Make the Cosmic Perspective Your Next Coping Mechanism
Contemplating cosmic history isn’t alienating; it’s affirming.Pexels I am often asked how I cope with the vast and seemingly incomprehensible abyss beyond Earth. As with modern politics, it’s thought that contemplating the cold, indifferent, cosmos—as I do for a living—can make us feel small, powerless, and unimportant: specks of dust flickering in the void for […]
Science Is Not Constantly Being Proved Right
It’s a subtle point, but the British comedian Ricky Gervais was not quite right when he told Stephen Colbert on The Late Show yesterday, “Science is constantly being proved all the time.” Perhaps he misspoke. He was put on the defensive. Colbert, an idiosyncratic but sincere Catholic, was not really playing devil’s advocate when he […]
What If the Universe Didn’t Start With the Big Bang?
Last week, researchers using the Planck spacecraft to study the skies announced that the polarization of light spotted by the BICEP2 experiment could be entirely explained by dust swirling around the Milky Way. This news was a bucket of cold water on the theories of many cosmologists: It meant that BICEP2 might not have been […]
Excitement Over Gravity Waves Comes Crashing Down
The Dark Sector Lab includes the BICEP2 telescope, seen on the left.BICEP Keck Science giveth, and science taketh away. What appeared earlier this year to be a long-sought glimpse of ancient ripples in spacetime now seems to have been schmutz in astronomers’ eyes. In March, sky-gazers using a telescope at the South Pole called BICEP2 […]
Edgar Allan Poe, Part-Time Cosmologist/Big-Bang Philosopher
A daguerrotype of Poe made several months before his death in 1849 During the waning months of 1847, Edgar Allan Poe sat at his desk with a tortoiseshell cat draped around his shoulders and dreamed the universe into being. Poe believed the book he wrote in that feline-festooned state to be his best work, and […]
Over the Universe—The Best Reactions to the Big Physics News
These swirls in the cosmic microwave background show the effect of primordial gravitational waves.BICEP2 Scientists, on the whole, are a circumspect lot. When faced with a microphone or reporter’s notepad, most of them (excepting a vocal minority) hedge and temper their language, adding provisos and qualifications, burying significant news behind accurate but unexciting jargon. So […]
Where Did Time Come From, and Why Does It Seem to Flow?
ASU Paul Davies has a lot on his mind—or perhaps more accurate to say in his mind. A physicist at Arizona State University, he does research on a wide range of topics, from the abstract fields of theoretical physics and cosmology to the more concrete realm of astrobiology, the study of life in places beyond […]
In Search of Time’s Origin
What happened before the Big Bang?