In a world I want to live in

Yesterday news broke that scientists have found overwhelming evidence for gravitational waves that basically prove the theory of cosmic inflation.

In a world I want to live in, headmasters of schools around the world would interrupt classes to share the news and teachers would be discussing the significance of it with their students. A sense of excitement would be spreading across university campuses around the world. Office and factory workers alike would be abuzz with the news over their coffee breaks. Parents couldn’t wait to get home to tell their kids about how humanity has again just inched every so slightly forward in its understanding of the cosmos.

However, even in the most educated societies we are awash with the living dead. Where superstition and fairy tales can trump the magic and beauty of science. Where curiosity and the pursuit of the truth is less important than the comfort  of ignorance.

In a world I want to live in we would all be working very hard to fix this.

First glimpse of big bang ripples from universe’s birth – physics-math – 17 March 2014 – New Scientist.

Cosmic Inflation

  • Adrian Blockus (@ablockus)

    Ciarán I would join you in this world!

  • Vishal Kapadia


    I broadly agree with you; but in reality there is so much bad popular science; that it doesn’t hurt the scientific method to have some media isolation at this stage.

    It seems like the findings are still subject to peer review (although the initial reviews, from peers seem positive). I think that scientific inquiry, in general is such a gradual process; that it is important to celebrate these tipping point moments. However I think that the general public; and even the educated public struggle to filter significant discoveries from fluff.

    Even once they have made that filtered judgement; for people to take the time to process and integrate these findings into their conception of self and the natural universe is very tough in an age where media consumers are increasingly spoonfed.

    I think once the paper is published; news carriers will take the story and run with it; but there’s a compromise between reaching a mass audience, with limited time and awareness and not diluting the real significance of a discovery.

    An example was with the quest to discover evidence of existence of the Higgs Boson at CERN. Radio 4 for example, in UK picked it up really well and ran many segments covering the build up; and the discovery of the highly significant particle.

    Just one caveat to your prose; a common misunderstanding in the application of the scientific method is that a theory can be ‘proved’. In fact the scientific method strives to disprove the negative hypotheses against a theory; such that the theory can be supported. In this case; the theory of cosmic inflation in general; and some simple models of inflation seem to be strongly supported by the evidence. But even the existence of the waves themselves cannot be said to be ‘proved’ yet; only that there is very strong evidence to support their existence; which will now undergo peer review.

    The exciting thing about this discovery, to my mind, is that cosmic inflation of some sort seems likely and that physicists can start to formalise more advanced theory and implications on the basis it may exist in some form. The implications to my layperson-mind are unclear; but I’m sure that this is where the real excitement will be generated, in time.

    How that will effect the political, sociological and economic environments that most people concern themselves with (from headmasters to office professionals) is a much more fuzzy question, which ultimately decides how the information is processed around the water cooler or in classrooms.

    Saying that, I would love to hear of a story of a headmaster; or indeed a physics teacher, dedicating a whole lesson to this scientific discovery… Indeed I think there may be more out there than you think. I still remember my physics teacher at secondary school, speaking with wonder about the particle collider at CERN and the implications of the discoveries happening there for humanity and beyond. (Here it is easy to conceive the implications that Newton’s laws of physics, which we started to take for granted academically, no longer apply at the nuclear/sub nuclear level; especially in parallel with a study of Newtonian mechanics.)

    • berlinvc

      I am totally with you on the ‘abuse’ of popular science / how it can wrongly be presented in mass media. I am referring more though to the fact that we somehow seem to have lost a sense for the profound implications of these discoveries – on a wider scale.

  • Anibal Damião (@damiansen)

    You live in a world where global warming as a far threat to be relevant enough for people to care about.

    There’s quite a way to go until something that doesn’t have immediate impact matters.