Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Universe is Expanding

The Nobel Prize for Physics this year has been awarded to three researchers who showed that the universe is expanding at an increasing pace. Physicists don't yet know how this could be happening; they've had to dream up a massive amount of hypothetical invisible matter to get their equations right.
As a boy, I was pretty interested in astronomy. I remember reading about quasars that were 10 billion light years away and thinking, "Well, why should quasars only be found at the fringes of the universe? What's so special about the edge, except that the light reaching us from there is coming from the farthest back in time? If a chap stood on one of those quasars and looked toward us right this second, maybe he'd see a quasar too. Maybe, the universe was full of quasars ten billion years ago."
Well, apparently it was, more or less.
Before I got to the quasars bit, I learned the universe was expanding. I wasn't a morose type as a kid. The knowledge that the universe was expanding, and the stars and planets would probably keep drifting farther apart and grow ever colder till all communication and all life ceased, was about the only thing that depressed me around the age of ten. When I saw Annie Hall years later, I realised Alvy Singer had felt the same way back during World War II.

Unlike Alvy, though, I stopped doing homework a while before I read about the Big Bang theory.


Truth fairy said...

Did you ever want to become an astronaut? I did. (Then I discovered I had no head for physics). And about everyone I know wanted to become an astronaut at some point or the other.

Do kids still feel like that or was it something special to the 60s, 70s and 80s. (Like the film Goodbye Lenin! ?)

Girish Shahane said...

No, never an astronaut; I was sure I wanted to be a scientist of some kind, though.
But problems with Physics needn't have hindered your astronaut ambitions, at least if The Right Stuff is anything to go by. Haven't seen that film in ages, maybe it's worth a relook; or maybe I should read the Tom Wolfe book on which it is based...

Girish Shahane said...

Oh, and I have no idea what kids today feel about these things. Those I have contact with show little interest in intellectual pursuit of any sort, but it's a pretty restricted sample.

adrian mckinty said...


Classic Woody.

Have you seen Midnight In Paris?

According to the Guardian, its his best film in twenty years.

Girish Shahane said...

Adrian, I liked Midnight in Paris, but not as much as many critics have done. The retinue of great artists and writers in early twentieth century Paris got a bit tiresome after a while; and only Hemingway had the right mix of caricature and believability. I'd place Vicky Cristina Barcelona a bit above Midnight; and Match Point as well. None of these approach his best stuff from Annie Hall through Manhattan to Husbands and Wives, though.