iai.tv news RSS feed https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-universe-and-reality Could the Force Really Be With Us? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/could-the-force-really-be-with-us-auid-1006 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-reyiainews.png" /><br />Highlights: Physics tells us precisely nothing about the nature of physical reality, wrote Eddington. The only thing we really know about the nature of matter is that some of it has consciousness. On this basis, Eddington argued that all of reality is infused with consciousness - a theory that is extremely close to the Jedi religion. How can we explain the ongoing mass appeal of Star Wars? Of course they are great action films, and of course the sci-fi elements of aliens, lightsabers and intergalactic travel spark our imagination. But what really distinguishes Star Wars from its rivals are its mythical themes. We have the perennial fight between good and evil, the saga of the David versus Goliath fight between the plucky rebels and the powerful evil empire. And most unusually for a sci-fi action film we have a prominent role for religion. Indeed, if our official records are to be believed, the mystical religion of the Jedi has moved from myth to reality: 390,127 people in England... Tue, 19 Dec 2017 13:39:27 +0000 Philip Goff https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/could-the-force-really-be-with-us-auid-1006 Diekemper vs Barbour: The Dance of Time - part 4 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-part-4-auid-640 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Diekemper-vs-Barbour-46-4.jpg" /><br />Read part 1: Joseph Diekemper argues that the present is only a border between past and future. Read part 2: Julian Barbour replies that arguing over past and future is to miss what really matters. Read part 3: Diekemper underlines the necessity of philosophy to our understanding of time. Read part 4: Barbour disagrees: science will ultimately always take precedence over philosophy. ___In response to Joseph Diekemper, I think science will ultimately always take precedence over philosophy, which, I would say, is at its best when questioning existing concepts and suggesting ideas to science. Moving on to the specific points, Diekemper says his &quot;definition of the passage of time would be stated in terms of events having occurred&quot;. But how do you know an event has occurred? I think the minimum requirement is a difference in the world; I should have emphasized difference rather than change. Moreover, in connection with what we call the passage of time, the nature of the difference is genera... Sun, 28 Feb 2016 12:04:10 +0000 Julian Barbour https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-part-4-auid-640 Newton's Leap https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/newtons-leap-auid-898 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Janiak-image-1.jpg" /><br />An apple falls from a tree and a young man from the English countryside jumps up and shouts: “Eureka!” He immediately sees that the force of gravity, which makes apples fall out of trees, must be the same force that makes the moon orbit the earth, the earth the sun, and so on. It all comes together in his fertile and amazingly creative mind. This is an often-told tale about the young Isaac Newton, who was home visiting from his college at Cambridge University in the 1660s. He himself told something like this neat little story later in his life. If you want, you can go to Cambridge, England, and see, not Newton’s actual apple tree but one that is a relative of his. It takes pride of place in the local botanical garden. Unfortunately, there’s just one problem. Like many good stories that make up our narratives of the past, this little episode never happened. Manuscripts and letters show us clearly that it took much more than a single moment under the shade of a little apple tree for Newt... Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:58:35 +0000 Andrew Janiak https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/newtons-leap-auid-898 Issue 59: Gravity https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/issue-59-gravity-auid-903 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-editorial-2.jpg" /><br />What is gravity? What makes it so elusive? Why do our theories continue to change? Is it time to consider radical alternatives? The Nobel prize in physics has just been awarded to three scientists for their work detecting gravitational waves, confirming a prediction of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. In 2011, the Nobel committee recognized another discovery — the accelerated expansion of the universe — that conflicts with the predictions of Einstein’s theory. Do Einstein’s ideas truly hold the answers? Insights in quantum mechanics show his theory crumbling at the sub-atomic level while the mystery of the accelerating expansion of the universe must be solved with yet another mystery: dark energy.  And so despite huge advances - like the detection of gravitational waves - the elusive phenomenon of gravity, considered by many as physics’ greatest challenge, continues to stump the best minds in science. Will we ever find a solution to this astronomic puzzle? Why is a force so fam... Tue, 03 Oct 2017 09:16:05 +0000 Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/issue-59-gravity-auid-903 Gravity and the Dark Side of Science https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gravity-and-the-dark-side-of-science-auid-901 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Valia-Allori-image-1.jpg" /><br />If anti-gravity existed, the book that explains it would be impossible to put down. Unfortunately, anti-gravity does not exist. Or does it? It is not a settled question, and there is a sense in which it will never be. Nonetheless, that does not matter much. How can that be? Keep reading! There are two ingredients at play in this: theory and evidence. And their connection is more complicated than one may initially think. Let me start with theory. Gravity is