave background radiation), and Philip Morrison (Manhattan Project, science educator). Physics classes at MIT had been flooded with students in the years following the launch of Sputnik and the success of Apollo. Peter and his mom made their way to the biology department. He had an understanding with his parents that if he was accepted at MIT, he would stay on his premed track. The biology department here had much more to offer.

Distances on the bridge are indicated with a colored paint mark every Smoot and a number every ten Smoots. Oliver Smoot was a pledge at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and he got picked as the standard unit for the bridge in the 1958 pledge season. Some of his “brothers” laid him out three hundred times along the bridge until the cops came and chased them off. Smoot’s cousin George Smoot became very famous for his work on the COBE satellite, which first measured anisotropy in the cosmic microwave background radiation. *NASA’s biggest total employment year was 1965, when the space agency employed 34,300 in-house employees and 376,700 out-of-house contractor employees. *The Voyager design bears some resemblance to that of the famous World War II Lockheed P-38 Lightning. Burt moved the horizontal stabilizers forward, relocated the two engines into the center fuselage, and made one a puller and the other a pusher, thereby allowing him to lighten up and extend the wingspan.


pages: 186 words: 64,267

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, anthropic principle, Arthur Eddington, bet made by Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne, Brownian motion, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, dark matter, Edmond Halley, Ernest Rutherford, Henri Poincaré, Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Magellanic Cloud, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking

It might be like our being unable to represent the surface of the earth on a single map and having to use different maps in different regions. This would be a revolution in our view of the unification of the laws of science but it would not change the most important point: that the universe is governed by a set of rational laws that we can discover and understand. On the observational side, by far the most important development has been the measurement of fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation by COBE (the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite) and other collaborations. These fluctuations are the fingerprints of creation, tiny initial irregularities in the otherwise smooth and uniform early universe that later grew into galaxies, stars, and all the structures we see around us. Their form agrees with the predictions of the proposal that the universe has no boundaries or edges in the imaginary time direction; but further observations will be necessary to distinguish this proposal from other possible explanations for the fluctuations in the background.


pages: 277 words: 87,082

Beyond Weird by Philip Ball

Albert Einstein, Bayesian statistics, cosmic microwave background, dark matter, dematerialisation, Ernest Rutherford, experimental subject, Isaac Newton, John von Neumann, Kickstarter, Murray Gell-Mann, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Stephen Hawking, theory of mind, Thomas Bayes

But look, if thermal radiation is the problem then let’s cool the environment down! Let’s get rid of those thermal photons. We could conduct the experiment in space. Sure, there are some stray molecules even there, but let’s assume we could get rid of them too. What’s to induce decoherence then? Even interstellar space, though, is not free of photons. They are humming about everywhere in the cosmos, in the form of the cosmic microwave background, the faint glimmer left over from the fury of the Big Bang itself. These photons alone – the remnants of creation – will decohere such a superposition of a dust grain in about one second. The point is not that, in extremis, you can find a way to render observation of this ‘mesoscopic’ superposition feasible – if, that is, you can work out how to do it in space without actually disrupting the state in the measurement process itself.


pages: 266 words: 78,986

Quarantine by Greg Egan

cosmic microwave background, dark matter, fudge factor, intermodal, pattern recognition, placebo effect, Schrödinger's Cat

It came into being as a whole, in an instant—but because the Earth was eight light-minutes from its centre, the time-lag before the last starlight reached us varied across the sky, giving rise to the growing circle of darkness. Stars vanished first from the direction in which The Bubble was closest, and last where it was furthest away—precisely behind the sun. The Bubble presents an immaterial surface which behaves, in many ways, like a concave version of a black hole’s event horizon. It absorbs sunlight perfectly, and emits nothing but a featureless trickle of thermal radiation (far colder than the cosmic microwave background, which no longer reaches us). Probes which approach the surface undergo red shift and time dilation—but experience no measurable gravitational force to explain these effects. Those on orbits which intersect the sphere appear to crawl to an asymptotic halt and fade to black; most physicists believe that in the probe’s local time, it swiftly passes through The Bubble, unimpeded—but they’re equally sure that it does so in our infinitely distant future.


pages: 337 words: 93,245

Diaspora by Greg Egan

conceptual framework, cosmic abundance, cosmic microwave background, Fermat's Last Theorem, gravity well, Jacquard loom, stem cell, telepresence, telepresence robot, Turing machine

From the motion of the stars, the time between each frame was determined to he about 200 years; the software displayed 50 frames, 10,000 years, per tau. The whole view was heavily stylized, and the image was binary: not even a gray scale, just black and white. But the software had concluded that the vertical lines attached to each star were a kind of luminosity scale, giving the distance at which the energy density of the star's radiation fell to 61 femtojoules per cubic meter coincidentally or not, the same as the cosmic microwave background. For Voltaire, this distance was about one eighteenth of a light year; for the sun, about one seventh. The orthogonal projection enabled the "luminosity lines" for a few hundred stars to be visible simultaneously, all at the same scale; a realistic perspective from anywhere in the galaxy would have shown all but a few diminished by distance to the point of invisibility, making the intended meaning much more obscure.


