Physics

A Simple Comparison

Several huge things have happened in the last 2 week in respect to science. Cosmos, the re-imagining of Carl Sagan’s science vehicle to jumpstart the public’s imagination debuted; gravity radiation (often called gravity waves) has been detected with a 5-sigma threshold from the Big Bang, which, if true, empirically extends our understanding of creation from one second to one billion-billion-billion-millionth of a second after the Big Bang; and, finally, not to mention rather depressingly, Mike Adams the Health Douche issued a public call to the host of Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson to admit that mercury in vaccines is poisoning the population.

One of the above three things made me laugh: can you guess which? I implore you to read Mike Adams full screed on the mercury in vaccines that is making the population cognitively deficient, even though there is no mercury in vaccines, and keep a straight face. Seriously, I’ll wait here—and this post will make more sense if you’ve read it.

(more…)

Carl Sagan

Awesome Carl Sagan Quotes

I bought a small eBook recently chock-a-block full of Sagan’s best quotes. I wanted to highlight some of my favourites. I haven’t read all of Sagan’s books (some 30-odd) but I haven’t yet met a Sagan book that I didn’t like… a lot! If anyone was ever going to be my hero, Carl Sagan would be one of them:

On argumentation:

(1) - “The cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas.” 

On history:

(2) - “You have to know the past to understand the present.”

On evolution:

(3) - “Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.”

On drugs:

(4) - “The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.”

Misc:

(5) - You are worth about 3 dollars in chemicals.

(6) - We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.

(7) - The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard, who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by ‘God,’ one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying…it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.

(8) - The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. I think the health of our civilization, the depth of our awareness about the underpinnings of our culture and our concern for the future can all be tested by how well we support libraries.

I man-love Carl Sagan…

Favourites? Mine are (1) and (6). Has anyone read more than one Sagan book? If so, which one of those are your favourites? I can’t decide between Broca’s Brain and Pale Blue Dot. Both marvelous insights in science, skepticism, and astronomy with the added delight of them being beautifully written english.

creation

The Three Choices of Creation

Out there on the interwebs, there is a war going on for the soul of something, and it is known as the fine-tuning argument. It’s essentially an argument that stipulates that the constants that govern the Universe as we know it were fine-tuned by an external creator to allow intelligent life—as are we—to flourish. If any one of these constants were changed just a smidgen, then life (as we know it) couldn’t exist.

There are three ways to look at this:

1. There is an external designer (God) who fine-tuned these constants to allow for our existence
2. It was sheer, blind luck that our universe had these constants and not some others—assuming that is, they could be anything else
3. These values are what they are because we live in a multiverse in which all possible values of the constants are instantiated and we find ourselves here simply because here is one of the few places we can be (the weak antropic principle)

(1) is obviously what the religiously inclined would choose. (3) is what many scientists and the scientifically inclined would choose, though of course, not all. There are many debates and discussions out there taking sides, giving evidence and reasoning for this and that, but I see very few people discussing (2). So I want to get some skin into the game, but with a different angle—I’m sure there are others out there who do see it this way. I just haven’t found them. The internet is a big place, or so I’ve been told.

Lets assume (1) to be true. How could we ever rule out (2)? The answer is, as far as I can tell, you cannot. Sure, we could say if we received a sign, we’d be sure: one night, we see the stars rearrange to spell the words “I Am That I Am”, or a book is beamed down from the heavens that explicitly details the spookiness of quantum entanglement or some such equally advanced knowledge we have not arrived at. But then, we couldn’t rule out an advanced alien species playing a practical joke on us, or giving us advanced physics we are not yet aware of, so we’re back at square one. There is no way to definitively rule out chance—or aliens. Theologians often make this statement against scientists (they call it scientism), insinuating that we can never be sure of what our scientific theories tell us, and in the next breath invoking God (the irony is lost on them).

Now, lets assume (3) to be true. How do you rule out (2)? The answer is, you don’t need to. It is part and parcel of the same package. Essentially both are down to chance. We might not might be able to say definitively we live in a singular universe or multiverse—although there are ways we might get observational proof of a multiverse. But we should be able to say with confidence that (1) could, in principle, be ruled out definitively and either (2) or (3) be true without fear of going awry.

One way or the other, something has to be infinite and eternal into the past. Either God or some other entity for (1) to hold true or the universe/multiverse of (2)/(3). The latter two have one less assumption (being that the wider reality of which we may be a part of has no complicated attributes; such as intelligence, creativity, and/or emotion that God is seemingly endowed with. We don’t need to explain why that wider reality, if indeed it exists, is simple, non-material, and non-sentient, though we would if a God was involved). Anyone else have an opinion? To me, this seems too easy. I feel like I’m missing something.

Explanation of God

God

This is sub-chapter #6, of Chapter 2, Philosophy, of my ongoing rewrite and open editing process Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World.

Brief Synopsis:

The book takes twenty seemingly random subjects, attempting however poorly, to thread them together in the process, attempting to make sense of the world we live in today. It is a very macroscopic worldview as the whole book fits into two-hundred pages, but aims to tickle the intellects of people just enough so they may go on to study more in-depth the subjects of their liking. The narrative attempts to abolish isolatory thinking, i.e., we so often talk, discuss, and debate topics in isolation and assume that the same points prevail in the real world where nothing exists in isolation.

Would greatly appreciate any feedback, corrections, criticisms, and comments. If you want the MOBI, ePub, or PDF, then please let me know in the comments—if you provide constructive criticisms in return, and live in the US, UK, or EU, then I’ll ship you a paperback copy of the book free of charge when it’s published.


GOD

For thousands of years, humanity has attempted to explain that elusive being called God, but the commonly accepted mental manifestation of Him today reeks of overcomplicated and distorted human ideals that a God simply would not have, and what we are learning in cosmology is seriously putting a dent in the deistic God (sometimes called the philosophical God).

Throughout much of recorded history, we’ve had gods, eventually culminating in the One True God of monotheism. The explanations for their existence seem clear in hindsight; to explain the unknowable to those who have never grown comfortable to the thought of doubt—which, admittedly is many of us, this author included—and give us purpose and meaning in this life.

We began with dozens, perhaps hundreds of gods who oversaw the myriad forces of nature such as Zeus, the Greek god of thunder and ruler of Mt. Olympus, and Anubis, the Egyptian god of the underworld. We now have the One True God with His angels to help govern His domain. Himself, an evolution of the concepts that attempted to tame man’s initial ignorance. So the next time a creationist tells you evolution is a myth, explain to him or her that religion has itself evolved from simple roots. As a matter-of-fact, Yahweh was originally the Israeli God of the Armies, evolving into the One True God around the time of the Babylonian Exodus, which seemingly explains the barbarism of the Old Testament…but I digress.

