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)