responsible for stuff falling on the ground, as well as for planets moving in the sky. Scientific theories have been proposed to account for these phenomena: Newton’s theory of gravity first and Einstein’s general relativity later. Newton’s gravity is a force that acts instantaneously to pull bodies closer in virtue of their mass. In other words two massive bodies, no matter how distant, feel each other’s presence instantly and tend to get together. Here now comes evidence. Newton’s theory has been very successful. The theory predict... Mon, 02 Oct 2017 11:45:17 +0000 Valia Allori https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gravity-and-the-dark-side-of-science-auid-901 The Riddle of Gravity https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-riddle-of-gravity-auid-900 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-don-howard.jpg" /><br /> Gravity is weird. On the one hand, gravity is a good thing, because it keeps me from floating away into space and makes possible my building stable shelters from the storm. On the other hand, gravity is a major cause of natural evil, as when buildings collapse during earthquakes or people fall through cracks in the ice and drown. The quirky American businessman, Roger Babson, was so alarmed by the evil consequences of gravity that in 1948 he founded the Gravity Research Foundation in New Boston, New Hampshire with the explicit aim of understanding gravity so as to defeat it. So how does gravity work? What keeps my feet planted firmly on the ground but then sends me tumbling painfully to the earth when I trip over a rock? Aristotle on Free Fall In the fourth century, BCE, Aristotle thought that he had the answer. He taught that every element had a natural place in the universe and a corresponding natural tendency to seek that place. The natural place of the element earth was a sphere a... Mon, 02 Oct 2017 11:35:54 +0000 Don Howard https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-riddle-of-gravity-auid-900 Gravity: The Popper Problem https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gravity-the-popper-problem-auid-899 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-David-Merritt-edited-image-1.jpg" /><br />The universe is expanding, and Einstein’s theory of gravity makes a definite prediction about how the expansion rate should change over time: it should decrease, since the gravitational attraction between all the matter in the universe continually opposes the expansion. The first time this prediction was observationally tested, around 1998, it was found to be spectacularly in error. The expansion of the universe is accelerating, not decelerating, and the acceleration has been going on for about six billion years. How did cosmologists respond to this anomaly? If they adhered to the ideas of philosopher Karl Popper, they would have said: “Our theory of gravity has been conclusively disproved by the observations; therefore we will throw our theory out and start afresh.” In fact, they did something very different: they postulated the existence of a new, universe-filling substance which they called “dark energy”, and endowed dark energy with whatever properties were needed to reconcile the ... Mon, 02 Oct 2017 11:20:26 +0000 David Merritt https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gravity-the-popper-problem-auid-899 Beyond Dark Matter https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beyond-dark-matter-auid-902 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Marcel-Pawlowski-image-1.jpg" /><br />In deep underground laboratories, buried below rock and shielded from cosmic radiation, physicists have build extremely sensitive detectors aimed at solving one of the Universe’s greatest mysteries. They are awaiting signals of a new kind of particle, promised to them by cosmologists and astrophysicists: Dark Matter. The highly elusive particle is thought to dominate the mass budget of our galaxy and of the Universe as such. There should be about six times more Dark Matter than ordinary, “baryonic” matter (which includes everything from interstellar gas clouds, stars, and planets, to the screen you are reading this on, and you yourself). Dark Matter has not yet been directly detected, despite numerous experiments, their painstaking efforts to reduce background signals, and thus ever increasing sensitivity. Many researchers nevertheless remain confident that a detection is within reach. Yet some worry: what if we are chasing a phantom? What if Dark Matter does not exist? There are sever... Mon, 02 Oct 2017 11:50:36 +0000 Marcel Pawlowski https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beyond-dark-matter-auid-902 Is Space-Time Fluid? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/is-space-time-fluid-auid-897 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Sabine-Hossenfelder-edited-image-1.jpg" /><br />Physicists have gathered evidence that space-time can behave like a fluid. Mathematical evidence, that is, but still evidence. If this relation isn’t a coincidence, then space-time – like a fluid – may have a substructure. We shouldn’t speak of space and time as if the two were distant cousins. We have known at least since Einstein that space and time are inseparable, two hemispheres of the same cosmic brain, joined to a single entity: space-time. Einstein also taught us that space-time isn’t flat, like paper, but bent and wiggly, like a rubber sheet. Space-time curves around mass and energy and this gives rise to the effect we call gravity. That’s what Einstein said. But turns out if you write down the equations for small wiggles in a medium – such as soundwaves in a fluid – then the equations look exactly like those of waves in a curved background. Yes, that’s right. Sometimes, waves in fluids behave like waves in a curved space-time; they behave like waves in a gravitational field. ... Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:50:18 +0000 Sabine Hossenfelder https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/is-space-time-fluid-auid-897 Gravity: The Story So Far https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gravity-the-story-so-far-auid-896 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-george-ellis-new.jpg" /><br />The basic issue Gravity holds us to the Earth and makes apples drop to the ground when they fall off a tree. It controls how the Moon moves round the Earth and how the Moon causes tides on Earth. It controls how the Earth moves round the Sun and how the Sun moves round the Galaxy. But it’s not a force. That was Einstein’s great discovery. How can we say that? Well because you can, at least for a while, simply make it vanish! How do you do that? Just let go! In other words, jump off a building, and you’ll feel no gravity as you fall down (hitting the Earth does not count as falling down). More gently, join a freely orbiting space station crew, and you’ll find life difficult because there will be no felt gravity to hold you down on your seat or to hold your coffee in a cup. In short, what appears to be a gravitational force actually depends, locally at least, on how you are moving. You can make it go away by allowing yourself to fall freely. The reason why The reason this is true is beca... Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:44:00 +0000 George Ellis https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gravity-the-story-so-far-auid-896 Diekemper vs Barbour: The Dance of Time - part 3 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-part-3-auid-639 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Diekemper-vs-Barbour-46-3.jpg" /><br />Read part 1: Joseph Diekemper argues that the present is only a border between past and future. Read part 2: Julian Barbour replies that arguing over past and future is to miss what really matters. Read part 3: Diekemper underlines the necessity of philosophy to our understanding of time. Read part 4: Barbour disagrees: science will ultimately always take precedence over philosophy.___I am grateful to Julian Barbour for his response to my article, The Dance of Time. In this brief counter response, I will make a general observation followed by two specific points. I think a very clear observation emerges from what Barbour says: given the complexities of the concept of time, and given that current scientific data underdetermine the nature of time, one must rely on philosophical argumentation – at some stage – in deciding how to fill out the details of the concept. It is another matter, of course, whether science could, in principle, ever be complete enough to fully determine the nature o... Sun, 28 Feb 2016 12:01:45 +0000 Joseph Diekemper https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-part-3-auid-639 Diekemper vs Barbour: The Dance of Time - part 2 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-part-2-auid-630 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Diekemper-vs-Barbour-45-2-text.jpg" /><br />Read part 1: Joseph Diekemper sets out the hypothesis that the present is nothing but a border between the past and the future.   Philosophers and physicists often think about time in very different ways. In fact, among themselves so do physicists; it is not easy to find two who agree in all details or even in their overall concepts. In this note, I will mention some of the ways in which my views differ from those of Joseph Diekemper and also from mainstream physics. Diekemper's starting point is that time, &quot;if it exists at all, must be such that it passes&quot;. His reason for this claim is &quot;the pervasiveness of our experience of the passage of time&quot;. Now many arguments in philosophy and science arise because key words are used without sufficiently precise definitions. I think we need to define “passage” and “time”, or rather their meaning in the combination &quot;experience of the passage of time&quot;. In talking about experience, we need not, indeed, distinguish the senses: any and all will do. I... Sat, 13 Feb 2016 16:02:35 +0000 Julian Barbour https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-part-2-auid-630 Diekemper vs Barbour: The Dance of Time - part 1 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-auid-629 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Diekemper-vs-Barbour-45-1-text.jpg" /><br />Read part 2: Julian Barbour argues that Diekemper's discussion of past and future misses what really matters. We live in a dynamic world. That is my starting point for thinking about the nature of time. Time, if it exists at all, must be such that it passes, and its passage, though fundamental to our experience, does not depend upon experience. Another way to put this foundational thesis is to say that temporal becoming is an objective feature of reality, independent of the mind. Why make this thesis one’s starting point? It is because of the pervasiveness of our experience of the passage of time. It is pervasive in a way that common experiences which we know to be illusory are not. For example, it is common for earth-bound humans to experience the earth as flat, yet we know that it is not. It is common for humans to experience a straw placed in a glass of water as bent, even though we know it is not. We are able to see past illusions in these kinds of cases because science has provide... Sat, 13 Feb 2016 15:51:36 +0000 Joseph Diekemper https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/diekemper-vs-barbour-the-dance-of-time-auid-629 Atkins vs Midgley: The Limits of Science - part 4 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-empire-strikes-back-auid-590 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Atkins-vs-Midgley-4-i.jpg" /><br />This article is part of The Limits of Science: an ongoing debate between scientist Peter Atkins and philosopher Mary Midgley. Midgley launches the debate by arguing that science does not have the answers to every question. In Science Unlimited, Atkins contends that, in fact, science will explain all of existence. Then, Midgley responds in Knowledge is Not an Empire, by arguing that science is just one field of enquiry among others. Now, Atkins counters that only science offers us a deep understanding of reality.