The modern incarnation of God is now—not necessarily always was—word-magic and misdirection in the name of politics and power. A mental manifestation crafted to satisfy our basic needs of closure and certainty, which subsequently evolved, for a few, into their base needs of power and control.

In today’s modern scientific age, there is a conflict between the scientific rationalism that has emerged over the last four-hundred years and the superstition that is slowly dying—well, in some parts of the world at least. Many debates, arguments, attacks, and various other means of communication have been devoted to the exploration, explanation, and examination of these two opposing, and seemingly immovable trains of thought. At first, I will attempt to discuss the philosophic God, or deistic God that created the Universe and then left it to its merry ways, then the theistic God. Normally, you’d think I’d discuss the Judeo-Christian God first, devolving him into the philosophic God, then attempting to do away with him too, but this book does not have Random affixed to its title for design purposes!

During any one of the aforementioned communications, the inevitable questions will arise: ‘Where did everything come from?’ or ‘Why is there something rather than nothing?

For believers, the inability to answer such questions may be tacit proof that God exists. For if there wasn’t a god to create the Universe, then from whence did it come? At face value it seemingly passes the rigor of logic, but digging past that shallow veneer shows it as nothing more than the aforementioned word magic. It leaves one pondering the question: a long time ago, in a land far, far, away, did ignorance become proof of God? Human intuition is simply not a reliable means of arriving at an objective truth. As discussed in the previous chapter, almost all the conclusions that we as a species have arrived at intuitively have turned out to be wrong: from Aristotelian Physics, to Newtonian Mechanics, to Euclidean Geometry, to plate tectonics and many, many others. Where our Universe came from is no different. To intuit an answer does not give it any validity. (Not that that means you shouldn’t try.)

So where did the Universe come from? Let us say God for argument’s sake. One should then ask the same question again: Where did God come from?

Many will claim that He just is and always has been using such words as timeless, uncaused, and infinite. Usually, this is where the discussion ends with the theist satisfied in his answer, little knowing nothing was answered. Otherwise known as the Cosmological Argument, or to philosophers of religion, a weak—and to some—wrong version of it.

The crux of the Cosmological Argument goes something like this: there must be something (God, unmoved mover, uncaused cause) that has within it the reasons for its own existence. Anything that does not contain such a reason within it is necessarily contingent on something that does, or something that doesn’t based on something else that doesn’t based on something else that does—hope that made sense. But then how is this different from the immaterial, non-sentient Quantum Field of Quantum Field Theory discussed in the previous chapter that invariably, and mechanistically creates localized somethings and nothings (that still add up to nothing)? It does not, indeed cannot, provide a basis or proof of God except to metaphorically describe that immaterial process as God, which all by itself invalidates all religions based as they are on a personal, caring, infinitely powerful, and intruding deity. But why so many people dismiss the Quantum Field because it cannot be observed, yet are unwilling to do similar with God, betrays a certain double standard.

“The first principle is you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.” ~Richard Feynman (Theoretical Physicist)

And if God has always been, then why cannot the Universe always have been? Or if the Universe did indeed have a cause, then why cannot that cause have been natural as particle physicist Victor Stenger probes? Why immediately leap to the conclusion that it was supernatural? Having a God raises the exact questions as not having one. He then goes on to say in his book, The God Hypothesis, putting a twist on the classic existential question, “Why is there God and not nothing?

Merely postulating that God is the creator seems to be a sneaky method of subverting the question of where the cosmos came from without answering it and I believe that it was invented—in so much as you can invent an answer—for precisely this purpose. Even were Quantum Field Theory to have no say-so on the matter, how are we to say with confidence, that the Universe has not the reason for its own existence inherently within it? Or that the Quantum Field does not have the reason for its own existence within itself? (It does.) Most arguments that argue God assume inside the Universe and the Universe are the same thing, but the Universe from where we sit inside it, seemingly already violates, certain fundamental laws we take as inviolable!

For example: we know, due to Edwin Hubble that space-time is expanding and thanks to Einstein, the speed of light is the fundamental upper speed-limit of the Universe. No matter how close to the speed of light you travel, were you to shine a light in the direction you were traveling, the shining light would travel away from you at the speed of light. With a big enough telescope, looking in any direction from Earth, you would eventually come upon a distance or time (since they are intertwined), where you could see no further (right now this distance is blocked by the last scattering surface of the Big Bang, but the model still applies). The reason why is not that you’ve reached the end of the Universe, but that light from the other side of this fictitious divide has not reached you yet and never will. Stated scientifically, the objects on the other side of this divide are moving away from you faster than their light is racing towards you. Wait…What!? What’s actually happening is, though galaxies seem to be moving away from each other, what’s really happening is that the space in-between them is expanding, giving an illusion of movement. As you go out further and more space expands, more space expands in-between the more space. If you go out far enough, so much space is being created that the speed of light cannot travel the interceding distance. Similar to laying down an infinite railroad track in front of an incoming train so efficiently that the train never reaches the end, and the more you build, the faster you are able to build, until observers on the train can no longer see the end of the track and never again will. So while the speed of light is immutable, it does not bind its own inviolability to the Universe as a whole. As such, so many arguments for God are contingent on cause-and-effect to be applicable at the universal inception, though it is only an built-in assumption that causal reasoning applies before the Big Bang. Cause-and-effect, so relevant inside the Universe, does not necessarily bind itself to the Universe as a whole. In fact, according to Quantum Field Theory, down at the sub-atomic level, cause-and-effect doesn’t even exist. Things just happen; particles pop out of nowhere, annihilate with other particles and disappear back to nothing. Inside the Universe and the Universe are two different playgrounds, one doesn’t play by the other’s rules, so it is entirely unreasonable to equate the two, or to intuit from one onto the other. Concordantly, when accused of scientistic arrogance by a priest who claims that everything including the Universe is contingent (that cause and effect is fundamental), theoretical physicist Sean Carroll wrote, in response to the fathers theological arrogance “causes and effects aren’t really fundamental. It’s the laws of nature that are fundamental, according to the best understanding we currently have…

Quantum Mechanics as a scientific tool for understanding the world is one of the most successful, repeated, and accurate theories ever devised by modern science, and it does not give any of the arguments or conditions to validate the Cosmological Argument, except to say that is immaterial, mechanistic, simple, and non-sentient. For while cause-and-effect will always remain seemingly fundamental within the confines of the Universe, we know—to the best of our abilities—by the light example above, the lack of causality at a subatomic level, and the creation of energy from nothing (see chapter How, Not Why), that the Universe is not bound to the instantiated laws of nature within it.

