Monday, 7 November 2011

What a wonderful weird world!

Away from the immediacy of Kolkata, of Mr Frank, of abject poverty and more, visit an even stranger world, the world we all live in.

That's the amazing thing about physics - no matter how weird we think the immediate world is, we are in the halfpenny place compared to the real world according to physics.

No, don't stop reading - you really need to take a few moments to bend your mind around these four facts from physics:

(1) the universe is made up of a little over 4% is what we consider 'ordinary matter', stuff we can see (most of which is made up of empty space), 25% 'dark matter' (made up of what, we do not know), and around 75% so-called 'dark energy' (equally mysterious). So much for what we 'know'.

(2) the 13.7 billion year old universe, comprising hundreds of billions of stars, originated in a 'singularity'

(think of it as a point so small that it virtually doesn't exist. Consider one hundred millionth of a billionth the size of a proton which itself is one thousand billionth the size of a grain of sand. Actually forget that, because that's the size an infinitesimal time after we emerged from nothing at all).

(3) immediately after the 'Big Bang', our universe underwent 'inflation', expanding unbelievably fast, faster even than the speed of light - but in an exquisitely balanced way: physicists have calculated that if the rate of inflation was faster or slower by as little as one part in ten to the 50, then our universe would have collapsed again into a singularity or exploded out of control.

(To get a rough idea of how big 10 to the 50 is, take the distance from the earth to the sun, break it up into inches and squeeze the entire population of the earth into each and every inch; then consider each person is the distance from the earth to the sun and repeat the process).

(4) the latest thinking is that the fundamental forces of the universe - electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces and gravity - are simply different manifestations of a single primary force, most likely existing in no fewer than ten dimensions (three spatial dimensions, time, and six as yet poorly understood other dimensions, best explained as vibrating strings so small we cannot see them)

And we haven't even started to contemplate the weirdness of quantum entanglement, the fact the the total energy of the universe is believed to be zero, superposition or non-locality.

Speculation about consciousness, God and the like we shall leave to another day. . . .

What a wonderful weird world!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

No comments:

Post a Comment