full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Marjee Chmiel and Trevor Owens: Is there a center of the universe?

Unscramble the Blue Letters

What is at the center of the universe? It's an essential question that humans have been wondering about for centuries. But the journey toward an asnewr has been a strange one. If you wanted to know the answer to this qiosuten in third century B.C.E. Greece, you might look up at the night sky and trust what you see. That's what Aristotle, THE guy to ask back then, did. He thought that since we're on Earth, looking up, it must be the center, right? For him, the sphere of the world was made up of four elements: Earth, water, air, and fire. These elements shifted around a nested set of solid crystalline spheres. Each of the wandering stars, the planets, had their own crystal sphere. The rest of the universe and all of its stars were on the last crastyl sphere. If you watch the sky change over time, you could see that this idea worked fine at explaining the motion you saw. For centuries, this was central to how Europe and the Islamic world saw the uervnise. But in 1543, a guy named Copernicus proposed a different model. He believed that the sun was at the center of the universe. This radically new idea was hard for a lot of people to accept. After all, Aristotle's ideas made sense with what they could see, and they were pretty flattering to hmauns. But a series of subsequent discoveries made the sun-centric model hard to ignore. First, jeanohns Kepler pointed out that orbits aren't prfecet circles or seehprs. Then, Galileo's telescope caught Jupiter's moons orbiting around Jupiter, totally ignoring Earth. And then, Newton poropesd the toehry of universal gravitation, demonstrating that all objects are pulling on each other. evualtelny, we had to let go of the idea that we were at the center of the universe. Shortly after cicuorenps, in the 1580s, an Italian friar, Giordano Bruno, suggested the stars were suns that likely had their own planets and that the universe was iinfitne. This idea didn't go over well. bunro was burned at the stake for his radical suggestion. Centuries later, the philosopher Rene Descartes proposed that the universe was a series of whirlpools, which he called vortices, and that each star was at the center of a woirophll. In time, we realized there were far more stars than atstriole ever dreaemd. As arestormons like William Herschel got more and more advanced telescopes, it became claer that our sun is actually one of many stars inside the Milky Way. And those smudges we see in the night sky? They're other galaxies, just as vast as our Milky Way home. Maybe we're farther from the center than we ever razeeild. In the 1920s, astronomers studying the nebuli wanted to figure out how they were moving. Based on the dppoelr Effect, they expected to see blue shift for objects moving toward us, and red sfhit for ones moving away. But all they saw was a red shift. Everything was mniovg away from us, fast. This observation is one of the pieces of evidence for what we now call the Big Bang Theory. According to this theory, all matter in the universe was once a sialgunr, infinitely dsnee particle. In a snsee, our piece of the universe was once at the ceentr. But this theory etmealniis the whole idea of a center since there can't be a center to an infinite universe. The Big Bang wasn't just an explosion in space; it was an explosion of space. What each new discovery proves is that while our observations are limited, our abitily to speculate and darem of what's out there isn't. What we think we know today can change tomorrow. As with many of the thinkers we just met, sometimes our wildest guesses lead to wonderful and hmuiblng awnress and poeprl us toward even more plpirneexg questions.