“Knowledge is knowing the tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting in your fruit salad.” ~ Miles Kington (Journalist)

Moving onto the Judeo-Christian God, which is where a lot of earthly troubles manifest themselves, guised as religion. Before moving forward; I do not mean to insinuate that religious belief is fundamentally irrational, neither god belief, nor, to be fair, unbelief. But clearly two of the three options are wrong, and that’s why recently, there has been a struggle for the intellectual high-ground, which at the very least, is a vast improvement on past debates—shunning, burning, murders when religious institutions held sway, though this still happens in some parts of the world. But human beings, being mostly irrational and partly rational, often have difficulty separating their mental and physical worlds. While the majority of religious (and unbelieving) folk keep their beliefs to themselves, a minority (just as in every subject and field) feel the need to proselytize and otherwise harm society at large due to their belief, mostly in legislation, subsidies, and as such hold back the ascent of man. Though this is not to say they don’t do any good, but big picture, in my opinion, the bad outweighs the good. You don’t need religion to do good things, but you often do need religion to restrict the rights of others in areas of their own well-being: contraception, abortion, gay marriage to name but a few. With that said, moving on, and assuming a God exists for the following section. With our current incomplete scientific picture, there are really only two ways that attempt to explain the Universe. Let’s call this juncture the metaphysical fork in the road. There is the Theistic picture and the Deistic picture, henceforth called Options T and D, both of which attempt to use the Big Bang model to explain God. As you read through them, try to picture which would be more likely, and more worthy of omniscience.

Option T:

God, after waiting billions of years for us to evolve, sends His divine law through His human prophets 197,000 years after the appearance of modern humans. These prophecies are only transcribed into holy books—instead of just sending an unalterable or indestructible holy book—years after their prophets’ deaths, into our own changing, evolving, and context-specific languages. Then He subsequently sends updated prophecies, further sub-dividing those who did believe against each other as well as against those who don’t. These holy books are subjected to differing interpretations, in some cases, numerous mistranslations, and often, selective understanding leading to division, conflict, discrimination, agenda’s of power to use in war and genocide, along with the singular benefits of social cohesion to those who share a similar worldview and perhaps inner peace.

He commits to these holy books, laws and commandments that contradict basic human urges. He also claims to have created us separate from all other creatures, despite planting clear evidence to the contrary—DNA and fossils.

Through these actions, He limits these theologies to a geographic area of no more than a few thousand kilometers in diameter in the Middle East. There is limited or no worldly punishment for breaking His rules but immense personal reward to do so, byway of abusing the trust of those who haven’t broken the rules, often at the expense of others who have no voice or who have decided, through their own choices, to take no part in.

Option D:

He created the Universe and set within it, laws for it to be governed autonomously and without exception: gravity, electromagnetism, chemistry et al. We are forever subjected to these absolute forces, over which none have any control or any choice but to obey.

Neither can any one—or being—accidentally or otherwise mistranslate the intended meaning of such laws without volunteering for Darwinian de-selection, nor have they the power to place themselves above these laws, rendering all objects in the Universe which He created equal before the physical laws under every and all circumstances.

All are forever bound to these laws and they to us, and nothing can or ever will change that.

Which, T or D, is more worthy of an omnipotent, omniscient creator who would be, by the definition of the qualities we ascribe to Him, incapable of mistake? Which option is more compassionate and consistent with omniscient authorship?

Does T look like the reality created by an omnipotent, omniscient, and caring creator? Or does it sound like it was written of the people, by the people, and for the people to satisfy the peoples’ delusions of self-importance and closure? He makes mistakes. He sends three books instead of one. He sends His revelations to a few instead of to all, relegating revelation to hearsay—which would have removed any doubt forever and always. By doing it in the manner He chose, He shows a willful intent to cause the repression, subdivision, misunderstanding, corruption, and wars that inevitability followed. But He loves us, so to some, that somehow makes it better, betraying yet another imperfect human emotion.

And does not option D sound like the majestic masterpiece that the Universe actually is? The mind of a scientist is not needed to recognize the inherent beauty of the Universe or the fallacies inherent in option T; it requires only an open mind, one that is open to the evidence that is inherent all around us. The evidence that He put there, if we are to follow this conclusion through to its logical end.

Going further still, why does the Universe need a God for its creation? By demanding the Universe had a beginning (which it does only by our perspective of time, which, if you recall from high school physics is not absolute, but relative), then a personal God by simple extension of logic, must also have had a beginning at one point—unless, of course! God also has a One True God. The conundrum deepens! If He had no God of his own, how could his intelligence be instantiated? If He is formless, timeless, and causeless, then how can he be intelligent and have thoughts, intent, and purpose, which, by our definitions of them, require constant environmental and internal change? How did he go from zero to sixty, without first passing through one through fifty-nine. None of these questions can be satisfactorily answered.

Option T does not add up under any circumstances. It merely involves passing the buck to God without applying the same scrutiny to God as to creation. As David Duetsch writes in his book, The Beginning of Infinity, a good theory is an explanation that is hard to vary while still describing reality and all religious arguments fail this basic test, because they are too easy to vary, and all too often, fail to describe reality no matter which way they are varied. Though of course, they can describe reality by accident as sometimes happens. Not only that, but during discussions, the goal posts are often moved around and around, back and forth, this way or that way, bending inwards and outwards, all to rationalize why the Universe fits T and not D, or N (Nothing). It’s impossible to even have a basic discussion on this issue, for every time you do, the requirements and reality of the situation is changed to accommodate one side of the debate at the expense of the other—much as if one side of the debate is sitting on the train riding along the infinite railroad track from our previous example could never see the end of.

I remember when I was in kindergarten, I asked my friend, “What is one plus one?” To which he responded “two,” and I countered, “Wrong! It’s eleven” putting the two numeral ones together and feeling smug in the act. A few days later, I would ask again, and if he answered with “eleven” I said, “Wrong! Its window,” drawing the condensed equation inside an enlarged equal sign with a big, stupid smile on my face like I won some idiotic contest. The third time I asked, he said “window,” and I said “two.” First off, to my friend that I played this on, I’m sorry, but I was just a stupid kid—still am stupid sometimes. But if you are the victim of this prank, you cannot win arguing against this logic, yet this is the logic of theism, whether they know it or not, when they try to explain away or gloss over, the paradox of a loving God—or a God at all—with the scientific worldview instead of just recognizing the Universe for what it is, and that God simply is not required or even necessary. (It might still be possible, but to postulate God in spite of what we know today, and what we knew in the past, before all the evidence came to light in the last few decades is to not answer or theorize a good explanation to the question in the first place.) Last of all, just because something is logically valid, does not automatically make it physically valid. I’m often reminded of Zeno’s paradox: Achilles and a Tortoise are in a race, with the tortoise having a head-start. As the race begins, Achilles races to where the tortoise was, but the nifty little tetrapod had moved forward. So Achilles must race forward again, but by the time he reaches where the tortoise was, it has moved forward again. Thus Achilles never overtakes, let alone reaches, the tortoise. Of course, we know that this is merely a logical problem and not a physical one. Empirical—and modern mathematical logic—results would show any capable runner overtaking the tortoise in no time at all, and far surpassing it.

Merely postulating a creator, especially a personal one, adds a burdensome step to the equation, an unsolvable step no less, because of the number of unsubstantiated elements in the claim. Just like I’m adding this sentence, delaying you from finishing my book by a few extra seconds, yet providing no function of any kind, except to some book zealots who take comfort in that fact, because the value of their investment increased. (It would help if this sentence was the first sentence of this book, but then it’d make no sense.)

This brings me finally to a simple explanation of God. What we think of, as God, is simply the anthropomorphized Universe. The God of Spinoza, Einstein called it, after the philosopher Benedict Spinoza, who viewed the Universe and God as one and the same thing. Though I prefer to go one step further and call the latter a mistranslation. But be that as it may, out of one, sprang forth Religion, and out of the other, Physics. Same base, different explanations, one is mostly wrong and ignorantly self-propagating—if it left out the facts and tried only to explain human relationships, purpose, and morality would be one thing, but it tries and fails to make truthful claims about the Universe, and this is why science and religion are in conflict. The other started from the same base of ignorance, but was self-correcting with time and criticism, revealing ever more of objective reality, though never quite reaching it. But the difference between the two foundations seemingly, is semantic. God was a way to bring humankind in touch with the mystery of the Universe, in a way that our brains could understand, namely; a face, a name, emotion, and human-like qualities, but as history has shown us, that romanticized history and explanatory effect has—and continues to be—been woefully mistranslated and sometimes leads to social ills, usually in the form of institutionalized religion.

I believe we’ve gone beyond a need, or at least some have, of personifying the strange, immaterial, and counter-intuitive nature of the Universe. No longer is it rooted in word magic, deception, misdirection, and over-complications. By removing those anthropic layers, what remains is our beautiful, majestic, and seemingly infinite Universe, formerly anthropomorphized to fit our preconceived notions and assumptions—and perhaps evolutionary needs—instead of accepting it for what it is much as we have done since the dawn of civilization, and perhaps even farther back since the invention of language. The Earth was Gaia or Mother Nature. The sea was Poseidon or Neptune. Thunder was the wrath of Zeus or the might of Thor. Winter was Demeter’s sadness and on and on it goes. Each culture had its similar explanations, and each of them was subsequently wrong, or very occasionally, right by accident. Now the Universe is just our Universe.

The Universe is far grander, far more beautiful, and far more exquisite than the feeble mental construct we have of an aging white man who while perfect, infallibly exhibits our full range of imperfect emotions, lacks the foresight to see the ramifications that stem from His own judgments and decisions in regard to the human cost in lives, limbs, and lies—much as we have done to ourselves since the dawn of civilization. It is no great leap to say that the Judeo-Christian God was created in our image, rather than we in His.

This line-of-thinking doesn’t replace the meaning behind God, seeing as how we habitually personify inanimate objects and processes, but gives meaning to Him, or rather, It (the Universe), but elevates it above the aging 3,000-year-old (mis)interpretation removing the influence and subterfuge of religion as the middleman. Our creator is here for all to see, everywhere and always present, in every nook and in every cranny, in all our lives, making up our being, visible through a telescope and under a microscope: everywhere and anywhere you look in this grand design of our Universe.

It’s quite clear that the Abrahamic god was created in our own image, and institutionalized religion morphed, evolved, and wrapped itself around that false concept, capitalizing on the self-importance we exhibit, while in reality, we were created in the image of the Universe (see chapter How, Not Why).

Did God invent humanity? Or did we invent God?” ~ Morgan Freeman (Actor)

By Spinoza’s dictum, there is no distinction between the Universe and God, or at least, shouldn’t be. After all, if the original intent of a god (or gods) was to explain the unknowable, then its meaning is finite in its separation from reality, in a dynamic, knowledge-building society as is ours. We can see a clear progression in the meaning of God from before the common era, to now. At first, prior to the monotheistic religions, nature’s laws arose from nature herself, with Gods managing and keeping the chaos at bay (chaos was assumed to be the default state). Then around the Babylonian Exodus, God became the cause of everything, giving us a special place in his creation. Then Darwin came along and gave us the beautiful theory of evolution, though some then argued that evolution was divinely guided. Then Physics came along and through it; the Big Bang and Inflation, and God became God of the ever-evolving and decreasing Gaps relegated and demoted to ever-decreasing pockets of scientific ignorance. While there will always be more to learn, we can (and I feel need to) trump the psychological need for the Abrahamic god as an end all, be all to understanding our origins and our Universe. While it will never be possible to fully disprove God, with the vagueness and malleability of its attributes (a definition ofttimes cannot even be agreed upon). In that sense, perhaps the best course of action is simply to stop talking about it, him, or she in the context of creation and the Universe. Admittedly, I have not followed such a course. But science has given us an alternative and more plausible explanation.

How our Universe—an immaterial entity—was responsible for our creation, as accidentally inevitable as it may have been and the creation of all and everything that ever was, and came to be is nothing short of a beautiful mystery. We may never know why, but to say a god did it is a poor explanation.

For me, it’s a beautiful and humbling thought. We are part of this Universe and come from it, rather than in spite of it; something that religion claims man must know using the word ‘God’ instead.

A wise man apportions his beliefs to the evidence” ~ David Hume (Philosopher)

Something or Nothing

Nothing

This is sub-chapter #5, of Chapter 2, Philosophy, of my ongoing rewrite and open editing process Random Rationality: A Rational Guide to an Irrational World. Sub-chapters #1, #2, #3, and #4 can be found hereherehere, and here.

Brief Synopsis:

The book takes twenty seemingly random subjects, attempting however poorly, to thread them together in the process, attempting to make sense of the world we live in today. It is a very macroscopic worldview as the whole book fits into two-hundred pages, but aims to tickle the intellects of people just enough so they may go on to study more in-depth the subjects of their liking. The narrative attempts to abolish isolatory thinking, i.e., we so often talk, discuss, and debate topics in isolation and assume that the same points prevail in the real world where nothing exists in isolation.

Would greatly appreciate any feedback, corrections, criticisms, and comments. If you want the MOBI, ePub, or PDF, then please let me know in the comments—if you provide constructive criticisms in return, and live in the US, UK, or EU, then I’ll ship you a paperback copy of the book free of charge when it’s published.


NOTHING

  

What is nothing, and where did the something that we are and see all around us, come from? These are questions asked since our humble beginnings. Through the magic of modern-science, answers are finally being wrested out of the ether of space and time, and into something approximating language. Let us begin firstly, with a scientific controversy in 2012 relating to this very notion: the reception to the book, A Universe from Nothing, by the theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss.

