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Finding the Ultimate Theory of Everything
RedNove ^ | Today? | Marcus Chown

Posted on 03/02/2005 10:11:19 AM PST by Michael Barnes

Could two lookalike galaxies, barely a whisker apart in the night sky, herald a revolution in our understanding of fundamental physics? Some physicists believe that the two galaxies are the same - its image has been split into two, they maintain, by a "cosmic string"; a San Andreas Fault in the very fabric of space and time.

If this interpretation is correct, then CSL-1 - the name of the curious double galaxy - is the first concrete evidence for "superstring theory": the best candidate for a "theory of everything", which attempts to encapsulate all the phenomena of nature in one neat set of equations.

Superstring theory views the fundamental building blocks of all matter - the electrons and quarks that make up the atoms in our bodies - as ultra- tiny pieces of vibrating "string". And, just as different vibrations of a violin string correspond to different musical notes, different vibrations of this fundamental string correspond to different fundamental particles.

The problem with string theory is that the strings are fantastically smaller than atoms and, therefore, impossible to detect in any conceivable laboratory experiment. But recently, physicists realised that the extreme conditions that existed in the early universe could have spawned enormously big strings. It is one of these "cosmic superstrings" that some believe is passing between the Earth and CSL- 1, and, in the process, creating the curious double image of the galaxy.

The realisation that big strings are possible has come from exploring the most esoteric implications of the theory. For instance, the only way strings can vibrate in enough different ways to mimic all the known fundamental particles is if the strings vibrate in a space-time of 10 dimensions.

Since we appear to live in a universe with a mere four dimensions - three of space and one of time - string theorists have been forced to postulate the existence of six extra space dimensions "rolled up" so small we have overlooked them.

The existence of the extra dimensions opens up the possibility of more complex objects. In addition to strings, which extend in only one dimension, it is possible to have objects with two, three or more dimensions. These are dubbed branes, or p-branes, where the "p" denotes the number of their dimensions.

This has raised the possibility that our universe is a three- brane - a three- dimensional "island", adrift in a 10-dimensional space. And, if it is, it may not be alone. Some have suggested that the big bang was caused when another brane collided with our own 13.7 billion years ago (See "Highly strung", The Independent, 7 July 2004).

Crucially, a collision between branes creates strings - both within each brane and as a kind of spaghetti connecting the branes. And these can be stretched to cosmic dimensions to make cosmic superstrings. "Cosmic strings turn out to be pretty much inevitable in the brane scenario," says Tom Kibble of Imperial College in London.

Cosmic superstrings would be under enormous tension, like a geological fault in the Earth's crust. But, being free to move, they would attempt to relieve the tension by lashing about through space at almost the speed of light. But their most interesting property is the effect they have on their surroundings. "A string distorts the space around it in a very distinctive way," says Kibble.

One way to visualise this is to imagine a string coming up through this page. Imagine cutting from the paper a narrow triangle whose tip is at the string, then gluing the paper back together again. The result will be a shallow cone centred on the string.

Because of this distortion of space, if a string passes between us and a distant galaxy - a giant collection of stars like our Milky Way - the light of the galaxy can come to Earth along two possible routes: one on either side of the string. Consequently, there will be two identical images of the galaxy only a whisker apart - which is exactly what is seen in the case of CSL-1.

CSL-1 was discovered by a team led by Mikhail Sazhin of Capodimonte Astronomical Observatory in Naples and the Sternberg Astronomical Institute in Moscow. They christened it Capodimonte- Sternberg Lens Candidate 1, which is where the CSL-1 comes from. "It looks like the signature of a string to me," says Kibble. "However, it is always possible we are seeing two galaxies that just happen to look surprisingly similar." This is the view of the sceptics. "CSL- 1 is most likely just a pair of galaxies that happened to be close together on the sky," says Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. "We know of many close pairs of galaxies in the local universe, including our own Milky Way and Andromeda." But others are keeping their fingers crossed that Loeb is wrong. "I am hoping nature won't have played such a trick on us," says Tanmay Vachaspati of Case Western Reserve University in Ohio.

If CSL-1 was the only piece of evidence for a cosmic superstring it might be easy to brush it under the carpet. But it isn't. There is the "double quasar" Q0957+561A,B. Discovered at Jodrell Bank near Manchester in 1979, the two images of a super-bright galaxy, or quasar, are formed by a galaxy lying between the quasar and the Earth.