Open Cloze

What is at the center of the universe? It's an essential question that humans have been wondering about for centuries. But the journey toward an ______ has been a strange one. If you wanted to know the answer to this ________ in third century B.C.E. Greece, you might look up at the night sky and trust what you see. That's what Aristotle, THE guy to ask back then, did. He thought that since we're on Earth, looking up, it must be the center, right? For him, the sphere of the world was made up of four elements: Earth, water, air, and fire. These elements shifted around a nested set of solid crystalline spheres. Each of the wandering stars, the planets, had their own crystal sphere. The rest of the universe and all of its stars were on the last _______ sphere. If you watch the sky change over time, you could see that this idea worked fine at explaining the motion you saw. For centuries, this was central to how Europe and the Islamic world saw the ________. But in 1543, a guy named Copernicus proposed a different model. He believed that the sun was at the center of the universe. This radically new idea was hard for a lot of people to accept. After all, Aristotle's ideas made sense with what they could see, and they were pretty flattering to ______. But a series of subsequent discoveries made the sun-centric model hard to ignore. First, ________ Kepler pointed out that orbits aren't _______ circles or _______. Then, Galileo's telescope caught Jupiter's moons orbiting around Jupiter, totally ignoring Earth. And then, Newton ________ the ______ of universal gravitation, demonstrating that all objects are pulling on each other. __________, we had to let go of the idea that we were at the center of the universe. Shortly after __________, in the 1580s, an Italian friar, Giordano Bruno, suggested the stars were suns that likely had their own planets and that the universe was ________. This idea didn't go over well. _____ was burned at the stake for his radical suggestion. Centuries later, the philosopher Rene Descartes proposed that the universe was a series of whirlpools, which he called vortices, and that each star was at the center of a _________. In time, we realized there were far more stars than _________ ever _______. As ___________ like William Herschel got more and more advanced telescopes, it became _____ that our sun is actually one of many stars inside the Milky Way. And those smudges we see in the night sky? They're other galaxies, just as vast as our Milky Way home. Maybe we're farther from the center than we ever ________. In the 1920s, astronomers studying the nebuli wanted to figure out how they were moving. Based on the _______ Effect, they expected to see blue shift for objects moving toward us, and red _____ for ones moving away. But all they saw was a red shift. Everything was ______ away from us, fast. This observation is one of the pieces of evidence for what we now call the Big Bang Theory. According to this theory, all matter in the universe was once a ________, infinitely _____ particle. In a _____, our piece of the universe was once at the ______. But this theory __________ the whole idea of a center since there can't be a center to an infinite universe. The Big Bang wasn't just an explosion in space; it was an explosion of space. What each new discovery proves is that while our observations are limited, our _______ to speculate and _____ of what's out there isn't. What we think we know today can change tomorrow. As with many of the thinkers we just met, sometimes our wildest guesses lead to wonderful and ________ _______ and ______ us toward even more __________ questions.

Solution

  1. whirlpool
  2. dream
  3. question
  4. crystal
  5. eventually
  6. universe
  7. sense
  8. clear
  9. singular
  10. theory
  11. johannes
  12. doppler
  13. answer
  14. moving
  15. perfect
  16. copernicus
  17. propel
  18. perplexing
  19. humans
  20. infinite
  21. astronomers
  22. dense
  23. proposed
  24. answers
  25. realized
  26. aristotle
  27. center
  28. spheres
  29. eliminates
  30. humbling
  31. dreamed
  32. bruno
  33. shift
  34. ability

Original Text

What is at the center of the universe? It's an essential question that humans have been wondering about for centuries. But the journey toward an answer has been a strange one. If you wanted to know the answer to this question in third century B.C.E. Greece, you might look up at the night sky and trust what you see. That's what Aristotle, THE guy to ask back then, did. He thought that since we're on Earth, looking up, it must be the center, right? For him, the sphere of the world was made up of four elements: Earth, water, air, and fire. These elements shifted around a nested set of solid crystalline spheres. Each of the wandering stars, the planets, had their own crystal sphere. The rest of the universe and all of its stars were on the last crystal sphere. If you watch the sky change over time, you could see that this idea worked fine at explaining the motion you saw. For centuries, this was central to how Europe and the Islamic world saw the universe. But in 1543, a guy named Copernicus proposed a different model. He believed that the sun was at the center of the universe. This radically new idea was hard for a lot of people to accept. After all, Aristotle's ideas made sense with what they could see, and they were pretty flattering to humans. But a series of subsequent discoveries made the sun-centric model hard to ignore. First, Johannes Kepler pointed out that orbits aren't perfect circles or spheres. Then, Galileo's telescope caught Jupiter's moons orbiting around Jupiter, totally ignoring Earth. And then, Newton proposed the theory of universal gravitation, demonstrating that all objects are pulling on each other. Eventually, we had to let go of the idea that we were at the center of the universe. Shortly after Copernicus, in the 1580s, an Italian friar, Giordano Bruno, suggested the stars were suns that likely had their own planets and that the universe was infinite. This idea didn't go over well. Bruno was burned at the stake for his radical suggestion. Centuries later, the philosopher Rene Descartes proposed that the universe was a series of whirlpools, which he called vortices, and that each star was at the center of a whirlpool. In time, we realized there were far more stars than Aristotle ever dreamed. As astronomers like William Herschel got more and more advanced telescopes, it became clear that our sun is actually one of many stars inside the Milky Way. And those smudges we see in the night sky? They're other galaxies, just as vast as our Milky Way home. Maybe we're farther from the center than we ever realized. In the 1920s, astronomers studying the nebuli wanted to figure out how they were moving. Based on the Doppler Effect, they expected to see blue shift for objects moving toward us, and red shift for ones moving away. But all they saw was a red shift. Everything was moving away from us, fast. This observation is one of the pieces of evidence for what we now call the Big Bang Theory. According to this theory, all matter in the universe was once a singular, infinitely dense particle. In a sense, our piece of the universe was once at the center. But this theory eliminates the whole idea of a center since there can't be a center to an infinite universe. The Big Bang wasn't just an explosion in space; it was an explosion of space. What each new discovery proves is that while our observations are limited, our ability to speculate and dream of what's out there isn't. What we think we know today can change tomorrow. As with many of the thinkers we just met, sometimes our wildest guesses lead to wonderful and humbling answers and propel us toward even more perplexing questions.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
crystal sphere 2
red shift 2
big bang 2

