Friday, May 12, 2006

Universe 'child of previous one' #1

Universe 'child of previous one', BBC, 5 May 2006, Sarah Cruddas ... [Graphic: "Big Bang," Wikipedia] A joint UK-US team has put forward an alternative theory of cosmic evolution. It proposes that the Universe undergoes cycles of "Big Bangs" and "Big Crunches", meaning our Universe is merely a "child of the previous one". It challenges the conventional view of the cosmos, which observations show to be 12-14 billion years old. The new ideas, reported in the journal Science, may explain why the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, the researchers say. "At present the conventional view is that all of space, time, matter and energy began at a single point, which then expanded and cooled, leaving the Universe as it is today," said Professor Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University, New Jersey. "However, this new theory suggests that there's a continuous cycle of universes, with each a repeat of the last, but not an exact replica. "It can be thought of as a child of the previous universe." [Graphic: "Paul_Steinhardt," Princeton University] ... The new idea builds on previous work by the same team, and is set to challenge the current model. Einstein: "The greatest blunder of my career." Back in the 1920s, when Einstein was developing his general theory of relativity, he introduced a constant, known as the cosmological constant, to explain his idea of a static Universe. Einstein's equations predicted a Universe collapsing under its own gravitational force, whereas observation showed it clearly was not contracting. The cosmological constant represented an inherent pressure or force associated with free space, which would be resisting the gravity-drive contraction. The concept was later abandoned when observations showed the Universe to be expanding - causing Einstein to label the cosmological constant as "the greatest blunder of my career". In 1998, a form of the constant was re-habilitated when it was found that the Universe's expansion was actually speeding up. Although the re-introduction of the constant enabled calculations to match theory, it also raised the question that there was something in physics that was "missing". Things that are happening now will help to create another universe in the future Professor Neil Turok, of Cambridge University [said] ...: "When the value of the cosmological constant was calculated, it was found to be much smaller than expected."The explanation as to why this constant is so small has become one of the biggest problems in physics. [Graphic: "Neil_Turok," Cambridge University] "At present, the only explanation for this is that things just have to be that way." This theory leaves many questions unanswered, but now Professors Steinhardt and Turok have developed a new theory to explain why the cosmological constant is so small. They suggest that time actually began before the Big Bang, meaning there was a pre-existing universe. This would also mean that the current Universe is much older than presently accepted. ... "At present there may be an alternative 'dark matter' universe that exists at the same time as ours, but we could never reach it," explained Professor Turok. "The best way to think of this is to think of a pane of double glazing with a fly on it. The fly is unable to cross over from one side to another, just like we are unable to get from one universe to another. "These two universes are drawn together by the force of gravity and will eventually collide. "This means that things that are happening now will help to create another universe in the future." ... [I am no cosmologist, but my understanding is that running the Big Bang backwards one gets to a singularity where time = zero:

"Clearly, if the universe is growing bigger, it must have been smaller in the past. We can imagine running the great cosmic movie backwards until all the galaxies are squashed together. This compressed state corresponds to the time of the big bang, and in a certain sense the expansion of the universe can be considered as a vestige of that initial explosion. Today it is normal for cosmologists to claim that the universe began with the big bang. This weighty conclusion follows if you trace the expansion back in time to some idealized point of origin at which all the matter of the universe is concentrated in one place. Such a state of infinite density represents an infinite gravitational field and infinite spacetime curvature -i.e., a singularity. The big-bang singularity is similar to the situation at the center of a black hole that I described in the previous chapter, but lying in the past rather than the future. As it is not possible to extend space and time through such a singularity, it follows that the big bang must be the origin of time itself. People, especially journalists who get angry about scientists explaining everything, often ask: What happened before the big bang? If this theory is correct, the answer is simple: nothing. If time itself began with the big bang, there was no `before' for anything to happen in. Although the concept of time being abruptly `switched on' at some singular first event is a hard one to grasp, it is by no means new. Already in the fifth century, Augustine proclaimed that: `The world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time.' [Augustine, "Confessions," Pine-Coffin, R.S., transl., Penguin: Baltimore MD, 1961, p.294] Keen to counter jibes about what God was doing before he made the universe, Augustine placed God outside of time altogether, making him the creator of time itself. ... the idea of time coming into being with the universe therefore fits very naturally into Christian theology. ... we shall see that recent ideas in quantum physics have changed our picture of the origin of time somewhat, but the essential conclusion remains the same: time did not exist before the big bang." (Davies, P.C.W., "About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution", Penguin Books: London, 1995, pp.131-132. Emphasis original)