Global Catastrophic Risks by Nick Bostrom, Milan M. Cirkovic

affirmative action, agricultural Revolution, Albert Einstein, American Society of Civil Engineers: Report Card, anthropic principle, artificial general intelligence, Asilomar, availability heuristic, Bill Joy: nanobots, Black Swan, carbon-based life, cognitive bias, complexity theory, computer age, coronavirus, corporate governance, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, cosmological principle, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, death of newspapers, demographic transition, Deng Xiaoping, distributed generation, Doomsday Clock, Drosophila, endogenous growth, Ernest Rutherford, failed state, feminist movement, framing effect, friendly AI, Georg Cantor, global pandemic, global village, Gödel, Escher, Bach, hindsight bias, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), invention of agriculture, Kevin Kelly, Kuiper Belt, Law of Accelerating Returns, life extension, means of production, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Mikhail Gorbachev, millennium bug, mutually assured destruction, nuclear winter, P = NP, peak oil, phenotype, planetary scale, Ponzi scheme, prediction markets, RAND corporation, Ray Kurzweil, reversible computing, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, scientific worldview, Singularitarianism, social intelligence, South China Sea, strong AI, superintelligent machines, supervolcano, technological singularity, technoutopianism, The Coming Technological Singularity, Tunguska event, twin studies, uranium enrichment, Vernor Vinge, War on Poverty, Westphalian system, Y2K

PART I Backgrou nd .2· Lon g-te rm astro p h ys ica l p ro cesses Fred C . Adams 2. 1 Introd uction : physical eschatology As we take a longer-term view of our future, a host of astrophysical processes are waiting to unfold as the Earth, the Sun, the Galaxy, and the Universe grow increasingly older. The basic astronomical parameters that describe our universe have now been measured with compelling precision. Recent observations of the cosmic microwave background radiation show that the spatial geometry of our universe is flat (Spergel et al., 2003) . Independent measurements o f the red-shift versus distance relation using Type Ia supernovae indicate that the universe is accelerating and apparently contains a substantial component of dark vacuum energy (Garnavich et al., 1998; Perlmutter et al., 1999; Riess et al. , 1998) . 1 This newly consolidated cosmological model represents an important milestone in our understanding of the cosmos.

Such bursts ofGeV and TeV gamma-rays, if produced by GRBs, might be detected by the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST), which will be launched into space in 1 6.V.2008. GeV-TeV gamma-rays from relatively nearby Galactic G RBs may produce lethal doses of atmospheric muons. 12.3 Cosmic ray threats The mean energy density of Galactic cosmic rays is similar to that of starlight, the cosmic microwave background radiation and the Galactic magnetic field, which all happen to be of the order of approximately 1 eV cm - 3 . This energy density is approximately eight orders of magnitude smaller than that of solar light at a distance of one astronomical unit, that is, that of the Earth, from the sun. Moreover, cosmic rays interact at the top of the atmosphere and their energy is converted to atmospheric showers.


Wireless by Charles Stross

anthropic principle, back-to-the-land, Benoit Mandelbrot, Buckminster Fuller, Cepheid variable, cognitive dissonance, colonial exploitation, cosmic microwave background, epigenetics, finite state, Georg Cantor, gravity well, hive mind, jitney, Khyber Pass, lifelogging, Magellanic Cloud, mandelbrot fractal, MITM: man-in-the-middle, peak oil, phenotype, Pluto: dwarf planet, security theater, sensible shoes, Turing machine, undersea cable

A soletta now orbits between Earth and the necrosun, filtering out the short-wavelength radiation, and when they periodically remelt the planet to churn the magma, they are at pains to season their new-made hell with a thousand cometary hydrogen carriers. But eventually more extreme measures will be necessary.) The sky is quiet and deathly cold. The universe is expanding, and the wavelength of the cosmic microwave background radiation has stretched. The temperature of space itself is now only thousandths of a degree above absolute zero. The ripples in the background are no longer detectable, and the distant quasars have reddened into invisibility. Galactic clusters that were once at the far edge of detection are now beyond the cosmic event horizon, and though Earth has only traveled two hundred million light-years from the Local Group, the gulf behind it is nearly a billion light-years wide.


pages: 412 words: 122,952

Day We Found the Universe by Marcia Bartusiak

Albert Einstein, Albert Michelson, Arthur Eddington, California gold rush, Cepheid variable, Copley Medal, cosmic microwave background, cosmological constant, Edmond Halley, Edward Charles Pickering, Fellow of the Royal Society, fudge factor, Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, Harvard Computers: women astronomers, horn antenna, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Magellanic Cloud, Occam's razor, orbital mechanics / astrodynamics, Pluto: dwarf planet, Solar eclipse in 1919, William of Occam

