Wednesday, May 9, 2007
Presented by Science & the City
Speaker: Paul Davies, Arizona State University
People have long gazed in wonder at the universe and asked, Why are we here? Until recently, the answer has been the province of priests and philosophers, but now scientists are starting to weigh in with ideas that are both surprising and deeply controversial.
In his new book, physicist Paul Davies shows how recent scientific discoveries point to a perplexing fact: many basic features of the physical universe—from the speed of light to the most humble carbon atom—seem tailor-made to produce life. A radical new theory says it's because our universe is just one of an infinite number of universes, each one slightly different. Our universe is bio-friendly by accident; we just happened to win the cosmic jackpot. While this multiverse theory is compelling, it has bizarre implications, from infinite copies of each of us to Matrix-like simulated universes.
Davies believes there's a more satisfying solution to the question of existence: the observations we make today could help shape the nature of reality in the remote past. If this is true, then life and, ultimately, consciousness aren't just incidental byproducts of nature, but central players in the formation of the universe. Whether he's elucidating dark matter or dark energy, M-theory or the multiverse, Davies brings the leading edge of science into sharp focus, making us think about the cosmos in new and thrilling ways.