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What else other than the Big Bang Singularity?

16 May

What else other than the Big Bang Singularity?

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Since my childhood I have been affascinato with astronomy and cosmology. I lived in the relative darkness at night in suburban Illinois and the night sky was a display of planets, stars and even satellites. Early on, seeing my enthusiasm, my parents bought me a small telescope with which I could see even clearer and, also, more distant celestial objects, and we went to the nearby observatory and planetariums to learn more about the universe. Of course, as with all science, over the years with the advancement of more sophisticated technology, the hypothesis of the origin of the universe has changed and will continue to do so. This short blog is written as a personal reflection on the latest, more reasonable hypotheses on the topic of the beginning of our universe.

Those familiar with cosmology or the scientific study of the origin and structure of the universe are aware of the competition of two primary hypotheses about the nature of the universe in which we live. These two are the Steady State and Big Bang. In brief, the steady-state theory, claims that the density of matter in the expanding universe remains unchanged due to a continuous creation of matter, thus adhering to the perfect cosmological principle, a principle that asserts that the observable universe is basically the same at any time as well as at any place. While the steady state model enjoyed some popularity in the mid-20th century, the Steady State Theory is now no longer accepted by most cosmologists. Today the majority of astronomers consider the Big Bang theory to be the best description of the origin of the universe as the observational evidence points to a hot Big Bang cosmology with a finite age of the universe, which the Steady State model does not predict.

It seems that the field of cosmology, therefore, yields good evidence that there was an initial beginning to our universe. According to the Big Bang theory, our universe began as an infinitesimally small, infinitely hot, and infinitely dense something – a singularity. The universe began to exist as a hot, dense phase, which can be considered the “birth” of our universe in which was contained all of the mass and spacetime of the Universe before it rapidly expanded with subsequent inflation, creating the present-day Universe. Extrapolation of the expansion of the universe backwards in time using general relativity yields an infinite density and temperature at a finite time in the past. The initial singularity is part of what is called the Plank  Epoch , or the earliest period of time in the history of the universe. So according to the standard theory, based on measurements of the expansion using Type IA supernova and measurements of temperature fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background, our universe came into existence as a singularity of an estimated age of 13.799 ± 0.021 billion years ago.

Well, as an ‘affascinato’ of cosmology, this has always been pretty convincing through the science that supports the Big Bang until one arrives at the logical question of “How did all that mass come into existence from nothing?”. One thinks that perhaps not being a professional in the subject, one has missed a subtle and important link in the argument for the Big Bang model. This self-doubt ends rather quickly when the usual cosmologist at the end of the Big Bang lecture admits, “Where did the initial singularity come from? We don’t know. Why did it appear? Well, to be honest, we don’t know. This is a question that stretches physics to its limit simply because before the initial singularity there was no space and no time. Therefore, the word ‘before’ becomes meaningless.” In fact, the Big Bang singularity can explain only what happened immediately after—not at or before—the singularity. Also, this implies that the universe was born with a tendency to expand, which overcame the tendency of matter to collapse. Why it initially chose to do so is also still a mystery… the Big Bang model has numerous theoretical difficulties to it.

So while the Big Bang is the most accepted model, there are many holes (not black ones) in this proposition. But now there is a new perspective which gives a more parsimonious answer to the questionable issues associated with that singularity. The perspective is quantum physics. In quantum physics, particularly the transactional interpretation (TI) of quantum mechanics, as discussed by Ruth Kastner, explains that the macroscopic world of mass, space and time is based on the foundation or scaffold of the quantum interactions found in ‘quantumland’. This interpretation purports that there is more to known reality than ‘spacetime’, and that quantum theory describes that subtler, unseen reality. In this hypothesis, quantum processes take place in a realm scaffolding the ‘spacetime’ realm. Quanta are not contained in our spacetime world but in the realm of possibilities outside spacetime. Kastner explains that according to the transaction interpretation of quantum systems, e.g. electrons, travel by a physical entity called an offer wave, which is offered from a source called an emitter, to a destination called an absorber. The microscopic emitters and absorbers are quantum objects and not in spacetime. When there is absorption of the offer, this process gives rise to a confirmation wave that travels back to the emitter. This process of an offer responded to by a confirmation is the basic ‘handshake’. The confirmation is also like a mirror image of the offer representing an incipient transaction whose essence is merely possible energy rather than real energy. The process of the creation of new particles can only be treated by relativistic quantum mechanics.

