Saturday, May 13, 2006

Universe 'child of previous one' #2

Universe 'child of previous one', BBC, 5 May 2006 ... [Continued from part #1] But these processes would take so long that, according to the standard theory, all matter in the universe would totally dissipate in the meantime. [Graphic: Cyclic universe colliding branes, Paul J. Steinhardt] Turok and Steinhardt's theory is an alternative to another explanation called the "anthropic principle", which argues that the constant can have a range of values in different parts of the universe but that we happen to live in a region conducive to life. "The anthropic explanations are very controversial and many people do not like them," said Alexander Vilenkin a professor of theoretical physics at Tufts University in Maryland. [I have no brief for the "anthropic principle", which is just another naturalistic attempt to explain away the evidence of design in the fine-tunedness of the Universe for life. But the reason why "many people [i.e. atheist cosmologist] do not like" "anthropic explanations" is because it "is the design argument in scientific [i.e. naturalistic] costume":

"The anthropic principle is the design argument in scientific costume. Its appeal is demonstrated in Sir Fred Hoyle's evaluation of his own research into the "resonance states" of carbon atoms. Carbon is the fourth most abundant cosmic element, after hydrogen, helium, and oxygen. It is also the basis of terrestrial life. (That's why the study of carbon compounds is known as organic chemistry.) Carbon atoms are made inside stars. To make one takes three helium nuclei. The trick is to get two helium nuclei to stick together until they are struck by a third. It turns out that this feat depends critically on the internal resonances of carbon and oxygen nuclei. Were the carbon resonance level only 4 percent lower, carbon atoms wouldn't form in the first place. Were the oxygen resonance level only half a percent higher, virtually all the carbon would be "scoured out," meaning that it would have combined with helium to form oxygen. No carbon, no us, so our existence depends in some sense on the fine-tuning of these two nuclear resonances. Hoyle says that his atheism-and atheism is, let's face it, a faith like any other-was shaken by this discovery." (Ferris, T., "The Whole Shebang: A State-of-the-Universe(s) Report," Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London, 1997, pp.304-305)]

Rather than making precise predictions for features of the universe the anthropic principle gives a vague range of values so it is difficult for physicists to test, he added. [Talk about the pot calling the kettle black! How is Turok and Steinhardt's theory to be tested in its prediction that "matter keeps on expanding and dissipating into infinite space before another horrendous blast of radiation and matter replenishes it" sometime after "the next 10 billion years"?]

"It's absolutely terrible, it really is giving up," said Prof Turok, "It's saying that we are never going to understand the state of the universe. It just has to be that way for us to exist." [Well, if that is the truth then it is not "giving up" accepting that!]

His explanation by contrast is built up from first principles. But if he's right, how long have we got until the next big bang? "We can't predict when it will happen with any precision - all we can say is it won't be within the next 10 billion years." Good job, because if we were around we would instantly disintegrate into massless particles of light. ... [If they "can't predict when it will happen with any precision" then that is reason to think that this is just mere speculation.]

'Cyclic universe' can explain cosmological constant, New Scientist, 4 May 2006, Zeeya Merali, A cyclic universe, which bounces through a series of big bangs and "big crunches", could solve the puzzle of our cosmological constant, physicists suggest. The cosmological constant represents the energy of empty space, and is thought to be the most likely explanation for the observed speeding up of the expansion of the universe. But its measured value is a googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) times smaller than that predicted by particle physics theories. It is a discrepancy that gives cosmologists a real headache. In the 1980s, physicists considered the possibility that an initially large cosmological constant could decay down to the value measured today. But this theory was abandoned when calculations showed that it would take far longer than 14 billion years - the time since the big bang - for the constant to reach the level seen today. Now physicists Paul Steinhardt at Princeton University, in New Jersey, US, and Neil Turok at Cambridge University in the UK, are resurrecting the idea. They point out that if time stretches back beyond the big bang, the problem could be solved. At that is just what is predicted by their cyclic model of the universe - an alternative to the Standard Big Bang theory - which the pair first developed in 2002 (see "Cycles of creation"). "Ever since the 1960s, people assumed that the big bang was the beginning of time, because the laws of physics seem to break down there," says Turok. But the equations of string theory tell a different story, allowing time to exist before the big bang, he says. [So their theory is dependent on "string theory" being proved to be true, yet according to Wikipedia, "String theory as a whole has not yet made falsifiable predictions that would allow it to be experimentally tested"! And even then, it would still only "allow time to exist before the big bang", it would remain to be shown that there actually was "time before the big bang."]

