Evolution & the Universe

This BBC Documentary takes about 1 1/2 hours to watch. (The two hour reference must have included advertisements.)

eye-of-god.jpgHere's another version of the same storytelling: Crash Course's Big History Series, ten 15-minute videos explaining the history of our planet from the beginning of the universe to the present and beyond. It's well done and easy to watch thanks to John and Hank Green.
  1. The Big Bang
  2. Exploring the Universe
  3. The Sun and Earth
  4. Life Begins
  5. The Evolutionary Epic
  6. Human Evolution
  7. Migrations and Intensification
  8. The Modern Revolution
  9. The Anthropocene and the Near Future
  10. The Deep Future

World Science Festival: Infinite Worlds: A Journey Through Parallel Universes.

The World Science Festival is held in New York every summer and brings together top thinkers from all over the world. This panel begins with physicist Brian Greene (author of The Elegant Universe) talking about gravity and how we know what we now about the universe. Greene is a proponent of String Theory and the panel discusses its implications.

Watch the first 30 minutes for Monday, May 8, 2017.

Some New Findings in Cosmology:

Map of Universe Points to New Physics
Gravity Waves
Sir Issac Newton: Student solves 350 year old problem.

time_relative.jpgIt's About Time

Three panel discussions about time presented by the World Science Festival in New York.
1) "Time is of the Essence (2015)" An explanation of why time slows down according to theory of relativity. (Clip is at 10.40 to 14:20) Later in the clip the question emerges as to whether time is fundamental or an emergent property. To explain the meaning of emergent, the speaker uses "Love."
Also: (around 15:00) Space and Time are not absolute, they're relational. Space is an aspect of the relationship between things that co-exist; Time is an aspect of the relationship between things that cause each other to happen.
Gravity is the result of the geometry of space, the curvature. Gravity slows the passage of time. An explanation of how the relativity of time has been proven and is necessary to make GPS work starts at about 20:00.
2) A Matter of Time (2013). There's a discussion of the "arrow of time" has two meanings, 1) arrow is in the way an arrow points on a clock or a compass toward something and 2) arrow it moves, like an arrow shot from a bow. (Definition starts about 1:16:00) They're arguing about whether it's perception that tells us time moves, that it's in our head, not in fact. The flow of time is an illusion (1:21:45).
3) Time Since Einstein (2013) There's a video that explains our understanding of time since Newton (0:8:06)

"In 1543 Copernicus announced to a startled Europe that the Earth was not stationary, but was sailing rapidly through space as it spun around the Sun. This was difficult news to take in all at once, but over time the Europeans reinvented their entire civilization in light of this strange new fact about the Universe. The fundamental institutions of the medieval world, including the monarchies, the church, the feudal economic system, and the medieval sense of self, melted away as a radically different civilization was constructed. We live in a similar moment of breakdown and creativity. The cosmological discovery that shatters nearly everything upon which the modern age was built is the discovery that the universe came into existence 13.7 billion years ago and is so biased toward complexification that life and intelligence are now seen to be a nearly inevitable construction of evolutionary dynamics. Our new challenge is to reinvent our civilization. The major institutions of the modern period, including that of agriculture and religion and education and economics, need to be re-imagined within an intelligent, self-organizing, living universe, so that instead of degrading the Earth’s life systems, humanity might learn to join the enveloping community of living beings in a mutually enhancing manner. This great work will surely draw upon the talents and energies of many millions of humans from every culture on our planet throughout the rest of the 21st century."
Both Science & Religion Resisted the heliocentric model.
Earth Literary, The New Cosmology—Miriam MacGillis
Laniakea: Our Location in the Universe
Why is the Sky Dark at Night?
Is the Universe Eternal?
Dr. Brian Swimme speaking about the Universe


From Nova: The Mind's Big Bang Episode 6 of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, PBS. Original broadcast, September 2001.

Anatomically modern humans existed more than 100,000 years ago, but with crude technology, no art, and primitive social interaction. By 50,000 years ago, something happened which triggered a creative, technological, and social explosion—and humans came to dominate the planet. This was a pivotal point in our evolution, the time when the human mind truly emerged. This program examines forces that may have contributed to the breakthrough, allowing us to prevail over other hominids, the Neanderthals, who co-existed with us for tens of thousands of years. The film then explores where this power of mind may lead us, as the culture we create overtakes our own biological evolution. Total length: 56:36 min
New Finding: Neanderthal Art
Is Cave Art Language?

