Neil DeGrasse Tyson, renowned astrophysicist and host of the popular science show Cosmos, recently admitted to MSNBC host Chris Hayes that his wish before he dies is to know the answers to these five intriguing science questions. These scientific problems remain unsolved until now, and Tyson is challenging scientists around the world to work hard for satisfying answers.
Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, discussed with Hayes some problems in science that he would love to see answered before he dies. All but one relates to cosmology and astrophysics, his fields of specialty. Neil doesn’t have many items in his science bucket list, but the questions he included are of cosmic proportions.
So, what are these five amazing problems he wants to see answered in his lifetime?
1. Why is the universe expanding faster?
After the Big Bang, the universe went from being the densest thing in existence to billions of galaxies in a millisecond. The universe expanded swiftly shortly after the Big Bang and was expected to continue expanding although at a slower rate – billions of years later – due to gravity. However, groundbreaking discoveries would reveal that the universe is expanding faster than ever, disregarding the existence of gravity which, as laws of physics would dictate, would slow things down. Dark Energy is a hypothetical energy form scientists use to explain the pressures that aid the quickening acceleration of the expansion of the universe.
2. Where does most of the universe’s gravity come from?
According to Dr. Tyson, scientists can only account for 1/6 of the total gravity in the universe, which would naturally come from black holes, planetary objects and stars. 5/6, or 85 percent of the gravity we observe in the cosmos has unknown origins. Neil DeGrasse Tyson calls these Dark Matter, which according to leading hypotheses, makes up as much as 25 percent of the universe. In comparison, ordinary matter (stars, planets, galaxies) only answer to 5 percent of the totality of the cosmos.
3. What was “before” the Big Bang.
Scientists do not know what was there before the Big Bang. Time nor space wouldn’t have existed during the moments before the Big Bang, which Neil DeGrasse Tyson describes as having a “negative time.” What scientists know is that around the “time” of the big bang, the whole universe was in a very hot and dense state, where no matter or particles would have, or could have existed.
4. How did life begin?
Although the theory of evolution succinctly explains life and our very own existence as a species, scientists still haven’t figured out how life in general really began. Neil DeGrasse Tyson wants to know how self-replicating life came about from organic molecules. Dr. Tyson is pretty optimistic to see the answer to this question since our planet has a pretty good track record of starting and flourishing life.
5. Are we alone in the universe?
With literally billions of Earth-like planets out there in the vastness of the cosmos, Neil DeGrasse Tyson wonders – are we alone in the universe? Because liquid water is a prerequisite for life, Tyson ponders if there are life forms outside Earth’s atmosphere in our very own backyard. Microbes on Mars, and more intriguingly, life forms on Jupiter’s Europa are examples Tyson provided. Although Europa is too far away from the sun to sustain life, Jupiter is “pumping energy” into its moons. This offers the possibility that a life-sustaining surface could be found on the face of Europa.
Watch Neil DeGrasse Tyson talk more science here:
[Image from Fox TV]