According to Steinhardt and Turok, today's universe is part of an endless cycle of big bangs and big crunches, with each cycle lasting about a trillion years. At every big bang, the amount of matter and radiation in the universe is reset, but the cosmological constant is not. Instead, the cosmological constant gradually diminishes over many cycles to the small value observed today. The physicists' calculations show that the cosmological constant decreases in steps, through a series of quantum transitions. Crucially, the higher the value of the constant, the more rapid the transitions, says Turok. But as the constant reaches lower levels, it changes more slowly, lingering on the lowest positive value for an extremely long time. [Again, if the universe is "infinitely old and infinitely large" then this would already have happened an infinitely long time ago. Their theory is therefore self-contradictory, if not self-refuting!

Here is a quote (to be included in my `Evolution Quotes Book') by mathematician Martin Gardner, originally published in Skeptical Inquirer on the absurd implications of infinite universes, including, "In an infinity of possible worlds there are lands of Oz, Greek gods on Mount Olympus, anything you can imagine. . Somewhere millions [indeed an infinity] of Ahabs are chasing whales. Somewhere millions [indeed an infinity] of Huckleberry Finns are floating down rivers" (parentheses mine):

"We come now to a third kind of multiverse, by far the wildest of the three. It has been set forth not by a scientist but by a peculiar philosopher, now at Princeton University, named David Lewis. In his best-known book, The Plurality of Worlds (Oxford, 1986), and other writings, Lewis seriously maintains that every logically possible universe-that is, one with no logical contradictions such as square circles-is somewhere out there. The notion of logical possible worlds, by the way, goes back to Leibniz's Theodicy. He speculated that God considered all logically possible worlds, then created the one He deemed best for His purposes. Both the MWI and Lewis's possible worlds allow time travel into the past. You need never encounter the paradox of killing yourself, yet you are still alive, because as soon as you enter your past the universe splits into a new one in which you and your duplicate coexist. Most of Lewis's worlds do not contain any replicas of you, but if they do they can be as weird as you please. You can't, of course, simultaneously have five fingers on each hand and seven on each hand because that would be logically contradictory. But you could have a hundred fingers, and a dozen arms, or seven heads. Any world you can think of without contradiction is real. Can pigs fly? Certainly. There is nothing contradictory about pigs with wings. In an infinity of possible worlds there are lands of Oz, Greek gods on Mount Olympus, anything you can imagine. Every novel is a possible world. Somewhere millions of Ahabs are chasing whales. Somewhere millions of Huckleberry Finns are floating down rivers. Every kind of universe exists if it is logically consistent. David Lewis's mad multiverse was anticipated by hordes of science-fiction writers long before the MWI of QM came from Everett's brain. " (Gardner, M., "Are Universes Thicker than Blackberries?," in Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries? : Discourses on Gödel, Magic Hexagrams, Little Red Riding Hood, and Other Mathematical and Pseudoscientific Topics," W.W. Norton & Co: New York NY, 2003, p.7)]

That means that today's universe is most likely to have a small cosmological constant, just as we currently observe, says Turok. "This is an ingenious solution," says cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, US. But he points out that there are other cosmic coincidences that the cyclic model cannot explain, like why the size of the cosmological constant is so similar to the density of matter in the universe today. Turok says that he and Steinhardt will be looking at that problem next. [Note what Vilenkin said: "cannot explain," not does not explain. And Vilenkin by the plural coincidences indicates that there are more than one "cosmic coincidences that the cyclic model cannot explain". So in addition to its other problems, Turok and Steinhardt's theory does not even explain major features of this Universe, let alone and infinite number of universes before and after the Big Bang!]

"This is an initial attempt to go beyond Einstein's theory of gravity," says Turok. "It would be surprising if we solved everything first time." ... [Well it doesn't sound like they have "solved" anything! But Steinhardt and Turok have succeeded in keeping their name in lights, in the pursuit of what Horgan calls "ironic science," i.e. science pursued "in a speculative, postempirical mode" by "strong scientists who are seeking to misread and therefore to transcend the big bang theory " with the aid of "journalists who feed society's hunger" for "scientific `revolutions,'" but which "does not converge on the truth":