Once there is a matching confirmation, then the property is defined as actualized, brought into spacetime, and is a classical property. The incipient transaction is actualized and becomes an observable event in the macroworld or ‘our’ world of mass in space and time. A macroscopic object begins at the point at which a confirmation has been generated. Real energy is only conveyed in the actualized transaction, in fact; only through an actualized transaction can real energy be radiated or transferred from one object to another. So indeed, a reliable macroscopic object is a consistent absorber and can be defined as a system of many actualized transactions. Kastner uses the example of a geiger counter to illustrate the difference of the two ‘worlds’. A geiger counter exists as an object in the macroscopic world being a conglomerate of actualized transactions. But it also maintains its roots in the quantumland domain of possibilities because it is comprised of atoms, which can act as emitters or absorbers. Measurement occurs both whenever an absorber is accessible to an emitter and when confirmations are generated.

In actuality, it is the interaction of subatomic material that brings forth the material world as we know it and as it exists. So, in terms of the beginning of our universe, using the TI model, the speculation that would make sense is that at a point about 13 billion years ago there was a quantum fluctuation that created the macroscopic elements which ‘broke through’ and created our realm of existence. While, of course, the why, how and what are still a mystery for this as is still much of our comprehension of ‘quantumland’, we are no longer faced with the impossibility of explaining the ‘before’ the singularity event of the Big Band using the infinite macroscopic mass/space/time model of the Big Bang but instead the more heuristic, efficient quantum model which bypasses the impossible.

TIME IS A MYSTERY

26 Jul
  • Time is a mystery. Some thoughts by thinkers. ——————————————————————-  

The illusion of the passage of time arises from the confusing of the given with the real. Passage of time arises because we think of occupying different realities. In fact, we occupy only different givens. There is only one reality.” Kurt Gödel

“Gödel concluded that time travel is indeed theoretically possible, rendering time, as we know it, meaningless. Time, that mysterious and seemingly self-contradictory being, as Gödel put it, which, on the other hand, seems to form the basis of the world and our own existence, turned out in the end to be the world’s greatest illusion. For Gödel, time was the philosophical question” Palle Yourgrau, ‘A world without time’

“Ultimately all moments are really one. Therefore, now is eternity.” David Bohm
“…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.” Albert Einstein

“I am therefore inclined to think that “the Real”- alais human independent reality- is not embedded in space-time. And indeed, I go as far as speculating that, quite the contrary, the nature of space-time is… not ‘noumenal’ but ‘phenomenal’, that space-time is a ‘reality-for-us.’” Bernard d’Espagnat  

” …As a result, all change must be gauged by correlations. Ultimately, everything must be correlated with the size of the Universe. Any vestige of a moving present has faded completely…Remember that Einstein spoke of an illusion…Might it be that our strong sense of the flow of time is an illusion akin to giddiness, perhaps connected with the way our memories operate?” Paul Davies   

“The world just does not happen, it simply is…” Hermann Weyl 

“All these Nows,  just exist.  They do not appear and then vanish; they just are.   From a global perspective, there is no answer to the question, “What time is it?”  There are just different experiences at different Nows. From any given vantage point, you look back, and remember other times – so that the question, “Why is it this time right now, rather than some other time?” seems to make sense.  But there is no answer. When I came to this understanding, I forgot the meaning that Time had once held for me. Time has dissolved for me, has been reduced to something simpler that is not itself timeful. I can no longer conceive that there might really be a universal time, which is somehow “moving” from the past to the future.  This now seems like nonsense.” Eliezer Yudkowsky 

