Debate on nature of our Universe and science limits

otwarta debata o naturze Wszechświata i granicach nauki

Outstanding physicists from the entire world, attendees of the COSMO-15 Conference held in Warsaw, are going to participate in an open debate entitled “Is modern physics crossing the boundaries of science?” to be held on Thursday, September 10, 2015 in the Warsaw University Library Old Building (BUW). The panel discussion will be opened for the general public.

Why our Universe is so strange? Can the Big Bang itself be scientifically described? Maybe our Universe is just a fragment of some much larger multi-verse remaining outside our cognitive capacities? Finally, is the contemporary physics not exceeding science boundaries by just asking such questions? Answers to similar questions will be sought during a debate organized within the framework of the COSMO-15 Conference. The debate will commence at 7:30 pm in the Warsaw University Library Old Building (situated at 26/28 Krakowskie Przedmieście str. in Warsaw) on Thursday, September 10, 2015. The debate is opened for the general public. Outstanding physics Professors from the entire world who are going to attend include Stephen Barr (Bartol Institute, University of Delaware), Raphael Bousso (University of Berkeley), Kari Enqvist (University of Helsinki), Katherine Freese (Nordita, Sweden and University of Michigan) and Juan Maldacena (Institute for Advanced Studies, Princeton University). Professor Leszek Roszkowski from z NCBJ Theoretic Physics Division will moderate the debate.

„A seemingly obvious paradox is included just in the debate title: how physics – a science – can exceed science limits? However, it turns out that the problem by no means is trivial” – said Professor Roszkowski.

Scope of the contemporary physics extends from quantum phenomena occurring at the highest energies (micro-cosmos) to attempts to understand genesis of the Universe in its entirety (macro-cosmos). Plenty of questions arise at the point of contact between micro- and macro-cosmos. Why ordinary matter seen around by us (of which we ourselves are built) is just a tiny fraction of the entire Universe? Why the Universe is dominated by obscure dark matter and even more mysterious dark energy? Why and how antimatter disappeared soon after the Big Bang? Why temperatures of various very distant regions of the Universe are so similar even if the regions did not have ever a chance to mutually interact?

Physicists believe that such mysteries will be resolved thanks to improved understanding of quantum phenomena occurring at the highest energies in the presence of extremely strong gravitation. However, the proposed theories of quantum gravitation (such as the string theory) lead to some ideas that just revolutionize our perception of science. For example they suggest that our Universe is just a part of some much larger multiverse, which “by definition” will for ever remain outside cognitive capacities of the mankind. Fundamentally, such theories cannot be verified. Can such unverifiable theories  reliably explain why the cosmological constant is about 120 orders of magnitude smaller than the value predicted by currently accepted physical models (which is one of the largest mysteries of the physics)? Can they help to formulate any truly scientific description of the Big Bang itself?

„So far physics was mostly an empirical science, in the fullest sense of the term. However, presently observed development of quantum physics and cosmology starts to very fundamentally exceed our capacity to make observations and to experiment. This raises an extremely an important question: does something fundamentally unverifiable by any experiment still remain a science? Do such theories really help to better understand the deepest mysteries of micro- and macro-cosmos?” – asks Professor Roszkowski and invites (on behalf of the Organizers) all interested to participate in the debate.

The COSMO conference (within framework of which the debate is to be organized) has been organized since 1997. Conference participants discuss key issues of cosmology, including nature of the dark matter/dark energy, origin and evolution of large-scale cosmic structures, the earliest stages of Universe evolution just after the Big Bang. Outstanding astrophysicists, elementary particle physicists and cosmologists who attended past COSMO events include Stephen Hawking (University of Cambrigde) and Andrei Linde (Stanford University). Both these scientists are still members of the Conference Supervisory Committee.


Participants of the debate include:

Stephen M. Barr, professor of physics (theory of elementary particles), Director of Bartol Research Institute at the University of Delaware. PhD degree received from Princeton University in 1978. Member of American Physical Society since 2011. Author of numerous publications on science-religion interrelations, including “Modern Physics and Ancient Faith”, “A Student’s Guide to Natural Science”, “The Believing Scientist” (the latter is to be published next year). Member of Advisory Council of the “First Things” popular magazine published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, an interreligious, nonpartisan research and educational organization. In 2007 awarded by Pope Benedict XVI with the Benemerenti Medal. In 2010 elected as a member of Academy of Catholic Theology. With his wife Kathleen and 5 children lives in Newark, Delaware.

Raphael Bousso, professor of physics at the University of California in Berkeley. Recognizable mostly from discovery of general relation between curved geometry in time-space and its informative content (referred to as limit to covariant entropy). The relation made possible to precisely and generally formulate the holographic principle, considered as an underpinning for unification of quantum theory with Einstein relativity theory. One of discoverers of the string theory landscape, which explains very small albeit non-zero value of the cosmological constant (dark energy). His works greatly helped to accept a new belief in cosmology: multiverse of string theory.

Kari Enqvist, professor of cosmology at University in Helsinki. After receiving PhD degree from that University in 1983 took postdoc fellowships in CERN, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen. His scientific interests were initially vested in elementary particle physics (neutrinos, supersymmetry, string phenomenology), later entirely in cosmology (cosmic inflation, models of primordial perturbations). Author of 11 science popularizing books (in Finnish).

Katherine Freese, professor of physics at University of Michigan (USA), Director of Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics (Nordita) in Stockholm. Scientific interests include a broad range of topics in theoretical cosmology and particle astrophysics. She has worked on dark matter, dark energy, and description of the Universe just after the Big Bang. Author of the “The Cosmic Cocktail: Three Parts Dark Matter” book (published in June 2014 by Princeton University Press). Her works were discussed in major media, including the New York Times newspaper, and some radio and TV programmes. Stockholm University Doctor Honoris Causa since 2012. Member of American Physical Society. In 2012 received a grant in theoretical physic from Simons Foundation (USA).

Juan Maldacena. Born in 1968 in Buenos Aires, graduated in 1991 in Instituto Balseiro, PhD received from Princeton University in 1996, then professor of physics in Harvard University, professor of physics in Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton since 2001. Conducts research on quantum field theory, quantum gravitation, string theory, formerly worked on application of string theory-rooted ideas in cosmology. Recognizable mostly from the concept of duality between quantum field theory and gravitation, which binds gauge symmetries, strings and quantum gravitation.

Leszek Roszkowski, professor of physics and Head of a research team in NCBJ Świerk. PhD received from University of California in Davis in 1987. Postdoc fellow in CERN. 2003-2011 professor of physics and Head of a research team in Sheffield University (UK). In 2011 received a grant for starting a new research project from Foundation for Polish Science (within the Welcome programme framework) and returned to Poland. Scientific interests concentrated on the dark matter mystery and attempts to solve it by the “new physics” theories currently tested in LHC (CERN), as well as its potential connection with the Higgs boson. In 1997 organised the first COSMO conference, starting that way a series of annual meetings that quickly became major scientific conferences in the field.

Panel discussion on nature of our Universe and science boundaries