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DIY Universe

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - 08:15 PM

Starry sky Starry sky (gainesp2003/flickr)

Can you make your own universe? We usually think of the universe as 'everything that exists,' so how could you make another one?

Well, physicists have been speculating about the existence of multiple universes for some time now. And for Robert, the obvious next question was: 'Can we make one?' So he invited physicist Brian Greene to his kitchen to speculate about just that. And it turns out, it's not such a far-fetched idea. There are scientists right now trying to figure out whether it's possible and what it would take. According to Brian, it would require a tiny black hole, a dash of reverse-gravity, and a lot of luck. But the laws of physics don't rule it out.



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Comments [31]

Pablo from Brazil

This is a true eye-opener. I have taken the liberty to make a transcript of this show. Who can I send it to?

Nov. 18 2014 07:25 PM
T Mits from Florida USA

Can someone tell me how far down the turtles go?

May. 06 2014 04:30 AM

The multi universes explained in our book are universes that we wont ever be able to see as they would be farther then 13.7 billion light years away, which is how old our universe is. Basically that’s the farthest we can see, the oldest light we will ever be able to detect will be 13.7 billion years old. Farther than that might be a parallel universe, a universe identical to ours just too far away. What Brian Greene was saying in this Radio Lab is that we ourselves could create another universe. He believes that anything smashed small enough will create a black hole. He thinks or says with our current technology and our capability of smashing tiny particles into each other, that we could make a black hole. From there he says we could project and create a universe mimicking the Big Bang.

I think Brian Greene’s theory and imagination with the whole thing is pretty cool but I really don’t think it would work. I’m not one to say much when it comes to this as science seems to blow my mind more and more everyday but this seems like something way too out of our reach. His whole theory comes with using the huge particle accelerator and everything so we know those actually work, but using it to create a universe is not proven yet, so it is not science. Like chapter 1 said we are tempted to think technology is science, when really technology is a tool created by science to help us find more science.

Nov. 23 2013 01:58 AM


Is a transcript for the Colors episode available?



Sep. 09 2012 10:36 PM
Dean from Benicia CA

Very intriguing and thought provoking (sorry for the lateness of response - I'm working through the archives after discovering RadioLab). But I have an issue with the discussion of gravity and reverse gravity. I recall reading that the "force of gravity" as we all understood it in the past is an illusion. We had thought that gravity was a power, a property of mass, and the larger the mass the greater the force (power). But a new understanding is that what we observe as a gravitational force is actually the result of the mass bending space-time. The larger the mass, the greater the bend in space-time. So a massive body creates a warp in space-time (like a ball resting on an elastic sheet) and a smaller body, say a moon, orbits it not because the larger mass has a gravitational "power" but because the smaller mass is following the curvature of space-time created by the larger mass. Wouldn't this go against the theory that gravity is a force in itself and could exist as a reverse force?

Jul. 07 2011 05:50 PM
Brendan from Seattle

After having taken some quantum physics, I can say that again and again throughout history we've had big, generally accepted 'theories' that end up only being true within limited boundaries (disproven by larger, more inclusive theories/models). While there is some mathematical basis for these theories, they are just equations. Every equation we have is a generalization of something's behavior. There are virtually an endless number of new equations/relationships we've overlooked. This trigger/black hole/mini universe theory is fun to think about, but all we are doing here is playing with ideas. I'd even go so far as to say it is completely absurd to say that crossing over to another universe means not being able to come back, or that we can cross over at all, or that anything crosses over anywhere. We just don't know enough about our own universe to make conclusions about another. It's putting the cart before the horse. All this theoretical nonsense is a mental exercise and not much more.

Dec. 07 2010 05:20 AM
Jeff from Edmonton Canada

Some of the other comments have touched on this a little bit but as a Christian I find it wrong that so many Christians could deny God using scientific processes to create our universe and everything in it, but I find it just as disheartening that so many scientists think they can create a universe, but lack the ability to imagine that our universe and all in it was created by a creator.

Dec. 01 2010 05:59 PM

I listened to this tonight as I walked my dog. Absolutely intriguing! Walked the dog's legs off it was so good. I just discovered this podcast and I just can't enough. I can't wait to work my way through your archives.

Mar. 26 2010 08:57 PM

great show! But - "None of us have experienced any of those things"??? Hmmm, have you talked to any schizophrenics lately? heheh. seriously. But why are their testimonials discounted apriori? Isnt that unscientific? It is a classic example of blinkered thinking that science has encountered so many times in history. Anyway, some are more articulate about it, like the Mahayana Buddhists. If there is one thing that religion can be said to have truly discovered before science, it would seem to be the many-worlds theory. All you have to do is to stop thinking! But, 'if I am so smart, why can't I stop thinking'? heheh, like, "How can I be in two places at once, when I am really nowhere at all?"

May. 18 2009 08:32 PM

You really need to make Robert's "Can you make a universe out of a raspberry? Can you make a universe out of a blueberry?" into a ringtone, guys.