The gravity of the intervening galaxy bends the light of the quasar so that it follows two distinct paths to Earth, creating two images of unequal brightness. Crucially, the two light paths are of different lengths and so the light takes a different time to travel along each. In fact, astronomers find that when one image brightens, the other image brightens 417.1 days later.

But this is not what has been found by a team of astronomers from the US and the Ukraine, led by Rudolph Schild of the Harvard- Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. When they studied the two images, they noticed that, between September 1994 and July 1995, the two images brightened and faded at the same time - with no time delay The two images did this four times, on each occasion for a period of about 100 days.

The only way Schild and his colleagues can make sense of this behaviour is if, between September 1994 and July 1995, something moved across our line of sight to the quasar, simultaneously affecting the light coming down both paths to the Earth. The only thing that fits the bill, they claim, is a vibrating loop of cosmic string moving across the line of sight at about 70 per cent of the speed of light.

To oscillate once every 100 days or so, the loop has to be very small - no bigger than 1 per cent of the distance between the Sun and the nearest star. And Schild and his colleagues calculate that the string must be remarkably close to us - well within our Milky Way galaxy.

Most physicists remain sceptical about the evidence for cosmic superstrings. If the case is to be strengthened, it will be necessary to find more candidates like CSL-1 and Q0957+561A,B. Alternatively, it will be necessary to detect the "gravitational waves" coming from a string. These are ripples in the fabric of space, much like the ripples which spread out on a pond from an impacting raindrop.

Strings are travelling very fast. If they get a kink in them, it is possible for this part of the string to crack like a whip. The part producing the crack travels at almost the speed of light and should produce an intense burst of gravitational waves. As first pointed out by Thibault Damour of the Institut des Hautes etudes Scientifiques in Paris and Alex Vilenkin of Tufts Institute of Cosmology in the US, such signals could be detected in the next few years by Europe's Virgo detector or America's Laser Interferometric Gravitational-Wave Observatory.

String theory has long been criticised as that which makes no observable predictions about the universe we live in. If the discovery of cosmic superstrings holds up, the theory may finally have connected with reality and the critics may at last be silenced.

Marcus Chown is the author of `The Universe Next Door' (Headline)


TOPICS: Miscellaneous; Unclassified
KEYWORDS: cosmology; physics; science; stringtheory
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Interesting article...
1 posted on 03/02/2005 10:11:20 AM PST by Michael Barnes
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To: RadioAstronomer; Physicist

You two might find this interesting


2 posted on 03/02/2005 10:14:15 AM PST by Michael Barnes
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To: Michael Barnes

Cool. I always wonder how these theories and discoveries impact people's religious-based beliefs about the creation of the universe.


3 posted on 03/02/2005 10:15:10 AM PST by Darkwolf377 (Condi Rice: Yeaaahhh, baybee! http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1350654/posts)
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Forty-Two?


4 posted on 03/02/2005 10:16:41 AM PST by Cyber Ninja (His legacy is a stain on the dress.)
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To: Darkwolf377
Angels live exist somewhere/when ... p-branes are a good guess as to the where/when.
5 posted on 03/02/2005 10:22:04 AM PST by MHGinTN (If you can read this, you've had life support from someone. Promote life support for others.)
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To: PatrickHenry; snarks_when_bored

Of interest.


6 posted on 03/02/2005 10:22:22 AM PST by RightWingAtheist (Creationism is not conservative!)
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Comment #7 Removed by Moderator

To: PatrickHenry

superstring ping!


8 posted on 03/02/2005 10:22:38 AM PST by AntiGuv ()
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To: Michael Barnes
Reminds me of the Red Dwarf episode when they found a alternate universe. A character said...'...you mean an alternate universe, exactly the same but opposite to what we have here..like a Beatles group with a drummer who can actually play the drums?' Ha!
9 posted on 03/02/2005 10:25:52 AM PST by SMARTY
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To: Darkwolf377

Personally, I am a Christian. Theories and discoveries such as these have virtually no impact on my beliefs about the creation of the universe: the Bible states that God created the universe... it does not, however, state HOW. Science does not refute the Bible concerning creation, to me. Science is man's attempts to understand the HOW's that were used.


10 posted on 03/02/2005 10:33:14 AM PST by one of His mysterious ways
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To: Michael Barnes

Each time I get close to understanding string theory my yo-yo becomes snarled and tangled; is there a solution? I'm a "fraid knot"!


