How Did A Mistake Unlock One Of Space's Mysteries?

Part 1 of TED Radio Hour episode Peering Into Space.

More From This Episode

Physicist Brian Greene explains how the prevailing theories about the fabric of space changed dramatically in the last century — twice. The most recent shift in thinking came about from a strange mistake, and revealed hidden truths about the nature of our universe. Later in this episode, Greene talks more about why this discovery hints at the existence of other universes.

About Brian Greene

Brian Greene is perhaps the best-known proponent of superstring theory, the idea that minuscule strands of energy vibrating in a higher dimensional space-time create every particle and force in the universe. Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, has focused on unified theories for more than 25 years, and has written several best-selling and non-technical books on the subject including The Elegant Universe, a Pulitzer finalist, and The Fabric of the Cosmos—each of which has been adapted into a NOVA mini-series. His latest book, The Hidden Reality, explores the possibility that our universe is not the only universe.

Nobel Prize winner Saul Perlmutter explains part of his research in astrophysics. i i

Nobel Prize winner Saul Perlmutter explains part of his research in astrophysics. Kimberly White/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Kimberly White/Getty Images
Nobel Prize winner Saul Perlmutter explains part of his research in astrophysics.

Nobel Prize winner Saul Perlmutter explains part of his research in astrophysics.

Kimberly White/Getty Images

About Saul Perlmutter

Saul Perlmutter is a professor of astrophysics UC Berkeley Physics Department in 2004. He is also an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and leader of the international Supernova Cosmology Project, which first announced the results indicating that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. In 1996, he received the American Astronomical Society's Henri Chretien Award. Perlmutter has also written popular articles for Sky and Telescope magazine and has appeared in recent Public Broadcasting System and BBC documentaries on astronomy and cosmology. Professor Perlmutter, who led one of two teams that simultaneously discovered the accelerating expansion of the universe, was awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares with two members of the rival team.

Astronomer Adam Riess was one of the scientists to figure out the universe is expanding rapidly.

Astronomer Adam Riess was one of the scientists to figure out the universe is expanding rapidly. Gail Burton/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Gail Burton/AP

About Adam Riess

Adam Riess is a professor of astronomy and physics at the Johns Hopkins University and a Senior member of the Science Staff at the Space Telescope Science Institute, both in Baltimore, MD. His research involves measurements of the cosmological framework with supernovae and pulsating stars. In 1998, Dr. Riess led a study for the High-z Team which provided the first direct and published evidence that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating and filled with Dark Energy, a result which, together with the Supernova Cosmology Project's result, was called the Breakthrough Discovery of the Year by Science Magazine in 1998.

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