Friday, August 06, 2010

The LHC, The Universe, and Life

I came across an older TED talk by Brian Cox, a particle physicist working on a detector for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and he does a fantastic job explaining the machine and its purpose. But it was actually the very end of his talk that I think is the most interesting. He quickly explains the universe as a story of creation that I think should resonate with both the religious and scientific perspectives. He mentions a quote from Carl Sagan's Cosmos that puts it well, from the universe emerged consciousness and "At an ever-accelerating pace, it invented writing, cities, art and science, and sent spaceships to the planets and the stars. These are some of the things that hydrogen atoms do, given fifteen billion years of cosmic evolution." I've written a number of times about how remarkable the exponential rate of change we are experiencing is, but I think Brian does an exceptional job of putting it into a perspective, making it well worth fifteen minutes out of a single day. If you don't have the time or patience to watch it all, at least skip to 10 minutes 50 seconds to see his story of creation.

This also led to one of his more recent TED talks on why we need continue investing the tiny fraction (less than 1% GDP) that we do in research. He again closes with a Carl Sagan quote that everyone should hear at least once in their life. Again if you can't manage the sixteen and a half minutes, skip to 12 minutes 45 seconds.

I've often wondered what a world where every person deeply believed in the fact that everything in our entire universe came from one single source might be like. I think inherently humanity longs for some form of oneness, but through our own wonderfully unique perspectives we more often only see the differences. Perhaps if there was a deep enough root belief we could find the courage and strength to focus less on the differences and more on how to live in peace. As knowledge of our universe spreads and grows, maybe thoughts like the ones in these short talks will someday help that root take hold.