We’ve long understood black holes to be the points at which the universe as we know it comes to an end. Often billions of times more massive than the Sun, they lurk in the inner sanctum of almost every galaxy of stars in the universe. They’re mysterious chasms so destructive and unforgiving that not even light can escape their deadly wrath.
Recent research, however, has led to a cascade of new discoveries that have revealed an entirely different side to black holes. As the astrophysicist Caleb Scharf reveals in Gravity’s Engines, these chasms in space-time don’t just vacuum up everything that comes near them; they also spit out huge beams and clouds of matter. Black holes blow bubbles.
With clarity and keen intellect, Scharf masterfully explains how these bubbles profoundly rearrange the cosmos around them. Engaging with our deepest questions about the universe, he takes us on an intimate journey through the endlessly colorful place we call our galaxy and reminds us that the Milky Way sits in a special place in the cosmic zoo—a “sweet spot” of properties. Is it coincidental that we find ourselves here at this place and time? Could there be a deeper connection between the nature of black holes and their role in the universe and the phenomenon of life? We are, after all, made of the stuff of stars.
Time travel makes great science fiction, but can it really be done? Travel into the future is already a reality, but visiting the past is a much tougher proposition, and may require fantastic resources such as a wormhole in space. Nevertheless, if going back in time is allowed, even in principle, then what about all those paradoxes that make time travel stories so intriguing?
Paul Davies is a physicist, cosmologist and astrobiologist at Arizona State University, where is Director of the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. He is the author of many books, including “How to Build a Time Machine” and, most recently, “The Eerie Silence: are we alone in the universe?”
Marc Kaufman visits Google’s San Francisco office to present his book “First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth“. This event took place on May 27, 2011, as part of the Authors@Google series.
In his riveting, game-changing book First Contact: Scientific Breakthroughs in the Hunt for Life Beyond Earth Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post science and space reporter, tells the incredible true story of science’s search for the beginnings of life on Earth and the likelihood of it existing elsewhere in our universe. He has received amazing praise, a sampling is below, and the book is being embraced by the science community from NASA to the Smithsonian and the Natural History Museum.
For decades, researchers assumed that the genesis of life was too delicate a process to exist anywhere other than Earth. But recent discoveries from microbes living in unimaginably inhospitable environments to new extra-solar planets point towards a day when the existence of extraterrestrial life will be confirmed. Kaufman takes readers around the globe, into space, and miles below Earth’s surface to show how the search for life on other planets is changing the way humans think about their own history, what it means to be human, and what, exactly, life is. It is a complicated quest made simple: First Contact is the first book to bring together cutting-edge developments across the many branches of science, from microbiology to geochemistry, physics, and astronomy, that are racing to verify what was once deemed impossible. Kaufman demystifies the rigorous science and advanced technology that is edging ever closer to the most important scientific discovery of our time.
Also see a related SETI Talk and panel discussion which features Kaufman, as well as Jill Tarter, Seth Shostak and Frank Drake:
Finally, you can check out Kaufman’s website.
The Character of Physical Law are a series of seven lectures by physicist Richard Feynman concerning the nature of the laws of physics.
The talks were delivered by Feynman in 1964 at Cornell University, as part of the Messenger Lectures series.
Their text was published by the BBC in 1965 in a book by the same name.
The lectures covered the following topics:
- The law of gravitation, an example of physical law
- The relation of mathematics to physics
- The great conservation principles
- Symmetry in physical law
- The distinction of past and future
- Probability and uncertainty – the quantum mechanical view of nature
- Seeking new laws
The YouTube playlist below has all seven lectures totalling six hours:
Alternatively, view an enhanced version at Project Tuva by Microsoft Research.
Via Gresham College a lecture by Professor Ian Morison on the violent universe:
A look at the most violent events that occur in our Universe, from supernovae and hypernovae to the cause of gamma ray bursts and what was the biggest explosion of all – the Big Bang origin of the Universe itself.
Ian Morison began his love of astronomy when, at the age of 12, he made a telescope out of lenses given to him by his optician. He attended Chichester High School and then went on to study Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy at Hertford College, Oxford. In September 1965, he became a research student at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Observatory. In 1970 he was appointed to the staff of the Observatory and teaches astronomy at the University of Manchester.