If Davies is right then it is incoherent to talk about "time actually began before the Big Bang" (although see part #2).

In compiling my Evolution Quotes Book yesterday, I came across this quote by the late Sagan:

"It is often considered that at least the origin of the universe requires a God - indeed an Aristotelian idea. This is a point worth looking at in a little more detail. First of all, it is perfectly possible that the universe is infinitely old and therefore requires no Creator. This is consistent with existing knowledge of cosmology, which permits an oscillating universe in which the events since the Big Bang are merely the latest incarnation in an infinite series of creations and destructions of the universe." (Sagan, C.E., "Broca's Brain: The Romance of Science," [1974], Coronet: London, 1980, reprint, pp.354-355)

which makes it clear that the real motivation of cosmologists postulating an oscillating universe is religious, i.e. to find any alternative that "requires no Creator". Why that is so is clear from this quote of Paul Davies that I also found yesterday:

"If we believe in only one universe then the remarkably uniform arrangement of cosmic matter, and the consequent coolness of space, are almost miraculous, a conclusion which strongly resembles the traditional religious concept of a world which was purpose-built by God for subsequent habitation by mankind. " (Davies, P.C.W., "Other Worlds," [1980], Penguin: London, 1990, reprint, p.162).]

One Big Bang, or were there many?, The Guardian, James Randerson, May 5, 2006 The universe is at least 986 billion years older than physicists thought and is probably much older still, according to a radical new theory. [It is not a completely new theory. In searching Science for this article, I found that Steinhardt and Turok had published a paper in Science in 2002, titled "A Cyclic Model of the Universe."]

The revolutionary study suggests that time did not begin with the big bang 14 billion years ago. This mammoth explosion which created all the matter we see around us, was just the most recent of many. The standard big bang theory says the universe began with a massive explosion, but the new theory suggests it is a cyclic event that consists of repeating big bangs and big crunches - where every particle of matter collapses together. "People have inferred that time began then, but there really wasn't any reason for that inference," said Neil Turok "What we are proposing is very radical. It's saying there was time before the big bang." [And I say that that is incoherent (although see part #2) and just a play on the word "time." Science cannot even reconcile relativistic physics and quantum physics in this Universe, let alone postulate that time and space is continuous across the Big Bang singularity boundary.]

Under his theory, published today in the journal Science with Paul Steinhardt at Princeton University in New Jersey, the universe must be at least a trillion years old with many big bangs happening before our own. With each bang, the theory predicts that matter keeps on expanding and dissipating into infinite space before another horrendous blast of radiation and matter replenishes it. [Personally, this sounds to me as just speculative nonsense, on a par with the old lady who claimed it was "turtles all the way down". It is certainly non-testable (and therefore not science) if we have to wait another "trillion years" to test the theory! ]

"I think it is much more likely to be far older than a trillion years though," said Prof Turok. ["More likely" sounds pretty vague. It seems that they don't have any hard numbers. John Horgan, in his "The End of Science" (the theme of which is that science is becoming a victim of its own success and leading scientists, including cosmologists, who want to make a name for themselves, have to indulge in highly speculative "ironic science") records revealing comments by Turok which indicate the threat that the Big Bang poses to cosmologists who want to make their mark:

