“What’s a Multiverse?”*…
Last fall, a hand-picked group of the world’s top theoretical physicists received an invitation to a conference about the multiverse, a subject to which many of them had devoted the majority of their careers. Invitations like these were nothing unusual in their line of work. What was unusual was this conference was not being hosted by a university or research institute, but rather by a Scottish Duke.
And its organizer was not a physicist, but a landscape architect by the name of Charles Jencks.
The physicists were surprised to learn that Jencks had spent the past three years bringing their cosmological theories to life in the form of a massive land installation carved into the hills and pastures of the Nith Valley in southwest Scotland. It was titled “Crawick Multiverse” after the village where it was built, and its features, according to the brochure accompanying the invitation, included a Supercluster of Galaxies, twin Milky Way and Andromeda spiral mounds, the Sun Amphitheater (which seats 5,000), a Comet Walk, Black Holes (“in two different phases”), an Omphalos (a boulder-limned grotto symbolizing Earth’s “mythic navel” [pictured above]) and of course, the multiverse itself…
* Penny: What’s a multiverse?
Sheldon: GET HER OUT OF HERE!
– Big Bang Theory
As we note, with Rebecca Solnit, that a path is simply a prior interpretation of the best way to traverse a landscape, we might send perpetual birthday greetings to Jean Bernard Léon Foucault; he was born on this date in 1819. A physicist who made an early measurement of the speed of light, discovered eddy currents, and is credited with naming the gyroscope (although he did not invent it), Foucault is best remembered for the (eponymously-named) Foucault’s Pendulum– a long and heavy pendulum suspended from the roof of the Panthéon in Paris– demonstrating the effects of the Earth’s rotation. In fact, essentially the same experimental approach had been used by Vincenzo Viviani as early as 1661; but it was Foucault’s work that caught the public imagination: within years of his 1851 experiment, the were “Foucault’s Pendulums” hanging– and attracting crowds–in major cities across Europe and America.