A Blog by Carl Zimmer

A Big Universe Deserves A Big Equation (Science Ink Sunday)

Friedmann tattoo cropped

Adam Platz writes,

“The equation is called the Friedmann equation and, simply put, governs the expansion of space in a homogenous universe such as our own. In the 1920s Alexander Friedmann, a Russian astrophysicist, sought to unite Einstein’s recently conceived theory of general relativity with a general model for our universe’s behavior. The Freidmann equation resulted. From its basic form, one can derive the density of the universe at a given time, the pressure, the mass, the age of the universe, and finally the rate of expansion of the universe (found in a term known as the Hubble constant). In 2008 during my senior year at Dartmouth, my senior seminar in astrophysics focused in part on this equation. I always found the equation to be elegant and beautiful. My own little god equation. Explaining where we came from and what we are made of. That year I thought up the idea of the tattoo and decided that if in 5 years I was still interested in the ink, I would get it. And so I did in 2013.”

The Wikipedia page for the Friedmann equation is suitably intense. The American Institute of Physics has a more accessible history of Friedmann and other early twentieth-century cosmologists.

You can see the rest of the Science Tattoo Emporium here or in my book, Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

2 thoughts on “A Big Universe Deserves A Big Equation (Science Ink Sunday)

  1. A very interesting tattoo. I am no physicist, though I do find physics interesting. In my religious research I have found that physics abound in many of the texts based on the Abrhamic religions. Interestingly enough both the Big Bang and accretion are defined quite clearly. Well this is off topic, I guess my question is, what if the equation is proven incorrect? Though doubtless many people have ink they regret, I have 1 of my tattoos I regret. A follow up to my above question is, if it is proven false would the equation still be as beautiful to you as it is now? My personal thought is that the entire universe can not be summed up by just 1 mathematical equation. I think there are simply too many variables. Maybe I am very wrong, I don’t know. But it seems too infinitely complex and mysterious to simplify it to a single equation. I am sure that at some point, if our race survives long enough, we will be able to define most if not all of her mysteries, though I don’t see how we can do it in a single explanation. As complex as they universe is I think it would take several separate equations that support each other in order to define it. But this is just my humble thoughts. Though I guess that isn’t to say we could have a single equation that sums up a large part of our universe. Though until we solve a lot more questions it is not possible to sum it all up. We need to solve the dark matter issue and we still need to visit a black hole, and many other issues. Until we do so we can make educated theories on the topic but our education is very limited. These theories change almost daily it seems. However all this being said I think it is pretty cool that you are so dedicated to your cause, this in it self shows you determination and passion, something lots of folks lack. Cool tat and very unique, I have not seen another like it.

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