Sunday, November 22, 2009

Cosmology: If you needn't worry about paying the rent Friday, you can worry about this stuff

In "Seven questions that keep physicists up at night" (New Scientist, 23 October 2009) Ivan Semeniuk reports from the Quantum to Cosmos Festival at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, Ontario:

Here are the seven questions:

1. Why this universe?

2. What is everything made of?
... But the discovery of dark energy, which appears to be speeding up the expansion of the universe, has created a vast new set of puzzles for which there are no immediate answers in sight. This includes the nature of the dark energy itself and the question of why it has a value that is so extraordinarily small, allowing for the formation of galaxies, stars and the emergence of life.

3. How does complexity happen?

4. Will string theory ever be proved correct?

5. What is the singularity?

6. What is reality really?

7. How far can physics take us?

It strikes me that these questions vary in levels of worth. How complexity happens (3) is an important puzzle; whether string theory is ever proved correct is of interest only to string theorists and skeptics (4). As to how far physics can take us (7), I am not Madam Rosa the psychic, so do not pretend to predict the future.

The "Quantum to Cosmos" festival is online here.

Other cosmology stories at Colliding Universes:

Cosmology: Science's leader in things that don't make sense

Cosmology: Crisis of the month: gravitation

Cosmology: Multiverse - getting comfortable with a zillion of everything that is unique.

Cosmology: I seem to have yanked particle physicist Lawrence Krauss's chain

Cosmology: Wow. It takes guts to wage warwith Stephen Hawking. He appeared in Star Trek

Cosmology: Arguments against flatness (plus exposing sloppy science writing)

Cosmology: If the universe has free will, where do I go to file a claim for damages?

(Note: I wasn't able to keep this blog up recently, due to various projects, but am now back. )