"Given these troubling issues, it is no wonder that many scientists whom I interviewed for this book seemed gripped by a profound unease. But their malaise, I will argue, has another, much more immediate cause. If one believes in science, one must accept the possibility-even the probability-that the great era of scientific discovery is over. By science I mean not applied science, but science at its purest and grandest, the primordial human quest to understand the universe and our place in it. Further research may yield no more great revelations or revolutions, but only incremental, diminishing returns. ... In trying to understand the mood of modern scientists I have found that ideas from literary criticism can serve some purpose after all. In his influential 1973 essay, like Anxiety of Influence, Harold Bloom likened the modern poet to Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost. Just as Satan fought to assert his individuality by defying the perfection of God, so must the modern poet engage in an Oedipal struggle to define himself or herself in relation to Shakespeare, Dante, and other masters. The effort is ultimately futile, Bloom said, because no poet can hope to approach, let alone surpass, the perfection of such forebears. Modern poets are all essentially tragic figures, latecomers. ... Bloom's `strong poets' accept the perfection of their predecessors and yet strive to transcend it through various subterfuges, including a subtle misreading of the predecessors' work; only by so doing can modern poets break free of the stultifying influence of the past. There are strong scientists, too, those who are seeking to misread and therefore to transcend quantum mechanics or the big bang theory or Darwinian evolution. Roger Penrose is a strong scientist. For the most part, he and others of his ilk have only one option: to pursue science in a speculative, postempirical mode that I call ironic science. Ironic science resembles literary criticism in that it offers points of view, opinions, which are, at best, interesting, which provoke further comment. But it does not converge on the truth. It cannot achieve empirically verifiable surprises that force scientists to make substantial revisions in their basic description of reality. The most common strategy of the strong scientist is to point to all the shortcomings of current scientific knowledge, to all the questions left unanswered. But the questions tend to be ones that may never be definitively answered given the limits of human science. How, exactly, was the universe created? Could our universe be just one of an infinite number of universes? Could quarks and electrons be composed of still smaller particles, ad infinitum? What does quantum mechanics really mean?... Biology has its own slew of insoluble riddles. How, exactly, did life begin on earth? Just how inevitable was life's origin and its subsequent history? The practitioner of ironic science enjoys one obvious advantage over the strong poet: the appetite of the reading public for scientific `revolutions:' As empirical science ossifies, journalists such as myself, who feed society's hunger, will come under more pressure to tout theories that supposedly transcend quantum mechanics or the big bang theory or natural selection. Journalists are, after all, largely responsible for the popular impression that fields such as chaos and complexity represent genuinely new sciences superior to the stodgy old reductionist methods of Newton, Einstein, and Darwin." (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.7-8. Emphasis original)

As for "Darwinian evolution" being in the same league as "quantum mechanics" above, this is presumably for the purposes of Horgan's "ironic science" thesis where he later in chapter 5, "The End of Evolutionary Biology," contrasts Dawkins as the orthodox biologist and Gould as the "ironic" one. That may actually be the case, but it does not therefore mean that Dawkins is right and Gould was wrong in their repective positions on "Darwinian evolution." As many biologists (including the pioneer paleoanthropologist and professor of zoology Robert Broom - see `tagline') have pointed out, Darwin himself later "had serious doubts about" the relative importance of his own theory of natural selection!]

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

"Though Darwin in all his later life regarded Natural Selection as the chief agent in Evolution, he often appears to have had serious doubts about it. In 1871 he wrote The Descent of Man, in which he shows that he no longer believes in Natural Selection as having originated many of the human characters. He says: `The characteristic differences between the races of man cannot be accounted for in a satisfactory manner by the direct action of the conditions of life, nor by the effects of the continued use of parts, nor through the principle of correlation. ... So far as we are enabled to judge (although always liable to error on this head) not one of the external differences between the races of man are of any direct or special service to him.' [Darwin C.R., "The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex," [1871], John Murray: London, Second edition, 1874, Reprinted, 1922, p.307] He thus seems to admit that many human characters could not have arisen by Natural Selection, and he proposed a new theory. "We have thus far been baffled in all our attempts to account for the differences between the races of man; but there remains one important agency, namely, Sexual Selection, which seems to have acted as powerfully on man as in many other animals." [Darwin, 1874, pp.307-308] Though Darwin devoted the greater part of two volumes to showing the part Sexual Selection has played in the Animal Kingdom, one feels that he was not quite happy about it. He says, for example: `The views here advanced, on the part which Sexual Selection has played in the history of man, want scientific precision. He who does not admit this agency in the case of the lower animals, will probably disregard all that I have written in the latter chapters on man.'" [Darwin, 1874, p.308]" (Broom R., "Finding the Missing Link," [1950], Greenwood Press: Westport CT, Second edition, 1951, Reprinted, 1975, pp.100-101)

1 comment:

island said...

I have no brief for the "anthropic principle", which is just another naturalistic attempt to explain away the evidence of design in the fine-tunedness of the Universe for life.

Nope... that's Dogma

But the reason why "many people [i.e. atheist cosmologist] do not like" "anthropic explanations" is because it "is the design argument in scientific [i.e. naturalistic] costume":

No it isn't.