There was a firestorm in some parts of the philosophic—and most certainly all parts of the theological—community due to Krauss’s book. The crux of the storm rested upon the assertion that Krauss made in regard to the nothing that a Universe can be born from—though as I discussed earlier, the Universe is still regarded as a different kind of nothing—the Quantum Field, derived from Quantum Field Theory. As close to nothing as we have we ever arrived—and maybe ever will. Quantum Field Theory describes how a Universe can arise from absolutely nothing: that is, no matter, no energy, no space or time, or anything of the sort. Just the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which precludes true nothing from ever taking place, mechanistically popping particles into existence, some of which go on to create conditions that birth Universes. Soon after its publication, the philosopher of science and theoretical physicist David Albert wrote a scathing review of the book in the New York Times alleging that Lawrence was misleading everyone because his book never addressed the basic question of how a Universe was born of nothing, because the Quantum Field is something, even if it isn’t comprised of matter, energy, time, space, or massless particles, and that the book does not mention where the Quantum Field comes from. 

But what if the nothing that we demand explanation of, to explain our origins, never actually existed? That is, a region devoid of fields, physical laws, matter, anti-matter, the Higgs boson, and everything else (presumably including God since by this definition He is most certainly something). What if semantics is the only thing being argued?

Maybe ‘nothing’ doesn’t, and never did, exist, and there has always been something, one-way or the other. 

The history of modern-science has had come with it, at every step, the uncomfortable notion that we have been wrong about almost everything we’ve had guessed at or intuited, particularly magnitudes bigger or smaller than our middle world (as Richard Dawkins calls it), but also many times, that on our scale. What makes the notion of ‘nothing’ any different? Here are some ancient and modern common-sense world views that have met the cruel fate of greater understanding: 

  • We are intelligently designed
  • The world is flat 
  • Stars are holes in heaven’s floor
  • Earth is the center of the Universe and Solar System
  • The aether permeates space allowing light to travel through it
  • Time is an absolute function of the universe (relativity did away with this)
  • The very small, atoms, obey the same laws as the very large, galaxies. Atoms obeys Quantum Mechanics, our Middle World obeys Newtonian Mechanics, and the very massive and fast obey relativity
  • Matter is solid (there is one thousand times more nothing than something inside an atom)
  • Space is a vacuum (empty space actually has a mass. That is, it weighs something and virtual particles constantly appear and disappear)

 

Our notion of nothing, to me at least, seems no different. It has been recently shown in this strange Universe we live in, by such physicists’ as Lawrence et al, in doing a rather ambitious experiment found that the total amount of energy in the Universe is zero. That is, the amount of positive energy (e.g. matter, radiation) is exactly cancelled out by the amount of negative energy (e.g. gravity), and cumulatively add up to zero, which sounds an awful lot like nothing (leading on from the premise in the chapter How, Not Why). This question, seemingly, is no longer philosophical at its core, and as Lawrence himself says, “Nothing is inherently unstable.” Though he refers, to the no-positive, no-negative nothing—or what we might refer to as the absence of all things. Though the mechanism by which that nothing transitions into an equally positive and negative Universe which still amounts to nothing is now beginning to be theorized and understand. Overall, the Universe does add up to nothing, but we are clearly in a localized region of something, exactly cancelled out by some other localized region of anti-something, all without violating the laws of conservation of energy. I find that nothing short of remarkable! 

One of the first Greek philosophers, Parmenides wrote in regard to the cosmos or existence, “It is.” And to pre-existence, or nothing as, “It is not.” However, the latter statement is self-contradictory. To say “It is not,” is to say “It is,” for you’ve contradicted that it is not, because you can think it in your mind—and you can’t actually think of nothing—and if nothing exists, it’s not nothing, but something. Put more simply, “Nothing comes from nothing.” From this, he takes the conclusion, one that I ascribe to, that there has always been something in one form or the other: whether that is universes bouncing in and out of time, randomly bursting into existence, or born out of the primordial soup of vacuum energy or black-holes is yet to be finalized. Today our best—though incomplete—theories suggest the Quantum Field is at the bottom of it all. Maybe that’s right, and I’m inclined to agree—not that my preference counts— or maybe it will be something else deeper down or further sideways. But it seems absurd to suggest, or demand, that for a theory to be ontologically relevant, it must explain why there is not nothing. We have only one Universe, which came from a singularity (neither of which is nothing in the philosophical sense), which gives us a sample of one something, and zero nothings. We have no proof of nothing, just a whole lot of something. (And anti-somethings.)

No matter which way, or how deep or far any theory goes, it will always be possible to probe one level deeper and say why this and not that? But just asking that question does not give it validity. This is not to say that it should not be disputed, or challenged, for this is where science thrives, but we must understand that our language muddles the issue here: the very word ‘nothing’ has no intrinsic meaning. There is nowhere in the Universe where there is truly nothing. Maybe by that admission alone, we’ll never know, but there’s even less fun in that. I recall recently on my blog, a theist lambasting Einstein for not accepting the conclusion from the premises of his Theory of General Relativity: that of an expanding or contracting Universe, which was contrary to the accepted Steady State Theory (SST) of the time. So Einstein added in a fudge factor, the cosmological constant, to bring his theory in line with the then-accepted SST. Of course, the intent was to show how Einstein (and by extension science) did not listen, or accept the conclusion of his theory, and therefore, is rooted in irrationalism and faith—little realizing that that proves how effective science is, even Einstein was overridden. Yet today, with our latest theories making predictions of the multiverse and Universe’s from nothing, physicists are vilified and accused of scientism for merely asserting the possibility that those predictions can be true. It seems, either way, the physicist is always wrong.

 

“Modern science has been a voyage into the unknown, with a lesson in humility waiting at every stop. Our common sense intuitions can be mistaken, our preferences don’t count, we do not live in a privileged reference frame.” ~ Carl Sagan (Astrophysicist) 


This will be the last post until after Christmas. Happy Holidays to all my readers and visitors, and a happy new year as well. Thank you for reading. Ciao!

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Infinite Frontier

So here is sub-chapter two, which is part of Chapter 1, Science, of the Random Rationality rewrite. The book is called Random Rationality, so it won’t start making sense until a ways in, so don’t be worried if you see no relation to the first chapter, which can be found here. Would greatly appreciate any feedback, criticisms, and comments. If you want the MOBI, ePub, or PDF, then please let me know in the comments—if you provide constructive criticisms in return and live in the US, UK, or EU, then I’ll ship you a paperback copy of the book free of charge when it’s published. If you share the same love of space as I do; consider signing the petition for increasing NASA’s budget here, or if you’re American, here. Enjoy the read.

