Our creative universe

So I’m at a party a dozen years ago in Oakland, California—I think it’s in my own living room, though I can’t remember for sure. Downstairs the salsa music is blaring, but up here people are gathered in threes and fours chatting. I join a few friends grouped around a man I just met.

“Well, Saul,” one of them is asking, “how is your research going? Have you discovered anything exciting lately?”

Everybody grins. Put the scientist on the spot. This is what party talk sounds like when there’s a physicist in the crowd.

Kepler's Supernova, from Wikimedia

Saul’s face lights up. “As a matter of fact,” he replies, beaming, “we do have some exciting news. We all know that the universe is expanding, right? But we always thought that the speed of expansion was slowing down. Well, we’re just now finding out”—he pauses for dramatic effect, his face glowing—”that it’s not slowing down at all! In fact, it’s speeding up!”

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