[-empyre-] musings from the edge of scientific knowledge

Akram Khan Akram.Khan at brunel.ac.uk
Wed Oct 26 19:44:08 EST 2011

It is not with a little trepidation that I make my first posting; during the past few weeks I have found these thought-provoking discussions, at times, floating over my scientific head. 

As a particle physicist my professional career has been all about a constant iterative process of formulating fundamental questions so that they are most amenable to being solved: Of what is the universe made? How did it all begin? What’ll be its ultimate fate? 

In my opinion here are some of the most critical questions which if answered  will lead to a complete transformation of our understanding of what we are and of our place in the universe.

1) If the Universe began with the Big Bang – what happened to the antimatter that ought to have been there? .i.e. what is the matter with antimatter? Through an asymmetry in the early universe the laws of nature were biased towards matter, which is why we are here at all but why?

2) What are the ultimate constituents of matter? We start off with rainbows, molecules, atoms, electrons, neutrons and protons.  The protons and neutrons as made of “quarks”, two different types. So, the smallest experimentally observed entities of matter are:  electrons;  muons,  taus , neutrinos and the six quarks [plus their antimatter partners].  This begs the question, is there another deeper, more fundamental level of reality not yet seen? And the answer is maybe! Instead of thinking about particles being the DNA or fundamental building blocks of our universe, might these not be oscillating fundamental strings, where each harmonic of the string corresponds to a particular known particle; with each of us being a very symphony of such notes.

3) What is the nature of mass? And it is here that the hypothetical Higgs particle steps into the limelight.

4) Do we live in a multidimensional universe of which we only see the four dimensions of spacetime?

5)  Is ours but one of many worlds or ‘membranes’ floating through the ‘Bulk’?

6) What is the basic nature of time? 

There are many more questions still but I fear this contribution is in imminent danger of morphing beyond manageable bounds...and the intention was but to provoke some dialogue.  Please feel free to choose any topic that you’d like us to start exploring...... further thoughts I will post anon...

best wishes

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