 

regards

Humble Idiot


Infinite Frontier

In 1903, the Wright brothers were the first human beings to fly in a heavier-than-air machine, flying their garage-made contraption a total of one-hundred-twenty feet. Sixty-six years later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, traveling 828,752 miles, or an increase of 3,704,811% in total distance travelled over and above the Wright brothers’ historic virgin flight. We stopped pushing this boundary in 1972, relegating ourselves to an earthly existence, though occasionally venturing out to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO). That, I and many other space enthusiasts, believe was a mistake.

Let’s play a guessing game extrapolating out the exponential progress from 1903-1969. Accounting for the one-third less time we’ve had, since that sixty-six year period, and assuming that the increase in distance travelled due to technological advancement relative to that sixty-six year period is lineal—which it more than likely wouldn’t be. We may have been able to travel 2,413,740% farther than the distance Apollo 11 travelled to get to the moon relative to the Wright brothers’, or approximately 2,012,051,840,341 miles, as the crow flies—or space monkey floats. That’s beyond Pluto…though it wouldn’t get us to Pluto due to the zigzagged nature of space travel (flying around planets using their gravity to slingshot around giving a free speed boost to the spacecraft).

While the number I just came up with is about as valuable as monkey excrement, it’s only meant to make you think big, space big.

Had we continued with the frantic pace of research and development that started in 1957 with the launch of the first manmade satellite, Sputnik, into orbit by the USSR, there is little doubt that there would be footprints on Mars, though they wouldn’t last long, as Mars actually has weather unlike the moon.

Perhaps we would have created different means of interplanetary transportation, and the exponential rise of technology would have propelled us ever forward, creating unparalleled economic growth in its wake. Instead we got the moving around and creation of electronic zero’s on computer screens on Wall Street.

We could have potentially mined asteroids by now, which are chock-a-block full of yummy resources that we want and/or need. Even a relatively small asteroid a mile across has approximately $20 trillion of resources. That’s one-third of 2011 world GDP in one little space rock, and billions of these rocks are just floating around between Mars and Jupiter.

So why did we stop pushing the space frontier? Why did we stop going beyond LEO in 1972? Well, we stopped going for geopolitical reasons. A travesty of politics—beginning the main theme of governmental shortsightedness this book will continually find itself in the midst of.

Throughout the entire history of Homo sapiens, an epoch of some 200,000 years, we have continuously pushed the final frontier. Expanding outwards from the Rift valley in Africa, we pushed into the vast expanse of the Mideast, then to the wetlands of Asia and to the extremes of Europe, making a final push to the lush Americas, and the remote Oceania. Overcoming our limitations and exploring the frontier is a quintessential aspect of human nature.

The frontier need not always be physical either. When we stopped exploring geographically outwards; we started downwards, inwards, and upwards. Downwards into the rocks to determine the age of the Earth and all manner of fossils. Inwards into our bodies to extend both the length and quality of life. And upwards into space to explore our place in the cosmos. 

We found fossils of ancient monsters, exploited the Atom, discovered mathematics, geology, medicine, and physics. In the process expanding our mental horizons, which allowed us to make sense of our little corner of the Universe, and it just so happens that the pursuit of such endeavors made life better for everyone in the process.

Thankfully we haven’t stopped expanding our mental frontiers. We stopped long ago pushing its sister, the physical frontier, and who knows what insights and discoveries we have missed out on as a result. 

Political expedience should not be a factor in discovering new—or more—knowledge. Neither should naïve thoughts that we have too many problems down here to go exploring up there, otherwise we’d never have left Africa! We need to access such endeavors objectively and with standards, though even that has its shortcomings. Nobody could have foreseen the implications of discovering the atom, and the scientist who discovered it, when pressed, would have been unable to properly articulate a satisfactory answer, yet out of the atom came nuclear power and the atom bomb. Out of Quantum Mechanics (QM), came integrated circuits and information technology, and now thirty-five percent of the US economy exists because of QM. Out of Einstein’s relativity, we discovered the means to keep satellites in orbit in tune with equipment on the ground (GPS). Problems down here are often solved by problems up there! When the Hubble Telescope had a malfunctioning mirror, scientists had to make do with observing a blurry Universe, but in the process, they created image-processing algorithms to clear up some of the blurriness, which was later used in mammograms down here on Earth, allowing earlier detection of breast cancer, potentially saving the lives of millions of women. Because of a mistake!

Be that as it may, did problems in the motherland stop Christopher Columbus, Captain James Cook, or Marco Polo, from exploring and discovering new sections of the Earth. It certainly didn’t stop the Iraqi and Syrian farmers who left the Fertile Crescent ten-thousand years ago due to over-utilization of resources and travelled to modern-day England and everywhere in between? (Eighty-percent of the current British population are descended from those Iraqi and Syrian farmers) 

 No, the problems of their time didn’t slow them down, but spurred them on, and possibly helped to alleviate their problems. For example: 

  • Need more efficient shipping routes, sail the seven seas, map the coastlines, create maps, and plan better next time (We then went onto invent GPS, cars, ships, planes, and meteorology)
  • Old World becoming stagnant, cross the Atlantic and start the New World, which eventually went onto become the dominant financial and military superpower of the world
  • Minerals and resources becoming more expensive and/or scarce, mine deeper or farther away using new techniques and technologies

New, useful and beautiful things are always discovered when pushing that final frontier ever farther; therein lays its significance and the crux upon which our seven-thousand year old civilizations stand. Without it, we are cave dwellers, rendering the 1.6% genetic difference separating us from chimps nothing more than an unnecessary and wasted gift. It’s that mix of new problems in the face of old ones that forces upon us a different mode of thinking, along with practical experimentation that can then be taken back to society, allowing for its economic or geographic expansion. This is the foundation of human prosperity, where new processes, tools, social orders, and technologies spring forth as a result of new understandings. Without this engine of discovery and growth, history has shown us time and time again that society rots from the inside out and empires crumble. You can only coast on the achievements of your forefathers for so long.

 Why do all empires decline? Every single empire in the history of civilization has fallen from its peak due to a failure to anticipate change, and the propensity of government to maintain the status quo—a lesson to be learned in today’s heated political climate. To anyone afraid of change, history shows us that those who fear and push back against economic, scientific, and social change are on the losing side of that battle almost hundred-percent of the time. What are you pushing back against today?   

 It’s not religion, communism, monarchy, government, or any other factor of society that drives this innate human desire to discover—in point of fact, they are its antithesis with their desire for the status quo. It is change that is the instigator, and nothing forces change more than the unknown.

 Our final frontier, if you can call it that, since it is infinite, is space. We’ve conquered LEO, with the manned International Space Station, but we must not stop there. We should aim for permanent habitation of the moon and its exploration, which is chock-a-block full of helium-3—which will became necessary with nuclear fusion technology coming online in the coming decades. We should aim for capture of an asteroid, landing a person on Mars to establish humankind as a multi-planetary species, and have a back-up of Earth’s biosphere in case of a calamity, and then march, actually coast, ever forward. 

