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ISBN-13: 9780671447694

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This suggests that, although space and time appear continuous and smooth to us, on minuscule scales equivalent to the Planck length (around 10–33cm), space is much more lumpy and complicated, perhaps consisting of a foam-like topology of bubbles connected by tunnels called wormholes that are continually forming and closing again on a timescale corresponding to the Planck time, which is 10–43 seconds. It also seems to make sense to imagine that quantised gravitational waves, or gravitons, might play the role of the gauge bosons in other fundamental interactions, as do the photons in the theory of quantum electrodynamics.

Only one of the 130 respondents put Stephen Hawking anywhere on his list. Yet, with the exception of Einstein, Newton and Galileo, none of those rated above Hawking is a household name. Of course, there is an obvious additional factor in the case of Hawking. Nobody with a spark of humanity could fail to respond to his appearance without sympathy and admiration for his courage and resilience. When he was diagnosed with his illness in 1962, doctors gave him two years to live. Now, in 1999, he is 57 years old and still an active and productive research scientist.

We are also happy to say that what we do now causes things to happen in the future, but we don’t consider two different places at the same time as causing each other. Space and time really are quite different. On a cosmological level, the Big Bang certainly appears to have a preferred direction. But the equations describing it are again time-symmetric. Our universe happens to be expanding rather than contracting, but it could have been collapsing and be described by the same laws. Or could it be that the directionality of time that we observe is somehow singled out by the large-scale expansion of the universe?

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Betrayers of the Truth : Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science by NICHOLAS WADE WILLIAM BROAD

by Charles

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