"David Schramm of Fermilab and the University of Chicago likes to call these three lines of evidence-the red shift of galaxies, the microwave background, and the abundance of elements-the pillars on which the big bang theory stands. ... He is an indefatigable booster of the bag bang-and of his own role in refining the calculations of light-element abundances. After I arrived at the symposium in Sweden, Schramm sat me down and went over the evidence for the big bang in great detail. `The big bang is in fantastic shape,' he said. `We have the basic framework. We just need to fill in the gaps.' ... Schramm delivered much the same message to his fellow cosmologists at the Nobel symposium. He kept proclaiming that cosmology was in a `golden age.' His chamber of commerce enthusiasm seemed to grate on some of his colleagues; after all, one does not become a cosmologist to fill in the details left by the pioneers. ... Toward the end of the meeting in Sweden, Hawking, Schramm, and all the other cosmologists piled into a bus and drove to a nearby village to hear a concert. ... Doubts had infiltrated the scientific priesthood, however. In the moments before the concert began, I overheard a conversation between David Schramm and Neil Turok, a young British physicist. Turok confided to Schramm that he was so concerned about the intractability of questions related to dark matter and the distribution of galaxies that he was thinking of quitting cosmology and entering another field. `Who says we have any right to understand the universe, anyway?' Turok asked plaintively. Schramm shook his big head. The basic framework of cosmology, the big bang theory, was absolutely sound, he whispered insistently, as the orchestra began warming up; cosmologists just needed to tie up a few loose ends. `Things will sort themselves out,' Schramm said. Turok seemed to find Schramm's words comforting, but he probably should have been alarmed. What if Schramm was right? What if cosmologists already had, in the big bang theory, the major answer to the puzzle of the universe? What if all that remained was tying up loose ends, those that could be tied up? Given this possibility, it is no wonder that `strong' scientists such as Hawking have vaulted past the big bang theory into postempirical science. What else can someone so creative and ambitious do?" (Horgan, J., "The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the Twilight of the Scientific Age," [1996], Little, Brown & Co: London, 1997, pp.97-98)]

"There doesn't have to be a beginning of time. According to our theory, the universe may be infinitely old and infinitely large." [See the Davies and Sagan quotes above. Another thing wrong with this is that there is no actual, real "infinity". If there was, then anything (and its opposite) would be possible, indeed inevitable, and science would cease to exist because anything and everything would have already have happened an infinite number of times and therefore could be explained simply by chance. Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga makes this point:

"Nowadays, however, the most popular version of the argument from design involves the exquisite fine tuning of the laws or regularities of nature. The fundamental constants of physics--the speed of light, the gravitational constant, the strength of the weak and strong nuclear forces--must apparently have values that fall within an extremely narrow range for life to be so much as possible. If these values had been even minutely different (if, for example, the gravitational constant had been different in even the most minuscule degree) habitable planets would not have developed and life (at least life at all like ours) would not have been possible. This suggests or makes plausible the thought that the world was designed or created by a Designer who intended the existence of living creatures and eventually rational, intelligent, morally significant creatures. Like its 17th and 18th century predecessors, this version of the argument is probabilistic rather than deductive: given the nature of the world, it is likely that it was fashioned by an intelligent Designer. The premises don't entail the conclusion, but are supposed to give you some reason to accept it. Dennett's rejoinder to the argument is that possibly, `there has been an evolution of worlds (in the sense of whole universes) and the world we find ourselves in is simply one among countless others that have existed throughout all eternity.' And given infinitely many universes, Dennett thinks, all the possible distributions of values over the cosmological constants would have been tried out; as it happens, we find ourselves in one of those universes where the constants are such as to allow for the development of intelligent life (where else?). Well, perhaps all this is logically possible (and then again perhaps not). As a response to a probabilistic argument, however, it's pretty anemic. How would this kind of reply play in Tombstone, or Dodge City? `Waal, shore, Tex, I know it's a leetle mite suspicious that every time I deal I git four aces and a wild card, but have you considered the following? Possibly there is an infinite succession of universes, so that for any possible distribution of possible poker hands, there is a universe in which that possibility is realized; we just happen to find ourselves in one where someone like me always deals himself only aces and wild cards without ever cheating. So put up that shootin' arn and set down 'n shet yore yap, ya dumb galoot.' Dennett's reply shows at most ('at most', because that story about infinitely many universes is doubtfully coherent) what was never in question: that the premises of this argument from apparent design do not entail its conclusion. But of course that was conceded from the beginning: it is presented as a probabilistic argument, not one that is deductive valid. Furthermore, since an argument can be good even if it is not deductively valid, you can't refute it just by pointing out that it isn't deductively valid. You might as well reject the argument for evolution by pointing out that the evidence for evolution doesn't entail that it ever took place, but only makes that fact likely. You might as well reject the evidence for the earth's being round by pointing out that there are possible worlds in which we have all the evidence we do have for the earth's being round, but in fact the earth is flat. Whatever the worth of this argument from design, Dennett really fails to address it. " (Plantinga, A., "Darwin, Mind and Meaning." Review of "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" by Daniel C. Dennett, Simon & Schuster, 1996. Books and Culture, May/June 1996. Emphasis original)]