They had friendly arguments about this issue whenever they met, which led to the joke that “everywhere the two men went, the lambda was sure to go.” Lemaître went on to do important work in celestial mechanics and pioneered the use of electronic computers for numerical calculations. He always hoped the explosive origin of the universe would be validated by astronomical observations and at last received news of the discovery of the cosmic microwave background, the remnant echo of the Big Bang, shortly before he died in 1966. His successor at Louvain, Odon Godart, brought the July 1, 1965, issue of the Astrophysical Journal that contained the Nobel Prize-winning report to Lemaître's hospital bed. After his great surge of creativity between 1905 and 1917—the period when he generated both special and general relativity, introduced us to the particle of light called a photon, and fashioned the first relativistic model of the universe—Albert Einstein stepped away from further major developments in either quantum or cosmological theory and primarily tried, unsuccessfully, linking the forces of nature in one grand unified theory.


pages: 635 words: 186,208

House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

autonomous vehicles, cosmic microwave background, data acquisition, gravity well, megastructure, planetary scale

‘The name’s stuck, I’m afraid.’ But I thought on what the curator had said and reminded myself that he was correct. The Commonality’s own observations concurred: Andromeda had not so much gone as been blacked out. Just as the Vigilance’s Dyson swarm blocked out the light of the Milky Way, so Andromeda continued to mask the glow of the rest of the universe, all the way back to the fierce simmer of the cosmic microwave background. But the thing that was sitting where Andromeda used to be was not precisely a galaxy, either. It was more like a squat, black toad, a fat blob of darkness with the razor-sharp edge of an event horizon. But it was not a black hole. As the curator had mentioned, there were stars and globular clusters still circling beyond the fringe of the blob, and their orbits were not what one would have expected if they were travelling so close to a black hole’s surface, where frame-dragging would have played a role.


pages: 1,048 words: 187,324

Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, Ella Morton

anti-communist, Berlin Wall, British Empire, Buckminster Fuller, centre right, Charles Lindbergh, colonial rule, Colonization of Mars, cosmic microwave background, cuban missile crisis, dark matter, double helix, East Village, Exxon Valdez, Fall of the Berlin Wall, Frank Gehry, germ theory of disease, Golden Gate Park, Google Earth, Haight Ashbury, horn antenna, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, index card, Jacques de Vaucanson, Kowloon Walled City, Louis Pasteur, low cost airline, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, mutually assured destruction, Panopticon Jeremy Bentham, phenotype, Pluto: dwarf planet, Ronald Reagan, Rubik’s Cube, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transcontinental railway, Tunguska event, urban sprawl, Vesna Vulović, white picket fence, wikimedia commons, working poor

To Penzias’s and Wilson’s annoyance, an ever-present low hum interfered with their data collection. They checked their equipment, shooed away some pigeons that had been nesting in the antenna, and listened again. Still the hum persisted. The noise was not coming from the antenna, or anywhere in New Jersey, or anywhere on earth. It came from the universe itself. Penzias and Wilson had just stumbled upon cosmic microwave background. Penzias’s and Wilson’s discovery provided the first observational evidence that the universe began with a Big Bang. The discovery earned them a Nobel Prize in Physics. The decommissioned horn antenna they used for their explosive discovery is now a National Historic Landmark. Holmdel Road and Longview Drive, Holmdel. 40.390760 74.184652 Once the pigeons were shooed away, scientists were able to detect the faint echoes of the Big Bang.


pages: 740 words: 236,681

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever by Christopher Hitchens

Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, anthropic principle, Ayatollah Khomeini, cognitive bias, cognitive dissonance, cosmic microwave background, cuban missile crisis, David Attenborough, Edmond Halley, Georg Cantor, germ theory of disease, index card, Isaac Newton, liberation theology, Mahatma Gandhi, phenotype, risk tolerance, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Thales of Miletus, traveling salesman, trickle-down economics

But anyone familiar with modern physics will have to agree that certain fundamentals, in particular the great conservation principles of energy and momentum, have not changed in four hundred years.1 The conservation principles and Newton’s laws of motion still appear in relativity and quantum mechanics. Newton’s law of gravity is still used to calculate the orbits of spacecraft. Conservation of energy and other basic laws hold true in the most distant observed galaxy and in the cosmic microwave background, implying that these laws have been valid for over thirteen billion years. Surely any observation of their violation during the puny human life span would be reasonably termed a miracle. Theologian Richard Swinburne suggests that we define a miracle as a nonrepeatable exception to a law of nature.2 Of course, we can always redefine the law to include the exception, but that would be somewhat arbitrary.