Learning about the universe

I’m learning about the universe via this tasty Xmas gift:


It’s really interesting stuff, but it’s also rather complicated.
Here’s a quick taster:

But the angular power spectrum also had something to say about the nature of the matter comprising our universe. Because it contains charged particles, ordinary matter will have interacted electromagnetically to some degree with the photons in the microwave background. Contrast that with dark matter, which – being dark (and so by definition not interacting electromagnetically) – can have influenced the CMB only through its gravity. These fundamental differences manifest themselves in the power spectrum, through the positions and relative heights of the observed peaks. Reverse-engineering this data showed that 95 per cent of the critical density of the universe does not interact with radiation and so must be composed of something other than ordinary atoms. Primordial nucleosynthesis confirms this too.

I’m on page 114, which coincidentally is also the number of times more powerful my brain would have to be to catch this all first time around without having to flip back a couple of pages every now and again to reinforce knowledge I only gained 60 seconds ago.

I can’t blame author Paul Parsons. He’s doing a great job of spoon-feeding me an extremely complex subject without belittling me in any way. That said, even he is clear that the next bit is going to be:

a quick ramble through the altogether baffling science of quantum mechanics…

I tried once before to understand the basics of quantum mechanics and it didn’t end well. Even seeing the title of Chapter 6 brought back memories of vodka-fuelled late nights in the lab trying to find a quark, and the months of therapy that followed my failure.

Fingers crossed that Paul can help me find my way a little better than last time.