The Force Is With Us

Herald-Sun | 11 March 1999

By Garry Mansfield


Quantum (8pm, Two)


FIRST the bad news: the world is coming to an end sooner than we think. Now the good news: don't change your life insurance plan, the end is still 100 billion years away.


That's a layman's précis of the lead report on the year's first episode of the ABC's long-running science program, Quantum.


Wilson da Silva, who also had the honor of heading last year's return episode with a piece on our resistance to antibiotics (more on that later), presents a segment called "Defying Gravity".


"Yes, we're all going to die ... it's another one of those," said da Silva when asked about his report, "but don't hold your breath."


His story centres on the discovery last year of a previously-unknown force deep in space that is defying the laws of physics.


The force, which is unexplained and which has no name but which is loosely described as cosmological anti-gravity, means that our ever-expanding universe is travelling more quickly than anyone thought.


Da Silva, a print and electronic media science reporter for 10 years, said he was aware last year of claims about the force's existence but such claims are so often rebutted that a report was not warranted.


That was the case until the respected US magazine Science hailed it as the most important discovery of 1998.


Besides, an American working in Australia, Dr Brian Schmidt, is head of a team of 22 international astronomers involved in investigating the force.


Da Silva said scientists were divided over the force's nature but most agreed it existed and that it was plunging life towards an accelerated end.

This is da Silva's second year with Quantum and already he has made an impact. His report on antibiotics led to a change of government policy and another major review is expected shortly.

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