Posted by: bwoof | January 9, 2010

Quirks and Quarks

My fav radio show last week had a showcase of 10 famous physicists who were all asked, “What is the biggest question that we need to answer?” . Listen to the podcast (which I heard for the first time today) or just follow my learning notes.

Dr. Sean Carroll – California Institue of Technology

How did the universe begin? Or, rather, did the universe begin?

Big Bang – not actually true that the Big Bang was the beginning, There was a point before which we don’t know. The equations don’t know what happened beyond that point. Still looking for a good theory, or ‘the match that lit the big bang.” “Our understanding of physics just isn’t good enough to go back to time=zero.” We are going on principles of guesswork.

Dr. Katie Friese – Prof at University

What is the universe made of?

Atoms and protons and neutrons only add up to 4% of the universe. 96% is missing, Dark matter is what’s out there but we don’t really know what it is. We are trying to build detectors, To do this you can put a detector deep underground (i.e., up near Sudbury) or up in satellites….a $4 billion enterprise. The universe is mostly dark. Looking for a new particle..WIMPS (weakly interacting particles) International Year of the Galaxy! Didn’t know about that one. J

Dr. Andrew White – University of Queensland

What is the connection between quantum physics and biology?

First quantum revolution happened in the 1930s. The second one happened later, and Einstein called it spooky physics. It’s called ‘entanglement’ and with it you can build computers that are exponentially better. In the last couple of years people have been doing new experiments, especially on photosynthesis.

Dr. Gordon Southen – Univ Western Ontario (bi

Is there life elsewhere in the universe?

He wants to find bacteria out there? To date, most of our focus has been on Mars but so far we’ve not found a single microbe. Will we find fossil remnants on Mars? We need samples, but we can’t send those kinds of instruments to Mars, so we need to get a sample return mission to/from Mars. But would that work? Or would we contaminate earth. We predict that is there is life it will be carbon-based and with it we can build complex molecules. We are looking elsewhere in the solar systemto find water, i.e., on Europa, moon of Jupiter.

Dr. Julian Barber

Does time exist?

The clock exists and we see the hands moving, but we don’t see time. Quantum gravity is the big thing right now. The easiest thing to do is to get rid of time altogether and just have static existence. Galileo introduced ‘primary qualities’. The question is difficult to answer

Dr. Bill Wooters

What’s behind quantum mechanics?

Started out as a theory of light and atoms but has grown into an overarching framework, a basic theory of physics. Complex numbers are used in this theory, i.e., square root of 1, as well as complex probabilities


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