Voyages of Discovery: Copernicus to the Big Bang                  

  Cosmology & Gravitational-Wave Astronomy

  No Center

  Also see Ned Wright's Cosmology Tutorial

  WMAP: Foundations of the Big Bang theory

  WMAP: Tests of Big Bang Cosmology

  Origins: Back to the Beginning  58:30

    "The microwave background has encoded in it a tremendous amount of
    information about the properties of the universe: how old it is,
    what it's made of, how many atoms are in the universe, how fast
    it's expanding. 

    "The really remarkable thing that WMAP found was that the universe
    was incredibly simple. I think we're now close to the right story
    for how the universe evolved from a second or so after the Big Bang
    'til today.

    "It was as if we were basically assembling this puzzle, and all of a
    sudden you look down at the puzzle and you realize you've got it.
    The pieces are there".

  Background on Dark Matter

  Background on Dark Energy

  Cosmology & Gravitational-Wave Astronomy
  Errors in some popular attacks on the Big Bang


    "For almost all of human history, the heavens have been beyond our
    reach. For our ancestors, it was a place where the gods lived, or
    else simply a vast, untouchable realm of lifeless beauty. But now,
    the study of cosmic origins tells a different story.

    "It tells us that the story of life, of us, extends far beyond
    earth. It tells us that the emergence of the conditions for our
    kind of life was no accident. Instead, it was a natural outcome of
    almost 14 billion years of cosmic evolution, a chain of connections
    that links the birth of the universe to us, right here, right now".

  Interview with Physicist Steven Weinberg

    QUESTION: You have written that the more comprehensible the
    universe becomes the more pointless it seems. Could you explain
    what you mean by that?

    DR. WEINBERG: Years ago I wrote a book about cosmology, and near
    the end I tried to summarize the view of the expanding universe and
    the laws of nature. And I made the remark - I guess I was foolish
    enough to make the remark - that the more the universe seems
    comprehensible the more it seems pointless. And that remark has
    been quoted more than anything else I've ever said. It's even in
    Bartlett's Quotations. I think it's been the truth in the past that
    it was widely hoped that by studying nature we will find the sign
    of a grand plan, in which human beings play a particularly
    distinguished starring role. And that has not happened. I think
    that more and more the picture of nature, the outside world, has
    been one of an impersonal world governed by mathematical laws that
    are not particularly concerned with human beings, in which human
    beings appear as a chance phenomenon, not the goal toward which the
    universe is directed. And for some this has no effect on their
    religion. Their religion never looked for any kind of point in
    nature. For others this is appalling, the idea that all of the
    stars and galaxies and atoms are going about their business, and
    it's just by accident that here on this solar system the peculiar
    chemical properties of DNA acting over billions of years have
    produced these people who have been able to talk and look around
    and enjoy life. For some people that picture is antithetical to the
    view of nature and the world that their religion had given them.

    QUESTION: Do you believe then there is no overall point to the

    DR. WEINBERG: I believe that there is no point in the universe that
    can be discovered by the methods of science. I believe that what we
    have found so far, an impersonal universe in which it is not
    particularly directed toward human beings is what we are going to
    continue to find. And that when we find the ultimate laws of nature
    they will have a chilling, cold impersonal quality about them.

    I don't think this means [however] there's no point to life.
    Usually the remark is quoted just as it stands. But if anyone read
    the next paragraph, they would see that I went on to say that if
    there is no point in the universe that we discover by the methods
    of science, there is a point that we can give the universe by the
    way we live, by loving each other, by discovering things about
    nature, by creating works of art. And that -- in a way, although we
    are not the stars in a cosmic drama, if the only drama we're
    starring in is one that we are making up as we go along, it is not
    entirely ignoble that faced with this unloving, impersonal universe
    we make a little island of warmth and love and science and art for
    ourselves. That's not an entirely despicable role for us to play.