The interior of Fermilab’s Wilson Hall climbs to the sky like an infinite ladder.
The sculpture “Mobius Strip,” designed by Fermilab’s first director Robert Wilson, offers a wonderful intersection between science and art.
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) is known for its extraordinary architecture. Here is a photo of Wilson Hall, stunning for its symmetry.
Historians debate the role of various players in events that happened only hundreds of years ago. Prognosticators are uncertain what twists and turns worldly events might take little more than years, months or even weeks from now. Yet, thanks to the steady, predictable nature of many of the laws of physics, such as Einstein’s general theory of relativity, along with space probes and telescopes able to collect ancient light from remote objects, cosmologists feel comfortable discussing events billions of years ago or speculating about possibilities billions of years hence. The precise sequence of what happened only a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, some 13.75 billion years ago, has become a central part of modern cosmological discussion.
In this second installment of my contribution to the AT&T Science and Technology Series I discuss the profound question, “What was the universe like when it was formed?”
Cosmology, the science of the universe, has made extraordinary progress in recent years tackling many long-standing questions. We now know the age of the cosmos with unprecedented precision: 13.75 billion years, give or take several hundred million. We also know the geometry and material composition of the universe.
Yet many deep mysteries remain. What is dark matter, the elusive gravitational “glue” that cements galaxies and clusters of galaxies together, yet cannot be seen? What is dark energy, the hidden cause of the universe’s accelerated expansion? Is our universe part of a vaster multiverse? Could regions beyond the cosmic horizon affect ours through their unseen influences? Is the cosmos a hologram with its information encoded on a kind of surface? Were there other cycles of time before the Big Bang? Will time end in a Big Rip, a Big Stretch, a cosmic collision, or another scenario?
This is the first part of my contribution to the AT&T Science & Technology Author Series. In it I discuss cosmological milestones in recent history, as well as the ongoing search for dark matter and dark energy.
Betsy Mason of Wired.com interviewed me about the Large Hadron Collider and the future of high-energy physics. The interview is available at: