03 April, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Cosmology

Timeline of the universe. Public domain image. SOURCE.
Cosmology is the study of the nature of the universe.

As with astrophysics (covered on Sunday), it is a branch of astronomy. Cosmology as we think of it now began to take off in the early 1900s, when Edwin Hubble (the Hubble Telescope was named after him) made the discovery that so-called "spiral nebulae" were actually galaxies whose light was shifted toward the red end of the spectrum, a phenomenon called "red-shift"; this results when an object is in motion. He proposed that galaxies are red-shifted because they are moving away from our own, the Milky Way, which in turn led to the idea that at one point, the universe exploded from an extremely dense point in what's known as the Big Bang.

Another scientist who made major contributions to cosmology was Albert Einstein with his Theory of General Relativity (which will be explored in greater detail on Saturday), a theory that brought together space and time, formerly considered separate, into a single entity called spacetime. Einstein also came up with the idea that spacetime is curved, thanks to gravity.

Spacetime curvature by Johnstone, CC-BY-SA-3.0. SOURCE.

The theories that the universe might have been in one location all at one time and that spacetime is unified doesn't mean the field is over and closed, however; rather, it's very far from it. Some current questions in cosmology are whether or not the universe is really infinite, whether it will stop expanding at some point and come together in a Big Crunch (indicating that the universe might expand and contract cyclically) or everything will continue to accelerate away from each other, why there is more matter than antimatter, the role of dark matter and dark energy, and (if the Big Bang theory is true) what occurred just after the beginning of the universe (since all laws break down at that point).

Public domain image. SOURCE.
Notable Cosmologist:

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking is probably one of science's--and cosmology's--most famous figures. He became a Research Fellow and then a Professorial Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, and took the position of Lucasian Professor of Mathematics from 1979-2009, a title formerly held by Isaac Newton; he is currently the Director of Research at the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge University.

He and Roger Penrose showed that the General Theory of Relativity indicated there must be unification between quantum theory and general relativity; he also came up with the theories that black holes are not black--instead, they emit radiation--and that the universe has no edge. He has published a series of scientific papers, in addition to A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, The Universe in a Nutshell, A Briefer History of Time, On the Shoulders of Giants, the Middle Grade Fiction George's Secret Key to the Universe (and the subsequent novels in the trilogy), and his most recent The Grand Design.

At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease or motor neuron disease) and told he had one to two years left to live. But, rather remarkably, he lived far beyond that and is currently 70 years old.

Stephen Hawking received the CBE (Order of the British Empire) in 1982 and became a Companion of Honour in 1989.

A video about the universe with Stephen Hawking:


A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking


What do you think? Will the universe expand forever, or will it stop and begin contracting into the Big Crunch? Do you think humanity will ever figure out how the universe began and how it will end, definitively?

-----The Golden Eagle


Paul Tobin said...

Very concise and informative. I like the idea of a big bang, the term was coined by Fred Hoyle in the late 50's, he supported the idea that the universe was fixed state I think(?), this means that star systems form and decay without all the matter being flung out from a starting point. Phew! I think that's right. I am enjoying the series.

Rusty Webb said...

I'm loving these posts. Not many modern cosmologists that I'm aware of think the big crunch is going to happen anymore. At least not like they used to. Lots and lots of data started rolling in in the 90's indicating that a crunch was unlikely - to bad for Tipler's Physics of Immortality is that's so.

Old Kitty said...

I remember watching a BBC dramatization of how Einstein discovered how spacetime was curved - according to this drama - he was walking along a rain puddled cobblestone street and notice the moon's reflection curved in one of the puddles and he had a lightbulb moment!! Yay! Take care

Kimberlee Turley said...

Way fascinating and basic enough that nothing went over my head.

When I read stuff like this, I end up wishing I could go back to school and do a science major. Then I remember I don't have a four year commitment like that and I've forgotten way too much stuff from high school.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

I kind of doubt that humanity will figure it out definitively. Stephen H. is really amazing. What a mind and what a spirit.

Rob-bear said...

These are excellent posts. Bear, not being a scientific creature, has a bit of trouble coming to a complete understanding of all the details. But this stretches my brain. I think.

farawayeyes said...

More interesting information.

Shelly said...

Cosmology is sooo interesting. I'd like to visit black and worm holes. Possible time travel but one wouldn't be able to come back.

Simon Kewin said...

Wow - nothing like tackling those big subjects! Loved this post and your theme.

Humpty Dumpty said...

Again, another fascinating post. I had a rudimentary understanding of the topic, but you still managed to teach me a thing or two! The video of Stephen Hawking certainly goes to prove that people with apparent 'disabilities' or challenges can still do amazing things!

