“When Galaxies Were Born: The Quest for Cosmic Dawn” with Professor Richard Ellis

When Galaxies Were Born book Review on Bridging the Gaps

Looking for the earliest galaxies is like travelling back in time. Something that astronomers do all the time. Astronomers use huge and powerful telescopes to see not only farther and deeper into space, but also back in time. The hunt for the oldest galaxies using observational astronomy needs not only a thorough grasp of the physics and chemistry of the early cosmos, but also the human ingenuity of building large size telescopes and designing innovative instrumentation. Large and complicated telescopes, as well as supporting processes, techniques, and devices, allow astronomers to make more clear and accurate observations in their search for the first galaxies. In his new book “When Galaxies Were Born: The Quest for Cosmic Dawn” professor Richard Ellis presents a firsthand narrative of how a pioneering group of scientists used the world’s greatest telescopes to unravel the history of the universe and witness cosmic dawn, when starlight first illuminated the cosmos and galaxies formed from darkness. The book also gives a narrative of a golden age of astronomy, outlining many achievements and disappointments, and discussing rivalries with competing teams. This is also an account of professor Elis’s remarkable career spanning more than forty years. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps I speak with professor Richard Ellis. We discuss amazing progres that astronomers have made in building ever larger and more powerful telescopes; we also dig deep on the fascinating research on the birth of galaxies and our quest for the cosmic dawn.

Richard S. Ellis is professor of astrophysics at University College London and a world-renowned observational astronomer who has made numerous discoveries about the nature and evolution of the universe.

We start off discussing the human aspects of observational astronomy where teams from all over the world first compete for participating in constructing large telescopes and then compete for securing blocks of time to make observations. We review the taxonomy of large and most powerful ground based telescopes and discuss effectiveness and contribution of space telescopes towards observational astronomy. First light in the universe and the assembly of galaxies in the early universe are among the four main areas that the James Webb Space Telescope will focus on. We dig deep on these points, and what expectations researchers have from this new space telescope. We then discuss how human ingenuity has led to the development of techniques such as adaptive mirrors and application of gravitational lensing to improve our observations. We then focus on the cutting edge research on the quest for cosmic dawn and dig deep on the physics and chemistry of the early universe. We discuss the role dark matter might have played in the formation of early galaxies. We also touch upon the origin of life in the universe, and briefly debate the question “are we alone”. This has been a fun discussion that is highly informative.

Complement this discussion with Exploring the Mysteries of Our Universe’s First Seconds” with Dr Dan Hooper and then listen to “The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking)” with Dr Katie Mack.

By |January 29th, 2023|Cosmology, Physics, Podcasts, Technology|

Cloud Empires: Governing State-like Digital Platforms and Regaining Control with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta

Cloud Empires on Bridging the Gaps

The rise of the platform economy puts state-like power in the hands of platform owners with little or no accountability. Over the past few decades, the chaotic and lawless early Internet evolved into a digital reality where e-commerce and digital services platform owners dictate decisions that affect millions living in different countries and jurisdictions. In his book “Cloud Empires: How Digital Platforms Are Overtaking the State and How We Can Regain Control” professor Vili Lehdonvirta explains how tech platforms got to where they are. The book outlines the history and evolution of tech platforms by telling the stories of individuals, the role they played in shaping and reshaping the Internet leading to the present day digital reality. Lehdonvirta emphasises that we can only begin to democratise digital platforms if we recognize them for what they are: institutions as powerful as the state. In this episode of Bridging the Gaps, I speak with Professor Vili Lehdonvirta; we discuss the book, the new social order established by the digital platform companies, and how the accumulated power of platforms could be challenged to hold them more accountable and to regain control.

Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. His research examines how digital technologies are used to reshape the organisation of economic activities in society. His research focuses on the questions such as what are the implications to workers, entrepreneurs, and states, and how can this digital economy be governed? His research draws on theories and approaches from economic sociology, political economy, industrial relations, new institutional economics, and science and technology studies.

We begin by discussing the chaotic and lawless days of the early Internet. We explore the emergence of the underlying theme to resist the undue influence of outsiders and to resist government regulations in favour of giving users more control, even in the early days of Usenet. We then discuss the emergence of Bitcoin in the context of a number of historic parallels such as the medieval economy and the Athenian peasant revolt. We explore the possibility, or perhaps the impossibility, of achieving true neutrality and privacy using BitCoin. At this point we start looking at the true nature of state-like powers accumulated by today’s cloud empires. An interesting point we touch upon is that similar to independent states and sovereign countries, are these state-like cloud empires protecting their users. We then look at the legal rights of employees working in these giant organisations. Finally we look at the two questions that emerge from the subtitle of the book “How digital platforms are overtaking the state and how we can regain control”. The first question is why it is important that we take back control, and the second question is, how should we do this. This has been an enlightening and thought provoking discussion.

Complement this discussion with Working with AI: Real Stories of Human-Machine Collaboration and then listen to Philosophy of Technology” with Professor Peter-Paul Verbeek.

By |January 8th, 2023|Computer Science, Future, History, Podcasts, Technology|