The Harley Wood Lecture took place on the 6th of July and was delivered by Dr Luke Barnes. The Harley Wood Lecture was inaugurated in 1984 as an annual lecture in honour of the first President of the ASA. Harley Wood was Director of Sydney Observatory for over thirty years from 1943 to 1974. This year's lecture will discuss the fundamental properties of our Universe.
Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos
[The podcast is online and can be accessed via the Sydney Ideas website,
and the slides can be downloaded using the following links: Luke Barnes's talk, Mark Colyvan's response]
There is more to the Universe than its good looks. The planets, stars and galaxies that fill the night sky obey elegant mathematical patterns: the laws of nature. Why does our Universe obey these particular laws? As a clue to answering this question, scientists have asked a similar question: what if the laws were slightly different? What if it had begun with more matter, had heavier particles, or space had four dimensions?
In the last 30 years, scientists have discovered something astounding: the vast majority of these changes are disastrous. We end up with a universe containing no galaxies, no stars, no planets, no atoms, no molecules, and most importantly, no intelligent life-forms wondering what went wrong. This is called the fine-tuning of the universe for life. After explaining the science of what happens when you change the way our universe works, we will ask: what does all this mean?