This op-ed from Brian Greene is about as close any mere mortal is likely to get to understanding the purpose of the Large Hadron Collider.
The bottom line is that scientists may be able to resolve some of the deepest mysteries of the universe.
And that’s a good thing.
I bought this book while browsing the book section of the gift shop at the Museum of Natural History in New York. My interest in biology, genetics, and evolution is paramount in my intellectual life right now, and has been for a while. I was hoping that the book would give me new information and inspire my thinking on the subject. I wasn’t disappointed.
The book is a compilation of articles from Scientific American magazine related to evolution. It starts with a section on the evolution of the universe, continues with cellular evolution, dinosaurs and pre-hominid life, and then finishes with human evolution. Each section contains several articles worth reading, with the standouts being:
There are a few misses in there as well, but because the book is loosely organized by discrete topics, without much continuity between them, you can simply skip the articles that don’t interest you. For a primer on evolution, and in particular to learn about the evolution of the universe, the formation of stars, and utterly amazing biology of cells, Evolution: A Scientific American Reader is a great book. I recommend it.
I know, ho-hum, right? If you’ve seen one dusty, rock-strewn photo from the red planet, you’ve seen them all. The difference here is in the mission of NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander. This device has landed on Mars’s northern arctic plains with the tools to dig beneath the surface and analyze the ice there for signs of (or the conditions necessary for) microbial life.
This journey is amazing for a thousand reasons: One, the thing landed on Mars Sunday night and it’s already sending back photos. Two, the whole thing is solar powered. Three, the Lander will conduct “sophisticated scientific experiments” on the soil and ice on the spot (this thing isn’t coming home). Four, the goal of the mission is to “(1) study the history of water in the Martian arctic and (2) search for evidence of a habitable zone and assess the biological potential of the ice-soil boundary.” Five, the strong possibility that there will be some evidence of life on Mars will redefine how we view the universe and, for me, reaffirm a sense of the universe as an organic entity.
And so on. Go to NASA for more.
I couldn’t resist posting this link to a Reuters slideshow of new images from the Hubble Telescope. These are spectacular photos; mostly of galaxies colliding. When I see photos like this I am ever more certain that humanity is beside the point of the universe.
I think of this activity in space as macro-organic. And I can’t help but feel as though we are free riders; that we are to these galaxies something like the trillions of bacteria that inhabit our bodies are to us.
Absolutely. There’s is not even a question. I’d like to write more about this when I have some time, but in the interim, here are Stephen Hawking’s thoughts. Given the simple odds – an estimated 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone, and several hundred billion galaxies – it is inconceivable that life, primitive or otherwise, does not exist elsewhere.