“One cannot though conclude how the variations are taking place, over what timescales they are taking place or even how old the universe is. The universe could be 10×10 years old or 5 x 10-44 sec (the Planck time)old, or any time in between. Time is strictly a parameter that can be introduced in the scale-invariant relationships. It has no meaning by itself. The universe appears to be evolving as the number of particles and ratios are varying.” Menas Kafatos, Sisir Roy and Richard Amoroso   

“…the present moments of reality are now replacing one another, where if one had direct awareness of reality one would know reality as transcendental efficient moments” Fyodor Ippolitovich Stcherbatsky

“From non-nirvanic awareness, one experiences imaginary causal connections between moments and thus fabricates the illusion of persistence and duration of objects. But when one experiences reality, one only experiences the efficient moments, rapidly replacing one another, like the flames of a fire. Buddha: the whole world is burning. The non-nirvanic observer, unaware of the fiery, boiling nature of reality, is unaware that they will not exist beyond this present instant, and that any volition or hope is unneeded and illusory, and is based on the misery of unreality.” J. Grupp  

The Buddha said, “Even so was my past existence at that time real, but unreal the future and present existence; and my future existence will be at one time real but unreal the past and present existence; and my present existence is now real, but unreal the past and future existence. All these are merely popular designations and expressions, mere conventional term of speaking, mere popular notions” (Digha-nikaya). Hence the Buddha has only one time, that is “Eternal Present”.” Chen Hsiongcai

“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” Alan Watts

“Time, as self-determination of the eternal “Now”, is essentially contained in this Now. There where time is, contained and extinquished, personality appears, as content of eternity.” Nishida

“The Universe is a dynamic system in a permanent dynamic equilibrium, there is no beginning and no end of the universe.” A.S.Sorli

“So in summary, the universe we see is just a fragment nested in a timeless (everything) whole, rather than a single material world magically arisen above some primordial nothing. All universes exist without beginning or end in the ultimate arena of time, and each moment we experience exists forever.” Gevin Giorbran  

“This means that because, in reality, there is no coming or going in time, when we cross the river or climb the mountain we exist in the eternal present of time; this time includes all past and present time.” Dogen  

“Dogen writes, ‘Entire being, the entire world, exists in the time of each and every now.’ Thus the mind, body, being, world, and time form a unity. Not only are entities time, and not only is time in me, but activities are time. ‘As the time now is all there is, each being-time is without exception entire time.’ Dogen emphasizes the now moment because there is never a time that has not been or a time that is coming. ‘…all is the immediate presencing here and now of being-time.’ Thus time is a continuous occurrence of ‘nows’. The Buddha-nature is a present actuality.” Carl Olson

“Dogen frees himself from the representational mode of thinking without subverting time and remaining convinced that each moment is complete in itself and cannot be undermined.” Carl Olson    

“The universe would be completely self contained and not affected by anything outside itself. It would neither be created nor destroyed. It would just BE.”  Stephen Hawking

“Whether or not reality has one universe or many, it had no beginning and was not created. It neither was nor will be. It just is.” Victor J. Stenger

“What suggests itself is that psychologically – and perhaps eventually for the deepest level physically – we can’t use time as the essence. Rather, the moment NOW is the essence, because all the past and the future that we ever will know are in this moment. The past and the future are now – namely, in so far as it has left any impression, whatever has happened is now. And our experiences are now. Thus we could say that now may be the starting point. One picture you could make of an electron would be that it sort of flashes into and out of existence so fast that when picked up in the usual equipment it looks continuously existent. It might have a certain regularity, so that it appears to obey an order of necessity. But it might be that it is basically creative; the creative act may create this order of necessity.” David Bohm

“We are always moving (inflationary cosmology)(arrow of time) but also always remain in the now. The ‘phenomenal’ now is relative, experienced as eternal but intuitively we grasp and psychologically represent a moving existence by remembering a past and projecting into a future.” Rodger Ricketts

“Time is like a ‘field’ – there is no fixed, locatable present. It always vanishes upon close examination. The moment you try to pinpoint it, it has already passed and a future moment is now present.” Trinh Thuan