--- I am really sorry that Professor Midgley has such an animus against the role of science in answering the deep, real questions about the nature of reality. What is wrong with asking for evidence? What is wrong for requiring that evidence to be testable by others? What is wrong with requiring that that evidence, and the theories that claim to explain it, be comfortable neighbours in the awesome and splendid reticulation of knowledge that constitutes modern science? I do not re... Sun, 25 Oct 2015 09:32:05 +0000 Peter Atkins https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-empire-strikes-back-auid-590 Atkins vs Midgley: The Limits of Science - part 3 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/knowledge-is-not-an-empire-auid-589 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Atkins-vs-Midgley-3.jpg" /><br />This article is part of The Limits of Science: an ongoing debate between scientist Peter Atkins and philosopher Mary Midgley. Midgley launches the debate by arguing that science does not have the answers to every question. In Science Unlimited, Atkins contends that, in fact, science will explain all of existence. Then, Midgley responds in Knowledge is Not an Empire, by arguing that science is just one field of enquiry among others. Now, Atkins counters that only science offers us a deep understanding of reality. --- The delusion that human knowledge is some kind of empire, despotically ruled by one's own favourite study, is not a new one. The classicists who for centuries taught Greek and Roman literature throughout Europe suffered from it badly, and they have, I think, only been cured of it by going out of fashion after the Second World War. That, however, was the epoch at which the field of academic studies began its recent vigorous expansion. It was also the epoch at which scholars... Sun, 25 Oct 2015 09:27:05 +0000 Mary Midgley https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/knowledge-is-not-an-empire-auid-589 Atkins vs Midgley: The Limits of Science - part 1 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-limits-of-science-auid-586 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Atkins-v-Midgley-1.jpg" /><br />This article is part of The Limits of Science: an ongoing debate between scientist Peter Atkins and philosopher Mary Midgley. Midgley launches the debate by arguing that science does not have the answers to every question. In Science Unlimited, Atkins contends that, in fact, science will explain all of existence. Then, Midgley responds in Knowledge is Not an Empire, by arguing that science is just one field of enquiry among others. Now, Atkins counters that only science offers us a deep understanding of reality. --- Physical science has, for many years now, succeeded to the position of prime authority in our culture which used to be held by religious doctrine. It is regarded as something that has to be believed, and this has a disturbing effect on the way in which science itself is now regarded. Instead of seeing the physical sciences as real, but limited, sources of knowledge about physical facts, we are now called on to revere them as the source of all our wisdom, a terminus for whic... Sat, 10 Oct 2015 15:42:11 +0000 Mary Midgley https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-limits-of-science-auid-586 Atkins vs Midgley: The Limits of Science - part 2 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/everything-explained-auid-587 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Atkins-v-Midgley-2.jpg" /><br />This article is part of The Limits of Science: an ongoing debate between scientist Peter Atkins and philosopher Mary Midgley. Midgley launches the debate by arguing that science does not have the answers to every question. In Science Unlimited, Atkins contends that, in fact, science will explain all of existence. Then, Midgley responds in Knowledge is Not an Empire, by arguing that science is just one field of enquiry among others. Now, Atkins counters that only science offers us a deep understanding of reality. --- Science is not the only way to ask questions about reality. But it is the only way to get reliable answers. You really have to decide between, on the one hand, observation in alliance with coordinated thought, and, on the other, introspection in alliance with sentiment. The scientific method is just plain common sense, although it took human brains centuries to stumble on it and break out of the bonds of superimposed authority (that is, religion). The method that finally da... Sat, 10 Oct 2015 15:47:55 +0000 Peter Atkins https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/everything-explained-auid-587 Science, Magic, and the Inexplicable https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-magic-and-the-inexplicable-auid-598 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-George-Ellis-40.jpg" /><br />In our scientific age, magic has been reduced to conjurers and wands. Yet, Newton and Wittgenstein saw the accounts of science as ultimately inexplicable. Should we see our theories as limited and, in a sense, magical or would this undermine all knowledge? In our recent IAI TV debate on this subject, mathematician George Ellis sided with Newton: science will not uncover every mystery in the universe; there are some questions best left to philosophers. Ellis made his name focusing on some of the big questions of cosmology and relativity. Along with Stephen Hawking, he co-authored 1973’s The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, which attempted to describe the very foundations of space itself. More recently, Ellis has been focusing on top-down causation.  Here he speaks to the IAI about the dangers of magic, the importance of mystery, and the line that separates science from philosophy.     