Just went and watched Brian Greene give a fabulous lecture at McCaw Hall. I’ve listened to a lot of scientist and futurist lecturers, and I really don’t think I’ve ever had more fun. He makes tough science not only fun, but pretty easy to “get” at a high level.
He started out by describing cosmology as the scientific version of the creation myth. Since the beginning of time, human cultures had asked the fundamental question “where did I come from,” and he suggests that cosmology is the scientific version of searching for that answer. From there, he described Einstein’s theory of relativity as a more complete answer than Newtonian physics, and used the standard way of showing how the mass of an object distorts time and space and thus how object move in relative attraction to each other. I’m not doing as good a job as he did, so I’ll stop with that now.
For there, he described how the big bang theory is not a theory of how the universe started, since the math breaks down from the beginning of the big bang through a few seconds after that – so the big bang theory talks about after-the-bang, not the bang. From there, he wandered into multiple universes and brane theories, and of course, string theory. Rather than really talking about a unified theory of everything, he pointed toward the quest for understanding the actual beginning of our universe.
Very nice. I had fun. I highly recommend seeing him if you get a chance.
It may also be the only time I’ve heard a science lecturer greeted with whistles and catcalls as well as clapping. Let’s here it for scientists!
And right after Norwescon, I get to hear the second half of this two-part series: Stephen Hawking. Talk about a hero!