 Space doesn’t end. It is infinite and at each turn, there will be a blessing in disguise, maybe in the form of new resources, vast energy reserves, or new scientific understandings expanding our view of the Universe. And who knows, perhaps life, maybe even a sentient alien race. But we are guaranteed something, and the human race as a whole will be the benefactor. 

 This is not to say there will be no risk. Crossing the road entails risk. Getting into a car entails risk, but the rewards will far outweigh the risks, especially in our desolate solar system.

 Space has untold riches just waiting for us. We could diversify our eggs and sperm out of the proverbial single basket that is Earth, thereby increasing the chances of long-term human survival in the event of disaster. The technologies that we would invent to survive in space would be applicable to all our problems here on Earth, and it would greatly accelerate the day we live in a sustainable economy that doesn’t destroy the fragile ecosystems of our small home.

 Through our exploration of only a small section of space, we have already invented technologies that have served a multitude of needs down here at ground level:

  • More nutritious infant formulas that allow a better quality of life for those infants unable to be breast-fed
  • UV sunglasses protecting our eyes from harsh sunlight
  • Memory foam used in helmets and prosthetic legs, saving countless lives and treating injuries
  • Camera optics used in a third of all cell phone cameras capturing life’s beauty
  • Digital imaging techniques such as CT scans and MRIs, potentially saving the lives of thousands, if not millions
  • GPS and weather forecasting, allowing the efficient transportation of goods and people worldwide, increasing the quality of life of billions
  • Smoke detectors that have saved countless people from horrible deaths
  • And 1,723 other inventions that NASA has catalogued with the addendum that this list is far from exhaustive

Space exploration is the most awe-inspiring work that can be undertaken by humankind, simultaneously inspiring a new generation into becoming scientists and engineers instead of bankers and insurance salesmen, and expanding economies and horizons in a real sense. The understanding it brings fosters human innovation in a way that benefits all of humankind, not just those living in the void of space.

 Thankfully, private companies are stepping up to the plate in droves to take over where once government solely had the means. In 2012, SpaceX successfully launched a private spaceship and docked with the International Space Station twice. Another new company, Planetary Resources, has been formed to mine asteroids sometime this decade or next. Last;y, the newly formed company, Golden Spike, is offering tickets to goto the moon for $1.5 billion by the end of this decade. Though the niche they are creating is yet a delicate newborn that needs support. 

 

Exploration is the most sublime expression of what it is to be human, and space exploration is the ultimate expression of this humanity.” Elliot G. Pulham and James DeFrank

when to ask how not why

How, Not Why…

So, I’m re-writing Random Rationality. After taking a break of several months. I went back and reread it, and realized how sloppy it was. Not much of a surprise really. It was my first book, and I’ve only been writing for a year. But there was many cases of sloppy reasoning, poor word-choice, and unexplored avenues of supporting examples. So I went back and cleaned up as much of that as I could, adding almost sixteen-thousand words in the process, taking it from thirty-eight-thousand words, to just shy of fifty-four-thousand words.

Today, I just finished the first draft of that rewrite, and I wanted to try something new with the editing process. I am going to upload one chapter every second or third day, and gauge the readers response (if any), and take what actions may be required in light of any response, be they spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes, or outright errors. If anyone wants the full MOBI, ePUB, or PDF to read it at their leisure in exchange for constructive criticisms, just leave a comment and I’ll gladly send it over—if you also live in the USA, UK, or Europe, I’ll mail you a paperback, when it’s finished, as thanks for your constructive criticisms.

Here is the first chapter of the book, How, Not Why. I’d gladly appreciate any reader input and criticisms. Thanks!


How, Not Why

There are how questions and why questions. A why question presupposes purpose and therefore agency. The history of human ignorance, has had come with it, the describing of that which we were ignorant of at the time with unwarranted purpose, because we did not understand the how. Nothing in the relatively short history of modern science has given us any reason to believe that our ancestors were correct in placing the why before the how in any age, object, or process. This is the story of the universe, the how, as best we know it. Our understanding of the first second of the universe falls under the purview of speculative (theoretical) physics, but onwards, is empirically based in observation and experimentation (in particle accelerators, telescopes et al).

Approximately 13.72 billion years ago, a singularity exploded creating space, time, matter, and anti-matter. Neither space nor time existed before the Big Bang, so asking the question of what came before the Big Bang is akin to dividing by zero. The matter and anti-matter, being each others polar opposites, annihilated each other on contact (because they have opposite charges). Luckily for us, there existed a one in one-billion surplus of matter over anti-matter, so when all was said and done, there remained one-billionth the amount of the created matter, whence all the gas, stars, planets, and life that we see around us, came.

The instigating factor in the singularity, was a quantum fluctuation, which created a positive energy input into a system of net energy zero. We know today that the net energy of the Universe is zero, and energy cannot be created or destroyed, except to accommodate a total energy of zero (i.e., we cannot create energy, but the Universe seemingly can), and space expanded to accommodate the negative energy to counterbalance the created positive energy, and thus began entropy, and the arrow of time.

Succeeding this explosion (for lack of a better word, though it was amazingly hot; billions of degrees), the Universe expanded exponentially. The process of expansion in the first second is called Inflation, during which the universe expanded faster than the speed of light. During the inflationary period; hydrogen, helium and lithium were created in the intense heat which instigated Nuclear Fusion (more on this soon), in descending quantities of seventy-seven percent, twenty-three percent, and trace amounts of lithium. Also, tiny quantum jitters (particles that pop into and out of nothing, and which instigated the energy imbalance that began the Universe) were magnified during the expansion from subatomic to macroscopic, in the process creating imperfections in the fabric of space-time that allowed gravity to take hold and shape the Universe. We can see these imperfections in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR), which is how we know they happened.

As the Universe expanded, the heat dissipated and it cooled, and as time passed, matter started attracting matter via gravity, made possible due to the aforementioned imperfections in space-time. Everything that exists: stars, planets, us, exist only as a result of those imperfections, otherwise the Universe would have been formless (everything would have pulled on everything else equally and thus nothing would have changed). With time and gravity, clumps of gas began forming. Floating in the gaseous ether, they swirled and formed into ever-bigger clumps, and just like rubbing your hands together in the cold of winter generates heat, so do trillions upon trillions of gas particles rubbing, moving, and banging into each other.

The larger and more voluminous a gas-clump became, the more gravitational pull it exerted on other free-floating gas and gas-clumps nearby, and the faster and hotter the gas within it swirled and whirled; each cycle only reinforcing further gas accumulation and heat. Eventually, this frictionally derived heat reached a critical temperature and nuclear fusion occurred; the process by which two atoms are smashed together at such speed and energy, that they are joined and a new element is created.

