The Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox

This is a 4 part series on BBC 4 where he uses information gained from previous series of his like The Planets, The Wonders of Life or Forces of Nature, to explore in ever increasing detail how and when our world came to be formed.

The first part Destiny talks about how entropy was discovered by accident using the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This is a given for those that like trains, maths or physics which is usually the same people but it explains how time travels in one direction only and therefore we can see the difference between the past and the future. Cause and effect means you can define your place in time by looking at the state of decay of your surroundings. The Arrow of Time indicates the passage of time which we are all subject to even the stars although their timescale is much, much greater than our own.

Part 2 is about Stardust. Here he analyses the fact that everything in the universe is made of the same 92 elements. We can discover that we are in fact the same as stars by looking at the reactions of those chemical compounds. It turns out that to create all of the elements necessary for life stars have to die. The bigger the star, the more elements are created due to the energy given off from the heat that is created from its destruction.

The 3rd part deals with gravity and is entitled Falling (No Alicia Keys here;)) Falling as it turns out is an essential way to explain how gravity works using Einstein’s theory of relativity as our guide. Newton’s laws of physics can only take us so far and in fact they are not sufficient to explain things like the odd elliptical orbit of Mercury. When talking about gravity you have to mention black holes from which nothing not even light can escape.

Part 4 is on Messengers. This is about the different forms light can take from straight forward white sunlight to a rainbow to infra red and even radio waves. Heat itself is just another form of light only on a different wavelength. Here he talks about the age of the universe and how while it was relatively easy to break the sound barrier it was much more difficult to break the speed of light. For much of history even didn’t even know that light had a speed until it was discovered that the speed of the orbit of Io one of Jupiter’s moon seemed to differ depending on what time of year it was. The orbit in fact never changed just our position in relation to it. As we got further away light took longer to reach us therefore we thought it was changing rather than ourselves. The speed of light is now what is termed a light year and this is used to measure how far away distant stellar objects are.

To compare methods I also watched a program on the Discovery Science channel done by Stephen Hawking about whether “God did create the universe or not.”

It is his belief that a divine creator could not possibly have had time to create anything because of the quantum laws of physics. This is how the universe could be created out of nothing utilising Einstein’s theory of relativity – E = MC2. As time didn’t exist before matter/energy and space was created by the Big Bang; nobody else did either.

Best wishes

Angela