My Interest in Physical Cosmology
Understanding the large scale structure, composition and evolution of the universe
What is the true nature of physical 'matter', 'space' and 'time' as we perceive it? How did our world come to exist? What is the nature of the Universe at large and how did it come about?
What are the answers today and expected results tomorrow?
Whether string theory proves to be correct in the end or the classical standard model prevails, we know that space and time are inter-related and that the universe as we know it is still expanding from its initial 'big bang' beginning starting about 13.7 billion years ago. There is no space or time outside of the edge of the universe. Given a super-quick expansion phase early in its life (called inflation), the universe is actually over 90 billion-light years wide today, contains over 100 billion galaxies (each with hundreds of billions of stars), therefore trillions and trillions of stars in total. And that only represents 3-4% of all of what makes up everything that goes into making up the entire universe. The rest is gas, dust, dark matter and dark energy - of which we know very little about at all.
And most cosmologists now believe that our universe is part of a larger multiverse - a concept (actually several competing related ideas) of how an almost unlimited number of universes, each with their own unique physical equations, can spring into and out of existence - from nothing more than a pure vacuum. Hard to understand, but if you think the universe as we know it is big, the multiverse is a whole new neighborhood to try and get your head around. It may eventually even be possible to test for the existence for a multiverse in the not too distant future.
Recent Articles of Interest
[reprinted from Wikipedia]
Cosmology is the quantitative (usually mathematical) study of the Universe in its totality, and by extension, humanity's place in it. Though the word cosmology is recent (first used in 1730 in Christian Wolff's Cosmologia Generalis), study of the Universe has a long history involving science, philosophy, esotericism, and religion.
In recent times, physics and astrophysics have come to play a central role in shaping what is now known as physical cosmology by bringing observations and mathematical tools to analyze the universe as a whole; in other words, in the understanding of the universe through scientific observation and experiment. This discipline, which focuses on the universe as it exists on the largest scale and at the earliest moments, is generally understood to begin with the big bang (possibly combined with cosmic inflation) - an expansion of space from which the Universe itself is thought to have emerged ~13.7 ± 0.2 billion years ago . From its violent beginnings and until its various speculative ends, cosmologists propose that the history of the Universe has been governed entirely by physical laws.
Between the domains of religion and science, stands the philosophical perspective of metaphysical cosmology. This ancient field of study seeks to draw intuitive conclusions about the nature of the universe, man, god and/or their relationships based on the extension of some set of presumed facts borrowed from spiritual experience and/or observation.
Cosmology is often an important aspect of the origin beliefs of religions and mythologies that seek to explain the existence and nature of reality. In some cases, views about the creation (cosmogony) and destruction (eschatology) of the universe play a central role in shaping a framework of religious cosmology for understanding humanity's role in the universe.
Magazine and Online Resources
In my quest to find answers to these questions I have found the following resources extremely useful:
- Wikipedia, the collaborative online encyclopedia, for a wide range of general and specific scientific inquiries (www.wikipedia.org)
- The Teaching Company Courses (www.teach12.com)
- Scientific American Magazine, as above plus the latest research reports (www.sciam.com)
- Sky and Telescope Magazine, for physical cosmology and particle physics related research results (www.skyandtelescope.com)