Apr. 09 2009 11:51 PM

Loved it! The physics shows are my favorite.

Apr. 09 2009 04:43 PM
John Green

Have you guys created your own universe? Brian said that you would never be able to come back once you passed through. Based upon how short the shows have become I think this is where you have been spending the majority of your time (in your kitchen sink). If there isn't another show after March 25 I will know you went through. Good luck.

Apr. 06 2009 12:02 PM

So is this how our universe got going?

Some life-form somewhere/somewhen came home tired, stewed and hungry, looked through the fridge, didn't notice the "Danger --Possible Big Hazard/Experimental Universe Starter" notice in Small Print on the White Container that looked like Chinese Take-out and -- without a clue that anything was happening -- started our universe when it placed its dinner in the mini-black hole/reverse gravity oven . . .

Who knew?

Three thumbs up !!!

Apr. 02 2009 05:08 PM
Smooth Criminal

Reminds me of the line from Jurassic Park by Jeff Goldblum's character, "God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs."

Mar. 31 2009 09:41 AM

Listen I love me some Brian Greene, but this episode was not RL's best.

It was confusing and short.

Mar. 30 2009 08:30 PM

The laws of physics in _our_ universe were defined at the big bang, right?

Is it then possible in theory to influence the laws of physics in the new universe by controlling the way it comes into being?

Hmm... wish we'd heard more about this "trigger." Wish I were an astrophysicist, too. Maybe in the next universe.

Mar. 29 2009 06:53 PM

Like several of the posts, the universe trigger is really interesting because it pushes the problem of "what got the big bang started" back another level, so we could theoretically say that "something" in another universe triggered our universe. But then we're left with another question: "what started the universe that then started OUR universe?" and so on and so on... until we get all the way back to the original parent universe. And if we had an idea of how the parent universe could be triggered on it's own... that would be cool:)

Mar. 29 2009 09:53 AM

I too would be interested to hear about the 'trigger'. I'm no physics expert, but it sounds like a magnetic monopole to me, which I though was banned by one of Maxwell equations . . .

Mar. 29 2009 12:48 AM
James C.

Ah man. I was hoping to learn how to make an apple pie from scratch.

Mar. 28 2009 07:01 PM

When is radiolab?!?! I never hear it used to be on Friday at 3...where did it go!!?

Mar. 27 2009 06:34 PM

When is radiolab?!?!

Mar. 27 2009 06:33 PM

Amir, this isn't the first Radiolab episode like this. These are my favorite, but it's always hard to choose.

I was going to ask the same question as Megg. If you created a universe and entered it, wouldn't you just asphyxiate instantly? Or be burned alive by super-hot forces or ... any combination of awful awful fates?

Mar. 27 2009 04:19 PM
Bill Siegel

Really cool stuff but I would really like to get into the sticky complicated stuff like the trigger.

Mar. 27 2009 04:03 PM

if you did manage to create a universe in your kitchen, wouldn't you have to wait something like 13 billion years before it was at the point where you could step through into without being instantly annihilated? ;p

Mar. 27 2009 01:34 PM
Amir Talai

absolutely the worst episode ever. I recommend this show to everyone, and I hope that the people who listen to me dont tune into this one as their first one. Ironic that after re-listening to the ep about the couple in chicago brought together by RL's ability to make science understandable and interesting and beautiful to the average person, I listen to this one, about something completely theoretical and pointless. Sleep. Music. Morality. Time. Fake Universes you can maybe make in your kitchen. One of these things is not like the other.
(It's the last one. The boring one.)

Mar. 27 2009 11:50 AM

I don't know if it would be ironic. If the universe has a creator, it wouldn't necessarily alter the theory of evolution (since evolution is just a minute function of the universe). If the creator is anything like us, he's probably much more worried about how those supernovi are fucking up his sink.

Mar. 27 2009 09:25 AM
alexandre van de sande

Wouldn't it be ironic if after all the trouble biologist are having to defend evolution, astronomers got to the conclusion that there WAS a creator after all. Just he didn't do it in seven days, but in half an hour in his kitchen sink.

But i don't think even prayers can escape the gravitation pull of the black hole, so he is not very much caring anyway.

Mar. 26 2009 03:47 PM

I'd really like to hear Brian Greene's discussion of the 'trigger'. Even if, at the end, I'm baffled.

Mar. 26 2009 01:12 PM

Maybe Fred-Allan Wolf & Brian Greene are on to the same thing here. If there is such a thing as 'multi-verses' what says we can't create these with our own mind- living in our own little universes? (ahem… Jad)
A controlled experiment with the LHC certainly would be more logical and straight forward, but maybe we shouldn't be separating ourselves from this phenomena.

Mar. 26 2009 12:55 PM

Anything with Brian Greene is superb!

Mar. 25 2009 11:53 AM
Connor Walsh

Terrific as ever – certainly a good way to start the working day too!

But what's a wine cup?

Mar. 25 2009 04:29 AM

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