April 27, 2013
Solving The Universe
Cosmology is one of those fields of study where it seems the more we learn, the more questions we have. This may sound cliché, but the reality is that every couple of decades we stumble across discoveries that radically change our view of the Universe.
It began with Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, followed by Hubble’s discovery that the Universe extends far beyond our galaxy, and that we are caught up in its expansion. Then, of course, came the Big Bang Theory, dark matter and, most recently, dark energy.
Every one of these concepts has changed the way we understand and view the universe, and in each instance has raised questions that we are still struggling to answer. So, one begins to wonder, will we ever “solve the Universe”?
Stephen Hawking once wrote that if we ever discover the underlying laws of the universe that we would then know the mind of God. I don’t know that I necessarily agree with this, but I am taken with the sentiment; reducing the universe to a set of laws that humans could understand would allow us to peer into the very heart of creation. It would usher in a new age of enlightenment.
Moreover, should we fully grasp the knowledge of how the universe is made and how it evolves then we may, in fact, develop the ability to create our own universes, at least in theory. This would be some incredibly powerful knowledge indeed.
But what if the full laws of the Universe cannot be known? Perhaps we will never be able to answer the question of “What existed before the universe as we know it?” For that matter, is the universe truly infinite, or does something lie beyond the edge?
As scientists, we believe that the truth is out there and that it is knowable. We proceed, undaunted by the task at hand. And even though at every turn we find ourselves scratching our heads, we nonetheless press on, believing that answers will come.
Scientists now believe that they are zeroing in on the mystery of dark matter, closer than ever to identifying the form of matter that makes up the majority of our universe. And the greatest open question facing physicists, the nature of dark energy, has also seen considerably progress in just the last year.
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