A special event to mark the publication of Professor Barrow's new book, The Book of Universes.
This is a book about universes, a story that revolves around a single unusual and unappreciated fact: that Einstein's famous theory of relativity describe universes – entire universes. Not many solutions of Einstein's tantalizing universe equations have ever been found, but those that have are all very remarkable. Some of them describe universes that expand in size, while others contract; some rotate like a top and others are chaotic. Some are perfectly smooth, while others are lumpy, or shaken in different directions by tides of energy; some oscillate forever, some become lifeless and cold, while others head towards a runaway future of ever-increasing expansion. Some permit time travel into the past, and others allow infinitely many things to happen in a finite amount of time. Only a few allow life to evolve within them; the rest remain unknowable to conscious minds. Some end with a bang, some with a whimper. Some don't end at all.
Our story will encounter universes where the laws of physics can change from time to time and from one region to another, universes that have extra hidden dimensions of space and time, universes that are eternal, universes that live inside black holes, universes that end without warning, colliding universes, inflationary universes, and universes that come into being from something else – or from nothing at all. Gradually, we will find ourselves introducing the latest and the best descriptions of the Universe we see around us today, together with the concept of the "Multiverse" – the universe of all possible universes – that modern theories of physics lead us to contemplate. These are the most fantastic and far-reaching speculations in the whole of science. Other cosmology and astronomy books focus on particular topics – dark matter, dark energy, the beginning of the universe, inflation, life-supporting coincidences, or the end of the universe – but this book introduces the reader to whole universes in a coherent and unified way.
For transcript and download versions of this lecture, please visit the event's page on the Gresham College website: The Book of the Universes
John D. Barrow
John D. Barrow FRS, former Gresham Professor of Geometry, has been Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge since 1999. He is carrying out research in mathematical physics, with special interest in cosmology, gravitation, particle physics and associated applied mathematics.
Since its inception in 1999 John Barrow has been the director of the Millennium Mathematics Project which aims to improve the understanding and appreciation of mathematics and its applications amongst young people and the general public. This has born fruit with the Project's receiving the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Educational Achievement in 2005. Further to this, he has received many awards and prizes for his own research in mathematics and astronomy, including the Locker Prize for Astronomy and the 2006 Templeton Prize.
He is the author of over 420 articles and 19 books, translated in 28 languages, exploring the wider historical, philosophical and cultural ramifications of developments in mathematics, physics and astronomy. He has also delivered lectures in a perhaps unique combination of locations including 10 Downing Street, Windsor Castle, the Vatican Palace and the Venice Film festival. He is also the author of the (Italian language) Infinities, which won the Italian Premi Ubu award for the best play in Italian theatre in 2002.
The appointment of Professor Barrow to the Geometry chair at Gresham College repeats a feat only previous achieved in 1652 by the founding member of the Royal Society, Lawrence Rooke. Having been a highly popular Astronomy professor between 2003 and 2007, Professor Barrow is only the second professor in Gresham College's four-century history to have been appointed to two separate chairs.