Thinking up a single theory that explains everything within the physical world is what seems to drive several theoretical physicists. From the dynamics of the largest cosmological structures down to the twists and turns of quantum systems at the smallest of scales.
The leading position in the search for a unifying mathematical scheme is arguably occupied by string theory — an overarching theoretical framework that conjectures one-dimensional vibrating strings as the most fundamental components of the Universe.
This article throws some light on another, more controversial contender, namely Garrett Lisi’s Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything.
The toughest hurdle along the…
How did it all start? How was our Universe created? What were the initial conditions? Were there any conditions at all? Is our observable Universe just one patch of many in a much larger universe beyond our reach? Is our Universe unique? Did it pop out of nowhere? Will it expand forever or come crashing down at some point? Did it bubble forth from a bustling region of minute fluctuations? Has the Universe already been around for an eternity?
Cosmologists have been pondering about such questions for decades. To shed light on their work and get a more solid grasp…
Taking a step back from our day-to-day activities can sometimes have an invigorating effect, as it allows us to pause for a moment, reflect on where we stand, and see where we want to go from there.
This article gives a literal spin to this reflective exercise: Where do we actually stand in the broader Universe? We know that our home planet is whizzing around the Sun and that our Solar System forms part of the Milky Way Galaxy. But what lies beyond that?
Let us pause for a while and have a look at what researchers have discovered so…
We are not alone. Whether such statement applies to life forms beyond the planet Earth, is an area of active scientific research, but not the topic of this article. What we can say, however, is that these four words certainly hold when redirecting our attention to our inner being.
Our physical inner being, that is. As it turns out, we are accompanied by billions or perhaps even trillions of very small organisms that live inside us, for better or for worse. And it seems that our intestines are their most popular gathering place.
Who are they? Are they unique to…
The scientific field of biochemistry — the study of chemical reactions and processes in biological organisms — backed up by physical chemistry — the application of standard physical concepts, such as motion, thermodynamics, and force, to chemical systems — is most of the time sufficient to gain a thorough understanding of the organizing mechanistic principles within living creatures.
However, some researchers think that quantum biology — the academic field where quantum physics (physics at subatomic scales) and biochemistry cross paths — might lend a hand with deepening our comprehension of the functioning of biological systems.
The system that we will…
We always appreciate it when explanations add up. There is a sort of soothing and satisfying effect that comes along and suffuses us when things make sense.
Precisely for those reasons, what has irked many theoretical physicists for already several decades is the absence of the theory of quantum gravity, which intends to put gravitational and quantum behaviour under one coherent roof regardless of the energy scale.
This article sketches a brief overview of the quantum gravity landscape and a couple of its leading candidate theories, namely M-theory, loop quantum gravity, causal dynamical triangulations, and asymptotically safe gravity.
It goes without saying that it is hard to observe something that we cannot perceive with our own eyes. Luckily, science and technology have come a long way in helping us to detect the unseeable.
Think of optical and atomic force microscopes showing how the Shewanella oneidensis bacterium extracts oxygen from toxic metals, mirrors and optical cavities that single out a rubidium atom, or spectrographs and telescopes revealing the presence of, among other chemical elements, neon in the hot gas cloud Omega Nebula, 52 million billion kilometres away from Earth.
Pricklier still is to discern something that does not send…
It sounds rather implausible that there would be a single cure to heal our natural environment, reverse the rate of extinction of animal species, improve human health, and dampen the on-going changes in our climate.
Perhaps there is one. More specifically, one that embraces a deeper acknowledgment of the relevance of life’s diversity in general. Biodiversity has become a buzzword. It refers, in broad strokes, to a wide-ranging biological variety of life. But the more intriguing question is: Why is it considered so important?
During uneasy times of a palpable changing climate and a deep-felt pandemic, it might be helpful…
Going from one point in space to another without actually traversing the distance. Does that sound mind-bendingly improbable? And stretching our mind even a bit further, the destination of that eccentric journey may well be located in a different universe altogether or lie in the past.
It is Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity that is responsible for the possibility of such thoughts.
Roughly speaking, general relativity explains how gravity is the consequence of large masses bending spacetime. So, instead of thinking that objects are attracted towards each other by the force of gravity — as per Sir Isaac Newton’s…
The motivation for this article sprouts not just from scientific curiosity, but also from a broader appreciation that we humans are more interconnected with our natural environment and our animal peers than we sometimes are aware of.
Therefore, a deeper understanding with respect to the impact SARS-CoV-2 is having on our body carries the potential to get us thinking more profoundly about those interconnections as well as galvanize us into embracing the concept of One Health.
A One Health approach basically handles health issues in a manner that is characterized by diversity: it incorporates a broad range of expertise and…