Friday, 15 October 2010

Knowing all the answers

On Wednesday evening I went to a lecture by the physicist Brian Foster from Oxford University. He was talking about physics in general and Einstein in particular. Einstein enjoyed playing the violin and Brian was joined by the violinist Jack Liebeck for a very entertaining evening at the end of which we had time for questions. My question was about the creation of the universe and whether physics alone could provide an explanation.

On three or four occasions Brian spoke about explanations in physics that stem from the moment just after the big bang. There is the obvious question about explanations of what was happening just before the big bang. In his detailed unfolding story of the history of physics he continually mentioned the gaps in our knowledge. The gaps in our knowledge are great and this includes information gathered from the Large Hadron Collider. On so many occasions we hear that scientific knowledge is lacking. I didn't get the quote exactly but it was something like "anyone who says they understand particle physics clearly does not". There is a huge amount of information that is gathered and the tiniest fraction of this information is of interest.

Brian's answer to me was fairly clear. Physics does not have all the answers. I think we are a long way from knowing all the questions.

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