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Cosmology, the Universe, & Evolution

Date: 01-14-12
Host: John B. Wells
Guests: Lawrence M. Krauss, James Chiles

Theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss joined John B. Wells (email) to discuss the origin of the universe and how it could have arisen from nothing. "We now can see a plausible way in which a universe can come from absolutely nothing without any creator," he said, adding that the aspects of our universe which can be measured are consistent with that conclusion. The word 'nothing' is a scientific term (not a philosophical one) that refers to empty space, or an area with zero total particles, Krauss noted. This space is not actually empty but is instead "a boiling bubbling brew of virtual particles—particles that fall in and out of existence at a time scale so short that you can't measure them," he explained. Space can pop in and out of existence and is where the dominant energy of the universe resides, Krauss revealed. The very laws governing the universe may have arisen spontaneously as well, and may be completely different in other universes, he added.

Krauss spoke about the difference between science and philosophy/religion, pointing out the unique role of science in probing empirical information about the world. While he believes it is presumptuous to say categorically, "There is no God," Krauss admitted there is no physical proof to suggest such a being exists. He further asserted that there is no evidence for intelligent design in biological life and in the universe. The Earth is teaming with diverse life forms of all different kinds, none of them designed, Krauss said. The amazing diversity of life on this planet arose solely by natural evolutionary mechanism without any celestial guidance, he declared. Krauss also talked about how dark energy may dominate the future of the universe, causing it to expand at a rate faster than the speed of light, as well as his expectation that Earth-like planets will be discovered within our lifetime, and perhaps some will even have life on them.

Disaster Updates

In the first hour, researcher James Chiles commented on the failing Phobos-Grunt space probe and the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster. Phobos-Grunt is losing about 10km/day in altitude and is expected to crash back to Earth sometime on Sunday, Chiles said. The probe likely got into trouble due to tumbling which prevented it from properly recharging its batteries, he continued, noting the difficulty the Russians had communicating with the stricken machine. Regarding the Costa Concordia, Chiles guessed that a power failure may have had something to do with the wreck. He wondered how the reality of the passenger evacuation compared to the software models used by cruise industry. Chiles also briefly touched on coronal mass ejections and power grid disruptions, nuclear power and the Fukushima disaster, and the hazard posed to the International Space Station by high-velocity space junk.

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