Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pushing the limits of our knowledge about origins

I had recently commented on an article about religious views regarding the idea of multiverse (also there was spirited discussion about first-cause here). This was very timely, as the Origins Symposium at ASU now provides an excellent opportunity to show how some of the leading researchers are tackling some of these issues. Here is the video of the first panel from the symposium: How Far Back Can we Go?. I think this was an excellent session - but you can also watch Is our universe unique and how can we find out?, and New windows on the universe: what is knowable? (tip from Open Parachute)

These are obviously questions at the frontier of our knowledge. But note that instead of relying on the crutch of "fine-tuning" or "God did it" arguments, here there is an acknowledgement of how much we don't know, along with ideas on how we can potentially find some of these answers. Obviously, these are not easy questions - otherwise they would have already been solved. At the same time, what is truly amazing is the amount of information we already know about our universe. After all, we have been grappling with (modern) cosmology for only less than a century - and already we are on relatively firm grounds about conditions a few seconds after the Big Bang!! This is an incredible achievement for tiny tiny creatures that individually live for an infinitesimally small time compared to the age of the universe (roughly 13.7 billion years). No - no...this is not an existential statement. I'm just admiring...