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: Max Planck

# 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 […]

# At last an answer: What happened at the Big Bang

What exactly happened when the universe was born? What happened at the Big Bang? is the title of last summer’s popular science exhibition sponsored by six leading British universities and the Royal Society in London. Amid much fascinating information, the exhibition’s answer was: We don’t know. Yet, as Science Seen’s readers will recall, that answer […]

# What is Planck-scale physics and why does it matter?

The Planck-scale physics story begins long ago. In 1901 German physicist Max Planck publishes an explanation for strange properties of radiant heat. He says its energy is quantized. In other words, it radiates in distinct little bits. He sees this as a mathematical convenience and doesn’t really believe it. His math requires a constant he […]

# A new look at the tiny photon answers some vexing questions and offers a big opportunity.

Albert Einstein introduced the photon to the world more than 100 years ago. Though physicists doubted—even ridiculed—his idea for years, it set off a scientific revolution. The photon now underpins foundations of the world economy. Yet to this day it is a mystery. Even when we know a photon has gone from A to B […]

# Physics has long been confused about the concept of ‘now’. New insights show that it is fundamental.

A sense of Now is the universal human experience. Yet modern physics cannot handle the concept of the present moment. Indeed relativity—our great theory of space and time—insisted on embedding it within a time dimension and then crossbreeding this dimension with three space dimensions to make spacetime. This was a blunder. It blocks progress. Physics […]

# 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 […]

# The speed of light is a longstanding mystery. Planck-scale physics provides an elegant solution.

By 1900 the speed of light was known to be a constant. Many experiments had measured it. In 1905 Albert Einstein took a giant leap forward. He said this cosmic speed limit—denoted by the symbol c—is not just a measured fact; it is a fundamental property of the universe. This became the basis of his […]