Stephen Hawking’s final paper was published this week. Like his last book, The Grand Design, it is about how the universe began. In 1979, he became the seventeenth Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. His modest aim was to understand the universe, the whole thing, from beginning to end. He missed his mark by […]

# Tag Archives: history

# Mind over math: We need to change the worldview of physicists.

It all began so easily. Physics uses math so it was natural for physicists to look for math that is convenient. This led physics down a dead-end street. Fixing it could lead to a huge opportunity. The beginning goes back to the 1600s. Having revolutionized what would soon be called physics, Isaac Newton fell into […]

# What are the quanta in quantum gravity? A hundred years ago Einstein said “space”. So where are we now?

Quantum gravity is all the rage in physics these days. There are books about it but none say what quantum gravity is. And none report real progress. We should be upset about this. Really! Quantum gravity tries to reconcile our two immensely successful—but mutually inconsistent—theories about the world: quantum theory and relativity. A quantum theory […]

# Plain talk about quantum theory: It has no place for space and that’s a problem.

Quantum physics is in trouble. It needs a new strategy. Physics is mostly based around quantum theory. When physics gets in trouble it affects everyone. Physics is the fountain from which our economy springs. Quantum theory seems so esoteric many think they cannot go there. Yet at heart the problem and the opportunity to fix […]

# An amazing birthday present: a universe that allows time travel and helps us understand our existence

In 1949 Austrian-American logician Kurt Gödel gave a friend a strange birthday present: a rotating universe. Gödel is widely regarded as the world’s greatest logician. Albert Einstein, the greatest physicist, was his best friend. For years they walked home from the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study almost every day. The present—for Einstein’s 70th birthday—dealt with […]

# Genius, Einstein and much ado about nothing: Let’s fix the fallacy of empty space

We think of space as empty. It’s not. Quite aside from stray hydrogen atoms and fleeting quantum particles in the vacuum, space is substantial. It has mass. Indeed Planck-satellite measurements now show space is three times denser than the average of the universe’s matter. Yet like the rest of us most physicists still treat space […]

# After 117 years this quadrillion-dollar idea is gathering speed. But this golden egg may hatch too slowly.

A recent estimate tells us the next deep new idea in physics could lead to a quadrillion-dollar economic boom. This gives us a huge self-interest in moving new physics along. How does new physics happen? Specifically, what we are waiting for is Planck-scale physics. It deals with what goes on at a scale far smaller […]

# Twist and Shout: Topology In Action

As Chubby Checker sang and showed a 1960s generation, “Let’s do the twist.” Twist is not only an important thing. It is the only thing. Look around; all that you can see is made of twist. How so? The explanation starts with atoms and takes us through topology and Solitaire to the final fate of […]

# The Massive Question The Higgs Boson Has No Answer

What is mass? An apple has it. Put one on a supermarket scale: Earth’s gravity guarantees you pay in precise proportion. In 1684 Isaac Newton does the math for mass and gravity. In 1915 Albert Einstein cleans it up. But a deep problem remains untouched: Up close and personal, neither Isaac nor Albert nor anyone […]