At this point, the clump of gas becomes a star and begins using its gas as fuel. Hydrogen fuses into deuterium. Two deuterium atoms fuse to make helium, which fuses into carbon, which when combined with helium, fuses into oxygen (for stars the size of our sun, fusion stops here), into magnesium, neon, and so on until iron is made; a by-product of this fusion reaction is electromagnetic radiation, a small sliver of which we perceive as light and feel as heat: the entire energy of everything on this planet (except for the deepest valleys in the oceans) is derived from the fusion reaction in the Sun, ninety-three million miles away. As each star moves onto the next element, it’s temperature slowly rises—one billion years from now, our sun will be too hot for life on Earth.

This goes on for many millions or billions of years: the star creating new elements, inching down and across the periodic table. Once iron is made, the star has just about reached the end of its life, as it cannot use iron as fuel. As the buildup of iron continues, gradually, the gravitational inward pull of the star’s mass (accelerated by the iron creation) begins to outweigh the outward push of it’s weakening fusion reaction (decelerated by the iron creation), and suddenly it collapses in on itself in stages, breaking the balance of forces that kept it in equilibrium. At each stage, the core becomes hotter and it creates new elements, until finally, if the star is massive enough, it will collapse so violently inwards that it subsequently explodes outwards seeding the Universe with its elements in what is known as a supernova. The resultant fireworks can, for a few weeks, outshine galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars.

On a side note, it is in supernovae that the heaviest elements are created; gold, palladium, uranium, etc. They came from a fireball burning at one-hundred-billion degrees. And if the star is even bigger, a black hole is created, where the entire mass of the star is compressed into so small an area during the implosion that the laws of physics, space, and time itself actually break down. Nothing, not even light itself, which travels at 300,000,000 meters per second, can escape its gravitational pull.

This process repeats ad infinitum until the ninety-two naturally occurring elements are created and flying every which way across the Universe, seeding the next generation of stars, which, in turn, plant the seeds for planets and galaxies to pop into existence, alongside the dinosaurs’ worst nightmare, the asteroid.

Turning the story toward a more personal nature. At this juncture, free-floating gaseous matter meandering through the Universe, in a corner of an otherwise normal, but old spiral galaxy, began coalescing into dust, ice, rock, and metals, co-mingling in this similar process around a newly formed yellow star, from which the planets, our one among them, were born.

More asteroids and meteors, not used in the planetary formation process, but still gravitationally locked in the Sun’s gravity well, zip and shoot around the place, seeding these new planets with elements, and eventually with the required puzzle pieces of life, amino acids—the building block of proteins. In Earth’s case, one among many, theories is that a meteor carrying amino acids landed here on Earth, and in the ensuing millions of years (these building blocks of life  have been found in the core of uncontaminated meteorites), these amino acids mixed with lightning and volcanic activity on a young, violent Earth and became organic matter, which (mysteriously and the search for an explanation is ongoing) went on to become single-celled life. After a few billion years of this mindless tedium, a single bacterium in an involuntary act of self-sacrifice, allowed itself to be swallowed up by another single-celled creature called an archaea, and became the first multi-celled organism (we can still find the genetic sequence of that little bugger in our own genetic code). Many trillions of evolutions later; here there be lions…and humans.

It took almost a billion years from the creation of the Earth to single-celled life, then another three-billion years to Homo sapiens: not coincidentally a carbon-based life-form. Carbon also happens to be the most chemically active compound in the Universe, so no surprise there. The four most common elements in the universe are in order: hydrogen, helium, oxygen, carbon. The four most common elements in your body are hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen (seventh-most common). We are, as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson puts it, “extreme expressions of complex chemistry.

That’s it—that’s how it all started.

A few things have been left out for simplicity’s sake such as dark energy, dark matter, the finer points of planetary formation, and natural selection by random mutation, but the core of it is the gist of it. These extra details fill in the blanks in-between some of the events just told, but the story told without them is much easier to digest, process, and remember.

“Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.” ~Richard Feynman (Theoretical Physicist)

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Exploring Meaning, God, and Science

This is a post I had on my other website that I replaced, so I am reposting it here, so it may live again…

A conversation between two friends on meaning, god, deism, the Universe, and a few tangentially-related subjects that sprouted off and grew wings of their own. It clocks in at 11,315 words long, but if you prefer the summary, read only the last two sections.

Enjoy, and we would love to hear anybody’s thoughts on the subject-matter.

Josh:

Hi Foo

Hope all is well with you. Congratulations on getting the book finalized and out there. I watched a video of a lecture today that I thought you might enjoy. The speaker has written a book onthe subject of how there is something from nothing. It touches on recent cosmology with some interesting history on thought and how it has led to todays understanding. My own thought is that he doesn’t really answer how something came from nothing, rather he re-describes “nothing” as a form of quantum something, which to my mind begs why is there a quantum something rather than nothing (perhaps straying into reductio ad absurdum territory). Anyway i thought you may enjoy it.

http://www.openculture.com/2011/09/a_universe_from_nothing_by_lawrence_krauss.html

Fourat:

Thanks, I appreciate it. It’s been a bit of a ride to get it finally finished! I had watched this lecture before, and I loved it. I devoted a chapter to it in my book. I love this question, and I have been thinking about it recently. I think the question is wrong to begin with. Nothing is a concept of our language and our mental constructs we use to express ourselves. Think of making a chair from wood. Before you begin to create the chair, does it exist? Of course not, but the raw material does, the potential for a chair to exist does (probabilistically speaking), and the energy (person) to assemble that chair. But in our day-to-day paradigms, we think we made the chair, and before the chair existed there was nothing. Nothing is an expression of our language, and not an inherent concept of the Universe. Might be a bad example, but I think it makes sense.

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PythonGod

Did God Have a Choice?

A somewhat amusing philosophical problem has popped into my brain, and I wish to explore it in this post. Amusing to me at least, whether it has occurred to others, I’m not sure because I haven’t finished reading the internet (one day, I might), but I’ll jump right into it. The physics of today points (not proves!) to a multi-verse. That is, if ever it is experimentally verified, our universe will not be the only universe that exists, but rather just one amongst an infinite number of universes. In essence, the copernican principle at its grandest scale. This theory, which goes by a few names; string theory and M-theory to name a few, is accounted for in some of our mathematical descriptions of the universe, and we maybe on the verge of paradigm-busting physical evidence to prove it. Now when I say accounted for, what I mean is that it is a logical extrapolation of theories that accurately describe the universe we are in. (The BBC’s “What Happened Before the Big Bang” is an easily digestible primer on this, or this TED talk by physicist Brian C. Greene). Again though, the multiverse is a logical extrapolation of these theories, so when you hear people saying scientists invented the multiverse theory to do away with God, they are mistaken. The multiverse is a prediction of a theory that set out to answer questions about our own universe.

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