What happened before the Big Bang?

This image represents the evolution of the universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time. NASA “It’s my life’s work to try to answer that question,” University of Toronto physicist Renée Hložek says. By Dan Falk We’ve all heard that the universe began with the Big Bang — a colossal explosion that ushered it into existence. But what if the Big Bang wasn’t the beginning? Could there have been an earlier version of the universe, with its own stars and galaxies? A universe populated, perhaps, by its own creatures, themselves wondering what came before their universe? Or might there be … Continue reading What happened before the Big Bang?

The Mystery of Time’s Arrow

This simple model of the universe shows how one natural law points toward order. BY JULIAN BARBOUR As conscious beings, we are constantly aware of the relentless march of time. You can make an egg into an omelet, but you can’t turn an omelet back into an egg. Dropped glasses shatter and do not reassemble themselves. Above all, we age and become decrepit; there is no return to youth. But this is a great scientific mystery. There is nothing in the form of the laws of nature at the fundamental microscopic level that distinguishes a direction of time. They are … Continue reading The Mystery of Time’s Arrow

The Jazz of Physics: Cosmologist and Saxophonist Stephon Alexander on Decoding the Song of the Universe

Art by Vladimir Radunsky from On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. “It is less about music being scientific and more about the universe being musical.” BY MARIA POPOVA “All truth is comprised in music and mathematics,” Margaret Fuller wrote as she was spearheading the Transcendentalist movement and laying the groundwork for what would later be called feminism. A century and a half after Fuller, theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and jazz saxophonist Stephon Alexander examines this dual seedbed of truth in The Jazz of Physics (public library) — part memoir of his improbable path to science and music, part captivating primer on modern … Continue reading The Jazz of Physics: Cosmologist and Saxophonist Stephon Alexander on Decoding the Song of the Universe

Mind-bending model shows Venus isn’t our nearest neighbor — it’s Mercury

A highly stylized rendition of our solar system NASA/JPL by Georgina Torbet If someone asked which planet was closest to Earth, you’d be pretty certain — it’s Venus. We measure distances in the solar system in terms of Astronomical Units (AU), where 1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun. So, with a orbit distance of 0.72 AU, you’d assume that Venus is just 0.28 AU away from us, right? Even NASA saysthat Venus is our closest planetary neighbor. You’d be wrong and so is NASA, according to a new article in Physics Today. The authors argue that these measurements calculate … Continue reading Mind-bending model shows Venus isn’t our nearest neighbor — it’s Mercury

This Is Why The Multiverse Must Exist

Ethan SiegelSenior ContributorStarts With A Bang Contributor Group ScienceThe Universe is out there, waiting for you to discover it. The multiverse idea states that there are an arbitrarily large number of Universes like our own out there, embedded in our Multiverse. It’s possible, but not necessary, for other pockets within the Multiverse to exist where the laws of physics are different. Look out at the Universe all you want, with arbitrarily powerful technology, and you’ll never find an edge. Space goes on as far as we can see, and everywhere we look we see the same things: matter and radiation. … Continue reading This Is Why The Multiverse Must Exist

How the Universe Remembers Information

A “memory matrix” might solve Stephen Hawking’s black-hole paradox. BY GEORGE MUSSER It was one of the great missed connections of physics. In 1965 a particle theorist derived a formula for the collision of elementary particles. Twenty years later two gravitation theorists, using completely different techniques, derived a formula for the collision of stars or black holes. And they were the same formula. The only difference was that the first used “p” to denote momentum and the second used “P”. Harvard physicist Andy Strominger jokes that “a 6-year-old could look at those two papers” and spot the similarity. But evidently no 6-year-old did, so … Continue reading How the Universe Remembers Information

Something Is Not Quite Right In the Universe, Ultraprecise New Measurement Reveals

This Hubble Telescope image shows a doubly-imaged quasar, which can be used to measure the Hubble constant. A new technique of measuring the Hubble Constant from such doubly-imaged quasar systems could help astronomers better understand how the universe’s expansion rate has changed over time. Credit: NASA Hubble Space Telescope, Tommaso Treu/UCLA, and Birrer et al By Mara Johnson-Groh, Live Science Contributor  Something isn’t quite right in the universe. At least based on everything physicists know so far. Stars, galaxies, black holes and all the other celestial objects are hurtling away from each other ever faster over time. Past measurements in our … Continue reading Something Is Not Quite Right In the Universe, Ultraprecise New Measurement Reveals