ZINIO logo
New Scientist The Collection

New Scientist The Collection Mind-Expanding Ideas

New Scientist covers discoveries and ideas in science and technology that will change your life and the way you understand the world. New Scientist employs and commissions the best writers in their fields to provide in-depth but accessible coverage of the developments that matter. New Scientist: The Collection is a themed compilation of recent articles and special reports from our back catalogue, providing a book-length examination of some of the deepest questions known to humanity.

Read More
United Kingdom
New Scientist Ltd
Back issues only

in this issue

2 min.
deep exploration

Travel, it is said, broadens the mind. It certainly does, but not quite as much as science. To find proof of that, take a mind-expanding journey through this collection of classic articles from New Scientist, featuring some of the best science writers and thinkers discussing concepts that will make you think twice, if not thrice, and then walk away enlightened. On your travels you’ll encounter some of the world’s biggest and boldest ideas. Did life originate light years away? Could we ever change the laws of physics? Could we travel through space-time? Do the multiverse – and an infinite number of other yous – exist? Could you cheat death by freezing your head? Or would you just be happy to be able to talk to your dog? Chapter 1 is all about…

29 min.

1 HIGHER DIMENSIONS 2 SPACE-TIME 3 QUANTUM REALITY 4 COMPUTING 5 INFINITY 6 DEEP TIME 7 THE BIG BANG 8 PROBABILITY 9 MATHEMATICS 10 FIELDS 11 RELATIVITY 12 EVOLUTION 13 ALIEN CONTACT 1 HOW TO THINK ABOUT HIGHER DIMENSIONS There’s hardly a problem that physicists haven’t tried to solve by adding extra dimensions to our everyday three of space and one of time: whether with scrunched up dimensions too small to see, or the idea that our 4D world exists on a “brane” floating in an inaccessible higher-dimensional world. How to envisage such things? Physicist Carlo Rovelli of the University of Aix-Marseilles, France, doesn’t personally have much truck with more than three spatial dimensions – “I do not think they exist,” he says – but he finds extra dimensions easy enough to picture. “It is just a space where you can go up-down, left-right, ahead-back,…

25 min.
world turned upside down

“ WE THOUGHT WE WERE AT THE CENTRE OF THE UNIVERSE, BUT EVER SINCE COPERNICUS IT HAS ALL BEEN DOWNHILL” 1 WHAT IF... MOST OF REALITY IS HIDDEN? “MY GOAL is simple,” Stephen Hawking once said. “It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all.” That, in a nutshell, is the scientific manifesto – ambitious, maybe, but at least in theory possible. But what if it isn’t? There’s no shortage of indications that there might be limits to how far we can penetrate with science. String theory, for example, regarded by many physicists as our best bet for a unified theory of reality, proposes between 10 and 26 space-time dimensions, many of them wrapped so up tightly as to be virtually inaccessible. That…

27 min.
let’s get metaphysical

HOW DO I KNOW I EXIST? ? The short answer is you don’t. Consider this: with every passing moment, we get closer to creating intelligent machines, maybe even conscious ones. If we can do this, could someone – or something – else do it too? Philosopher Nick Bostrom at the University of Oxford highlighted this idea in 2003, arguing that if humans were one day able to create simulations populated with conscious beings, it’s at least possible that we, too, are living in such a simulation. Since then, that possibility has, if anything, become more realistic. There are projects seeking to build entire animal brains from scratch, modelled exactly on living ones, down to individual neurons and the myriad connections that interlink them. When very simple versions were given robotic bodies, lo…

24 min.
six principles / six problems / six solutions

PRINCIPLES 1 THE SPEED OF LIGHT IS A CONSTANT Nothing can exceed this cosmic speed limit Back in the 1860s, James Clerk Maxwell was melding electricity and magnetism into one unified theory. But however he sliced the equations, they only made sense if light travelled through space at the same constant speed, regardless of the speed of its source. This is odd. If someone fires a bullet from a moving car, to a bystander the bullet travels at the sum of its speed and the car’s speed. Yet when 20 years later US physicists Albert Michelson and Edward Morley were looking for the luminiferous ether, a medium supposed to carry light, they reached the same conclusion: however you look at it, the speed of light is a constant. Not only that, it is…

18 min.
what came before the big bang? and other questions physics can’t answer… yet

WHAT CAME BEFORE THE BIG BANG? PAUSE. Rewind. Suddenly the outward rush of 200 billion galaxies slips into reverse. Instead of expanding at pace, the universe is now imploding like a deflating balloon: faster and faster, smaller and smaller, everything hurtling together until the entire cosmos is squeezed into an inconceivably hot, dense pinprick. Then pshhht! The screen goes dead. According to the big bang theory – our best explanation for why space is expanding – everything exploded from nothing about 13.8 billion years ago. Cosmologists have been able to wind things back to within a tiny fraction of a second of this moment. But now they’re stuck. The trouble is, our understanding of space-time, and gravity in particular, is built from Einstein’s equations of general relativity, whereas the extreme conditions of the…