Big Picture Science – Radical Cosmology

by Gary Niederhoff on February 18, 2019

Big Picture Science – Radical Cosmology

400 years ago, some ideas about the cosmos were too scandalous to mention. When the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno suggested that planets existed outside our Solar System, the Catholic Inquisition had him arrested, jailed, and burned at the stake for heresy.

Today, we have evidence of thousands of planets orbiting other stars. Our discovery of extrasolar planets has dramatically changed ideas about the possibility for life elsewhere in the universe.

Modern theories about the existence of the ghostly particles called neutrinos or of collapsed stars with unfathomable gravity (black holes), while similarly incendiary, didn’t prompt arrest, of course. Neutrinos and black holes were arresting ideas because they came decades before we had the means to prove their existence.

Hear about scientific ideas that came before their time and why extrasolar planets, neutrinos, and black holes are now found on the frontiers of astronomical research.

Listen to individual segments here:
Part 1: Alberto Martinez / Heretical Exoplanets
Part 2: Anne Schukraft / Detecting Neutrinos
Part 3: Ephraim Fischbach / New Neutrino Detector
Part 4: Chris Impey / Predicting Black Holes

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

avatar Richard July 21, 2019 at 2:16 pm

‘Einstein came up with an idea about a space where the gravitational pull was so strong that even a beam of light couldn’t escape it”

Einstein came up with no such idea. Though, as usual, when other people worked that out using his General Theory of Relativity, such as Schwarzschild, he wouldn’t believe it. Einstein had no compunction of adding his name to discoveries of other people which he had no part in discovering, such as the Bose-Einstein condensate.

Einstein’s most famous equation E=mc^2 was not part of his original paper on Special Relativity but was added later, appropos nothing. There is some evidence that this paper was the handiwork of his then wife, who he treated most shabbily along with his daughter off her. This equation had been floating around for about century before that.

Black holes were similarly predicted by John Mitchell and Laplace in the 18th century using Newton’s equations and the concept of escape velocity.

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