Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Cosmological Kick in the Head

Here is a link to an interview that Robert Krulwich did with Brian Greene, a professor of physics and author of The Elegant Universe, among other books on physics. If you listen to this and don't feel your head has been expanded 3-4 times by the rapidity of the neuron firing in order to keep up, I'll be honestly surprised. Greene talks about the different explanations of the cosmological data that has been collected, and the implications, which range everywhere from the idea of the "Multiverse" - a collection of universes all of which are infinite (!) to the place of determination and free will in modern-day physics. Honestly, since I'm gearing up to teach courses in the bible and world mythology, this seems like a conversation I've heard many times before, just with vastly different data. In some ways, it's the oldest conversation there is - where did we come from, are we alone, are we in control of what we do? - with just a different vocabulary, substituting words like scientific words for literary or religious ones.

It's fascinating, but will require your attention. Download it and play it in your car or while you run. I love the way these two talk about science. Pretty awe-inspiring stuff.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

I am currently 40 minutes into the interview (about 12 to go). I have heard this kind of talk before. Despite Brian's claim that inflationary cosmology (the swiss cheese analogy) explains data rather than results from imaginations, his explanations (more based on probability arguments and the nature of the infinite rather than motivated by specific data) sound like nothing more than techno-babble. Show me the data, radiation measurements, observations, equations, etc. Including at least some reference to the data would add some integrity to his theory.

Andrew said...

Questions asked:

(1) Who are we?
(2) Where did we come from?
(3) What are we living for?

Answers proposed:

(1) Possibly fake.
(2) Unable to determine.
(3) Observing our particular universe.

As you said, these questions have been asked throughout history and will likely continue to be asked. I'm not convinced that Brian, or his fellow physicists, through the strict employment of the scientific method are going to be the ones to provide the final answer.