The New Universe and the Human Future

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel Primack talk about modern cosmology and the origins of the universe. Their book The New Universe and the Human Future brings the new scientific picture of the universe to life. It interprets what our human place in the cosmos may mean for us and our descendants. It offers unique insights into the potential use of this newfound knowledge to find solutions to seemingly intractable global problems such as climate change and unsustainable growth.


Nancy Ellen Abrams and Joel Primack

Comments [9]

Ed from Larchmont

They don't like 'creeds', etc., but they seem to think science is going to save the day only. Creeds have to be consistent with science, but science depends on creeds - for example that the universe is understandable to begin with. God can save the day, but not if we don't cooperate with him.

Nov. 19 2011 06:30 PM
Kathleen Parker from Orlando, Florida

We must draft, nominate and elect Sarah Palin president in the most crushing tidal wave of enthusiastic good judgment ever seen in the history of this nation. With that one bold move we will accomplish the dual goals of seeing America led by the greatest natural born leader in our generation, even as we witness the final implosion and last agonized shrieks of our endlessly lying extreme left loonies. Their entire movement, from the fabricated attacks on Bush beginning with ‘Blood For Oil’ to the crammed-down-our-gullets lies of Obamacare and the Shovel Ready Stimulus, have been nothing but one vile deceit heaped upon another. Such an absolute inability to deal in the truth or to face the facts of our situation and its solutions only proves that there is simply no place at the grown-ups’ table for these diseased sputa. Good riddance to rubes and bad rubbish. Time to usher in the American Renaissance, carried in on the invigoratingly freshening breeze of President Sarah Palin.

Nov. 15 2011 02:33 PM

If I hear one more person say, "We need to elect better leaders..." I'm gonna puke. No shyte Sherlock - but one persons better candidate scares the hell out of the rest of us. (aka, Palin, Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, etc...

Nov. 14 2011 06:43 PM
Joe Mirsky

Here's my research

99% of carbon is carbon 12,1% is carbon 13, with an extra neutron. Plants preferent-ially take up carbon 12. The carbon 12/13 ratio has increased .15% since the start of the industrial age, 5 times the natural variability of .03%, which is known from analyzing CO from air bubbles in ice cores and the carbon in tree rings, which can be precisely dated. (Although enriched in carbon 12, tree rings still mirror the relative changes of carbon isotopes in the atmo-sphere.)
Fossil fuels are ancient plants, so an increase in the carbon 12/13 ratio in atmospheric CO can only be explained by burning material enriched in carbon 12.
Also, radioactive carbon 14 is created by bombardment of nitrogen atoms in the atmosphere by cosmic rays. The amount is miniscule, only 1 carbon atom in a trillion, but enough so that there is some of it in every plant. This is the basis of carbon dating. The half-life of carbon 14 is about 5700 years. Coal, oil, and gas are so old, tens or hundreds of millions of years, that all the carbon 14 has long decayed away. The Carbon 14/12 ratio has been decreasing as would be expected from burning fossil fuels.
The formation of CO consumes two atoms of oxygen, which has decreased by about .095% since the pre-industrial era.
CO has a radiative forcing of 1.66 watts/m², a measure of its ability to trap heat from the sun, over half the 2.64 W/m² total for all greenhouse gases.

Nov. 14 2011 01:54 PM
Peter from Manhattan

Your guest says that one of the problems of living in the modern world is that we don't share a common notion of what the physical universe is. Then she says that she doesn't care what other people think, it only matters that she's "right." How does she reconcile these two views? Interesting that pragmatism can up in the previous segment since James wrote it doesn't matter what the truth is, only what works is of consequence, e.g., how we get along socially, in a community, working towards common beliefs.

Nov. 14 2011 01:49 PM
PL Hayes from Aberystwyth

FTL would not necessarily be “catastrophic” and make Einstein “wrong” etc. See e.g. and

Nov. 14 2011 01:47 PM
Fishmael from NYC

Can you ask your guests how they reconcile their hope for a "scientific shared cosmology" with the stubborn persistence of people's adherence to "faith-based" explanations?

Nov. 14 2011 01:47 PM
Ed from Larchmont

Still atheistic, of course, but interesting and provocative.

Nov. 14 2011 06:12 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Didn't they write the book 'The view from the center of the universe', arguing that human beings really are at the center of the universe, just in a more complex way than understood before?

Nov. 14 2011 06:10 AM

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