The answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, according to Douglas Adams’ excellent book, is 42. The reality, it turns out, is not quite so simple.
Questions about what the universe is, how it began, how it works and where it is going have exercised the minds of some of the smartest
scientists of the 20th Century and, while huge strides have been made in pinning down the science underlying the workings of the universe, some stubborn obstacles still remain. In fact, it does sometimes seem that the more we learn and the more questions we answer, the more there is to learn and the more new questions arise.
Nevertheless, this website tries to summarize some of the
main theories and topics in modern physics and astrophysics without getting into too much serious mathematics, but at the same time without dumbing it down to the point of uselessness. It attempts to tread the fine line between the two extremes: providing sufficient accurate and hard information and explanation, but without too much confusing detail.
It attempts to cover some of the fundamental topics in 20th Century physics such as the
special and general relativity, etc, as well as touching on fascinating concepts such as
dark matter and
Big Crunch, the
Big Freeze and the
curved space-time, the
wave-particle duality and some of the other bizarre consequences of quantum mechanics, in the process. There is also a section on the search for the
beginnings of life on Earth, even though this is not strictly physics. It does NOT deal in any detail with classical physics, except insofar as explanations are necessary in the development of some of the other main themes.
There are, of course, many other websites out there, both elementary and technical, and there are even more books published on the subject by a multitude of eminent scientists. I am most definitely NOT an eminent scientist. In fact, I am not a scientist at all, merely an interested layman. But I have made use of several of those admirable books, as well as additional information from any number of other freely available websites, many of which I have credited on the
Sources page. All pictures and images used are also credited and linked to source websites.
There is a section on
Important Scientists, with biographies of twenty-one of the major players in 20th Century physics, from
Hubble (oh, and did I mention
I have also tried to further put the subject in perspective by including a section on
Important Dates and Discoveries (chronological milestones in our understanding of the universe), and one on
Cosmological Theories Through History (a chronological look at some of the main theories and models which have been developed over the centuries).
Just for fun, I have also included a section on
The Universe By Numbers (a list of some important numbers used in discussions of the universe), and another on related and not-quite-so-related physics and astronomy snippets and statistics which I came across in my research, and which I have just called
A Few Random Facts.
There is also a Search box at the bottom of each page, where you can search for words (e.g. singularity, nonlocality, etc) or phrases (within quote marks e.g. "black hole", "principle of relativity", etc). If your search unexpectedly does not yield any matches, look through the Search Tips on the Search Results page for information on alternative spellings and on widening or narrowing your search.
Throughout the website, I have tried wherever possible to use plain and simple words and explanatory analogies, but a certain amount of technical terminology and jargon is unavoidable in this subject. For convenience, I have put in handy popup "sticky boxes" (green links
like this one) for quick and simple explanations of the most common technical terms and important concepts, and also a self-contained
Glossary of Terms page.