Important Words

  1. ability
  2. accept
  3. advanced
  4. air
  5. answer
  6. answers
  7. aristotle
  8. astronomers
  9. bang
  10. based
  11. believed
  12. big
  13. blue
  14. bruno
  15. burned
  16. call
  17. called
  18. caught
  19. center
  20. central
  21. centuries
  22. century
  23. change
  24. circles
  25. clear
  26. copernicus
  27. crystal
  28. crystalline
  29. demonstrating
  30. dense
  31. descartes
  32. discoveries
  33. discovery
  34. doppler
  35. dream
  36. dreamed
  37. earth
  38. effect
  39. elements
  40. eliminates
  41. essential
  42. europe
  43. eventually
  44. evidence
  45. expected
  46. explaining
  47. explosion
  48. fast
  49. figure
  50. fine
  51. fire
  52. flattering
  53. friar
  54. galaxies
  55. giordano
  56. gravitation
  57. greece
  58. guesses
  59. guy
  60. hard
  61. herschel
  62. home
  63. humans
  64. humbling
  65. idea
  66. ideas
  67. ignore
  68. ignoring
  69. infinite
  70. infinitely
  71. islamic
  72. italian
  73. johannes
  74. journey
  75. jupiter
  76. kepler
  77. lead
  78. limited
  79. lot
  80. matter
  81. met
  82. milky
  83. model
  84. moons
  85. motion
  86. moving
  87. named
  88. nebuli
  89. nested
  90. newton
  91. night
  92. objects
  93. observation
  94. observations
  95. orbiting
  96. orbits
  97. particle
  98. people
  99. perfect
  100. perplexing
  101. philosopher
  102. piece
  103. pieces
  104. planets
  105. pointed
  106. pretty
  107. propel
  108. proposed
  109. proves
  110. pulling
  111. question
  112. questions
  113. radical
  114. radically
  115. realized
  116. red
  117. rene
  118. rest
  119. sense
  120. series
  121. set
  122. shift
  123. shifted
  124. shortly
  125. singular
  126. sky
  127. smudges
  128. solid
  129. space
  130. speculate
  131. sphere
  132. spheres
  133. stake
  134. star
  135. stars
  136. strange
  137. studying
  138. subsequent
  139. suggested
  140. suggestion
  141. sun
  142. suns
  143. telescope
  144. telescopes
  145. theory
  146. thinkers
  147. thought
  148. time
  149. today
  150. tomorrow
  151. totally
  152. trust
  153. universal
  154. universe
  155. vast
  156. vortices
  157. wandering
  158. wanted
  159. watch
  160. water
  161. whirlpool
  162. whirlpools
  163. wildest
  164. william
  165. wonderful
  166. wondering
  167. worked
  168. world