In 1949 the great logician Kurt Gödel constructed the first mathematical models of the universe in which travel into the past is, in theory at least, possible. Within the framework of Einstein’s general theory of relativity Gödel produced cosmological solutions to Einstein’s field equations which contain closed time-like curves, that is, curves in spacetime which, despite being closed, still represent possible paths of bodies. An object moving along such a path would travel back into its own past, to the very moment at which it ‘began’ the journey. More generally, Gödel showed that, in his ‘universe’, for any two points P and Q on a body’s track through spacetime (its world line), such that P temporally precedes Q, there is a time-like curve linking P and Q on which Q temporally precedes P. This means that, in principle at least, one could board a ‘time machine’ and travel to any point of the past. Gödel inferred, in consonance (as he observes) with the views of Parmenides, Kant and the modern idealists, that under these circumstances there could be no such thing as an objective lapse of time, that time or, more generally, change, is an illusion arising from our special mode of perception.” John L. Bell

 

Steven Hawkings and Alien Life

9 Jul

Steve Hawking and Alien Life

Recently the world renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking created a stir by saying, “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach.” Hawking said this in a forthcoming documentary made for the Discovery Channel. He argues that, instead of trying to find and communicate with life in the cosmos, humans would be better off doing everything they can to avoid contact.

Hawking believes that, based on the sheer number of planets that scientists know must exist, we are not the only life-form in the universe. There are, after all, billions and billions of stars in our galaxy alone, with, it is reasonable to expect, an even greater number of planets orbiting them. And it is not unreasonable to expect some of that alien life to be intelligent, and capable of interstellar communication.

However, Seth Shostak, a senior astronomer at the SETI (standing for Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) Institute in California, the world’s leading organization searching for telltale alien signals, is not so sure. “This is an unwarranted fear,” Shostak says. “If their interest in our planet is for something valuable that our planet has to offer, there’s no particular reason to worry about them now. If they’re interested in resources, they have ways of finding rocky planets that don’t depend on whether we broadcast or not. They could have found us a billion years ago.”

Paul Davies, an astrophysicist at Arizona State University and chair of SETI’s post-detection taskforce, argues that alien brains, with their different architecture, would interpret information very differently from ours. What we think of as beautiful or friendly might come across as violent to them, or vice versa. “Lots of people think that because they would be so wise and knowledgeable, they would be peaceful,” adds Stewart. “I don’t think you can assume that. I don’t think you can put human views on to them; that’s a dangerous way of thinking. Aliens are alien. If they exist at all, we cannot assume they’re like us.”

Several more arguments by Paul Davies are proposed as to why the scenario of hostile aliens visiting earth is inaccurate and they include the following:

Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and there were stars and planets around long before the solar system even existed. Assuming intelligent life is likely, as Hawking suggests, then some alien communities would have emerged a very long time in the past. If resources are the motivating factor, then at least one group of aliens would surely have spotted Earth as a desirable destination millions of years ago, and come here when they could have had the planet for the asking, without pesky humans to complicate the takeover.

Another problem with Hawking’s picture is the sheer distances involved. The galaxy is huge by human standards. The nearest star is over four light years away -– about 25 trillion miles. Within the scientific community, even the optimists believe the nearest civilization could well be hundreds of light years away. Because nothing can travel faster than light, the Hollywood image of aliens plying the vast interstellar voids in star fleets is absurd. It’s far more likely that alien civilizations would limit contact to radio communication rather than engage in the sort of close encounters favored by movie makers.

Suppose by some fluke aliens did come to visit Earth in the near future, then comparisons with Columbus are in any case wide of the mark, and reflect the rampant anthropocentrism that pervades much speculation about alien life. Just because we go around wiping out our competitors doesn’t mean aliens would do the same. A civilization that has endured for millions of years would have overcome any aggressive tendencies, and may well have genetically engineered its species for harmonious living. Any truly bellicose alien species would either have wiped itself out long ago, or already taken over the galaxy.

