Genesis 1.1-5: The First Day
1In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
3And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
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"The Fabric of the Cosmos," a four-hour series based on the book by renowned physicist and author Brian Greene, takes us to the frontiers of physics to see how scientists are piecing together the most complete picture yet of space, time, and the universe. With each step, audiences will discover that just beneath the surface of our everyday experience lies a world we’d hardly recognize—a startling world far stranger and more wondrous than anyone expected.
Brian Greene is going to let you in on a secret: We've all been deceived. Our perceptions of time and space have led us astray. Much of what we thought we knew about our universe—that the past has already happened and the future is yet to be, that space is just an empty void, that our universe is the only universe that exists—just might be wrong.
Interweaving provocative theories, experiments, and stories with crystal-clear explanations and imaginative metaphors like those that defined the groundbreaking and highly acclaimed series "The Elegant Universe," "The Fabric of the Cosmos" aims to be the most compelling, visual, and comprehensive picture of modern physics ever seen on television.
What is Space
Space. It separates you from me, one galaxy from the next, and atoms from one another. It is everywhere in the universe. But to most of us, space is nothing, an empty void. Well, it turns out space is not what it seems. From the passenger seat of a New York cab driving near the speed of light, to a pool hall where billiard tables do fantastical things, Brian Greene reveals space as a dynamic fabric that can stretch, twist, warp, and ripple under the influence of gravity. Stranger still is a newly discovered ingredient of space that actually makes up 70 percent of the universe. Physicists call it dark energy, because while they know it's out there, driving space to expand ever more quickly, they have no idea what it is.
Probing space on the smallest scales only makes the mysteries multiply. Down there, things are going on that physicists today can barely fathom—forces powerful enough to generate whole universes. To top it off, some of the strangest places in space, black holes, have led scientists to propose that like the hologram on your credit card, space may just be a projection of a deeper two-dimensional reality taking place on a distant surface that surrounds us. Space, far from being empty, is filled with some of the deepest mysteries of our time.
The Illusion of Time
Time. We waste it, save it, kill it, make it. The world runs on it. Yet ask physicists what time actually is, and the answer might shock you: They have no idea. Even more surprising, the deep sense we have of time passing from present to past may be nothing more than an illusion. How can our understanding of something so familiar be so wrong? In search of answers, Brian Greene takes us on the ultimate time-traveling adventure, hurtling 50 years into the future before stepping into a wormhole to travel back to the past. Along the way, he will reveal a new way of thinking about time in which moments past, present, and future—from the reign of T. rex to the birth of your great-great-grandchildren—exist all at once. This journey will bring us all the way back to the Big Bang, where physicists think the ultimate secrets of time may be hidden. You'll never look at your wristwatch the same way again.
Join Brian Greene on a wild ride into the weird realm of quantum physics, which governs the universe on the tiniest of scales. Greene brings quantum mechanics to life in a nightclub like no other, where objects pop in and out of existence, and things over here can affect others over there, instantaneously and without anything crossing the space between them. A century ago, during the initial shots in the quantum revolution, the best minds of a generation—including Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr—squared off in a battle for the soul of physics. How could the rules of the quantum world, which work so well to describe the behavior of individual atoms and their components, conflict so dramatically with the everyday rules that govern people, planets, and galaxies?
Quantum mechanics may be counterintuitive, but it's one of the most successful theories in the history of science, making predictions that have been confirmed to better than one part in a billion, while also launching the technological advances at the heart of modern life, like computers and cell phones. But even today, even with such profound successes, the debate still rages over what quantum mechanics implies for the true nature of reality.
Notes on the DVD: The DVD version of the program stated that one entangled photon is sent from the island of La Palma to the island of Tenerife by laser. The photon is sent via laser-guided telescope. In the DVD version of the program, it appears that the research team led by Anton Zeilinger has successfully teleported photons from La Palma to Tenerife. Although the Zeilinger team has used the method described to teleport photons shorter distances in other locations, as of November 2011, photons have not yet been teleported between La Palma andTenerife. The team plans to continue experiments in the Canary Islands, which attempt to complete the teleportation process there.
Universe or Multiverse?
Hard as it is to swallow, cutting-edge theories are suggesting that our universe may not be the only universe. Instead, it may be just one of an infinite number of universes that make up the "multiverse." In this show, Brian Greene takes us on a tour of this brave new theory at the frontier of physics, showing what some of these alternate realities might be like. Some universes may be almost indistinguishable from our own; others may contain variations of all of us, where we exist but with different families, careers, and life stories. In still others, reality may be so radically different from ours as to be unrecognizable. Brian Greene reveals why this radical new picture of the cosmos is getting serious attention from scientists. It won't be easy to prove, but if it's right, our understanding of space, time, and our place in the universe will never be the same.
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Facebook Update on
the Higgs Boson Particle
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July 4, 2012
Here's the situation just announced at CERN:
Each of the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider has discovered a new particle with properties that are consistent with it being the long-sought Higgs particle. It will require more data and work to definitively establish that the particle is indeed the Higgs, but there's now no doubt that a new particle has been found.
When this result was announced at CERN, the auditorium erupted into prolonged applause, fitting for this historic discovery. No doubt, physicists worldwide erupted into similar applause. Decades of work by thousands of scientists around the globe have resulted in this spectacular achievement.
July 16, 2012
Following up on my somewhat cryptic statement on twitter (@bgreene), I want to briefly explain a point about the Higgs idea that, on a few occasions, I’ve seen incorrectly reported.
