Master of the Big and Small Universe

Listed on November 22, 2013 in Blogs!

Last Sunday we enjoyed a fantastic talk by Professor Jim Al-Khalili on Quantum Physics. He was utterly clear in his explanation even though the subject is at times occasionally opaque. The bit that got us all wondering was when matter behaves according to the rules except when we observe it then it does something else. Wow! On Monday evening, Professor Jim popped up on BBC4 for the first of a two-part series about light and its absence. As you would expect, it was all beautifully explained until he stepped inside the ruins of James’s Clerk Maxwell’s ancestral home of Glenair House, Scotland. Out of nowhere came a blackboard and Jim started scribbling algebraic (an Arabic word, by the way) equations to demonstrate that light is simply an electro-magnetic wave – which is why electricity and light travel at the same speed. At that point I suspect the whole viewing public was lost even if they admired Jim’s skill at algebra. The second part of the series entitled Light and Dark is on Monday at 9.00pm and it will deal with the dark universe. Apparently at least 90% of the universe is dark matter, material so dark that we cannot see it though we know it is there because of its gravitational effect. And we’re not just talking about black holes! ‘Why is this important?’ I hear you shout. Well, it just goes to show that we know very little and probably just enough to get by in our world. But above everything else knowledge is a fantastic thing and we need to keep on learning throughout life and affirm our presence in the world. I for one will be tuning to BBC4 on Monday evening for part-two.