The topic was supposed to be on evolution, but for whatever reason, Stephen Hawking was lecturing about things like multiple universes. And as he was the last speaker, I really ought to take a step back and check out the rest of picture before going into that:
There was a fair chunk of waiting for us over by the quite loud highway overpass, but that was alright, since my shirt smelled a little mildewy and badly needed to be aired out:
After a half hour of airing, I became bored and began to use my camera's zoom function to spy on people on the other side of the overpass -- there wasn't much to see, though.
It's very fitting for a fine theatah such as this:
And yes, I was one of the white audience members who was shouting, "I'm a African!" This is not to deny people of more recent African origins a more unique right to their heritage, because that is from a different chapter of history, after the concept of countries was invented -- but yeah, I'm a African. So are you.
Similarly, although different populations of people have unique genetic markers, these are just a few genes, and the rest of human genetic variations are very common. There are more genetic differences among individual human beings in a group as opposed to differences between groups -- therefore the idea of there being separate 'races' is not really accurate.
` This is also not to undermine the differences and cultures of various groups of humans around the world, but it is a useful thing to keep in mind when you have brightly-colored animations with the lyrics flashing by on a giant screen. Or something.
He went into how evolution works a little, using various examples of proof -- as I recall he used the word 'proof' instead of 'evidence' just because it is so certain. For example, bizarre monstrosities known as 'dogs' came from wolves.
The small theropod ancestors of birds had characteristics which are still genetically expressed in birds today, such as three-fingered hands and sharp, pointy teeth. Although humans are sometimes born with fully-fledged tails, I don't recall him mentioning any birds that had been, but that would also be interesting!
` The idea, of course, is to purposely activate those genes in birds -- chickens would be the easiest to work with -- and see how ancestor-like they can get!
After that, the announcer guy of the evening, Jack Faris, introduced this Spectrum dance troupe thingy, which I thought was both hard to look at, yet hard to look away from.
I should have gone out to the snack bar, where the vendors were making grilled cheese sandwiches, but I didn't bother until the intermission, and so wound up standing in line until it was time to go back into the theatah.
` I did get a shot of the interior of the very front of the building as I waited, so it wasn't a complete waste. At least, that's what I tell myself. I was soooo hungry, despite eating just beforehand -- although at least my shirt wasn't smelling so mildewy at this point.
There are many diseases that have a number of subtypes because they have different causes -- why not be able to treat the thing that's specifically causing your type, rather than an umbrella treatment?
` Because of the predictive and preventative powers of this approach, it will be far cheaper and more effective than doing medicine the way it has been done. Sure, I can buy that!
` His assistant, whose hair I wanted to put my hands into so badly, had to be called out for some kind of technical thing, and finally, we heard Steve's synth voice ask, "Can you hear me?"
This blur is the assistant walking away:
Although he had little to say on evolution, I recall that Hawking was going on about other dimensions and possibly multiple bubble universes and such.
` Despite my brain not having had enough cheese for the day, I managed to remember various things, such as the fact that the word 'brane' was coined by Stephen's colleague, Paul Townsend.
` And what is a brane?
` It's something like a "membrane" made of spacetime. It's kind of like in the book Flatland, where everything is two-dimensional, except one day, the protagonist A. Square encounters a three-dimensional being, which he can see only one slice of at a time as it passes through his two-dimensional world!
` Since the three-dimensional being is a sphere, it starts out looking like a small circle, then grows into a larger circle, and then back into a small circle before disappearing, and thus bewildering poor A. Square. Although everyone in Flatland is confined to a 2-D slice, so to speak, there is more beyond that, which its inhabitants have trouble imagining just as we have trouble imagining more than three dimensions.
Take this picture of what appears to be Seattle on drugs:
` He describes a bubble universe arising from the quantum fluctuations as being a bit like the way the random motion of boiling water molecules creates bubbles. Most of the bubbles are very small and are filled back in, but some of them reach a critical size past which they will continue to expand.
Our universe and its electromagneticnuclearwhatever forces may exist in only one brane, on the surface of one bubble universe, but gravity might span the gap between our brane and whatever else is out there. In other words, it's possible to detect gravity from beyond our brane.
For example, what we think of as dark matter -- which we know exists only because of its gravity, and which keeps the galaxies from flying apart -- may actually be matter from outside our brane.
` Another piece of evidence would be a low-mass black hole -- a black hole which appears to be weaker than it actually is because its gravity waves travel off our brane. If one were discovered, Hawking would win a Nobel Prize for predicting such a thing.
However, there's still much we have to learn before this can be sorted out...
` He likened this idea to a hologram, which is an image of a 3-D object that is projected from a 2-D surface -- our four-dimensional spacetime may be a hologram of what goes on in the five-dimensional interior of the bubble.
` Holograms, of course, are something Stephen knows about very intimately, having been one on Star Trek TNG! -- does anyone remember that scene?
If anything, the brane-world models of the universe would explain why gravity seems to be so weak. Don't you think it's odd that a tiny refrigerator magnet can easily resist the pull of gravity by sticking to the side of your fridge?
` And, while a child may find it easy to jump or pick up objects from the ground, it's quite another thing to pull apart an atom!
If gravity is stronger in other dimensions, it would be easier for high-energy particle collisions to create microscopic black holes, which would quickly evaporate in Hawking radiation... and he would get this shiny Nobel doohickey for predicting this discovery!
Maybe they didn't want to see Baba again, rapping about our ancestors and whatnot.
As his show went on, even more people got up -- which I got this really cool long-exposure of. Oh well, their loss!
What was his final rap about? It was a simple formula -- performance, feedback, revision! The idea is, he improves his raps each time by making up new stuff and discarding what doesn't get much reaction, which he likened to the refinement process of natural selection.
Then, he went into freestyle, which included commenting on how the interpreter was having to work really hard to keep up, since she didn't even have lyrics to work with beforehand! Ha!
As I have a camping trip to prepare for [Edit: or not, since it's next weekend!], I'd best wrap it up pretty soon -- yes, because judgments on the amount of time one has to devote on something is the best way to determine when you're finished with it.
If you'd like to learn more about what the hell Stephen Hawking was going on about, I found an earlier 2003 version of the same lecture in this video.
Also, here, to close out my blog post, here's Baba Brinkman, so you can see him for yourself! This of course has nothing to do with what Stephen Hawking was talking about, but it's a useful rhyme to get caught in your head next time you're frustrated with the way things are going...