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The human universe: Can we understand everything?

发布时间:2019-03-15 07:16:01来源:未知点击:

Sam Chivers By MacGregor Campbell It took 3.8 billion years, but we got there in the end. For most of the history of life on Earth, life was pretty dull. Then humans evolved, and things got interesting. One of the defining features of our species is our ability to make connections. From birth, we can’t help but recognise patterns. Arrangements of dark and light resolve into faces, sounds into voices. Some of these patterns become more abstract rules about the world – day follows night, things fall down. They allow us to draw inferences about things: a stone falls, therefore an apple will too. What goes for us individually applies to our species as well. The history of science is the history of seeing ever deeper connections between apparently unrelated phenomena. Newton recognised that the same force that causes an apple to fall also keeps the moon in orbit: gravity. Faraday and Maxwell showed that electricity and magnetism were two sides of the same coin; electromagnetism itself was later united with the weak nuclear force, responsible for things like beta decay. Each of these unifications reduces the number of separate physical theories required to understand the universe, leading many to believe that it may eventually be possible to unify all of them into a single theory – a much-vaunted theory of everything. Is that a realistic prospect? Could we, a species of ape with a brain evolved for survival on the African savannah, really figure out the whole thing? “We’ve understood an enormous amount about how the world works in an extremely short period of time, cosmically speaking,” says Sean Carroll,