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LATEST DIALOGUES The ‘Big’ Questions in Physics Today

big-questionsAt its heart theoretical physics deals with Big Questions, from black holes to quantum mechanics to the Big Bang. In a recent article on NPR, Marcelo Gleiser, a professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College, presented his list of the top challenges faced by theoretical physicists today.

  • Dark Energy: In 1998 astronomers discovered that the universe is expanding faster than expected. What’s causing this cosmic speed up? One answer is dark energy, which is estimated to make up about 70 percent of the universe.
  • Dark Matter: There’s more to galaxies than meets the eye. Surrounding these celestial bodies is an unknown kind of matter—named dark matter—that isn’t made up of either electrons or protons. Scientists estimate that dark matter makes up about 25 percent of the universe (leaving 5 percent for ordinary matter).
  • Quantum Mechanics: This branch of physics describes how atoms and subatomic particles act—often in very strange ways. At a mathematical level, quantum mechanics works well, but scientists don’t always know how to explain all that math in words and images that the rest of us can wrap our heads around.
  • Gravity: Some physicists wonder if gravity still belongs in the same category as electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces, all of which work on “stuff” in the universe. Unlike those, gravity affects the fabric of spacetime itself, which puts it in a class of its own.
  • Black Holes: Resulting from the collapse of large stars, black holes continue to puzzle physicists. Although gravity is thought to be infinitely strong at the core—known as a singularity—black holes still emit radiation. Physicists aren’t quite certain how this loss of information occurs and what it means for gravity and quantum mechanics.

While theoretical physicists ponder these grand cosmic problems, other scientists continue to study classical physics  — anything from fluid mechanics to understanding why dragonflies fly so well. No doubt some people would prefer to leave this branch of physics in the past — favoring quantum weirdness and strange relativity phenomena — but at the non-cosmic scale of our everyday world of airplanes and buildings, classical physics still functions quite well and it is still utterly amazing. And when you look at the problems tackled by both classical and modern physicists, you can’t help but see it they way Einstein put it: “Contemplate the mystery of conscious life perpetuating itself through all eternity, to reflect upon the marvelous structure of the universe which we can dimly perceive, and to try humbly to comprehend even an infinitesimal part of the intelligence manifested in nature.


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Shawn Radcliffe is a science writer, yoga instructor and creator of fiction and humor. He has written about science, health, meditation and yoga for, Men's Fitness, Greater Good and more. He also tackles the humorous implications of spirituality and science on his blog, Branáin - Ravenously Curious.

4 Responses to “The ‘Big’ Questions in Physics Today”

  1. September 08, 2014 at 9:08 am, John Paily said:

    Einstein was a great scientist, I have not understood the mathematics of this brain that perceived the General Theory of Relativity. But I could perceive his thoughts. He for much part of His life was contemplating on a SECOND SPACE-TIME FIELD and force that opposes gravity field. He probably imagined the nonsensical Big Bang Point and singularity where every laws of science collapse. He did try to introduce it and then retracted it under experimental poof of expanding universe and his own inability look to nature once he was in Temples of science. The clue to this New Space –Time field exists in life. Life unfolds from an inner space –time field. Life is information unfolding from a point and enfolding back on it. The only way to understand the universe sensibly is to understand it as living one as the ancient east did. The material world including the humans enquiring into it is juxtaposed between two opposing space-time fields. It is sustained by spirit or LIGHT or information moving in and out of it. There are two spirits or forces or information or knowledge or LIGHT. one belongs to the material world that winds and tends to collapse to a point in BLACK HOLE and the second belongs to living world that unwinds and works against gravity such that the system exist perpetually. All life is instinctively anti-gravitational. The only exception is human who are self-centered and become slave to material force. The antidote to this collapse in BLACK HOLE is SUPREME SELFLESS SPIRIT, SOUL AND HUMAN BEING which opens a WHITE HOLE within black hole to restore the system back to its initial point. To understand it we need to visualize the conception in life, where the spirit of Father [information] conceives in the womb to create New World where time gets conquered and initialized. Universe is LIGHT or information or Consciousness unfolding and enfolding to install Truth and Justice. The only way to understand it is to visualize it from eastern living universe point – Templeton foundation spend so much money feeding temples in west seek the truth – It is ignorant that this truth is not accessible to anyone who exist in temples. Truth cannot be sought it comes by Grace for Divine Purpose. Universe form living point has duality and non duality. When the Spirit of the father or his creating information exist within the feminine it is in non duality- Once this creating and life giving information unfolds universe starts a new journey of duality – thus Bible speaks of judgment and emergence of the Lord as King

  2. March 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm, ben dewbury said:

    I have searched popular science books for an answer to my question. I have asked scientists on twitter I have asked on other science websites,. All to no avail.
    Are gravitons a real force carrier like gluons and photons?
    If the gravity in a black hole is so strong that photons cannot escape how is gravity able to ‘get out’ to bend space and affect other bodies? Is this “spooky action at a distance”? What is the mechanism by which mass bends space? Is there a gravity boson? HELP

    My email is [email protected] My name is Les Robertshaw

    • June 11, 2015 at 10:34 pm, Musat Andrei said:

      Because when you put oil in water you can see it, when you put a thing that has different mass and volume from the other thing that was already there you can see it, I know it may not make sense, but in my head does! Sense it’s a perspective of seing things!

  3. July 31, 2015 at 7:35 pm, John Sharman said:

    Here’s another Einstein quote: “Our separation of one other is an optical illusion of consciousness”. How about applying ourselves first to exploring that great truth – the truth of our non-duality? We need neither classical or theoretical physics to contemplate that greatest of realisations. Nor do we need expensive conferences with ‘expert’ speakers.

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