Mysteries of the Universe After Einstein

Mysteries of the Universe After Einstein

This is just a short summary of what we know we need to learn about the universe, with some speculations why we need to proceed with learning about them.  There are many YouTube lectures and books about this, so I don’t need to cover it in detail.

Almost all of our science in physics, chemistry, and biology is about nuclei, atoms and molecules of what is now called “ordinary matter” is only 5% of the energy of the Universe.  Another 20% of the energy of the universe is neutral and unseen, and therefore called “dark matter”.  We don’t know what it is, but are ruling out things that it is not.  It is extremely important, since it causes matter to condense into galaxies.

The remainder or 70% of the energy of the universe is not condensing, but provides a pressure that will expand the universe, preventing its collapse.  It is again neutral, so it is called “dark energy”.   It doesn’t gather into galaxies.

There is also a speculated “inflaton”, which causes the rapid expansion of the nascent universe, before the Big Bang started.

Are these just curiosities for compulsive cosmologists and particle physicists to worry about?  Let’s look at history.  Without Rutherford scattering particles off of atoms, we would not have discovered the nucleus which would eventually explain the periodic table and chemistry.  Until James Chadwick discovered the neutron in 1932, Hans Bethe would not have figured out how the sun shines by nuclear fusion.  That was rather fundamental for us to know, since before, nobody knew why the sun would just run out of condensation energy in a few thousand years.  It is now the basis for an attempt to accomplish fusion power on earth.

If Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman had not discovered nuclear fission into smaller nuclei when bombarded by neutrons, and Lisa Meitner had not found the explanation, we would not have clean nuclear power.  Unfortunately, with great power also comes gigantic bombs, which we must still learn to avoid.

We don’t know what might emerge from knowing what the identity of dark matter is, and what properties and interactions it may have.  

We didn’t know that the abstract search for gravity waves would lead us to discover that there were neutron star binary star systems, which could merge gravitationally, and would account for the production of many of the heavy elements in the periodic table.

We also don’t know where the identity and understanding of dark energy might lead.  It was only discovered in 1998 by two teams led by Adam Reiss, Saul Perlmutter and Brian Schmidt.  We don’t fully understand the resolution of quantum entanglement, and oddly, the Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen paradox.  This would lead us to clarify such science fiction ideas such as faster than light communication.  We also don’t know what the inflaton was, and can we create and harness it.  With great powers, might come great applications.

Tim Burners Lee working at CERN invented the hypertext transfer protocol 1989 and the first internet server in 1990 while working on a particle physics experiment.  The need for advanced technologies leads to forefront creativity in spinoffs.

Mysteries abound, and our past teaches us that finding their secrets leads to great understanding and powers.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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