What would you like to know about your Universe — The second poll
This poll is now closed. The most popular question was: "Are the constants of nature really constant?" We will publish the answer in an article and podcast on Plus shortly. Thank you for taking part!
This is our second online poll in our series to celebrate the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Choose your favourite question from the list on the right, and we'll put the one that proves most popular to world-leading astronomers and cosmologists, including Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and author and cosmologist John D. Barrow. The poll will
remain open for a month and the answer will be published in a Plus article and podcast soon after. If your most burning question is not on this list, then leave a comment on this blog and we'll endeavour to include it in a future poll — there will be five more polls dotted throughout the year.
The most popular question in our first poll was "What happened before the Big Bang?". You can now read the mind-boggling answer here on Plus, and discuss it on our blog.
I would be interested to know about the rings of Saturn. Particular points might be:
- Why is Saturn the only planet in the solar system with rings (or is it?)?
- How dense are the rings - would it be possible for a space vehicle to go through them or would it be destroyed in the attempt?
- How quickly are the rings orbiting the planet or are they in stationary orbit?
- What are the rings comprised of - dust, larger particles?
I'd love John to explain what a "Boltzmann Brain" is - that was one of the freakiest things I heard at the very Early Universe conference in 2007 - a very odd merger of Physics, astronomy and philosophy!
Saturn is not the only planet with rings. All the gas giants have them.
- The rings are mostly dust,ice, and cosmic debris so any attempt to go through them would possibly destroy any ship that goes through it.
In the last ever paragraph of 'A brief History of Time' Stephen Hawking predicts the unified theory, which can empower scientists, philosophers and public to know the nature of God. I would like to know the efforts in this direction, how do we get there and what are the immediate obstacles before us.
Also nice would be a discussion whether free will exists and whether the universe is deterministic; and are both concepts equivalent?
On matters closer to Earth, I wonder how the LHC finds answers within the terabytes streaming from its detecctors.
We would like to apologise to everyone who, due to a technical glitch on Plus, haven't been able to register their vote on this second poll. We're very pleased to announce the problem is now resolved, and you can once again tell us what you would like to know about your Universe!
What is the universe made of... quite a broad question. I was torn between this question, and the shape of the universe question. I eventually chose shape as my curiosity. I don't think "Why are planets round" warranted the opportunity to be on such a pole... it's clearly because gravity is a central force, so stuff settles that way. To the person who is curious how gravity works, read a bit
about general relativity, Einstein answered that question with some math he borrowed from brilliant men. And Jesvin, as far as Stephen Hawking and his discussion of guts goes, there hasn't been much progress. Firstly, I hope it's understood that Hawking uses the word god as a metaphor, not unlike Einstien did. Secondly, look for a blog by Peter Woit of Columbia University called "Not Even Wrong."
We, as physicists an mathematicians, are far from a unified theory of everything. In fact, it might not even be possible to come up with one.
The Abel Prize 2009 will be announced tomorrow, March 26th, and you will be able to view the ceremony live in the Abel prize webcast. The ceremony announcing the winner of one of the most prestigious pirzes of mathematics will begin at 11am UK time (12 noon Norwegian time), and
soon after Plus will give you more details.
A date for your TV diary: next Tuesday, the 31st of March 2009, at 9pm, BBC2 will screen the Horizon programme Alan and Marcus go forth and multiply, in which actor and comedian Alan Davies explores his fear of maths with mathematician and author Marcus du Sautoy. Together they will visit the fourth dimension, cross the universe and
explore infinity, and along the way Alan does battle with some of the toughest maths questions of our age. Let's hope he's done some swotting with Plus first!
This is your final reminder of the Plus new writers award, our writing competition which gives you the chance to become a Plus author, and win an iPod and signed books by some of the best popular science writers around. The deadline is March 31, so get writing now — we're looking forward to reading your entries!
If you enjoy the Plus podcasts, then you might also like a maths podcast published by Peter Rowlett, the University Liaison Officer of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. On his travels he records short interviews with interesting mathematicians talking about their
career and work. There are also episodes on the history of mathematics and on mathematical news, and the webpage also contains a blog.