From Nova: What About God? Episode 7 of Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, PBS. Original broadcast, September 2001.

Of all species, we alone attempt to explain who we are and how we came to be. This final episode explores the struggle between science and religion. Through the personal stories of students and teachers, it offers the view that they are compatible. Total length: 56:37 minutes

Some Resources—Creationism vs Science

Is Intelligent Design Science?
What is Intelligent Design?
A Checklist for Science
NASA & Intelligent Design
How old is the Universe?
Are colleges "indoctrinating" students to be against Creationism?
Creationist Cosmology, an Introduction
Creationism, Starlight Problem
Genesis: The Universe is 6000 Years Old
The Oldest Light in the Universe
NASA Announces Discovery/Oldest Galaxy Yet Seen
Neil Tyson on Intelligent Design
Criticizing Christianity Goes to Court

Do We Live in a Multi-Verse?

String Theory Suggests it Might be

Brian Greene Explains String Theory (National Geographic documentary)

NASA: Rover Curiosity

Mars Rover Curiosity. Landed August 5, 2012—NASA Site

Mars_Curiosity.jpg Image provided by NASA, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012.A 360-degree color
panorama taken on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover. Curiosity landed in Gale
Crater on Mars on August 5, 2012 to begin a two-year mission. What you see is the landscape and a shadow cast by the rover. (AP Photo/NASA)(Credit: AP)

National Geographic, Life from Mars?

Water on Mars?

The photo shows NASA's Mars rover Curiosity at a location called Windjana, where the rover found rocks containing manganese-oxide minerals, which require abundant water and strongly oxidizing conditions to form.

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — After a spectacular landing on Mars, the rover Curiosity wasted no time embracing its inner shutterbug, delighting scientists with vistas of Gale Crater complete with sand dunes, mountain views and even haze.

Now what?

The nuclear-powered, six-wheel Curiosity is on a quest to learn whether the Martian environment could have been favorable for microbial life. Before it can drive, it has to slog through weeks of health checkups. Since it’s the most complex spacecraft ever sent to the red planet, engineers want to make sure it’s in tip-top shape before they hand over the keys to scientists. It already has done a cursory check of its 10 science tools, but more tests are needed. This weekend, its computers get a software update — a process that will last several days.

When can we watch a movie of the touchdown?

The footage is recorded and stored on board Curiosity and will be downloaded as time allows. It sent back a low-quality video and several high-resolution frames that captured the last few minutes of the descent, providing a sense of a spacecraft landing on another planet. In the video, the protective heat shield pops off and tumbles away. It ends with billowing plumes of dust as Curiosity was safely delivered to the surface.

What are the first impressions of Gale Crater?

The mission’s chief scientist John Grotzinger said it was like staring at California’s Mojave Desert. The landing site is pebbly with sand dunes nearby and mountains off in the distance. A curtain of haze hung over the site. Curiosity’s destination is Mount Sharp, a 3-mile-high mountain rising from the center of the crater floor near the equator. Observations from space reveal the base of the mountain shows signs of past water — a good place to hunt for the chemical ingredients of life.


Whole Universe Photo

Universe_Whole.jpgNASA has unveiled a new image of the night sky, created from a new star atlas that catalogs the entire infrared sky—over half a billion stars and galaxies. The photo (right) is made up of more than 2.7 million images taken at four infrared wavelengths of light. It captures everything from nearby asteroids to distant galaxies, and is "a mosaic of the images covering the entire sky as observed by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), part of its All-Sky Data Release. The sky can be thought of as a sphere that surrounds us in three dimensions. To make a map of the sky, astronomers project it into two dimensions. Many different methods can be used to project a spherical surface into a 2-D map. The projection used in this image of the sky, called Aitoff, takes the 3-D sky sphere and slices open one hemisphere, and then flattens the whole thing out into an oval shape. In the mosaic, the Milky Way Galaxy runs horizontally across this map. The Milky Way is shaped like a disk and our solar system is located in that disk about two-thirds of the way out from the center. So we see the Milky Way as a band running through the sky. As we look toward the center of the galaxy, we are looking through more of the disk than when we are looking at large angles away from the center, and you can see a noticeable increase in stars (colored blue-green) toward the center of the image." (Quoted, NASA image site.)
Latest Update to Mapping of Universe: Dec 2016

Life on Other Planets?

