Can We See the First Stars?

8 October 2015

The tiny variations in the composition of the early universe caused by quantum fluctuations are believed to have resulted in the large-scale pattern of galaxies, galaxy clusters and voids that we see in the night sky today. A few hundreds of millions of years after the big bang, small excess concentrations of dark matter were drawn together by their gravity to form ‘halos’, which then merged. Ordinary matter – hydrogen and helium atoms – became concentrated at the centres of these halos, leading eventually to the birth of the first stars.

This is the fourth in a series of posts on the Oxford University Press TUMBLR site.


Jim Baggott Talks About Origins

25 September 2015


In this series of 6 short videos, Jim talks about aspects of the scientific story of creation, based on his new book Origins, to be published by Oxford University Press on 8 October.

From the Big Bang to Human Consciousness in 12 Episodes

The Warm, Wet Rock and the Origin of Life

The Inevitable Gaps in the Scientific Story of Creation

What Can We Know About the Dawn of Human Consciousness?

Did the Universe Inevitably Produce Human Life?

Is There Other Intelligent Life Out There?


Why Do We Think Most of the Universe is Missing?

24 September 2015

About 380,000 years after the big bang, the universe cooled enough to allow protons and electrons to combine to form neutral hydrogen atoms. This is called recombination. Photons that had previously bounced around between free protons and electrons suddenly had nowhere to go and were released, flooding the universe with cosmic background radiation.

This is the third in a series of posts on the Oxford University Press TUMBLR site.


What is Mass and Where Did It Come From?

18 September 2015

It seems so simple. Our world is made up of all kinds of stuff. We call it matter, and it possesses something we call mass. But what is mass? Dip into Isaac Newton’s Principia and you’ll soon discover that we’ve never really got to grips with it. And, of course, Albert Einstein subsequently informed us that mass is, in fact, energy: E = mc2.

This is the second in a series of posts on the Oxford University Press TUMBLR site.

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Did Cosmic Inflation Really Happen?

7 September 2015

According to the most widely accepted ‘big bang’ model for the origin of the universe, just 10-32 seconds after its birth, the universe underwent a very short but frantic period of exponential growth, called cosmic inflation.

This is the first in a series of TUMBLR posts available on the Oxford University Press website.

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Hello Reality, on Skepticality

23 July 2015

Jim Baggott talks to Derek Colanduno, host of the official radio show and podcast of Skeptic Magazine and the Skeptics Society, at TAM13 in Las Vegas. Jim’s section starts about 28 minutes into the podcast. TAM13 was the 13th AMAZING Meeting, organised by the James Randi Education Foundation. Jim was invited to give a talk on Farewell to Reality.


View on the Skepticality website

Origins in 24 Hours

26 May 2015

In the preface to Origins I’ve mapped out a ‘timeline of creation’, from the big bang to the origin of human consciousness, projected to a single day. On this reckoning, the universe ‘begins’ at midnight. Particles with mass appear the merest whisper of a fraction of a second afterwards, and the universe is bathed in light at the moment of recombination two seconds later, as primordial electrons latch themselves to primordial hydrogen and helium nuclei. Stars and galaxies first appear between 12:30 and 1:00 a.m., with complex molecules starting to make their appearance sometime between 3 a.m. and 6:30 a.m., in time for breakfast.

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Against Falsifiability

9 April 2015

Nearly two years after the publication of Farewell to Reality, the debate about ‘fairy-tale’ physics rages on. Highly speculative and arguably non-scientific papers continue to be published on aspects of superstring theory and the multiverse. Peter Woit recently drew attention on his blog to a Templeton Foundation grant of almost $900,000 to Stanford University theorists Leonard Susskind, Andre Linde and Stephen Shenker, on the subject of ‘Inflation, the Multiverse and Holography’ (see here). I think we can agree that’s a lot of money.

Now, I didn’t expect Farewell to change anything – its purpose was simply to raise awareness of some of the problems with contemporary theoretical physics and engage the debate. However, I confess to being a little disappointed to see that arguments against ‘fairy-tale’ physics still tend to be based on Austrian philosopher Karl Popper’s criterion of falsifiability, which states that a theory is not considered to be scientific unless it makes predictions that can in principle be falsified.


NHK TV Programme on Atomic Espionage

11 March 2015

Last month I was approached by Japanese television company NHK for help in developing a programme they’re planning to broadcast later this year, as part of a series of events to commemorate the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago.

I’m not familiar with all the details, but I got the sense that the programme will focus on the role of atomic spies during the war. I’ll post more details if and when I get them.

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In Thrall to Uncertainty

18 September 2014

Jim Baggott reviews The Quantum Moment: How Planck, Bohr, Einstein, and Heisenberg Taught Us to Love Uncertainty, by Robert P. Crease and Alfred Scharff Goldhaber, published in Nature 503 (2014) 308-9.

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