Episode 45: The Thumbprint Of Creation With Ryan North

the cosmic microwave background polarization

the cosmic microwave background polarization`

LOOK AT THIS FRIGGING THING ABOVE ME! it’s a photo of the cosmic microwave background, and the lines are the polarizations measured by the BICEP2 telescope at the south pole.

note how the lines swirl.

This effect is being caused by primordial gravitational waves: gravitational waves which were generated during the INFLATION epoch when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old.

up until now, no one was sure if Inflation occurred. There was circumstantial evidence in favour of it, but no one was sure. Well we’re pretty sure now! LOOK AT THAT.

this is what we’re talking about in today’s show and it’s SO AWESOME.


The guest today is Ryan North. are you reading his comics? Because you probably should, because they’re amazing.

you should probably also look up Dr. katie mack, she is a twitterer , and a science blogger and also a mini podcast of her own.

Physicists: Katie Mack, Mike Zemcov


Intro Music: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Exit Music: John Vanderslice 

Transcript: Ep_45_The_Thumbprint_of_Creation


3 thoughts on “Episode 45: The Thumbprint Of Creation With Ryan North

  1. Love the show, so happy I tripped on it one day whilst searching for science. What is going on with the strange computerized sounding voiceovers at 34:14, 34:21, and 34:30? I am an evangelist on social media and real life for the show. Keep up the great work. Do you think you have to have a PhD in physics to have a great theory about physics?

    • Hi Karl
      thank you for all your hard work and kind words.
      the voiceovers happen when I catch myself accidentally saying the WRONG WORD. in this case I said “B MODE” over and over when i was attempting to describe “E MODES”.
      i make no particular attempt to make the edits nice… because it’s funny.

      your question is a good one.
      the short answer is yes and no.
      the letters behind a person’s name are more than just letters. they’re a demonstration that four or five contributing members of the scientific community have tested you to determine whether you have enough technical knowledge to join the community (and certify you to do so). So all the letters indicate is that you KNOW a lot. can you know a lot AND NOT have some letters behind your name? of course you can.

      that said. physics, as it stands, is a great hydra of theory. there are a LOT of very VERY smart people who have contributed to the theory, and who have done experiments to test the theory. take a person who has no knowledge of all this context… arguing that they will have as much of a chance of positing a correct theory of physics, as someone with a PhD… is essentially saying that EVERYONE who ever contributed to the field is a big dumbo. It would be a foolish argument.

      So. could a person with no PhD have a great theory about physics? yes. BUT they would need to have AT LEAST as much technical knowledge as someone with a PhD for their theory to have a fighting chance.

      I know it sounds like i’m trying to be negative, or that i’m arguing in favour of academic orthodoxy, and i’m not. There are still many holes in our theory, and patching, plugging and working out the nature of these holes is the fun of learning about them. It’s not like PhD’s have all of the answers. but a lot of different things have been tried in the past… and before you can make a guess about what will work, you need to have a sense of the things which other people have tried which do not work.

      So keep doing your best, everybody. the world is a wonderful place, and we are lucky to be able to wonder about it!

      • I liked your answer a lot Ben.For science,imo i think to keep an open mind and be curious and have an genuine interest for the topics can only lead one way..Forward..Maybe not to answer all the questions..but to at least challenge those who have the proper education and knowhow, to maybe think outside the box sometimes..Then i am happy to let the PhD’s take care of the small details and mathematical equations 😉

        If there are no questions..there will also not be any answers.

        Looking Forward to the next episode.


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