Marcelo Gleiser

I often get asked what an "expanding universe" really means.

It's confusing, and for very good reasons. So, if you are perplexed by this, don't feel bad. We all are, although cosmologists — physicists that work on the properties of the universe — have figured out ways to make sense of it. In what follows, I'll try to explain how to picture this.

In the next few weeks, we will address other bizarre cosmic questions, such as the meaning of the Big Bang and the future and material composition of the universe.

When it comes to particle physics — the branch of physics that tries to find nature's fundamental building blocks of matter — it's all about energy and momentum. Moving (or kinetic) energy, to be precise.

The higher the speeds of the particles, the more violent their collisions.

Why all the violence?

Well, we are trying to "see" things that are millions of times smaller than atomic nuclei. And we can't just keep cutting matter down to find its smallest pieces.

If you are going to watch The Lost City of Z expecting some sort of Indiana Jones sequel, don't bother.

In the midst of the current debate about fabricated facts, the former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer launched a new website, USAFacts.org, where people can go to check the numbers for themselves.

The site is mainly devoted to government spending and revenue, offering a wealth of data on many fronts, including analysis on the effectiveness of different programs.

Our Choking Seas

Apr 29, 2017

I spent last week's Spring break with my family in a remote spot on the Northeastern coast of Brazil.

It's so remote, in fact, that there are no access roads to speak of: To get there, you drive about 200 miles from Fortaleza, the capital of Ceará state, and then tackle the last 25 miles or so on very rough, sand roads. Only dune buggies and very sturdy 4x4s can get there. Or the local donkeys. We chose to take the "beach road," which meant some 50-plus miles of spectacular, coast-front driving. On the way, only remote fishing villages and many river crossings.

We humans have this uncanny ability to tell time and create schemes to measure its passage.

Time is our greatest ally and our greatest enemy.

The idea that neuroscience is rediscovering the soul is, to most scientists and philosophers, nothing short of outrageous. Of course it is not.

What follows is an allegory in which blogger Marcelo Gleiser imagines a conversation between a geneticist, a Buddhist, a physicist, a psychologist, and a theologian about life and the future of humanity.

At an undisclosed location, a geneticist, a Buddhist, a physicist, a psychologist, and a theologian sat waiting for dinner. The idea was to engage in the almost lost art of conversation, where a group of people exchange opinions with an open mind, eager to put forward their views but also with the shared goal of learning from one another.

Picture this: You are in the bathroom, doing your usual thing after breakfast, when you notice blood in the water sitting in your white, porcelain toilet.

Scared, you schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist, who recommends a colonoscopy and a biopsy. It could be cancer, it could be a harmless colitis. But there you are, confronted, perhaps for the first time of your life, with your own mortality.

(Spoiler Alert: If you haven't watched the movie Logan and are planning to, you may want to read this essay only after you do.)

In generic heroic sagas, the hero leaves home to face numerous tribulations in a pilgrimage of the self.

The obstacles along the way are tests of the hero's strength, molding his/her character through pain and suffering. Glory, when achieved, is bittersweet, as it comes heavy with loss, usually of loved ones, family or companions. In tragic sagas, the hero pays with his/her life in the end so that others may be free.

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