Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Future of Cosmology

Nature of Science
History of Science
by Edward Hessler

Sabine Hossenfelder is a theoretical physicist who writes the blog BackReaction.  The term has a technical meaning, for me a very technical meaning. You may find it otherwise!

In addition she writes a general column on theoretical physics for Forbes and the one I link is worth reading since it is about a debate between scientists and philosophers on why trust a theory.

Professor Hossenfelder is a trusted critical book reviewer, too. In addition, she occasionally posts a song/video she has made since she likes to play with technology and ideas. Occasionally, she posts news about her children who are now seven years old—twin girls.

Everyone has heard of dark matter. The evidence for it is that large scale bunches of matter in the cosmos, galaxies, for example, don't behave in the way that Einstein's theory of general relativity predicts they should.

A recent journal article she discussed prompted some comments on the future of cosmological research.  The paper relies on the power of supercomputers.

IBM Supercomputer [Wikimedia Commons]

Professor Hossenfelder notes that she is a pen-on-paper physicist so the "work has a bittersweet aftertaste. It's a remarkable achievement which wouldn't have been possible without a clever formulation of the problem. But in the end, it's progress fueled by technological power, by bigger and better computers. And maybe that's where the future of our field lies, in finding better ways to feed  problems to supercomputers."

This made me smile. There is, for me, some warmth in the idea pen/pencil and paper, chalkboards and I take some small pleasure in knowing this will continue as cosmologists find "better ways to feed problems to supercomputers." Ah, tradition strikes again!

Here is the link to Dr. Hossenfelder's column on dark matter's hideout.

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