11 posted on 03/02/2005 10:33:44 AM PST by meandog (qu"Do unto others before they do unto you!")
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To: VadeRetro; Junior; longshadow; RadioAstronomer; Doctor Stochastic; js1138; Shryke; RightWhale; ...
Science Ping! An elite subset of the Evolution list.
See list's description in my freeper homepage. Then FReepmail to be added/dropped.

12 posted on 03/02/2005 10:34:25 AM PST by PatrickHenry (<-- Click on my name. The List-O-Links for evolution threads is at my freeper homepage.)
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To: OnTheDress

What's nine times five?


13 posted on 03/02/2005 10:34:30 AM PST by dangus
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To: Michael Barnes

Thanks for posting; excellent article...please ping me if you have any additional articles on this.


14 posted on 03/02/2005 10:35:49 AM PST by pelikan
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To: RightWingAtheist

Thanks for the ping. Very interesting report.


15 posted on 03/02/2005 10:36:58 AM PST by snarks_when_bored
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To: Michael Barnes
Interesting .... String Theory ... then "M" theory/string theory with some help from Ed Whiten and now .... "superstring" theory.

Where are those pesky gravitrons.

16 posted on 03/02/2005 10:37:05 AM PST by hawkaw
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To: dangus

The Dodgers and the Lakers exchanging watches?


17 posted on 03/02/2005 10:37:57 AM PST by Doctor Stochastic (Vegetabilisch = chaotisch is der Charakter der Modernen. - Friedrich Schlegel)
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To: Michael Barnes

18 posted on 03/02/2005 10:38:34 AM PST by evets (God bless President Bush and VP Cheney)
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To: OnTheDress
Forty-Two?

Now, what was the question again?
19 posted on 03/02/2005 10:40:04 AM PST by seowulf
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To: Michael Barnes

string ping


20 posted on 03/02/2005 10:40:32 AM PST by silverleaf (Fasten your seat belts- it's going to be a BUMPY ride.)
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To: Michael Barnes

You lost me at "Could"...


21 posted on 03/02/2005 10:42:21 AM PST by thefactor
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To: PatrickHenry; RadioAstronomer; ThinkPlease
"However, it is always possible we are seeing two galaxies that just happen to look surprisingly similar."

Watch for a supernova, and see if it appears in both images..... that ought to resolve the question.

22 posted on 03/02/2005 10:46:51 AM PST by longshadow
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To: Michael Barnes

"These are dubbed branes, or p-branes"

23 posted on 03/02/2005 10:47:42 AM PST by Uncle Miltie (Democrat Obstructionists will be Daschled!)
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To: SMARTY

No no no. Alternate universes are exactly like this one, except that everyone has bad goatees and is evil (everyone who is good, and beardless, in this universe, anyway). C'mon, every Star Trek: TOS fan know that :)


24 posted on 03/02/2005 10:48:33 AM PST by -YYZ-
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To: Darkwolf377

Read in "A brief history of time," about Steven Hawking's encounter with the Pope. Hawking thought he was explaining away the mysteries of the universe to the Pope, nullifying the need for God. The Pope asked many questions, and Hawkings notes how the Pope understood what he said with uncanny brilliance. He asked the Pope what he thought about it all. The Pope asked to meet him again the next day. The Pope's reply, highly paraphrased, was "See? We told you so."

Hawkins understood at that moment that cosmology had actually been certifying as correct the Catholic Church's understanding of the nature of the universe. From that time on, he has been maniacal in his attempts to undermine the theories he had presented to the Pope, with preposterous results that have been proved wrong at every opportunity to observe excpected consequences.

IIRC, Hawkins believed in many dimensions, but rejected the string theory's notion that they were flat. Rather, he believed that the 5th dimension was quantum probability, where every possibility occurs in an infinite number of "parallel universes."

Just wait 'til he finds out that the 5th dimension is stitched together like a quilt, and the junctures in time and space occur at the Holy Sacrifice.

(I'm sort of playing: The Catholic Church holds that time and space are suspended so every instance of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, is really the same Holy Sacrifice at Calvary, presented miraculously through time and space into every tabernacle in the world. Pretty heady stuff to have come up centuries before Galileo had tried to use Copernicus' observation to prove God as we know him did not exist. And yes, to all the Protestants who love to cluck at the Catholic Church's heresy trials of Galileo, that was what the fuss was about.

And I'm sort of not playing: I truly will be fascinated to go to heaven and find how all this multidimensional stuff relates to mystical constructs. It's way above my understanding to relate two incredibly divergent topics like I've done, but I'd seriously love to know if there is any relation.)


