March 12, 1995
Religion and science are obviously not identical. But the growing prominence of cosmology, that branch of science that attempts to explain the order of the universe as a whole, has brought the two of late into a dialogue interrupted for centuries. The announcement last Tuesday that Paul Davies, an Australian mathematician and physicist, has won the annual, $1-million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, may stand as a minor milestone in that reconciliation.
May 10, 1992 |
Last year, astrophysicist George Smoot of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory got a very important message. From the beginning of time. Three weeks ago, he revealed that message, and the world, many people believe, changed forever. Smoot and his colleagues reported that they had detected microwave signals from the oldest and largest structures in the universe, faint relics of the Big Bang, the seminal explosion that created the universe and everything in it 15 billion years ago.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
October 21, 1991 |
"Many and strange are the universes that drift like bubbles in the foam upon the river of time." --Arthur C. Clarke. Our universe, physicists believe, began about 15 billion years ago in a Big Bang. This was an enormous explosion, far more violent than that of a nuclear bomb, an intense flash of energy that created the cosmos. But what existed before the Big Bang? What produced it, or caused it to occur? Today a number of investigators are giving new insights that address these questions.
October 16, 1990 |
Cosmology--the study of the universe and its origin--is perhaps science's grandest stage. But galaxies don't lend themselves to experiments as, say, atoms do. As a result, cosmology has historically occupied a place on the edge of science, say MIT physicist and essayist Alan Lightman and MIT graduate student Roberta Brawer in "Origins," a fascinating, surprisingly accessible and altogether human collection of conversations with today's leading cosmologists.
April 4, 1993 |
Some performers keep scrapbooks of their past; Abbey Lincoln keeps history books. In her uptown Manhattan apartment, the jazz singer emerges from the study bearing two thick, black ring binders that she sets down on the dining room table. The carefully preserved press clippings between their covers record a life that has shifted gears as dramatically as the society around it. At first Anna Marie Wooldridge becomes Gaby Lee, a coquettish and beautiful 1950s supper club singer.
May 25, 1997 |
Almost 20 years ago, I tagged along with the great physicist Victor Weisskopf as he talked to a Cambridge, Mass., high school class about the Big Bang, the explosive origin of the universe. One student asked him what happened before the Bang, what caused the Bang? That question, said Weisskopf, fell outside the realm of physics. It was a question for God. Not anymore. Today, some scientists, it seems, just won't take no for an answer.
April 4, 2010 |
Back in May 2001, then-NBC President Robert Wright was fuming. He fired off a bristling letter to producers and executives throughout broadcast television, complaining that HBO was changing the rules of their medium. Wright's immediate gripe was an episode of "The Sopranos" where a young stripper was beaten to death by a berserk Mafioso. But his larger claim was that broadcast television was having a hard time competing with the cable network because it had the license of unexpurgated language, nudity and bloody violence that were proscribed to NBC. If only his network had the freedom of HBO, well . . . Wright might have honestly believed that the difference between NBC and HBO was a matter of cussing and graphic violence, but he could not have been more wrong, then or now. The real difference between broadcast television and cable is not that the Federal Communications Commission restricts one from doing what the other can. It's a matter of cosmology -- the way they perceive the universe.
November 12, 1995 |
The story goes like this: During dinner at an opulent wedding reception, the groom rises from the head table and shushes the crowd. Everyone naturally assumes he is about to toast his bride and thank his guests. Instead, he solemnly announces that there has been a change of plan. He and his bride will be taking separate honeymoons and, when they return, the marriage will be annulled. The reason for this sudden turn of events, he says, is taped to the bottom of everyone's plate.
June 1, 2012 |
I'm not sure if it was the influence of some carne asada fries during a recent trip to San Diego or a dinner at Guelaguetza accompanied by a particularly potent dose of mezcal, but I had a dream about mole fries a few weeks ago. It was a rather vivid one, where the potatoes crackled with hot life, tangles of melted cheese stretched into infinity and whorls of ink-black sauce carried with them intimations of the yawning void. It wasn't dinner on that plate - it was a cosmology summarized as a plate of drunk food.
March 14, 2013 |
Happy Pi Day! March 14 -- a.k.a. 3.14 -- has become a day to appreciate the wonders of pi. This mathematical constant describes the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. It's also handy for calculating a circle's area, along with plenty of other uses in the fields of trigonometry, physics, statistics, cosmology and fluid dynamics, to name just a few. Humans have been contemplating pi for nearly 4,000 years. The ancient Babylonians figured out that pi's value was roughly 3 as far back as 1900 BC. The ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes figured out that pi was slightly bigger than 22/7.