Arthur C Clarke’s third law of science fiction states that: “Any sufficiently advanced technology i... Sat, 21 Nov 2015 22:21:52 +0000 George Ellis https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-magic-and-the-inexplicable-auid-598 Mathematics and the Universe https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/mathematics-and-the-universe-auid-583 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Tara-Shears-38.jpg" /><br />Just what is the world made of? It’s such a short, simple question, but it’s a question that we still haven’t finished answering. Our answer has developed as our knowledge progresses – from thinking that everything is made up of “elements” at the time of the Greeks, to the idea of atoms and chemical elements, to today’s view that the building blocks of creation are subatomic, fundamental particles. It’s a view that represents the culmination of thousands of years of scientific enquiry. But is this really the final answer?  Is it possible that something deeper lies beyond our current understanding, perhaps something that shows that the fundamental fabric of the universe is not material at all? Our current, best scientific view of the world is that it is at heart a very simple place. Look closely at anything in it, and you’ll see structure growing progressively simpler as you examine it at smaller and smaller scales. If you can detect scales a thousand million times smaller than us, you ... Sat, 10 Oct 2015 14:22:26 +0000 Tara Shears https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/mathematics-and-the-universe-auid-583 Life and the Universe https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/life-and-the-universe-auid-578 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Life-and-the-Universe-2.jpg" /><br />Copernicus and Darwin taught us that we are not the centre of the universe. But fifty years have passed since we began listening for life in the cosmos. A billion radio channels have scanned the sky. No extra terrestrial intelligence has been found. Is it once again time to think we may be alone, and to reassess what it is to be human? Maggie Aderin-Pocock is research fellow in UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies and an Honorary Research Associate in UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy. Since 2014, she has co-presented the long-running astronomy TV programme The Sky at Night. Here she speaks to the IAI about the probability of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, and what it would mean for mankind if we do.   The Drake equation posits that, given the vast number of galaxies and stars and possible habitable planets, there has to be intelligent life somewhere. But despite our best efforts to look, we still haven’t found any. Is this a problem? No, I don’t... Sat, 26 Sep 2015 15:33:17 +0000 Maggie Aderin-Pocock https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/life-and-the-universe-auid-578 Unnatural Laws https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/unnatural-laws-auid-564 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-1334534164568.jpg" /><br /> From the faceless particles of fundamental physics to marshes, mountains, and rain forests, fleas, walruses and traffic jams, we are all supposed to live in a world governed by eternal, all-encompassing laws, laws discovered by the experiments of physics and encoded in its mathematical equations. This 400-year-old image of the governance of nature is today being undermined by exciting new modes of understanding across the sciences, including physics and biology, as well as, perhaps less surprisingly, in the study of society. There is order visible in the world, and invisible. But if we trust these new ways of understanding, this need not be order by universal law. It can be local, piecemeal, and contextual – much like the world as we encounter it. We live our everyday lives in a dappled world unlike the world of fundamental particles regimented into kinds, each just like the one beside it, mindlessly marching exactly as has forever been destined. In the everyday world the future is op... Mon, 14 Sep 2015 05:37:34 +0000 Nancy Cartwright https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/unnatural-laws-auid-564 Beauty is Truth? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beauty-is-truth-auid-484 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Jon-Butterworth.jpg" /><br />E=mc2. Einstein’s great equation represents a pinnacle of mathematical purity. But as the evidence piles up which general relativity struggles to account for, is the very elegance of Einstein's theories preventing scientists from updating them? Is there always beauty in truth, or are aesthetics a distraction from the fundamental mission of science? Jon Butterworth is a physics professor at University College London. He is a member of the UCL High Energy Physics group and works on the Atlas experiment at Cern's Large Hadron Collider. His book, Smashing Physics: The Inside Story of the Hunt for the Higgs was published in May 2014. Here, he speaks to the IAI about quantum physics, the Standard Model, and the relationship between beauty and scientific truth.   You have said in the past that beauty is found in simplicity, but isn’t it actually the complex nature of the world that inspires awe? Obviously it’s a subjective point of view but, for me, what inspires awe is the fact that such c... Sat, 17 Jan 2015 08:26:15 +0000 Jon Butterworth https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/beauty-is-truth-auid-484 Science is Rebellion https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-is-rebellion-auid-455 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-zaGMMgsTIpoX5w8coHGXA8bZK2F69h57zIinR-V5SdU.png" /><br /> What seems most obvious about the world can in fact be false: this is the main characteristic of scientific thinking. Scientific thinking is a continuous quest for novel ways of conceptualising the world. Knowledge is born from a respectful, but radical, act of rebellion against what we currently think. This is the richest heritage the West has left to today’s global culture, its finest contribution. This act of rebellion is a challenge launched first twenty six centuries ago in Miletus, by Thales and Anaximander: freeing humanity’s understanding of the world from the mythical-religious matrix that had structured thought for thousands of years; considering the possibility that the world is understandable, step after step, without recourse to one or many gods. This is a new prospect for humanity – one that, twenty six centuries later, still frightens the majority of women and men on this little planet floating in space. The path opened by Anaximander, the continuous re-envisioning of t... Fri, 17 Oct 2014 12:45:45 +0000 Carlo Rovelli https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-is-rebellion-auid-455 What Killed the Space Race? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-fictions-guilty-conscience-auid-453 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-14681376481-61ecacfbc1-k.jpg" /><br /> For a number of reasons I have been thinking recently about the 1969 moon landings. Partly it was the fact that the recent series-finale of the AMC TV serial Mad Men was set during that hot July, with all the characters agog at the splendour of Armstrong’s one small step. The show recaptured the mood of that time: a whole world was filled with an almost transcendent excitement—and with good cause. In my opinion, in a thousand years the names of all the politicians, artists, movie stars, scientists and philosophers will be long forgotten, but people will still know the name of Neil Armstrong. Another reason this has been on my mind lately is because of one of my hobbies: collecting science fiction magazines from the 1950s-70s. I happened to pick up some old copies of Analog from a junk shop, and was reading through the way they reported Apollo. Of course the contributors were all tremendously excited by the moon mission, as you would expect them to be. But without exception they saw it... Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:52:35 +0000 Adam Roberts https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/science-fictions-guilty-conscience-auid-453 Coding the Universe https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/coding-the-universe-auid-555 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-James-Ladyman-35.jpg" /><br />Information theory argues that to be is to be a real pattern. But what is information and how does it relate to matter? It seems that the kind of materialism defended by the ancient Greek atomists and their successors in early modern natural philosophy is not viable. Atoms are not partless particles, and the particles that compose atoms are excitation modes of fields whose ultimate nature is tied up with questions about extra dimensions and the interpretation of mathematical structures used in physics. Science has also developed to the extent that it now gives us ontology at many levels. Within the physical sciences we have a rough hierarchy from the solids and fluids of geology through the molecular structure of chemical kinds to the atoms and their orbiting electrons, to the subatomic realm of particles and fundamental forces, to quantum fields, superstrings and beyond. The biological and behavioural sciences are much more complex but similarly offer us layers of entities from protei... Sat, 15 Aug 2015 08:08:20 +0000 James Ladyman https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/coding-the-universe-auid-555 The Code of the Cosmos https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-code-of-the-cosmos-auid-531 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-593-The-Universe-Code.cxjIII.jpg" /><br />Information has come to play an increasingly fundamental role in our lives during the last few decades: billions of computers are now interconnected over the world, and our technology – and hence our survival and well-being – crucially rely on them. It is much harder to argue that information plays a role in fundamental physics. Traditionally, fundamental physics expresses predictions about where, say, a particle will go, given its initial state and its laws of motion. This paradigm has been the prevailing one since Galileo and Newton and has been extremely successful – allowing us to formulate deeper and deeper explanations of the physical world, of which quantum theory and general relativity are the current best examples. Yet, there are things in the physical world that this mode of explanation cannot adequately capture for us. Information is one such thing. For a start, that information is an element of the physical world is itself rather hard to grasp and counterintuitive! This is ... Mon, 11 May 2015 11:40:30 +0000 Chiara Marletto https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-code-of-the-cosmos-auid-531 Particle Physics: Where Next? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/particle-physics-where-next-auid-412 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-CERN-2.jpg" /><br />Monday 29th September is an important date in the world of particle physics. For on this day in 1954, the convention was ratified that founded CERN (French for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire). Over the course of the last 60 years, CERN has become one of the most famous and best-funded science organisations on the planet: its 2014 budget is somewhere in the region of £786 million. It is also the birthplace, incidentally, of the World Wide Web. The most publicised discovery was, of course, that of the Higgs boson by scientists working at CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Now, less than year before the LHC restarts in April 2015, pressure is rising on the scientists at CERN’s vast underground science facility on the outskirts of Geneva. With little conclusive evidence yet found for supersymmetry, what if the Higgs boson was the high point? Will the LHC have proved an expensive white elephant?For theoretical physicist John Ellis this is what makes it exciting. “It’s just gr... Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:09:04 +0000 John Ellis https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/particle-physics-where-next-auid-412 God's Map https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gods-map-auid-500 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Roger-Davies.jpg" /><br />Most people who went to Hay-on-Wye to the 2015 HowTheLightGetsIn festival will have used a road map to get there. It’s an accurate and useful tool for navigation, but it’s full of mis-representations. The map is accurately ‘to scale’ – so it’s possible, for example, to estimate the distance to Hereford. But there are anomalies – the roads on the map are far too wide, and the representative symbols are of course absent on the ground. This commonplace map is helpful and accurate in many useful ways, but we imposed onto the map our vision of the structure of the landscape and its contents that are simply not there, which is not to say that they are not useful. Maps of the universe share similar qualities. When William and Caroline Herschel made their first maps of the Milky Way they were unaware of the presence of obscuring dust in the galaxy’s plane. They based their map on the rough proposition that the bright stars all have the same intrinsic brightness so when they found fewer bright ... Sun, 22 Feb 2015 13:03:59 +0000 Roger Davies https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/gods-map-auid-500 Under the Microscope https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/in-defence-of-peer-review-auid-393 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-peer-review.jpg" /><br />“Heresy should be encouraged because that’s how breakthroughs happen.” We often like to think we live in an age of reason. The fruits of modern science and technology are all around us: from smartphones and 3D printers to cures for some of history's most devastating diseases. We now have the highest life-expectancy our species has ever experience. Despite all this, a backlash seems to be emerging against certain aspects of science. Lately the revered process of peer review has been coming under fire – especially in the field of medical science. A recent piece in The Economist even argued that the internet means anyone can now appoint themselves a peer, thereby providing a challenge to the perceived power held by scientists.In this forthright interview, cosmologist Carlos Frenk examines in detail one of the cornerstones of contemporary scientific process. He argues that peer review actually encourages unorthodox thinking, but warns, controversially perhaps, that science is a spectrum, ... Wed, 30 Jul 2014 03:18:46 +0000 Carlos Frenk https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/in-defence-of-peer-review-auid-393 https://iainews.iai.tv/articles Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles The Tyranny of Evidence https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-limits-of-evidence-auid-549 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Rupert-Read-34.jpg" /><br /> A central aspect of my philosophical work these days is this: to warn against over-estimating, for example, how much one can learn from past financial crises, in thinking about future financial crises. How much, to put it in more general – and philosophical – terms, one can learn inductively. There is plenty one can learn; but there is also a severe limit on what one can learn. There is a limit, in other words, on the value of evidence. The danger of not being continually aware of this point is that one may think, at least unconsciously, that there are specific lessons to learn and that, once one has learnt them, then one's job is done and one has genuinely ensured as best one can that there will not be further such crises in the future. This would be a hubristic stance. Hubris, in the long run, inevitably leads to nemesis. For we are always going to be living in a social world that defies full comprehension and control. A world that we do not and never will fully understand, as my co... Fri, 31 Jul 2015 11:37:36 +0000 Rupert Read https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-limits-of-evidence-auid-549 The Science of Simplicity https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-science-of-simplicity-auid-493 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Steve-Fuller-2.jpg" /><br />When scientists, usually physicists, wax lyrical about the importance of elegance and simplicity to their enterprise, non-scientists are bound to conclude that their sense of “elegance” or “simplicity” is rather peculiar. After all, science, in both conduct and content, is difficult and complicated – and increasingly contested. But maybe this only shows how little the lay person knows about science. It is still by no means obvious that the different sciences share any common standards of elegance and simplicity. Indeed, the received wisdom amongst philosophers of science these days is that there is no overarching sense of elegance and simplicity to be had. The very idea is likely to be dismissed as the result of an unholy conspiracy between Platonists and positivists who would have us believe that certain perspicuous patterns in nature are self-validating. It would be as if science were a sophisticated version of finding faces in clouds or inferring aliens from crop circles. According ... Sun, 08 Feb 2015 10:45:55 +0000 Steve Fuller https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-science-of-simplicity-auid-493 The Elegant Universe https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-elegant-universe-auid-349 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Elegant.jpg" /><br />Julian Barbour is a British physicist with research interests in quantum gravity and the history of science. He rose to public prominence on the back of his 1999 book, The End of Time, which proposed the idea of timeless physics: the controversial view that time, as we perceive it, does not exist as anything other than an illusion. Since then, he has also written The Discovery of Dynamics and Absolute or Relative Motion?We spoke to him about the structure of space, time as an illusion, and the possibility of finding an elegant description of the universe we live in. Newton and Leibniz had conflicting ideas about the structure of space. How did they differ, and which of the two proved to be more successful in describing the universe? Newton thought that space is like a