There are billions of stars in our galaxy alone—and billions of galaxies in the universe. If even a tiny fraction of all these stars have solar systems of their own, and even a tiny fraction of those have planets suitable for life, and even a tiny fraction of those actually have life, still there must be a myriad of planets with life. The number of chances would still be unimaginably huge. (The current planet count is constantly growing rapidly because of a Nasa probe, Current Planet Count)On the other hand, we really have no idea how common other habitable planets might be, or how likely life is to develop on them. It's all mostly guesswork. If there is life out there, intelligent life, that is, wouldn't it have announced itself by now? (A Rulebook for Arguments, pgs 49-51)

Kepler 22, BBC Broadcast:

Discovery of earth like planet.
December 2016 Update
November 2013 Update
BBC Discussion of Alien Life
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Raw Story (Neil deGrasse Tyson)
Neil deGrasse Tyson on the politics surrounding NASA
Is there life beyond the Earth? Neil Degrasse Tyson
MIT Conference (May 2011) The Hunt for Alien Earths
Is Life Spread by Comets?
Nova The Hunt for Alien Earths
SETI Institute
NASA Quest for Planets
First Habitable Planet?
Hubble Telescope
Kepler Site, NASA
Alien Planet Count

The Role of NASA

Are UFOs Real?

Humans To Encounter Aliens
Top Russian astronomer believes humans will encounter extraterrestrial life by 2031. "Life exists on other planets and we will find it within 20 years," according to scientist Andrei Finkelstein. The astronomer explains that 10 percent of the known planets circling suns in our galaxy resemble Earth, making life on such planets highly likely, and that aliens are most likely to resemble humans with two arms, two legs and a head. Finkelstein made the remarks in St. Petersburg at the opening of the international symposium called The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence. He says he's convinced based on the fundamental theory that life exists throughout the universe. The Journal of Cosmology ran an article in March 2011 by Richard B. Hoover, claiming evidence of alien micro-fossils were found in a meteor, suggesting extraterrestrial life, and NASA made headlines in December 2010 when it announced it found a new form of life with a DNA completely alien to everything we know.
National Press Club Press Conference on UFO sightings, Sept 27, 2010
2013 Link: Dr. Michio Kaku
Are UFOs Real?
Letter to the Aliens
Hippie Talking about Light and the Universe

"God Particle" Found

New York Times
Why the Higgs Boson Matters
by Steven Weinberg
Published: July 13, 2012

The July 4 announcement that the “Higgs boson” had been discovered at the CERN laboratory in Geneva made news around the world. Why all the fuss? New discoveries of elementary particles have been made from time to time without attracting all this attention. It is often said that this particle provides the crucial clue to how all the other elementary particles get their masses. True enough, but this takes some explanation.

We have a well-tested theory of elementary particles and the forces that they exert on each other, known as the Standard Model. A central feature of the Standard Model is a symmetry between two of these forces: the electromagnetic force, and the less familiar weak nuclear force, which provides the first step in the chain of reactions that gives the sun its energy. The symmetry means that the particles carrying these forces enter into the equations of the theory in essentially the same way. You could interchange the photon, the particle of light that carries the electromagnetic force, with some combination of the W and Z particles that carry the weak nuclear force, and the equations would be unchanged. If nothing intervened to break this symmetry, the W and Z, like the photon, would have no mass. In fact, all other elementary particles would also be massless. But of course, most elementary particles are not massless. For instance, unlike the massless photon, the W and Z particles have nearly 100 times the mass of a hydrogen atom.

Since the early 1960s it has been known that it is possible for symmetries to be exact properties of the equations of a theory and yet not respected by observable physical quantities, like the values of particle masses. The consequences of such symmetry breaking were worked out in 1964 by Robert Brout and François Englert; by Peter Higgs; and by Gerald Guralnik, Carl Hagen and Tom Kibble, for a general class of theories that contain force-carrying particles, like the photon. In 1967-8 the late Abdus Salam and I independently used this mathematics in formulating a specific theory, the modern unified theory of weak and electromagnetic forces that became part of the Standard Model. This theory predicted the masses of the W and Z particles, which were verified when these particles were discovered at CERN in 1983-84. But just what is it that breaks the electroweak symmetry and thereby gives elementary particles their masses?