The Higgs field provides mass to fundamental particles like electrons and quarks, and that’s extremely important. But when it comes to the mass of ordinary matter such as you and me and trucks and baseballs, most of the mass does not arise from the Higgs field.
Ordinary matter is made from atoms, whose mass mainly comes from protons and neutrons—which, in turn, are each made from three quarks. But if you add up the masses of the quarks (whose mass comes from the Higgs) the total is only a few percent of the mass of a proton or neutron. So where does the bulk of the mass of protons and neutrons come from?
The answer comes from Einstein’s famous E = mc^2, written in the equivalent but more illuminating form m = E/c^2, where it establishes that energy (E) yields mass (m). The quarks inside a proton are held together by a kind of nuclear glue (“gluons”), and that glue that harbors significant energy. Indeed, most of the mass of protons (and neutrons) comes from that energy.
So, while the Higgs gives mass to the quarks and other fundamental particles, it’s the energy of the gluons that is responsible for most of the mass of the protons and neutrons, and hence the mass of familiar matter.
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Facebook Update on Nova's Mini-Series
"The Fabric of the Cosmos"
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July 11, 2012
As I just mentioned on twitter (@bgreene), the first episode of my NOVA mini-series, Fabric of the Cosmos, airs tonight on PBS. Tonight's episode -- "What is Space?" -- explores a range of topics from gravity, to the Higgs field, to dark energy, to the quantum activity that defines nothingness. Check out the program and send on your questions. I'll do my best to answer as many as I can.
July 24, 2012
Tomorrow night PBS will air the third episode of Fabric of the Cosmos on NOVA--the episode on quantum mechanics (called "Quantum Leap").
For those who haven't yet seen it, a quick word on the physics in this episode.
The program begins by covering the essential core of the quantum framework: Instead of the definite predictions we are familiar with from the older framework of classical physics laid down by Isaac Newton, quantum theory makes probabilistic predictions. For instance, in predicting the position of a particle, quantum physics can only provide the probability that the particle will be found at one location or another.The episode explains why physicists were led to introduce these probabilities into fundamental physical law, what the probabilities mean, how we can test them, and why we believe them.
In making the program, though, I was committed to going further and covering some of the more modern, absolutely stunning developments in quantum physics. In particular, results which speak to what's called "non-locality": the possibility in quantum physics that what you do here can be instantaneously entwined with what happens over there, even if here and there are widely separated. I consider these to be among the most interesting insights of modern theoretical physics, but they are also quite subtle. So, please feel free to send on any questions. (For previous episodes I did not answer as many questions as I'd hoped, largely because I'm giving various talks at European conferences this month. But I'll try to get to as many as I can).
August 1, 2012
Motivated by tonight's airing of the final episode of Fabric of the Cosmos on NOVA--The Multiverse--I want to say a few words about a development that's now gaining momentum in the physics community: a rethinking of the big bang and cosmology.
For decades, a puzzle that dogged the big bang theory was what "set off" the bang. What fueled the ferocious outward force that drove everything apart? In the 1980s, a proposed solution was finally put forward; as many of you know, it is called Inflationary Cosmology.
The essential idea is that in Einstein's general relativity, gravity can not only be attractive (as in Newton's theory, and attested to by everyday experiences), but in certain exotic circumstances it can also be REPULSIVE. The inflationary theory suggests that the exotic circumstances (a region of space filled with a cosmic "fuel" called an 'inflation field) were realized in the early universe, yielding a fantastically large repulsive push--the BANG.
Wonderfully, the inflationary proposal is not just a vague idea; it's based on solid mathematical analysis which yields testable consequences: the repulsive push would have stretched the universe so enormously that tiny quantum jitters from the micro-realm would have been smeared across the sky, yielding a specific pattern of tiny temperature variations across space. These predicted temperature variations have now been confirmed through precise astronomical observations. And for this reason, inflation has become the dominant cosmological theory for the past two of decades.
So far, this sounds like a spectacular success. But there's another consequence of inflation that's exciting that yet poses a potential problem. Mathematical studies show that the inflationary fuel would be so efficient that it's very difficult to use it all up. Which means that the although ferocious expansion ended in our vicinity of the cosmos, it would continue elsewhere, generating one big bang after another, after another--generating, that is, many universes: the multiverse.
That's a mind-bending idea (and the subject of tonight's NOVA program as well as my latest book, The Hidden Reality). But as I describe in the book (although not fully emphasized in the TV program), it raises a new and subtle challenge:
The other universes would generally have different features from ours, including different patterns of temperature variations. So, the very predictions on which our confidence in the inflationary proposal is based--the observed temperature variations across space--would be compromised: with many different universes you get many different predictions. In fact, there's reason to think that any possible pattern of temperature variations will be realized in some universe in the multiverse. And a theory that "predicts" anything is a theory that predicts nothing.
For some physicists, this means that the inflationary proposal has crashed, plain and simple. Others are more sanguine, suggesting that when we understand the theory better, we will be able say something like: sure, any results are possible, but some outcomes are more likely than others. So, if the inflationary theory is correct, our observations should agree with the more probable outcomes of the theory.
To date, however, there's no consensus on how to calculate the likelihood of one outcome relative to another. I suspect this is an issue we will one day crack. But because we've yet to do so, a small but growing number of physicists are contemplating that the inflationary theory either needs a significant overhaul or we might require a new theory altogether. Both are daunting but exciting prospects.
P.S. There's a separate point I'd like to explain regarding the Higgs, but as this post is long I will save that for another day.