S. L. Hennessy said...

It's cool checking your blog every day - it's like going to science class. Though about THIS topic I already knew at least a little. It's certainly one of the most interesting! I really love this challenge theme!

Susan Roebuck said...

The idea that the universe isn't infinite is hard to imagine - I mean I can't imagine what the end would possibly look like. That means there won't be a Big Crunch, thank God (it wouldn't happen in our time, anyway, probably in a billion billion years. Oh my word, it just goes on forever.

Pat Hatt said...

I don't think anything goes on forever there is an end to everything in one form or another.

Leon Kennedy said...

hadn't heard of the big crunch before. I love reading about astrophysics though

MOV said...


What a great post! I feel smarter after reading it. I will definitely be back to see what you dream up for the other letters, and to read more of your writing.

I am also participating in the A to Z Challenge. Take a peek at my blog too if you get a chance! I write humor. Or try to anyway.


Grammy said...

Hi, I think about all this sometimes, but then, knowing that God is control of the whole universe, I don't worry about it. Very informative data. Thanks for the interesting post.

Claire Hennessy said...

Omg all this stuff is so interesting - will check out A & B. I love it. I read George's Secret Key to the Universe to my son when he was younger and it was wonderful. What an amazing man-genius.

Joshua said...

I really feel like a slacker with my shirts and here you are talking about the nature of the universe.

Donna K. Weaver said...

My hubby's fascinated with all of this is loves Hawking's stuff. Great choice for C.

Josh Hoyt said...

Wow this is very informative I love your posts!

Beth said...

This is an interesting theme, eagle. But you are making me feel dumb. LOL

Christine Rains said...

I'm loving your Challenge posts. I don't think the Big Crunch will happen, but who knows if the theories are even correct to begin with.

Rachel Morgan said...

A Brief History of Time is sitting on my bookshelf but I still have to read it!
(I'm terrible, I know, buying more books when I still have ones that I haven't read yet...)

Liz said...

I kind of think that humanity will figure it all out, but not any time soon.

Cherie Reich said...

Well, if the Big Crunch happened, it might be easier to visit our alien neighbors. ;)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Don't believe it will ever crunch. And I don't know how it ends, but I know how it began. (As well as my human brain can comprehend that is.)

Marta Szemik said...

And, the first of the first: Nicolaus Copernicus. Great post. Truly enjoyed it. I'm always fascinated by cosmology.

Clarissa Draper said...

Wow, tough questions. I hope we find the answer to those questions. You're posts are extremely complex.

Gail said...

A wonderful informative well-written post. Although I have to admit, my brain was not engaged when I read the title...I thought hair stylist, then I looked again. Your post became a delightful surprise to me.

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Nice overview. I can buy the big bang, but the big crunch makes no sense to me. I'm trying to visit all the blogs in the A-Z Challenge.

Jen Chandler said...

So interesting. Thanks so much for taking the time to educate us in these matters. Dark matters...hehe...

I've always admired Hawking. His theories are amazing and his story is very inspiring!


DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

Got to say Golden, your images sing. How clear and fantastic on the black background. Also a wonder that Stephen Hawking is still alive. I remember when I bought his In Time, it was suggested he didn't have long to live, and that was soooo long ago now.


Deniz Bevan said...

Loving your A-Z. I keep sharing your links with family and so on...

Editor and Publisher Shelly Burke said...

I am always amazed at the things I don't know about...and the number of things I don't even KNOW that I don't know about. Very interesting blog! Visiting from the A to Z Challenge.

anthony stemke said...

I have trouble fully understanding all of this, I don't know what God's plan is either.
Your post was very interesting though. Thanks.

Shannon Cyr said...

I love your theme for the A to Z challenge. I have enough about cosmology to be dangerous. Like firefly dangerous. :)

Hawking is one of my heroes.

Christina Farley said...

I love the concept of time and the universe. It's all amazing and it makes me realize how small I am admist it all.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I read Hawking's Grand Design and it is an excellent book. By any chance, have you seen the series "How the Universe Works"? It is excellent and I highly recommend it.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I don't think we're going to figure it out. I think the more we know the more difficult questions we'll come up with.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Interesting. The universe is an amazing place!

junebug said...

I don't know the answer to any of the questions. I might have missed the episode of Star Trek which addressed them. Star Trek being the source where I go for all my space education.

Ciara said...

Wow, now that's a thought provoking post.

Jaime said...

Great post. Your research is thorough. This is very interesting & I'm looking forward to reading more.

Journaling Woman said...

Very interesting and fascinating.

Nice to meet you.


Jamie Gibbs said...

Completely beyond me, but still fascinating. I tried to read Hawking's A Brief History of Time, but it went over my head and I opted instead for a history book, hehe.

