Hugh Everett was a quantum physicist. In 1957, as a 24 year old graduate student at Princeton, Everett produced a theory that there was a multiverse made up of many universes. In Quantum Physics a particle can be in two places at once, until it is observed (the famous Schrodinger’s Cat problem). Everett supposed that instead of the other option disappearing, the universe splits into two.
Nowadays the idea is fairly well accepted, with multiple universes popping up in science fiction like ‘Sliders’ and Ian McDonald’s excellent latest novel, ‘Brasyl’. Back when Everett first came up with it, the theory was widely ignored for two decades.
Recently, new tapes have been found of Everett talking about his theory in 1977. BBC found the tapes whilst making a documentary with Everett’s son, who also happens to be rather famous – Mark Everett is ‘E’, lead singer of eclectic indie band Eels. The documentary follows ‘E’ trying to understand better his father’s work. It premieres on BBC4 tonight.
[via the Guardian, image of Eels album cover via Wikipedia]
One of the weirdest aspects of quantum theory is the role of the observer: particles exist only as probabilities until they are observed, at which point they become definite. (Schrödinger’s neither-alive-nor-dead cat is the most famous thought experiment along these lines.) (Via EurekAlert!)
Now New Scientist is reporting that a pair of physicists at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, suggest that when, in 1998, astronomers observed the light from supernovae and from that deduced the existence of dark energy, we may have reset the clock of the
university universe to the state it was in early in its history, when it was more likely to just as suddenly cease to exist as it suddenly sprang into existence in the first place. (Image: NASA via Wikimedia Commons.)
We’re still here, so the universe hasn’t winked out of existence just yet. But any second now…
[tags]cosmology, astronomy, physics, quantum theory[/tags]
Already a widely published man in his chosen field, Stephen Hawking is branching out into authordom of a different kind. In partnership with his daughter and a French scientist who wrote a thesis on his ideas, Hawking has written George’s Secret Key To The Universe – a space adventure story for children that explains the physics of the universe while (presumably) entertaining younger readers at the same time. I think we can safely assume that’s one science fiction story whose physics will never be questioned by hard sf purists … well, at least for a good few decades. [Image from Random House]
A detailed study of a supernova could tell scientists an awful lot of useful things … but there are obvious reasons why, even if we were able to travel the distances involved, we’d not want to just blast on over to check one out up close and personal. So, we do the next best thing – we recreate a some of the phenomena of a supernova under laboratory conditions.