25 posted on 03/02/2005 10:53:16 AM PST by dangus
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To: Brad Cloven

MMmmm.... Branes!


26 posted on 03/02/2005 10:53:52 AM PST by dangus
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To: Michael Barnes
Not charged vacuum emboitments??


27 posted on 03/02/2005 11:03:41 AM PST by <1/1,000,000th%
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To: Michael Barnes

Great article. Thanks.

Oh - if you want to read the paper on CSL-1, there is a link from the article at RedNova that takes you to a .pdf of the paper.


28 posted on 03/02/2005 11:09:03 AM PST by SuzyQue (Remember to think.)
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To: Michael Barnes

....... 42


29 posted on 03/02/2005 11:09:12 AM PST by roaddog727 (The marginal propensity to save is 1 minus the marginal propensity to consume.)
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To: Michael Barnes
"Finding the Ultimate Theory of Everything"

These guys are slow. My daughter's already found it.

30 posted on 03/02/2005 11:10:18 AM PST by spunkets
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To: -YYZ-

Don't forget the South Park episode that took this pattern. Only, Cartman's counterpart was "good"...

Hillarious stuff.


31 posted on 03/02/2005 11:12:37 AM PST by cspackler (There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don't.)
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To: seowulf

I knew when I read the thread title that someone would beat me to it.

Anyone think the movie will be any good?

(If you don't know what we're discussing, never mind...)


32 posted on 03/02/2005 11:13:46 AM PST by cspackler (There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those who understand binary and those who don't.)
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To: spunkets

Beer is the answer to everything. What was the question again?


33 posted on 03/02/2005 11:19:47 AM PST by Thebaddog (Dawgs off the coffee table.)
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To: Thebaddog

That explains the foam.


34 posted on 03/02/2005 11:27:23 AM PST by spunkets
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To: dangus

"The Catholic Church holds that time and space are suspended so every instance of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass, is really the same Holy Sacrifice at Calvary, presented miraculously through time and space into every tabernacle in the world."

Thanks, dangus, that is the simplest explanation I have ever heard.

Strings, dimensionality, time/space issues are all endlessly fascinating. One does have a tendency to become unstuck (ala Billy Pilgim in Slaughterhouse 5) unless one is grounded in the reality that: "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Col 1:17


35 posted on 03/02/2005 11:32:42 AM PST by newheart (The Truth? You can't handle the Truth. But He can handle you.)
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To: Michael Barnes
"And Schild and his colleagues calculate that the string must be remarkably close to us - well within our Milky Way galaxy."

Hmmmm, this does not sound good to me.

36 posted on 03/02/2005 11:53:03 AM PST by jpsb
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To: PatrickHenry

Thanks for the ping!


37 posted on 03/02/2005 11:55:24 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: dangus

"I always felt there was something fundamentally wrong with the universe."


38 posted on 03/02/2005 12:15:49 PM PST by Junior (FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC)
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To: Michael Barnes

This is some of the big string news that string theory has been looking for. Whether it holds up or not remains to be seen.


39 posted on 03/02/2005 12:32:24 PM PST by RightWhale (Please correct if cosmic balance requires.)
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To: dangus
Thanks for such a terrific post. I'm not a believer but I find the subject of belief and how it confronts scientific explanations for reality and the creation of the universe fascinating. Too often it turns into some atheist sourpuss going "one up" (in his mind) on a beleiver who merely doesn't have the capacity to get into the topic at hand in much depth.

It's interesting how you pointed out that Hawking was peeved at the Pope's responses and then spent time trying to disprove the Pope's position. I'd never heard about that. Thanks again for posting.

40 posted on 03/02/2005 12:35:43 PM PST by Darkwolf377 (Condi Rice: Yeaaahhh, baybee! http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1350654/posts)
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To: one of His mysterious ways

Makes sense. I'm an agnostic and am forever bored by non-believers who pretend to have all the answers. A sour bunch.


41 posted on 03/02/2005 12:36:55 PM PST by Darkwolf377 (Condi Rice: Yeaaahhh, baybee! http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1350654/posts)
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To: cspackler
Anyone think the movie will be any good?

Not me. Nothing beats the original radio series.

