Man has a bit of an obsession, and that is the origins of mankind, his world and universe. Scientists are busy working on this quest and, from time to time a bit of news surfaces concerning current thinking and the progress of this quest. When I happen to hear some of this news, my ears perk up and then I get to compare their thinking with my own.
Perhaps, I might have made a good theoretical physicist. I have always had a bit of a fancy for science and space. In my bedroom as a child, I had a rather tattered 1958 Rand & McNalley map of the solar system. I used to lie in bed looking at the planets and the information provided for each one. It always fascinated me how it was possible to provide information, such as temperature and make-up, without having gone there. How do they know this stuff. Later, I watched TV programs like Lost in Space and the original Star Trek series, as well as science fiction movies. Eventually, I graduated to more documentary type programs, such as Nova on PBS. In high school, I particularly liked physics, and can remember the thrill as the topic of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity loomed on the curricular horizon. Most people find even the simplest tenets of this area of physics difficult to grasp, however, we had a sort of unusual teacher with an unusual voice. I remember students making fun of him a bit, but, I always had a stroke of gratitude for this little man who looked like he stepped right out of the 1930s, with his neat shiny suit, knitted vest, hair parted just off the middle and all his immaculate canvas binders of notes written on faded paper, in tiny writing by his vintage mechanical pencil with the pointy eraser added.
Yet, with all his little quirks, when he began his introduction to the Special Theory of Relativity with this story, I got it. “Once upon a time…,” he began, as if to see who might immediately get bored by this most common of fable introductions, “there were two towns of people who were at war with each other.” He continued to tell the story of how there was a mountain separating the towns and what they did was to fire canons over the mountain, the resulting trajectory, an arc created by gravity drawing the canon ball back to Earth, would allow them to hit their target without seeing them. So it was that one night, the people of one town wanted to see the other town to know what their canons had done. So, they took a spotlight and pointed it over the mountain. As he told the story, he drew it on the chalkboard, carefully checking the reaction of the students as he drew the light from the spotlight following the same arc as the canon balls. Of course, the teacher explained, this is impossible. But, wait a minute, in fact though, light can bend by the force of gravity, much like a wave in water will change direction around an object. We learned that light bends from the influence of gravity.
There were other examples. If two spaceships pass each other traveling in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light, a person looking out the window could observe hands on a clock on the other spaceship moving slower than the ones on his own spaceship. A ruler for measuring would similarly look shorter, a round object would look compressed like a vertical oval.
I have never come to understand the the math behind physics, I was scared of academics and did not enjoy school. I went to school at a time when there were less opportunities for learning assistance. Yet, all my life I have enjoyed certain aspects of science.
Science is a field that deals with theories that seek to be compared to what man can observe and or experience. In this most intriguing quest for origins, much simply can not be observed or experienced. When this is the case, scientists looks for indirect proof. For example, phenomenon like black holes could be predicted, but, not observed or experienced, however, some effects may be observed, such as from light and gravity. And, of course, nobody has observed or experienced traveling at the speed of light.
Sir Isaac Newton took up the quest and became the father of modern physics and his laws of physics held strong for years. However, the universe comprises not only what we can observe and experience, it has atomic and sub-atomic activity as well and cosmic activity. Newtonian physics simply can not provide the constructs that can explain behaviors and predict outcomes to these more complex aspects of our universe.
Theories of physics have many forces to reckon with from gravity to electromagnetism. Albert Einstein is one of the most famous physicist who took physics, in a leap, from what is now called classical physics, to the atomic, and later, the nuclear phenomenon. This ushered mankind into the nuclear age. Who has not heard of E=MC2? To Einstein’s horror, his new physics helped create the atom bomb that was dropped by the Americans on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing innocent people and causing such utter pain and destruction. The bomb did cause the Japanese to surrender, thus ending World War II. The world, would never be the same. Man now had, at his very fingertips, a destructive power he could never have imagined. When the Russians also developed the ‘bomb’, as it came to be termed, A new era emerged.
I grew up during the cold war. It wasn’t a war in the traditional sense. There was no actual fighting, just the threat of nuclear destruction. Both the United States and the Soviet Union had the ‘bomb.’ The political differences between the two countries, the U.S.A. being a democracy and the U.S.S.R, communist, made the two enemies. Thus, to prevent one from invading the other, they each aimed nuclear arms at each other. There was a problem, and it was a big one. By the time one side had launched a missile, the other side had the time to detect and retaliate. The result, mutual annihilation, or doomsday, as it became known. Complete foolishness.
Back to Einstein for a moment. Even Einstein realized that his theories did, at best, a poor job of explaining the universe. Quantum physics is another set of theories. Einstein tried in vain to find a unified theory to cover everything, but, could not.
Lately, the theories are getting, well, over the edge in my mind. Perhaps it is because man has had some years of using magnificent technology, like the Hubble telescope to see more than ever imaginable. The ideas are suggesting that it should be possible to look far enough out into space to see back in time to the point of the origin of the universe, thought to be the Big Bang. I have a few questions about this.
Suppose one could look all the way back to the origin. It seems to me that there would be a bit of a dilemma. Looking back far enough would mean that nothing would exist. Could one look beyond the bang to what there was before the bang? I am wondering if there might be something more of a serious problem. What exactly is happening when scientists claim to be looking back into the earlier times of the universe?
