An astrophysicist walks into a bar, finds two comedians, and is given the ultimate challenge. She must explain the Big Bang and dark energy—what they are and what they say about our universe—so the comedians learn something. They do pretty well, when they’re not joking around.
Harrison : The Big Bang is the beginning of the universe. It was big. And what a bang. You know?
The Big Bang, it starts from a single point?
Priya : No, the Big Bang happened everywhere, because that was everywhere.
Harrison : That is trippy.
Priya : Yeah.
Orlando : The light was, it was white. And it was yellow. It sounded like two cars crashing.
Harrison : There’s the explosion, and then from that, space. The final frontier.
Orlando : Alright, the Big Bang—it's actually the creation of the universe.
Harrison : 13.8 billion years ago, that’s when the universe as we know it started.
Orlando : It didn't sound like anything.
Harrison : The Big Bang is actually a misnomer. Even though it’s expanding, it’s not expanding into anything because the universe is everything. So our everything continues to get bigger. And the spaces between galaxies continues to grow.
Priya : The entire universe was just a ball of radiation, which then eventually cooled, expanded, and let to the formation of galaxies and stars and everything that we see. So it really is the beginning of time as we know how to measure it.
Orlando : Dark energy is very negative – has a bad attitude. It’s always complaining. Sometimes it wears a cloak.
Harrison : It starts shopping at "Hot Topic," it starts getting into Tim Burton movies, listening to Death Metal.
Orlando : Gravity tends to pull everything together. And dark energy is doing the complete opposite.
Harrison : The universe is expanding, which means that bodies are getting further away from each other. The term that we use to describe the energy that is working against gravity, we call it dark energy.
Orlando : The expansion of the universe is definitely speeding up.
Harrison : Something is putting its foot on the gas. That driver is the dark energy. There’s a very scientific explanation for why it’s called dark energy. Evidently when astrophysicists don't know what something is, they just say “dark” in front of it.
Orlando : I would tell dark energy to slow down. Why are you in a rush? It’s not that serious—you're not going to get a gold medal for accelerating.
Harrison : I would say, “Hey, why are you so dark, you know? I mean, there’s so much to live for. You don't always have to focus on the cynical.”
Priya : I would ask it to reveal itself. We don't know its nature. It’s one of the biggest puzzles right now in cosmology. I would ask it to tell me who you are.
Ok, so let me try a joke out on you.
Harrison : Yeah.
Priya : And you can tell me whether I have a career as a comic. It’s a knock knock joke. So knock knock. Who’s there?
Harrison : I think you should let us say, “Who’s there?”
Priya : True.
Harrison : I mean, this is coming from a professional place.
Priya : That’s right. Knock knock.
Orlando : Who’s there?
Priya : Schrodinger.
Harrison : Schrodinger who?
Priya : I'm there, and I'm not there… That’s a joke. Did you guys get it?
Harrison : I'm into it.
Priya : You're into it. So you know, in quantum mechanics, you can be simultaneously there and not there.
Harrison : You know what, according to physics, that joke was both funny and not funny at the same time.
Priya : Right.
- Videography & Concept
- Video Production & Editing
- Ari Daniel
- Production Assistance
- Sara Tewksbury
- Special Thanks
- The Burren, Somerville, MA
- © WGBH Educational Foundation 2017
- Additional Visuals
David A. Aguilar & Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
flickr / tseyin & John Fowler
Action Movie FX
- (main image: comedians and scientist)
- © WGBH Educational Foundation 2017