Monday, 7 October 2013

The five biggest unanswered questions

Globular Star Cluster Omega Centauri - Image courtesy: NASA

The leading scientific magazine Physics World in its 25th anniversary issue has listed the following top five unanswered questions in physics.

  • What is the nature of the dark universe?
  • What exactly is time?
  • Is life on Earth unique?
  • Can we unify quantum mechanics and gravity?
  • Can we exploit the weirdness of quantum mechanics?

Some of these eternal riddles might get resolved within the lifetime of current generation, while others may continue to haunt scientists in the centuries to come. 

The question, I would like to know the answer to in my life-time, is about the rarity of life. According to the legendary science-fiction writer Arthur C Clarke "Two possibilities exist; either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."

To me, both possibilities are equally exciting.

On facing death

"Death is nothing to us, since when we are, death has not come, and when death has come, we are not. The absence of life is not evil; death is no more alarming than the nothingness before birth." 

I was reading an article about ancient Greek philosophers a few days ago when I came across these lines by Epicurus. The ideas of this 3rd century B.C. philosopher were indeed unique. To him, the purpose of philosophy was to lead a happy and tranquil life with freedom from fear. Living such a self-sufficient life surrounded by good friends was considered the ultimate achievement by his school of thought.