Multiverses; Culture-driven Evolution; Lee Smolin on Time
Laura Mersini-Houghton is appearing at this weekend's How The Light Gets In festival of philosophy and music in Hay-on-Wye.Born in Albania, she is a cosmologist at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill whose theory of the origin of the visible universe has attracted a lot of attention for its strong observational predictions.
As she and Marcus Chown explain to Quentin Cooper, the recently released data from the Planck telescope lend particular support.
Could the big blue blotch on the Cosmic Microwave Background be a kind of shadow cast just after the big bang by a neighbouring universe beyond our own?
"Are evolutionary changes in our genome a cause or a consequence of cultural innovation?"
In last week's journal Science, a piece by Simon Fisher and Matt Ridley suggested that contrary to much received wisdom, we must consider whether sometimes in the evolution of the human genome, it is cultural changes which have led to genetic ones.
According to Ridley, mistaking cause for effect is common in the science, and this realisation could have profound consequencies for our understanding of who - and why - we are.
Is time real after all?
Many physicists and thinkers over the last century or so have treated our experience of the passage of time as an illusional human adaptation, and is actually unreal.
Some powerful physics relies on time being reversible, and a lot of particle physics works equally well backwards as forwards.
But in Lee Smolin's new book, Time Reborn, he outlines his conclusions from 20 years thinking, that time is real after all.
As he explains to Quentin, more importantly for him this implies the laws of physics are not constant, but have likely changed over the course of the history of the universe.