Noted astronomer Pamela Gay will be in Louisville on Friday, April 2 to talk about the discovery of hundreds of new worlds, the possibility of finding life as well as another Earth, and the emergence of "citizen scientists," a bottom-up movement of people contributing their time and clock cycles to advancing the science in fields as diverse as ornithology, particle physics and, through projects like Galaxy Zoo, astronomy.
Pamela Gay is well known and very active in the astronomical and science community, and blogs under the pseudonym "Star Stryder," where the IdeaFestival first encountered her. You may also follow Pamela @starstryder on Twitter.
She also answered "Five Questions" in a 2008 email interview posted elsewhere on the IdeaFestival blog that you might find interesting.
More information about her April appearance will be forthcoming, so mark that date on your calendar. And for the very latest, follow us @ideafestival on Twitter.
Author of Biocentrism and noted astronomer Bob Berman is now on stage at the Kentucky Center, Louisville.
"Did life create universe rather than the other way around?" That's the premise of the book Biocentrism.
Science for many centuries has been trying to develop unifying theories of nature without much success - he singles out String theory in physics for some scorn.
Science has shown that 13.7 billion years ago, universe sprang into being. Galaxy clusters are demonstrably racing away from us. "So lets say there was a Big Bang," and then we get "this," a picture of his grandmother. But if life is mysterious, consciousness even more so. Science doesn't quite know what to do with it - the greatest unsolved mystery in science is the conscious experience. How did random bits of matter "ever develop a taste for hot dogs?" We perceive the world through our consciousness, so if everything is filtered what do we make of the external world?
The easy part of consciousness is to explain the corresponding functions of the brain. The hard part is explaining the first person or subjective experience.
Einstein eventually settled into a "local realism," but wondered earlier if the Moon was there without anyone looking at it. The eyes do not see a perfect reflection of the world, but interpret it. The eyes, in fact, have no receptors for the color yellow, but rather, red and green, a point he makes with a couple of flashlights with red and green filters and a picture of the sulfurous surface of Jupiter's moon, Io. Similarly, the eyes are insensitive to violet. There a lot of color illusions. Color and light are photons that stimulate the eye, which messages the brain, which produces the experience of color. By itself, light has no visual properties.
The first person experience is, however, not understood. And we as observers are inextricably woven into that subjective experience.
The great physicist John Wheeler said that nothing is real until it is observed. Berman adds that "we feel forces, not solids."
Consciousness and the universe are correlative, they exist together and cannot exist alone. Giving one example, he says that center of every rainbow is the shadow of your head, not the shadow of someone else's head.
If any unified theory of the universe will not be complete until the conscious experience is incorporated.
Time and space are tools of animal perception and have no external reality. It's an ordering process, rather, of electrical input.
Likewise space: "How is it unreal? Let us count the ways."
define objects according objects according to language, culture and utility.
empty space is not empty. We know that space is covered by a 2 degree, roughly, cosmic microwave background. There is also a vacuum energy present. We don't experience it because it's everywhere, equally. It seethes with particles popping in and out of existence.
Space is relative, changing in relation to the speed of light.
Entangled particles, born together, are always remain in communication. That rate of communication is much, much faster than the speed of light, which has been empirically verified.
If all this is true, how can space and time be the starting points for a unified physical theory of the universe? Perhaps, he adds, we carry time and space like a turtle carries around its shell.
Having made the suggestion, he goes through an explanation of the double slit experiment to show that not all strange or unexplained phenomenon is a just so account of the world. However - and the transition here is a bit rocky - biocentrism and quantum theory are aligned in that they insist that our participation is central. Until that point, only probabilities exist.
Unless, he concludes, our "science begins to incorporate us as observers," no theory will be complete. A synthesis of biology and physics must occur.
Among the dramatic news sought by Kepler - what other Earth-like planets exist in the Milky Way? - astronomers should be able to use its incredible optics to get better fix on the actual size of the Universe as well. The craft is going through a shakedown period before turning its gaze toward about 100,000 suns near the Cygnus and Lyra constellations, between 600 and 3,000 light years away, where it will look for any winks that will betray planets transiting their stars.
The last few weeks have seen a blizzard of papers trying to explain the observations in terms of things like 'minimal dark matter' or 'exciting dark matter,' or 'hidden valley' theory, and to suggest how to look for them in particle accelerators like the Large Hadron Collider, set to begin operation again outside Geneva next summer....
'With so many experiments, we will soon know so much more about all of this,' [one scientist said.] 'In a year or two, we’ll either not be talking about this idea at all, or it will be all we’re talking about.'
Together with dark energy, dark matter constitutes 75 percent or more of the energy mass of the universe. We're not at all certain just what that stuff is.
Dark Matter represents about 22 percent of the total mass of observable universe, yet does not interact with "normal" luminous matter and cannot be seen by human eyes. Dark Energy and Dark matter represent up to 75 percent of the energy-matter in the observable universe. While not seen, both can be inferred by their effect on surrounding matter.
We just don't know exactly what they are.
In a beautiful 2006 image from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, above, the blue color is believed to represent the invisible Dark Matter of colliding galaxies. Because is does not interact with the normal luminous matter (pink), it passed through the merging galaxies ahead of the observable matter and is headed in opposite directions in the image. Astronomers detected it by observing how much gravity bends the light from the stars behind the blue area, a technique known as gravitational lensing. More massive objects bend more light.
Quantum wave collapse is a deeply puzzling phenomenon. The idea that one might measure a particle's velocity or location, but not both with absolute certainty, or that distant particles some how share physical properties seemingly instantaneously and faster than light can travel, raises paradoxes that have yet - and may never - be addressed by science.
Why should a wave function with a seemingly endless possibility - that particle and a host of others might be anywhere headed in any direction - "collapse" to the single outcomes experienced by human observers?
If we indeed live in multiverse, what universal language might "phrase the conditions for life?"
This short and very readable piece at SEED connects some pretty big conceptual dots. Covering territory from inflation theory and the extra dimensions predicted by string theory, theoretical physicist Raphael Bousso asks whether those dimensions might suggest new kinds of laws - and new kinds of life - in our mulitverse:
Because extra dimensions need not be tied up the same way
everywhere, physical laws may vary from place to place. Inflation makes
each "legal district" much larger than the visible universe, giving us
the illusion that particles and forces are the same everywhere. But
beyond our cosmic horizon, inflation allows the universe to grow so
enormous that it contains every set of possible laws that can be
constructed from string theory....
It is hard to imagine how one might test all of these different laws of physics and discover ours among them....
How can we hope to divine the life forms that might inhabit regions
with totally different laws of physics? Do they live on planets
orbiting stars? With different laws of physics, there may be no
analogue of "planet" or "star." Are observers made of organic
molecules? The elementary particles we know do not exist in most other
regions — forget about combining them into carbon. To say that life
requires galaxies, stars, or certain molecules is to make some rather
self-centered assumptions about what an intelligent observer should
look like. The very vocabulary — "galaxies," "molecules" — makes no
sense in most of the multiverse.
Since in a multiverse the discovery of those sets of laws one-by-one would be incredibly difficult, Bousso suggests a universal language you might (or might not) have suspected: statistics. Applied to the production of entropy (disorder), it might suggest "which physical laws, on
average, tend to be associated with the presence of complex structures