What is the multiverse? The idea that the universe we inhabit is just one of many parallel universes gets a superhero shout-out in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the latest movie based on Marvel comic-book characters.
And in the opinion of Brian Greene, a theoretical physicist at Columbia University, giving some screen time to the multiverse isn’t such a bad thing — even if the plot has some horror-movie twists.
“I think it’s really good if some of these ideas are brought out in a variety of different ways,” Greene says in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast, which focuses on the realm where science and technology intersect with fiction and popular culture.
There we were — on Good Friday, the day that ushers in Christianity’s holiest weekend — talking with theoretical physicist Michio Kaku about the possibility that humanity’s salvation will come from a scientific gospel that’s yet to be written.
A gospel that Kaku calls the God Equation.
The way he sees it, our far-flung descendants will be able to take advantage of the God Equation to leave our tired old universe behind.
“One day, stars will blink out. It’ll get super cold. We’ll all freeze to death as it becomes near absolute zero. Well, that’s trillions of years from now. And I think at that point, we’re so advanced, we’ll harness the Planck energy — the energy at which universes can be created — and we’ll create a bubble of our own,” he explained.
“We’ll leave our universe and go to a younger universe where we can mess that universe up as well,” he said.
You could argue that’s the “new heaven and new earth” promised in the Book of Revelation. Is that sacrilegious? You’ll have to decide for yourselves after listening to the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast, coming to you from the place where science and technology intersect with fiction and popular culture.
An array of detectors buried under a half-mile-wide stretch of Antarctic ice has traced the path of a single neutrino back to a supermassive black hole in a faraway galaxy, shedding light on a century-old cosmic ray mystery in the process.
The discovery, revealed today in a flurry of research papers published by the journal Science and The Astrophysical Journal, marks a milestone for the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
It also marks a milestone for an observational frontier known as multi-messenger astrophysics, which takes advantage of multiple observatories looking at the sky in different ways. Thanks to IceCube’s alert, more than a dozen telescopes were able to triangulate on the neutrino’s source.
“No one telescope could have done this by themselves,” said IceCube lead scientist Francis Halzen, a physics professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
After decades’ worth of mystery, it feels as if physicists are finally closing in on the nature of black holes, thanks to Nobel-winning breakthroughs like the first detections of black hole mergers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory.
But Columbia University physicist Brian Greene warns that those matter-gobbling monsters may have a few surprises in them yet.
“To watch the history of this subject unfold from a purely theoretical idea to one that now is driving observational tests is enormously exciting,” Greene told GeekWire.
Big data just might give astronomers a better grip on the answer to one of the biggest questions in physics: Exactly what’s behind the mysterious acceleration in the expansion rate of the universe, also known as dark energy?
The role of data analysis in resolving the mystery came to the fore on May 14 during a talk given at the DIRAC Institute’s first-ever open house on the UW campus. The speaker was none other than Berkeley astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter, who won a share of the Nobel Prize in physics in 2011 for finding the first evidence of dark energy.
But you could argue that the true monuments to Hawking’s memory are his books and theoretical papers, delving into the nature of black holes, the big bang and other cosmic mysteries. And as was often the case during his life, the last paper he completed is stirring up a fuss just days after his death.
Hawking’s so-called “Final Theory” is a paper written with Belgian collaborator Thomas Hertog, and titled “A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation?” It hasn’t yet been published in a journal, but it’s said to be under review and is available for inspection on the ArXiv pre-print server.
The paper focuses on hypotheses having to do with cosmic inflation and the idea that our own cosmos is just one of many universes in a multiverse.
Astronomers have detected radio waves from a time within 180 million years of the Big Bang, and they say they see signs of what may be the first stars to coalesce in the infant universe.
The detection was made using an array of radio antennas that was set up in Australia for a project known as the Experiment to Detect the Global Epoch of Reionization Signature, or EDGES. Astronomers from Arizona, Massachusetts and Colorado reported their discovery in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.
“Finding this minuscule signal has opened a new window on the early universe,” lead investigator Judd Bowman of Arizona State University said in a news release. “Telescopes cannot see far enough to directly image such ancient stars, but we’ve seen when they turned on in radio waves arriving from space.”
Although the signal was difficult to detect, it was twice as dramatic as computer models predicted for the startup of the first stars. If the findings hold up, the models would have to be adjusted to account for the effect, and one possible explanation could involve interactions with dark matter.
“If that idea is confirmed, then we’ve learned something new and fundamental about the mysterious dark matter that makes up 85 percent of the matter in the universe,” Bowman said. “This would provide the first glimpse of physics beyond the standard model.”
Today’s award of $22 million in prizes is being wrapped into a ceremony at NASA’s Ames Research Center that combines Hollywood glitz with Silicon Valley brainpower.
Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman is the host for the show, which is being televised by National Geographic and streamed live via Facebook and YouTube at 7 p.m. PT tonight. Celebrity presenters include Ashton Kutcher (“That ’70s Show”); his wife, Mila Kunis (“Bad Moms”); and Kerry Washington (“Scandal”).
The prize program was established in 2012 by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia Milner, in league with Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.
It ranks among science’s richest award programs, with seven $3 million prizes being awarded this year in life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics. Another $1 million is going out to early-career scientists, students and teachers.
About 85 percent of the mass of the universe consists of mysterious stuff known as dark matter, but a galaxy called Dragonfly 44 appears to be even darker: 99.99 percent dark, according to newly published findings.
Dragonfly 44, which lies about 300 million light-years away in the Coma galaxy cluster, is the subject of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
“It has so few stars that it would quickly be ripped apart unless something was holding it together,” Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum, the study’s lead author, said in a news release.
Van Dokkum and his colleagues tracked the motions of the stars in the galaxy using the Keck Observatory and the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The stars’ motions told the astronomers about the gravitational field surrounding Dragonfly 44.