Jamie Gibbs
Fellow A-Z Buddy
Mithril Wisdom

Belle said...

Very interesting!

Damyanti said...

I fell in love with Stephen Hawking when I read the Brief History of Time-- he has such a way of making the complicated simple enough for folks like me.

Look forward to your challenge run…

--Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2012

Twitter: @AprilA2Z

Ellen Brickley said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. Cosmology is one of the topics I have always wanted to learn more about, but never got around to. Thanks for giving me a bit of an insight!

Medeia Sharif said...

I love cosmology. I used to read books about it, but haven't really read non-fiction in the past few years. I find it all fascinating.

mooderino said...

Very interesting post, I just wish I had some answers for you. In fact I just wish anyone did.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

The Golden Eagle said...

Paul: Thanks!

I didn't know that; I've never heard of Hoyle before. Interesting fact!

Glad you're enjoying it.

Rusty: Thank you!

I remember reading a book on cosmology/astrophysics that explained the cosmological constant; apparently it's too far away from the value that would indicate the Big Crunch could occur.

Old Kitty: That must have been an awesome documentary!

Kimberlee: That's my goal in writing these posts--making it as basic as possible!

Jaye: Definitely!

Rob-bear: Thank you so much.

Glad to hear it's stretching your brain; just be careful not to overstretch!

Farawayeyes: That's why I love science. Research is so fascinating.

Shelly: Really? I thought one could travel through wormholes and return . . .

Simon: Thank you! :)

Humpty Dumpty: Thanks. And I'm glad I could teach you something!

Yes, they can.

S. L.: I agree. I had a lot of fun writing this post on Cosmology and researching it. :)

Thank you.

Susan: Yeah, people probably wouldn't exist at that point.

Pat: Interesting idea. I suppose the universe wouldn't be exempt from it!

Leon: Me, too. I also like writing about it, hence my A-Z posts. :)

MOV: Thank you! I hope you enjoy future posts. :)

I love humor--will definitely be over for a visit.

Grammy: You're very welcome!

Claire: Hope you liked my previous Challenge posts. :)

Those were fun books!

Joshua: And I feel totally uncool when I think about the fact I'm not nearly as nerdy as you are.

Donna: Thanks! :)

Josh: I'm so glad you're enjoying my Challenge posts!

Beth: You're not dumb. A lot of the things I learned while writing this post were new to me!

Christine: True. There's some evidence, but even that could be turned on its head.

Rachel: It's a great book. :) I hope you get the chance to read it soon!

LOL. I do the same thing with library books.

Liz: I wonder what society would look like if we did . . .

Cherie: True! :)

Alex: The beginning of the universe is certainly complicated!

Marta: Indeed! He was so influential.

Thank you so much!

Clarissa: Me, too.

I hope they're not too complex. I don't want to push readers away by doing that. :P

Gail: Thank you!

Well, at least it was the good kind of surprise, right? :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Sharkbytes (TM): Thanks!

Good luck visiting all those blogs! That's a huge . . . well, Challenge. :)

Jen: You're very welcome!


It is!

Denise: I'm glad you like the images. :) Many thanks to Wikimedia Commons for being such a great resource . . .

Deniz: Thank you so much for sharing my posts!

Shelly: Me, too. The A-Z Challenge is definitely eye-opening in that regard.


Anthony: You're welcome. :)

Shannon: LOL. You're a Cosmology ninja now. ;)

He's a really interesting person.

Christina: Same here. Earth seems so big, but when you think about its size compared to the universe . . . wow.

Michael: I haven't read that book yet. I do plan to read more of his non-fiction, though.

Nope! I'll have to check it out.

Susan: That's always an intriguing possibility.

Tyrean: Definitely. :)

Junebug: LOL. I'm in the midst of watching TOS for the first time, and it does have a lot to say about the universe.

Ciara: Thank you! :)

Jaime: Thanks. I hope you like my future A-Z science posts!

Teresa: Nice to meet you, too. :) Welcome to The Eagle's Aerial Perspective!


Jamie: History's a great subject, too, of course!

Belle: Glad you think so.

Damyanti: He speaks very clearly about things, which is excellent, particularly because cosmology gets complicated.

Ellen: So glad you enjoyed it! :)

You're welcome.

Medeia: Me, too.

Mooderino: Hopefully in the future someone(s) will come up with the answers . . .

Sarah Pearson said...

I struggled a bit with this one today. Might have to come back to it.

ben268 said...

From what I've read, I would think the universe is going to expand indefinitely.

The Golden Eagle said...

Sarah: It will be here, of course. :)

Ben268: There has been evidence pointing in that direction. It's too bad it's unlikely people will never know--though I'm not sure I'd want to experience a homogeneous universe!