The Physics of the Universe - Difficult Topics Made Understandable


Introduction
 
Main Topics
 
Important Dates and Discoveries
 
Important Scientists
 
Cosmological Theories Through History
 
The Universe By Numbers
 
Glossary of Terms
 
A Few Random Facts
 
Sources

 
E-mail:
lukem@lukemastin.com
 
Web-site designed by:
Luke Mastin
 

Introduction

Map of the main super-clusters of galaxies in an area covering about 7% of the observable universe (our galaxy is within the Virgo supercluster) - click for larger version
(Click for a larger version)
Map of the main super-clusters of galaxies in an area covering about 7% of the observable universe (our galaxy is within the Virgo supercluster)
(Source: Daily Galaxy: http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/
2008/01/map-of-the-univ.html
)
The answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, according to Douglas Adams’ excellent book, is 42. The reality, it turns out, is not quite so simple.

Questions about what the universe is, how it began, how it works and where it is going have exercised the minds of some of the smartest scientists of the 20th Century and, while huge strides have been made in pinning down the science underlying the workings of the universe, some stubborn obstacles still remain. In fact, it does sometimes seem that the more we learn and the more questions we answer, the more there is to learn and the more new questions arise.

Nevertheless, this website tries to summarize some of the main theories and topics in modern physics and astrophysics without getting into too much serious mathematics, but at the same time without dumbing it down to the point of uselessness. It attempts to tread the fine line between the two extremes: providing sufficient accurate and hard information and explanation, but without too much confusing detail.

It attempts to cover some of the fundamental topics in 20th Century physics such as the Big Bang, black holes, quantum theory, special and general relativity, etc, as well as touching on fascinating concepts such as dark matter and dark energy, wormholes, the Big Crunch, the Big Freeze and the Big Rip, superstrings, curved space-time, the uncertainty principle, wave-particle duality and some of the other bizarre consequences of quantum mechanics, in the process. There is also a section on the search for the beginnings of life on Earth, even though this is not strictly physics. It does NOT deal in any detail with classical physics, except insofar as explanations are necessary in the development of some of the other main themes.

There are, of course, many other websites out there, both elementary and technical, and there are even more books published on the subject by a multitude of eminent scientists. I am most definitely NOT an eminent scientist. In fact, I am not a scientist at all, merely an interested layman. But I have made use of several of those admirable books, as well as additional information from any number of other freely available websites, many of which I have credited on the Sources page. All pictures and images used are also credited and linked to source websites.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Edwin Hubble
Edwin Hubble
Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking
Werner Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
A few of the major figures in the development of modern physics covered in this website

There is a section on Important Scientists, with biographies of twenty-one of the major players in 20th Century physics, from Einstein to Heisenberg to Einstein to Hubble (oh, and did I mention Einstein?).

I have also tried to further put the subject in perspective by including a section on Important Dates and Discoveries (chronological milestones in our understanding of the universe), and one on Cosmological Theories Through History (a chronological look at some of the main theories and models which have been developed over the centuries).

Just for fun, I have also included a section on The Universe By Numbers (a list of some important numbers used in discussions of the universe), and another on related and not-quite-so-related physics and astronomy snippets and statistics which I came across in my research, and which I have just called A Few Random Facts.

There is also a Search box at the top of each page, where you can search for words (e.g. singularity, nonlocality, etc) or phrases (within quote marks e.g. "black hole", "principle of relativity", etc). If your search unexpectedly does not yield any matches, look through the Search Tips on the Search Results page for information on alternative spellings and on widening or narrowing your search.

Throughout the website, I have tried wherever possible to use plain and simple words and explanatory analogies, but a certain amount of technical terminology and jargon is unavoidable in this subject. For convenience, I have put in handy popup "sticky boxes" (green links like this one) for quick and simple explanations of the most common technical terms and important concepts, and also a self-contained Glossary of Terms page.

 
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Introduction | Main Topics | Important Dates and Discoveries | Important Scientists | Cosmological Theories | The Universe By Numbers | Glossary of Terms | A Few Random Facts | Sources
 
© 2009 Luke Mastin