huge block of unchanging and invisible ice with each point like every other. He felt he needed such a concept to make sense of his first law of motion, according to which a body left to itself will move forever in a strai... Sat, 19 Apr 2014 17:10:04 +0000 Julian Barbour https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-elegant-universe-auid-349 Infinity in 500 words https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/infinity-in-500-words-auid-331 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Infinity2.jpg" /><br />Describe infinity in 500 words? It shouldn’t be too hard: infinity, though large, can fit nicely into any sized circle. Nothing in this physical universe is infinite. Not even were you to count every quark and fleeting particle that had ever existed would you come close. Infinity would still be very, even infinitely, far off. For no matter how small a thing is, if it has any size, weight or energy at all, then this universe cannot contain an infinite number of them. And yet in another sense, a mathematical sense, there are many infinities in our universe, some larger than others and all of them can be encompassed by the human mind. It is one of the strange aspects of our universe, among all possible universes – perhaps its defining strangeness – that ours has been able to evolve beings who can conceive of the infinite. We cannot count to infinity but we can encompass it. Not only that but manipulate it, do calculations with it, puzzle ourselves with its paradoxical qualities. In fact p... Tue, 11 Mar 2014 21:23:25 +0000 David Malone https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/infinity-in-500-words-auid-331 Who Shaves the Barber? https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/who-shaves-the-barber-auid-318 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-This-article-has-no-name.png" /><br />In the second half of the nineteenth century, logic awoke from a sleep of two millennia: people realised that Aristotle, with his syllogisms, had yet to have the last word on the subject. Powerful and flexible systems were developed by the English mathematician George Boole as well as by the German logician Gottlob Frege. Soon, however, logic found itself entangled in self-reference (a statement which refers to itself or its own referent). Curiously, the self-reference debate was contemporary with the discovery of quantum theory, and Austrian logician Kurt Gödel's theorem of incompleteness was proved at about the same time as the uncertainty principle, with similar effects. One of the first thinkers to point to self-reference, while Frege's work was in press, was the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. One form of his paradox refers to a village where the barber shaves precisely those people who do not shave themselves. Who shaves the barber? In particular, does the barber shave hims... Sun, 09 Feb 2014 12:52:54 +0000 Peter Cameron https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/who-shaves-the-barber-auid-318 Hawking vs. Philosophy https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/hawking-vs-philosophy-auid-273 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-Hawking-vs-Philosophy4.jpg" /><br /> Stephen Hawking recently declared the death of philosophy. Is he right? Has science rendered philosophy obsolete? Should we be looking to science to answer the biggest questions, or are there areas of understanding that science cannot reach that philosophy can? What about epistemology and the role of philosophy of science to the progress of knowledge? Provocative biologist and author Lewis Wolpert, postmodern sociologist of science Steve Fuller and New Statesman Culture editor Jonathan Derbyshire investigate the limits of science and philosophy. Click on the image to watch the debate! Tue, 03 Dec 2013 16:30:11 +0000 Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/hawking-vs-philosophy-auid-273 The Eureka Moment https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-eureka-moment-auid-272 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-wirelesspower.jpg" /><br /> Scientific advance is a roll call of eureka moments. Can they be planned? Does the institutional character of big science research militate against these critical imaginative leaps? Should we encourage the outsider, and break the system of peer review in an attempt to create more eureka moments, or does good science require a strong establishment? Independent scientist Rupert Sheldrake, theoretical physicist David Berman and Oxford philosopher James Wilk question the role of freedom in science. Click the image to watch the video! Tue, 03 Dec 2013 15:44:25 +0000 Editor https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/the-eureka-moment-auid-272 A Universe of Causes https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/a-universe-of-causes-auid-257 <img src="https://iainews.iai.tv/assets/Uploads/_resampled/SetWidth150-nothing-1.jpg" /><br />Mathematician George Ellis made his name focusing on some of the big questions of cosmology and relativity. Along with Stephen Hawking, he co-authored 1973’s The Large Scale Structure of Space-Time, which attempted to describe the very foundations of space itself. More recently, Ellis has been focusing on top-down causation – the process by which higher level organised systems, such as humans, interact with their own component parts. His theories have important repercussions across many fields of research – from consciousness and free will to understanding quantum phenomena. Ellis is also an active Quaker and was a vocal opponent of apartheid during the 1970s and ‘80s.We spoke to Ellis about his theories, their implications, and the reasons behind certain resistance to these ideas.What exactly is top-down causation?A key question for science is whether all causation is from the bottom up only. If forces between particles are the only kind of physical causation, then chemistry, biology,... Sat, 23 Nov 2013 12:58:14 +0000 George Ellis https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/a-universe-of-causes-auid-257