42 posted on 03/02/2005 1:28:25 PM PST by jennyp (WHAT I'M READING NOW: Debugging Windows Programs by McKay & Woodring)
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To: dangus; RadioAstronomer; Physicist
Read in "A brief history of time," about Steven Hawking's encounter with the Pope. Hawking thought he was explaining away the mysteries of the universe to the Pope, nullifying the need for God. The Pope asked many questions, and Hawkings notes how the Pope understood what he said with uncanny brilliance. He asked the Pope what he thought about it all. The Pope asked to meet him again the next day. The Pope's reply, highly paraphrased, was "See? We told you so."

Hawkins understood at that moment that cosmology had actually been certifying as correct the Catholic Church's understanding of the nature of the universe. From that time on, he has been maniacal in his attempts to undermine the theories he had presented to the Pope, with preposterous results that have been proved wrong at every opportunity to observe excpected consequences.

Odd; I've read "A Brief History of Time," and don't recall anything like that in it. Perhaps you could provide a citation or link to substantiate your claim.

In the meanwhile, the readers may find this quote from the text of interest, as it indicates quite the opposite of what you have claimed.

Throughout the 1970s I had been mainly studying black holes, but in 1981 my interest in questions about the origin and fate of the universe was reawakened when I attended a conference on cosmology organized by the Jesuits in the Vatican. The Catholic Church had made a bad mistake with Galileo when it tried to lay down the law on a question of science, declaring that the sun went around the earth. Now, centuries later, it had decided to invite a number of experts to advise it on cosmology. At the end of the conference the participants were granted an audience with the Pope. He told us that is was all right to study the evolution of the universe after the big bang, but we should not inquire into the big bang itself because that was the moment of Creation and therefore the work of God. I was glad then that he did not know the subject of the talk I had just given at the conference--the possibility that space-time was finite but had no boundary, which means that it had no beginning, no moment of Creation. I had no desire to share the fate of Galileo, with whom I feel a strong sense of identity, partly because of the coincidence of having been born exactly 300 years after his death!

43 posted on 03/02/2005 1:34:49 PM PST by longshadow
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To: seowulf
Now, what was the question again?

What do you get when you multiply six by nine.

In base 13.

44 posted on 03/02/2005 1:36:34 PM PST by js1138
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To: jennyp

It's a Disney animation, for crying out loud. I did read a very long interview with the screenwriter, and he seemed OK. He said everyone else turned it down for fear of being remembered forever as the one who screwed up the Hitchhiker.

I think the script will be OK, but I fear for the animation. Marvin looks like a gumball machine. But maybe that's the way it should be.


45 posted on 03/02/2005 1:42:16 PM PST by js1138
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To: Michael Barnes
If this interpretation is correct, then CSL-1 - the name of the curious double galaxy - is the first concrete evidence for "superstring theory": the best candidate for a "theory of everything", which attempts to encapsulate all the phenomena of nature in one neat set of equations.

Very interesting, but I don't see this happening. They may learn to explain the known phenomena, but at the same time they continue to discover new phenomena.

46 posted on 03/02/2005 1:46:45 PM PST by Nathaniel Fischer
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To: longshadow

It's possible I have mixed up my Hawking's sources; I no longer have the book (I took it out of the library about a decade ago), so it'll take me a little while to look it up. But it was one of those brief passages I snagged with an "A-ha!"... Not a highlighted turning point from Hawkings' perspective. Perhaps you did read it, but not attaching the same significance to it, you quickly forgot about it?

Who is the source of the quote you provide?

The Church did indeed make an error with Galileo. They went too far, extending Galileo's apostasy into an ad-hominem on all his assertions. But the author's characterizations about the constraints placed on him purport the church to be making an uncharacteristically illogical demand: Why would the Church permit the study of the period following the Big Bang, but put the Big Bang itself off limits? Or maybe what he means to state is that the Church didn't want the symposium to delve into WHY the big bang happened, as many physicists' recent exploration of that (especially Hawkings') tends to be more metaphysics than physics (e.g., Hawkings' infinite numbers of universes in infinite dimensions.)


47 posted on 03/02/2005 1:49:42 PM PST by dangus
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To: js1138

>>>>Now, what was the question again?<<<<

>>What do you get when you multiply six by nine...In base 13.<<

>>>>What do you get when you multiply nine by five (post 13)<<<<

Doh!


48 posted on 03/02/2005 1:54:17 PM PST by dangus
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To: js1138

Just so long as the gumballs have big, goofy grins anf wavy arms.


49 posted on 03/02/2005 1:55:52 PM PST by dangus
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To: spunkets

yeah my kids know it all already too


50 posted on 03/02/2005 1:58:46 PM PST by Mr. K (this space for rent)
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