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I went to that panel discussion on dark energy that I mentioned in the previous entry. It was very interesting, but I was surprised at how often while answering questions from the audience (or perhaps I should say _addressing_ questions from the audience) the four panel members basically said "We don't know, hope to find out, but right now we don't know."

Thinking about it more that makes sense, some questions may never be answered. It could take decades for us to build complex enough machines to be able to gather data that would allow us to prove theories (as one panelist repeated several times [I'm paraphrasing here] 'Proof would be great but not finding any proof doesn't mean the theory is false, just that we haven't found any proof yet.'), prove the existence of other dimensions (as many as 11 were mentioned, mostly explained by analogy rather than formulae), or see into the very early universe (another panelist explained that the very early universe is 'opaque' to instruments we have now but that a Very Large gravity telescope might be able to 'see' what happened right after the Big Bang.
It was fun to listen to the good-natured back and forth between the three theoretical cosmologists and the one practical one. (Rocky Kolb said at one point, "A practical scientist can disprove in five years a theory that it took us all afternoon to come up with.") and Ira Flatow was entertaining as well. There were quite a few questions from the audience, in fact most of the two hours was taken up answering questions from the floor. The questions ranged from "Is there a difference between dark matter and anti matter" (short answer, Yes!) to asking the panelists to apply the Mumblemumble theory (a new theory whos name I've forgotten but it starts with M) which states that it's possible to understand more about any given theory by applying to a totally unrelated area.  The panelists did a good job keeping things as simple as they could without seeming to talk down to the audience. They used analogies to explain things a lot and a couple times questions from the floor seemed to be nit picking the anaolgy and we were in danger of veering off course to talk about bugs, garden hoses, and balloons and their specific properties. One other Chicago SF group member was supposed to be there as well, he was the one that posted about it in the first place. But since he wanted to meet at quarter to and I didn't get to the main lobby until 2 minutes before seven, we never found each other.
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