Salam and I assumed that the culprit is what are called scalar fields, which pervade all space. This is like what happens in a magnet: Even though the equations describing iron atoms don’t distinguish one direction in space from another, any magnetic field produced by the atoms will point in just one way. The symmetry-breaking fields in the Standard Model do not mark out directions in space — instead, they distinguish the weak from the electromagnetic forces, and give elementary particles their masses. Just as a magnetic field appears in iron when it cools and solidifies, these scalar fields appeared as the early universe expanded and cooled.

FlatMan.jpgThis is where the Higgs boson comes in. The illustrative models studied in most of the papers on symmetry breaking from 1960 to 1964 had introduced scalar fields to break the symmetries, and had typically found that some of these fields would show up as massive particles, bundles of the energy of the fields. Likewise, Salam and I in 1967-68 found that one of the four scalar fields we introduced to break the electroweak symmetry would appear as a new kind of electrically neutral unstable particle. This is the Higgs boson, which may now have been discovered, verifying the Standard Model’s account of how the elementary particles get their masses.

There seems no doubt that a new electrically neutral, unstable particle had been discovered, but is it the Higgs boson? All of the properties of the Higgs boson except its mass were predicted in the 1967-8 electroweak theory, and since the mass of the new particle has been measured, we can now calculate the probabilities for the various ways that it can decay. So far, only a few decay modes have been observed, and though the new particle seems to decay like a Higgs boson, more must be done to pin this down. Also, if the new particle is the Higgs boson, it would have to be like a knuckleball in baseball; unlike all other known elementary particles, it would have no spin. This too must be tested.

These are the cautious words you would expect to hear from a prudent physicist. But I have been waiting for the discovery of the Higgs boson since 1967, and it’s hard for me now to doubt that it has been found. So what? Even if the particle is the Higgs boson, it is not going to be used to cure diseases or improve technology. This discovery simply fills a gap in our understanding of the laws of nature that govern all matter, and throws light on what was going on in the early universe. It’s wonderful that many people do care about this sort of science, and regard it as a credit to our civilization.

Of course not everyone feels this way, and even those who do have to ask whether learning the laws of nature is worth the billions of dollars it costs to build particle accelerators. This question is going to come up again, since our present Standard Model is certainly not the end of the story. It leaves out gravitation; it does not explain the particular values of the masses of quarks and electrons and other particles; and none of its particles can account for the “dark matter” that astronomers tell us makes up five-sixths of the mass of the universe. You can count on physicists to ask their governments for the facilities they need to grapple with these problems.

A case can be made for this sort of spending, even to those who don’t care about learning the laws of nature. Exploring the outer frontier of our knowledge of nature is in one respect like war: It pushes modern technology to its limits, often yielding new technology of great practical importance. For instance, the new particle was produced at CERN in collisions of protons that occur at a rate of over a hundred million collisions per second. To analyze the flood of data produced by all these collisions requires real time computing of unmatched power. Also, before the protons collide, they are accelerated to an energy over 3,000 times larger than the energy contained in their own masses while they go many times around a 27-kilometer circular tunnel. To keep them in their tracks requires enormously strong superconducting magnets, cooled by the world’s largest source of liquid helium. In previous work at CERN, elementary particle physicists developed a method of sharing data that has become the World Wide Web.

On a longer time scale, the advance of technology will reflect the coherent picture of nature we are now assembling. At the end of the 19th century physicists in England were exploring the properties of electric currents passing through a near vacuum. Although this was pure science, it led to our knowledge of the electron, without which a large part of today’s technology would be impossible. If these physicists had limited themselves to work of obvious practical importance, they would have been studying the behavior of steam boilers.

The Speed of Light

The Speed of Light

The speed of light is constant. Its exact value is 299,792,458 meters or 186,282.397 miles per second. The length of the meter is defined from this constant, as is the international standard for time. According to special relativity, C (the common notation for the speed of light) is the maximum speed anything can travel through space. Space itself violates this law and can expand at a faster rate. But C is the speed at which all particles and the changes of their associated fields (including electromagnetic radiation and gravitational waves) travel in a vacuum. This is true regardless of the motion of the source.

Light moves more slowly through materials such as glass or air. Radio waves are slower, too. For many practical purposes, light and other electromagnetic waves appear to be instantaneous, but for long distances and very sensitive measurements, their finite speed has noticeable effects. In communicating with distant space probes, it can take minutes to hours for a message to get from Earth to the spacecraft, or vice versa. Satellites too: the speed of light, for example, must be adjusted for in our GPS system.

Most significantly, the light we see from the stars left them hundreds and thousands, even trillion and billions of years ago. Thus, when we study the universe, we see its history.