In 1990 he helped found the Macclesfield Astronomy Society which meets at the Observatory and later became president of the Society for Popular Astronomy, the UK’s largest astronomical society. He remains on the Society’s Council and holds the post of instrument advisor helping members with their choice and use of Telescopes.
He lectures widely on astronomy, has co-authored books for amateur astronomers and writes regularly for the UK astronomy magazines Astronomy Now and Sky at Night. He also writes a monthly sky guide for the Observatory’s web site and produces an audio version as part of the Jodrell Bank Podcast. He has contributed to many television programmes and is a regular astronomy commentator on local and national radio. Another activity he greatly enjoys is to take amateur astronomers on observing trips such as those to Lapland to see the Aurora Borealis and, last year, to Turkey to observe a total eclipse of the Sun.
In 2003 the Minor Planets Committee of the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 15,727 in his honour citing his work with MERLIN, the world’s largest linked array of radio telescopes, and that in searching for intelligent life beyond our Solar System in Project Phoenix.
You can find a transcript and Powerpoint of the lecture here.
Richard H. Thaler, Director of the Center for Decision Research at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, is the father of Behavioral Economics. In preparation for a new book he asked EDGE contributors to answer this question:
The flat earth and geocentric world are examples of wrong scientific beliefs that were held for long periods. Can you name your favorite example and for extra credit why it was believed to be true?
As of today, there are 61 responses which make for fascinating reading on how science has corrected itself and our views of nature.
The contributors include Neil Shubin, Garrett Lisi, Peter Schwartz, David Deutsch, Haim Harari, Alun Anderson, Irene Pepperberg, John Holland, Derek Lowe, Charles Simonyi, Nathan Myhrvold, Lawrence Krauss, Steven Strogatz, Cesar Hidalgo, Eric Topol, Christian Keysers, Simona Morini, Ross Anderson, James Croak, Rob Kurzban, Lewis Wolpert, Howard Gardner, Ed Regis, Robert Trivers, Frank Tipler, Joan Chaio, Jeremy Bernstein, Matthew Ritchie, Clay Shirky, Roger Schank, Gary Klein, Gregory Cochran, Eric Weinstein , Geoffrey Carr, James O’Donnell, Lane Greene, Jonathan Haidt, Juan Enriquez, Scott Atran, Rupert Sheldrake, Emanuel Derman, Charles Seife, Milford H. Wolpoff, Robert Shapiro, Judith Harris, Jordan Pollack, Sue Blackmore, Nicholas G. Carr, Lee Smolin, Marti Hearst, Gino Segre, Carl Zimmer, Gregory Paul, Alison Gopnik, George Dyson, Mark Pagel, Timothy Taylor, David Berreby, Zenon Pylyshyn, Michael Shermer, and George Lakoff.
Topics (with comments on both bad and correct science or beliefs) include: plate tectonics, cosmic inflation, prions, quantum entanglement, the force of gravity, the great chain of being, bird intelligence, the four humours of human physiology, luminiferous aether, bad air disease theory, Peripatetic Mechanics of Aristotle, stress theory of ulcers, intelligent design/creationism, the age of the Earth, cell regeneration, spontaneous generation of life, vitalism, unifunctional components of the brain, security by obscurity, whales as fishes, group selection, unilinear cultural evolution, static universe, Lamarckism, nature/nurture, the existence of a vacuum, the human brain vs. the heart, and more…
Bonus: Thaler on his field Behavioural Economics:
io9 has another futuristic artist impression of a colony on a similar planet.
The Lick-Carnegie Exoplanet Survey: A 3.1 M_Earth Planet in the Habitable Zone of the Nearby M3V Star Gliese 581
Steven S. Vogt, R. Paul Butler, Eugenio J. Rivera, Nader Haghighipour, Gregory W. Henry, Michael H. Williamson
A video by NASA TV:
Update 20101012: Recently Discovered Habitable World May Not Exist
Update 20110516: First habitable exoplanet? Climate simulation reveals new candidate that could support Earth-like life (Gliese 581d)
Astronomer Dimitar Sasselov and his colleagues search for Earth-like planets that may, someday, help us answer centuries-old questions about the origin and existence of biological life elsewhere (and on Earth). How many such planets have they found already? Several hundreds.