Today most cosmologists believe the universe will carry on expanding until all the stars burn out, leaving nothing but their cold dead remains. But there is an inherent problem with this picture. The Cosmological Constant - a mysterious force first postulated by Albert Einstein that appears to be driving the galaxies apart - is much too small to fit the theory. Einstein later renounced it as his "biggest blunder". The Cosmological Constant is a mathematical representation of the energy of empty space, also known as "dark energy", which exerts a kind of anti-gravity force pushing galaxies apart at an accelerating rate. It happens to be a googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) times smaller than would be expected if the universe was created in a single Big Bang. [This is incoherent also. Even in their infinity of cyclical universes theory, this would be the one cycle that had a cosmological constant of the current value. So it is at least possible that one Universe can have that value. Therefore on Ockham's Razor principle of parsimony, there is no need to invoke infinite number of universes to explain this one. Paul Davies says as much regarding the multiverse theory, which has a similar anti-God motivation:

"In spite of the apparent ease with which the many-universes theory can account for what would otherwise be considered remarkable feature of the universe, the theory faces a number of serious objections. Not least of these is Ockham's razor: one must introduce a vast (indeed infinite) complexity to explain the regularities of just one universe. This `blunderbuss' approach to explaining the specialness of our universe is scientifically questionable. Another problem is that the theory can explain only those aspect of nature that are relevant to the existence of conscious life, otherwise there is no selection mechanism. Many of the best examples of design, such as the ingenuity and unity of particle physics, have little obvious connection with biology." (Davies, P.C.W., "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Science," in Templeton J.M., ed., "Evidence of Purpose: Scientists Discover the Creator," Continuum: New York NY, 1994, pp.52-53)]

But its value could be explained if the universe was much, much older than most experts believe. Mechanisms exist that would allow the Constant to decrease incrementally through time. [If the universe really was "infinitely old" then the cosmological constant would already have "decreased incrementally through time" an infinite time ago and would now be zero. The fact that it is not zero, would seem to completely refute their theory?]

[Continued in part #2]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
`Evolution Quotes Book'


One-Eyed Pirate said...

Stephen: I'm new to ID and just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog site. (I tried the email link, which may be more appropriate for such a comment, but it didn't work).
Thanks for all the work you've done (are doing) here.
Kennesaw Williams

Stephen E. Jones said...

Skeptico said...
>Stephen: I'm new to ID and just wanted to say how much I appreciate your blog site. ...
Thanks for all the work you've done (are doing) here.

Thanks for your positive feedback.

I aim my blog at those who are new to ID, by linking to names and terms that may be unfamiliar to those just starting.

Its easy for us who have been at this a long time to forget that once we did not know who "Dawkins" was!

Stephen E. Jones