Annals

Beyond the Big Bang

Edited by Edited by Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences editorial staff
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Beyond the Big Bang

Published: December 2015

Volume 1361

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This Annals volume presents transcripts of panel discussions from a timely and thought-provoking three-part series entitled “Beyond the Big Bang: Searching for Meaning in Contemporary Physics,” presented by the New York Academy of Sciences in collaboration with the Nour Foundation. These discussions, moderated by Steve Paulson of Wisconsin Public Radio's To the Best of Our Knowledge, brought together leading physicists, philosophers, historians, and writers to explore the relevance of modern-day physics to our understanding of perennial questions confronting human existence. In “The origins of the universe: why is there something rather than nothing?”, Cosmologist Neil Turok, philosopher of physics David Albert, and writer Jim Holt surveyed the prevailing theories that address the origins and existence of our universe. “The unification of physics: the quest for a theory of everything” featured physicists Marcelo Gleiser, Katherine Freese, and Max Tegmark, who were unanimous in their consensus that a “theory of everything” remains an overly ambitious, if not misguided, goal. The panel “Transcending matter: physics and ultimate meaning” brought together astrophysicists Adam Frank and Priyamvada Natarajan with physicist and historian of science David Kaiser, and philosopher of physics Tim Maudlin, to examine the recent movement to shun philosophical and metaphysical associations on the basis that the question of meaning has never been within the proper purview of science. In addition to these transcripts of panel discussions, this volume also presents three probative essays: “The one and the many: the search for unity in nature” by Marcelo Gleiser; “Uncertain for a century: quantum mechanics and the dilemma of interpretation” by Adam Frank; and “Physics, philosophy, and the nature of reality” by Tim Maudlin.