Friday, 12 October 2012

A Universe From Nothing

by Sampad Sengupta

You are insignificant…
The future is miserable!”

It’s been a while but these words still echo in my ears. However bizarre and discouraging it may sound, if you were there when Professor Lawrence Krauss delivered the lecture on his latest findings and his new book, you would have had no qualms about what he said. On Thursday, 4th October, Professor Lawrence Krauss came to Portsmouth Grammar School to deliver a lecture: “A Universe From Nothing”, the title of his latest book.

(Left to right): Mr James Priory, Professor Lawrence Krauss, Mr Jeremy Thomas
The concept of the universe and its origin is a mesmerising one, often beyond the grasp of most people. However, Professor Krauss’ lecture was more than enough to shed light on the questions that may arise when you think about the universe. We all hear many theories about the creation of the universe, the beginning of time and have heard and read about the ‘Big Bang’. It has been a massive question and slowly but steadily, the mysteries of the universe are being unravelled. There have been some major advances in this field over the past century or so, inspired by the likes of Edwin Hubble in the 1920’s. In his lecture, Krauss said that Hubble, who was a lawyer at first and later pursued his childhood dream to become an astronomer, was one of his greatest inspirations.

Krauss touched upon many facets of the universe and the likely beginning and end of time. Himself being fascinated by eschatology (which is the study of the end of the world), Krauss spoke about how the world we live in and all we see around us came to be and how it all might end. He explained in brief and in more detail in his book that the universe is expanding. If we picture ourselves, our galaxy that is, to be at the centre (even though we’re not), the universe is being stretched in all directions around us. This has been proved by years of observation and research by eminent personalities like Hubble, Georges Lemaître, Vesto Slipher and many more. Now that we know that the universe is expanding, another question which has risen many times over the years is regarding the shape of the universe. Many claim the universe to be ‘open’, some claim it to be ‘closed’, or is it simply ‘flat’. The ‘flat’ universe theory is what is now being widely accepted all over and was also brilliantly demonstrated by Professor Krauss. In the simplest of words and with the help of a few pictures, he explained to us one of the most complex theories there is. He went on to speak about the mass of the universe, the energy present in outer space, what might be the source of this energy and how there are several questions which still puzzle the most brilliant minds on earth.

One of the most impressive things about the entire lecture was the ease with which Professor Krauss explained his theories and the simplicity of his illustrations. Everyone in the theatre, no matter what age, understood and accepted them. The element of subtle humour in his words was also a major part of making his work more accessible and enjoyable. One of the highlights of the evening for me was his ‘beer-bottle’ analogy, where he used something that often occurs in our lives to explain the Big Bang theory, the creation of our universe.

I was once asked in an interview, what is it that motivates me when I get up from bed every morning, what inspires me the most. I guess I finally have a good answer now. Professor Krauss’ lecture and his work in the field of physics and scientific scepticism is truly inspiring and I’m sure has fascinated everyone present there for the lecture. I walked out of the theatre thinking about one thing he said. We must never start a question asking “why”, since then we are assuming that there is definitely an answer waiting for us, but we must be inclined to ask “how”. How the universe came to be? How it all started? How is it that I’m sitting here writing this at this very moment? It is these simple questions which later open the door to new discoveries and ideas.

See also Something From Nothing by Ed Harding

Read an epic space poem by 13 Sixth Formers: 'Out of the void . . . and then?'

4 comments:

  1. I would encourage the writer to think and consider Prof. Krauss' theories before accepting them just for their amusing illustrations.

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    1. In this article I have said that Prof. Krauss presented his theories quite well and they are worth accepting...I have focused on the fact that his illustrations and the entire lecture was inspiring.
      Every theory...that is why they're called "theories"..are worth debating and looking into....!

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    2. So you do not think that everyone in the theater both "understood and accepted them"?

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    3. I do think that everyone in the theater understood and accepted them but questions are bound to arise. No theory is fool-proof and "everyone in the theater" is mature enough to understand that. They accepted whatever Prof. Krauss had to say but that does not necessarily mean that they have blindly followed his 'theories'

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