“It’s very clear we need extra gravity.”

…and Other Things What I Learned from Dame Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, as she gave this year’s Margaret Harris Lecture, on the theme of Hope in a Darkening Universe:

  • In terms of describing spacetime prior to the Big Bang, “[the concept of] ‘before’ does not make sense.”
  • “The Sun is a johnny-come-lately” relative to other, older stars.
  • “Chemistry is one of the durables in the universe.”
  • “The Solar System is not a nuclear-free zone” – the Sun burns (read: performs nuclear fusion upon) 600 million tons of hydrogen every second.
  • “We’re not at the centre of anything – except our own egos.”
  • “[Dark energy is] very spooky… we don’t know what it is, but we feel better if we give it a name.”
  • “[Humans are] fly-by-night organisms; here today, gone some future tomorrow.”
  • “Hope is not about happy endings. Identify things that are good, and put effort into them.”
  • “Reversal of entropy is… unlikely.”
  • “Gravity is an incredibly weak force, not that it feels that way climbing stairs.”
  • “Using God to explain things you don’t understand is intellectually dangerous and dishonest; once you do understand, the gap closes, and God’s out of a job.”

Dame Jocelyn’s lecture was part of Dundee’s Festival of the Future, taking place from 16th-20th October in and around the University of Dundee. For more information visit dundee.ac.uk/festival-future or search “Festival Future” on Facebook or Twitter.

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