How does the scientific enterprise really work to illuminate the origins of life and the universe itself?
The quest to understand our universe, how it may have originated and evolved, and especially the conditions that allow it to support the existence of life forms, has been a central theme in religion for millennia and in science for centuries. In the past half-century, in particular, enormous progress in particle and nuclear physics and cosmology has clarified the essential role of imperfections - deviations from perfect symmetry or homogeneity or predictability - in establishing conditions
that allow for structure in the universe that can support the development of life. Many of these deviations are tiny and seem mysteriously fine-tuned to allow for life.
The goal of this book is to review the recent and ongoing scientific research exploring these imperfections, in a broad-ranging, non-mathematical approach with an emphasis on the intricate tapestry of elegant experiments that bear on the conditions for habitability in our universe. This book makes clear what we know and how we know it, as distinct from what we speculate and how we might test it. At the same time, it attempts to convey a sense of wonderment at the tuning of these
imperfections and of the rapid rate at which the boundary between knowledge and speculation is currently shifting.
Steven Vigdor is a well-known experimental physicist with more than 45 years of experience in cutting-edge research in nuclear and particle physics. Currently Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics at Indiana University, he was formerly the Chair of that department and the Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear and Particle Physics at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL). In the latter role, he oversaw in 2007-2012 operations of the largest U.S. facility for nuclear physics research - the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider - as well as all of BNL's research in nuclear and high-energy physics, and most of its efforts in accelerator science research. Since returning to Indiana in 2013, he has started a small business to develop state-of-the-art instrumentation for next-generation proton radiotherapy treatments of cancer, in parallel with the writing of this book.