The Unknown Universe: New book available

01
Sep
2015

I am thrilled to say that my new book, The Unknown Universe: What We Don't Know About Time and Space in Ten Chapters, is out on 10th September.

From the cover:

“On 21 March 2013, the European Space Agency released a map of the afterglow of the Big Bang. Taking in 440 sextillion kilometres of space and 13.8 billion years of time, it is physically impossible to make a better map: we will never see the early Universe in more detail. On the one hand, such a view is the crowning glory of modern cosmology, on the other, it threatens to undermine almost everything we hold cosmologically sacrosanct.

The map contains anomalies that challenge our understanding of the Universe. It will force us to revisit what is known and what is unknown, to construct a new model of our Universe. This is the first book to address what will be an epoch-defining scientific paradigm shift. Stuart Clark will ask if Newton's famous laws of gravity need to be rewritten, if dark matter and dark energy are just celestial phantoms? Can we ever know what happened before the Big Bang? What's at the bottom of a black hole? Are there Universes beyond our own? Does time exist? Are the once immutable laws of physics changing?”

Order your copy now. The Kindle edition is selling for less than half price.


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BBC Radio 4: From the Enlightenment to the Entanglement

01
Sep
2015

I have a new radio programme broadcast by BBC Radio 4 today at 15:30om. From the BBC website:

 

"Astrophysicist and science writer Dr Stuart Clark asks whether our increasing reliance on computers in scientific research is becoming an obstacle to progress.

 

Are we moving from the Enlightenment - when the scientist demystified the world, to the Entanglement where the scientist ends up mystified?

At CERN, Stuart meets Physicist Paul Laycock who reveals the tsunami of data that the Large Hadron Collider produces every second. In order to stay afloat, Paul and his team apply the tried and tested scientific method, using hypotheses and theory to guide them through petabytes of raw physics data.

 

We visit a genome sequencing lab where advances in computer power and sequencing technology are making it possible to collect genomic data faster than ever. Some critics argue that we are gorging on data, collecting more information than we can hope to analyse.

Stuart peers through a mass of wires to gaze at a powerful computer, part of the Human Brain Project, which plans to create a fully working computer simulation of the human brain. Many neurologists argue that the project have a misplaced faith in the power of computers, having done away with the Enlightenment principles of the scientific method. Those involved respond by stating that theirs is a fundamentally new way of doing science.

 

Finally, Stuart hears from super computer inventor Danny Hillis who explains that we are rapidly losing the ability to understand how our computers actually work. Once programmed to act as reliable slaves, computers now exhibit unpredictable emergent behaviour. As a result, Hillis argues, the role of scientist is changing as we enter a new age of complexity - the Entanglement.

 

Producer: Max O'Brien
A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4."

 

You can listen to the programme on demand here.


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The hunt for gravitational waves could be nearing success

12
Feb
2015

I have a new article published on my Across the Universe blog at The Guardian.

 

"Physicists are growing confident of detecting ephemeral ripples in the universe, and they are gearing up to engage the public in the discovery.

 

Here’s a date for your diary: 1 January 2017. It’s the day that physicists are predicting for a great scientific breakthrough: the first direct detection of gravitational waves.

Even if you have not yet heard about gravitational waves, you are going to in the coming years. When they are detected, it will revolutionise our investigation of the universe. ..."

 

You can read the full article here.


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Why Nasa’s Europa mission has people excited

04
Feb
2015

I have a new article published on my Across the Universe blog for The Guardian:

 

"Jupiter’s icy moon Europa may harbour extraterrestrial life. Nasa has announced a mission to go, but Esa will get there first.

 

Europa is a tantalising place orbiting the giant planet of Jupiter. Extraordinary images from the twin Voyager spacecraft in 1979 showed that Europa’s surface was cracked in places, with what looked like ice floes in others.

This sparked the possibility that beneath that icy crust could be an ocean. Magnetic field data and further investigation by the Galileo spacecraft in the 1990s seemed to confirm this. And where there is water on Earth, there is life. Could the same be true at Europa? ..."

 

You can read the full story here.


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Esa favours moon not Mars for next crewed mission

20
Jan
2015

I have a new article published on my Across the Universe blog for The Guardian.

 

"A new video from the European Space Agency talks about an international effort to return humans to the moon as a stepping stone for future crewed missions.

 

The European Space Agency has outlined its vision for what lunar exploration could be in the future in a new video released onto the internet today. It comes in the wake of a decision to look into collaborating with the Russians over sending a lander to the Moon’s south pole.

The video is general and contains no reference to any specific future missions, but it is interesting because it seems to suggest that Esa would see a return to the moon’s surface as a precursor to going elsewhere. ..."

 

You can read the full article and see the video here.


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Lost Beagle 2 spacecraft found intact on surface of Mars after 11 years

16
Jan
2015

I have a new piece published by the Guardian:

 

"British Beagle 2 probe had not been seen or heard from since December 2003 and had been presumed destroyed.

 

So near and yet so far. New images show that the UK’s Beagle 2 successfully landed on the surface of Mars in 2003 but failed to fully deploy its solar panels. Without these, it could not communicate with Earth and scientists lost contact.

The discovery images come from the HiRISE camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. They show a bright shape that looks like the lander with some of its solar panels deployed. ..."

 

You can read the full story here.


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