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Why This Universe?

The biggest ideas in physics, broken down. Join theoretical physicist Dan Hooper and co-host Shalma Wegsman as they answer your questions about dark matter, black holes, quantum mechanics, and more. Part of The University of Chicago Podcast Network.

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The biggest ideas in physics, broken down. Join theoretical physicist Dan Hooper and co-host Shalma Wegsman as they answer your questions about dark matter, black holes, quantum mechanics, and more. Part of The University of Chicago Podcast Network.

59 - The End of Everything (Ft. Katie Mack)

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Special guest Katie Mack talks to us about how the universe might end.

To support our show and get ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Jan 09 2023

40mins

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58 - The Risks of Science Populism

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In today's different type of episode, we talk about the risks of a subtle kind of scientific misinformation.

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Dec 12 2022

14mins

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57 - String Theory Part 3: Duality

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This episode will hurt your brain, or your money back.

To support our show and get ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Nov 21 2022

24mins

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56 - An Icy Neutrino Interruption

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We interrupt our regular episodes to cover the exciting new discovery that the IceCube Neutrino Observatory announced on November 3rd, 2022.

To support our show and get ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Nov 07 2022

28mins

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55 - String Theory Part 2: The First Superstring Revolution

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We pick up the story of string theory and explore the explosion of interest it experienced in the mid 1980s.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Oct 24 2022

28mins

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54 - String Theory Part 1: What Is It?

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Last time, we introduced the biggest open problem in theoretical physics - the problem of combining gravity with quantum mechanics. In this first part of a three-part series, we introduce the leading candidate for how to do that: String Theory.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Oct 03 2022

25mins

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53 - Why We Need a Theory of Quantum Gravity

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Quantum mechanics and general relativity are two of the most successful theories of science ever, but they don't necessarily fit together. Learn why physicists are trying so hard to discover a quantum theory of gravity, and why it's been such a challenge.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Sep 12 2022

28mins

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52 - The Large Hadron Collider and All Its Glory

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We pick up last episode's theme of particle colliders and dive into the most exciting one running today - the LHC. What is it, how does it work, and what new physics can it still reveal?

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Aug 22 2022

28mins

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51 - Why Physicists Love Smashing Particles Together

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For the past century, physicists have been building particle colliders as a way to learn about the fundamental laws of physics. Today we talk about why smashing particles together has proven to be such a powerful tool.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Aug 01 2022

23mins

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50 - The Black Hole At the Center of the Milky Way

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On May 12, 2022 astronomers revealed an image of the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. Today we tell the story of what made this image possible.

Today's episode is sponsored by Wren. Sign up through https://www.wren.co/universe to make a difference in the climate crisis, and Wren will plant 10 extra trees in your name!

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Jul 11 2022

31mins

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49 - When the Universe Changed in an Instant

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Just like water changing to ice when it freezes, there were times in the universe's early history when reality changed in almost an instant. Today we dive into these cosmological phase transitions, and speculate about the strange objects these types of instant changes can create.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Jun 27 2022

25mins

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48 - A Wrong Picture Of Cosmology

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When cosmology was still an infant science, a daring physicist wrote a theory of the beginning of time.  We revisit this theory and see what value we can still glean from it today.

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May 23 2022

25mins

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13 - Does Quantum Mechanics Imply a Multiverse? (Rebroadcast)

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Today we explore different interpretations of quantum mechanics, from Copenhagen to the many-worlds hypothesis, in an attempt to uncover what quantum reality really is. This episode is a rebroadcast of one of our early favorites.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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May 09 2022

34mins

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47 - Boltzmann Brains: Could Reality Be An Illusion?

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A whirlwind of questions brings us to an odd conclusion: could reality be an illusion created by a quantum fluctuation of a brain?

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Apr 25 2022

28mins

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46 - The Cosmic Rays Raining Down On Us

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Here on Earth, we are constantly being showered by particles from outer space called cosmic rays. What do we know about where these particles really come from?

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Apr 04 2022

25mins

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25 - Do Extra Dimensions Exist? (Rebroadcast)

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Today we are rebroadcasting an earlier episode all about extra dimensions - How many dimensions of space are there? Could there be extra dimensions that are hidden from view?

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Mar 14 2022

28mins

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45 - The Wide World of Exoplanets (ft. Diana Powell)

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Special guest Dr. Diana Powell gives us the lay down on the field of exoplanet research, and on how these recent discoveries may shed light on the question of extraterrestrial life.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Feb 28 2022

39mins

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44 - Our Deepest Theory: Quantum Field Theory

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Today we attempt to break down the basics of quantum field theory - our deepest theory of physics yet.

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Feb 14 2022

24mins

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43 - Is Physics the Most Fundamental Subject?

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Some people like to claim that psychology is just applied biology, which is just applied chemistry, which is just applied physics, and so on. Is there any truth to this? Or is it just our egos getting the better of us?

For ad-free episodes and other exclusives, join us for $3 a month on Patreon: https://patreon.com/whythisuniverse

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Jan 31 2022

28mins

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42 - The Signal That Could Be the Dark Matter

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Dan shares one of the biggest stories of his career - his discovery of an excess of gamma rays at the center of the Milky Way. Is this a sign of dark matter, or is it something less mysterious?

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Jan 17 2022

37mins

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iTunes Ratings

5 Ratings
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Engaging, enjoyable physics

By D-Ross57 - Jul 15 2020
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As a casual fan of physics with no real aptitude for the hardcore science and mathematics I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast. Dan has a way in his books and now podcast of speaking about very complex topics in an entertaining and engaging way for non-physicists. Highly recommend for anyone that wants a glimpse into the mechanics of our universe.