Prof. Brezin talks to CNA about the mysteries of the cosmos

French Professor of Theoretical Physics, Edouard Brezin, believes that science is an international language that can contribute to peace by connecting people who share the same passion for research.

The Cyprus News Agency met recently with Professor Brezin, who is also President of the Scientific Advisory Council and Trustees Emeriti of the Institute of Cyprus, and discussed with him about the mysteries of the cosmos, life on exoplanets, politics and science.

Worlds outside our solar system

The Professor and Former President of the French Academy of Sciences was invited to comment on the recent announcement regarding the newly found solar system Trappist 1, which is orbited by seven exoplanets.

Noting that thousands of planets have been detected outside our solar system, the Professor said that the question is whether those are planets like our Earth with water and favourable temperatures that would allow the development of life.

The temperature on those planets, he said, does not seem to be very high and maybe there is water in liquid form on those planets.

It is possible, he went on to say, that there are other planets out there like our Earth, but whether there is life on those planets, “that is a big scientific question, which is not solved yet”.

He expressed the view that “given the billions and billions of galaxies and stars and planets, (now we know that all stars have planets), and if we believe that life is a generic thing to happen, I believe that life is possible and we are not isolated in the universe”.

He told CNA that at the moment, scientists are working at a modest level, which is how can we find planets at the right temperature with water. “Life will be the next step” he said.

As regards space exploration in our solar system, the Professor told CNA that going to Mars would not only take a lot of time, it would be dangerous as well, due to the cosmic rays which are dangerous for the human health.

On Earth, he said, we are shielded from cosmic rays by the atmosphere and the magnetic field, which make life on Earth possible.

CERN and the mysteries of the cosmos

The French Professor was also asked about the work at CERN, that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.

“Astrophysicists are concerned a lot by the fact that the visible matter we see, makes only about 5%-6% of the matter in the universe. There is dark matter and dark energy that we dont know what are made of”, he said.

He explained that CERN is trying to produce particles “which could be the dark matter that is missing”.

Galaxies, he said, are rotating, the universe is expanding, and its expansion is accelerating.

“One would imagine that it would slow down due to the gravitational interaction, but no, it is the other way round, it is accelerating, so this is a mystery”.

He told CNA that there are a lot of unknowns in the universe, in particular the dark matter and the dark energy, which “does not seem to be composed of the matter we know, so CERN is looking to other possible forms of matter”.

“They are looking for a matter which is not described in the Standard Model. We know that the Standard Model, when we go to higher energies like the ones that were present at the moment of the big bang, does not apply. We know that it has to be modified,” he stressed.

Professor Brezin pointed out that “there is an incredible connection between the infinitely small and the infinitely large, which is fascinating”.

The work at the Cyprus Institute

Referring to the Cyprus Institute, he said that it was founded ten years ago noting that its organisation is different than in the traditional universities.

He explained that universities are organised in departments, whereas the CyI “started with big questions of the society, relevant to this part of the world”, like energy, water resources, environment, “problems of significant interests here, which require all kinds of expertise, climate specialists, chemists, meteorologists etc”.

“So, the center did not start from disciplines, but from problems,” he went on to say.

He also referred to other aspects of research at the CyI such as archaeology, saying that before the establishment of the CyI there were no technical means to analyse the archaeological samples found.

Professor Brezin also said that the CyI has the largest super-computer in the region and also referred to the Institutes research on climate change.

Cyprus, he said, despite its political problem and the division of the island, is a country of stability in the region and thus it was the natural point of studies of interest for the whole region and “maybe this can bring more peace to the region”.

“Science is an international language. Science connects people because it is the same everywhere. Science is a passion and whenever a new Center of science appears anywhere we are all happy, because this means more science, it is not like having a competitor, it is a competitor but it is a friend too. This is how it works” he told CNA.

Professor Brezin expressed the view that there is more room in Cyprus for research noting that this will not only attract more foreign scientists to the island but also help keep Cypriot scientists in their own country.

Science and politics

Referring to science and technology, he said that they have deeply changed the way we live and they will continue to do so.

Noting that life expectancy is increasing he said that this is due to hygiene and vaccination and said that in spite of that “we live in a strange period in which there is less and less confidence in science”.

He explained that the resistance against vaccination is increasing and that people think that it is dangerous, which is completely absurd.

There is lack of confidence in science he said, and referred to the US President saying that he does not believe in science and climate change “which is very important well established fact”.

Professor Brezin said that there is an anti- elite movement, but pointed out that the Trump administration is made of billionaires.

“What is the elite that they dont like? It is not the rich, it is the elite of knowledge, of rational thinking,” he concluded.

In December 2012, the President of the Republic of Cyprus presented Brezin with the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of Cyprus for his contribution in science, technology and education in Cyprus and the wider region. In January 2013 he was named as “Commander of the French Legion of Honor”, one of the highest distinctions of the French Republic

Source: Cyprus News Agency