18/01/11

Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does so much interesting stuff exist in the universe? Particle physicist Harry Cliff works on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, and he has some potentially bad news for people who seek answers to these questions. Despite the best efforts of scientists (and the help of the biggest machine on the planet), we may never be able to explain all the weird features of nature. Is this the end of physics? Learn more in this fascinating talk about the latest research into the secret structure of the universe.

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Glossary

  • lethal – very harmful or destructive
  • fundamental – forming a necessary base or core; of central importance
  • brake – a device for slowing or stopping a moving vehicle, typically by applying pressure to the wheels
  • fine-tune – make small adjustments to (something) in order to achieve the best or a desired performance
  • multiverse – a hypothetical space or realm consisting of a number of universes, of which our own universe is only one
  • subsequent – coming after something in time; following

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Think about it

Answer the questions below. Pause at times indicated in brackets.

  • What happened in 1915? (1:02)
  • What might the next few years tell us? (1:43)
  • What is the LHC and what does it do? (3:12)
  • What did scientists discover in 1998? (6:21)
  • What is problematic about the string theory? (9:30)
  • What are the scientists hoping for now that the LHC has begun its second phase of operation? (11:54)

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Practice makes perfect

Fill in the blank spaces with the missing words. Use ONE word per blank space.

________ the last century, these two ideas ________ utterly transformed our understanding of the universe. It’s thanks to relativity and quantum mechanics that we’ve learned what the universe is made ________ , how it began and how it continues to evolve. A hundred years on, we now find ourselves ________ another turning point in physics, but what’s ________ stake now is rather different. The next few years may tell us whether we’ll be able to continue to increase our understanding of nature, or whether maybe ________ the first time in the history of science, we could be facing questions that we cannot answer, ________ because we don’t have the brains or technology, but because the laws of physics themselves forbid it.

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Explore it more

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