Other responses were mixed in their agreement or not of Hawking’s warning.

The Journal of Cosmology compiled responses from a dozen scientists and has published them online. Some criticized Hawking’s use of human behavior to predict what aliens would do, but others said that human behavior was a reasonable yardstick. Few, however, questioned the premise of Hawking’s statements — which alien life forms probably exist and we are likely someday to encounter them.

Blair Csuti, a biologist at Oregon State University, defended Hawking’s trepidation, arguing that the principles of evolution would have shaped those beings just as they did life on Earth, selecting for self-preserving behavior. “Aliens visiting newly discovered planets, like Earth, would place their own interests above those of unsophisticated indigenous residents.”

Robert Ehrlich, a physicist at George Mason University agreed, further imagining that the aliens would be “adaptable robots whose mental processes reflect those of their senders.”

Others, like Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University in the United Kingdom and B.G. Sidharth at the B.M. Birla Science Centre in India, took a more low-tech view of alien invasions. They argued that the threat would come not from green people with fancy stun guns, but from pathogenic microbes that could infect life on Earth.  “When Columbus was followed by the Spanish conquistadors, it was not advanced weaponry which destroyed the native civilizations, but disease,” Sidharth wrote.

Randy D. Allen, a biologist at Oklahoma State University, argued that a smart-enough species could develop a quantum computer and eventually transfer their consciousnesses into it. “Perhaps … they can “see” or “feel” the entire universe. Maybe they’ve gained the ability to manipulate elementary particles and can control its evolution and its fate. They would have become, by any human definition, gods.”

GianCarlo Ghirardi, a physicist at Italy’s University of Trieste, asked why intelligent aliens should have negative intentions toward earthlings. “If Hawking’s aliens are anything like humans, then I am optimistic … that their scientific development should be accompanied also by an ethical development, and (they) might value life,” he wrote.

Another physicist wrote several years before Hawking’s warning, a different but I think much more sophisticated and reasonable hypothesis about us humans communicating with extra-terrestrials. This scientist is Wolfram Schommers. In his book ‘The Visible and the Invisible’, Schommers uses an example of a turkey as a non-human life form in a discussion on perception and world views. If we think extra-terrestrial instead of his turkey, the results are the same discussion. He writes the following: ‘Objective’ does not mean that a certain fact actually exists in (basic) reality in the form experienced by an observer (whether the observer is a turkey or a man). In what form a certain entity (e.g. a chick) exists in objective reality is something that we can principally know nothing about and make no pronouncement upon…Since however a turkey’s (alien) experiences in everyday life are fundamentally different from those of the human observer, the particular questions which a highly developed turkey (alien) brain would raise, can be expected to be fundamentally different from those of the human observer. We should not forget that experiences at the level of everyday experience are the basis of any science. …The turkey (or organism which evolved from it) will possibly know very little about ‘our’ cosmos or ‘our’ elementary particles. Accordingly it could also hardly recognize the sense of a radio telescope (SETI uses radio waves to try to communicate with extra-terrestrials) or a particle accelerator. Instead of these devices the turkey (alien) would possibly construct and manufacture devices whose deeper sense remained hidden to human observers. …We can never recognize fundamental reality, but only versions dependent on the particular biological species and system.

So what I take from this particular argument (and this is only one aspect of a much deeper analysis of matter and mind in physics) by Schommers is that an extra-terrestrial, having evolved in a very different manner than humans will have a very different brain structure, perception system, etc. and understanding of objective reality. They probably won’t have developed the same constructs or technological instruments to correspond with human ones.

Therefore, the previous anthropomorphic descriptions of possible alien motivations, world views and technologies by Hawking et al. – except Paul Davies- are in the end naïve and unsuccessful. While most astrophysicists and astronomers agree that alien life forms are likely in the vast universe, I suggest they become more sophisticated in their understanding of evolutionary biology and its effect on systems of perceiving, worldview construction and, therefore, comprehension of this mysterious cosmos of which we are a part.