If everything began at a particular point and has been expanding out since the beginning of time, is there a way we can imagine what this might look like. I’m thinking of a nozzle spraying water. What you see as the water comes toward you is a spray of small drops. As you look beyond each drop, the spray gets denser until there is simply more water than space to look through. This might be problem one. You simpley could not see through all the matter as you look toward the point of origin. Thus, it would be impossible to see the point of origin. But, perhaps the universe is so huge and the amount of matter, galaxies, stars, planets, etc., is so minute in comparison, that it might be possible to keep seeing onward. We should also remember that our galaxy, the Milky Way, is off center in the spray, so one would be looking across the universe to some degree. Well, I think that at some point, it might get pretty thick anyway.
There might be an even worse problem. The spray of water from the nozzle I proposed above is taking place in normal time and distance. That is to say, quite different to the time and distance involved in looking into the universe. Some peculiarities surface when dealing with things like light, gravity, time and distance on the cosmic scale. For example, light travels at a certain speed. As one nears that speed, gravity, time and distance change. Time slows down. Distances seem to shrink. Gravity increases. Does this mean that, at the speed of light, time ceases to exist altogether? If one could travel faster than light, could one go back in time? If distances shrink, at the speed of light, would there be no distance between anything? What about gravity? It has been proven that gravity can bend light, as I have already mentioned.
All this can seem rather confusing. I just can’t figure how one might look at light that originated way back in time. By the time it gets here, the point of origin might not exist anymore. And, since gravity can bend light, how would one know where the light was coming from or wether it has been altered on it’s journey? Remember, the more matter, stars, planets, etc., the more light can bend. Could one trust what they would be looking at?
I simply can’t get past the notions that one would be able to look some direction in the cosmos and see something that is just beginning to exist, knowing that it was happening so long ago that we did not exist yet. Did you get that? How can we see something that took place before we and the point of our existence in the cosmos, even exists in the first place. How can light get to a point that never existed until after the origin of the light? Our place in the cosmos is moving away from the point of origin, the Big Bang, and somehow light from that Big Bang is supposed to catch up to us in a way that we can see the origin that happened before our place in the cosmos ever existed. Strange, isn’t it?
Here is another idea that comes to mind. We have all probably witnessed fireworks. After shooting into the sky, there is a starburst. As it spreads, it slows down, Could the big bang have some similar characteristics? If the bang indeed happened quickly and has now slowed down, what sort of differences in the laws of physics might come into play in such and event? So much matter bursting away from a point of origin at the speed, or nearly the speed, of light might change the story considerably. Time might be altered. Matter could be quite different than we might expect.
We already know that huge amounts of matter can implode and can even create a situation where there is so much gravity that even light can not escape. We call these phenomenon black holes. What sort of energy could create a situation where all the matter in the universe is gathered in one spot? Perhaps it might be more like a gas. Imagine breathing out into a very cold air. As the warm moist air in your breath hits the cold air, the moisture freezes, gathering more weight and density than when it started.
The above two paragraphs were written last night. Tonight, the news on TV announced that the Nobel Prize went to three men who have discovered that the universe is expanding faster than expected, even speeding up. This also assumes that the expansion speed has been uniform or, if increasing, the increase would be uniform. Uniform speed would be expected under Newtonian physics, however, as I have attempted to outline, Newtonian physics can’t account for all phenomenon at the cosmic level. Also announced tonight is the idea that the universe is cooling as it expands. Thus, the big bang may end with ice. I’m not sure where all the water would come from for the ice to form, considering the search for almost non-existent water in our own solar system is included as the first indicator for life.
Whoops, an expanding universe with increasing speed, now the characteristics might be just the opposite. Scientists have considered the possible results of a slowing universe that, I suppose would stop expanding some point at which time the universe might start to collapse and there might be another big bang. If it is speeding up, will it slow down, or keep expanding faster and faster. Could it reach the speed of light. What would that mean. Now, that really could be peculiar.
I mentioned earlier that physics theories simply could not explain every phenomenon observed or predicted by math at the cosmic or nuclear level. For the past few decades a new theory has been gaining acceptance by the scientific community. According to String Theory, the universe at the very minutest level is made up of tiny vibrating strings. These strings are so small they cannot be seen or detected directly.
What I have been writing about here was sparked last year by an interview on the radio. I have been adding to this slowly for months. These are huge topics, of course. The interview was with Brian Greene who specializes in String Theory has written several books explaining the ideas I have presented and much more. Recently, I have been watching some NOVA programs on PBS hosted by Brian Greene. I have to admit, he does do an excellent job of explaining these complex ideas. It is surprising to me just how much more is known than what was presented only a decade or so ago. I have watched NOVA for a long time. The current program, you should be doing some Googling to find out more, is supposed to be an introduction, however, it takes, what would have been considered years ago, huge leaps into the theories. It can be difficult to keep up and it seems impossible for me to come close to explaining any of these ideas any better that Brian Greene.
At best, I hope that my experiences and thoughts might be of interest to someone who then might become further interested enough to explore on their own. This piece of writing has sat on my computer long enough. I need to get it posted on my blog. I may write a sequel or two someday.
But first, a few of my own ideas.
These days, I have settled on a notion that the universe is held in something that I can only liken to a bubble. The bubble boundaries hold everything we could ever see and know. I think the scientists are correct when they describe a space time continuum. Everything we know exists at a single place at a single point of time. To be somewhere else takes time to move and nothing can exist in more than place at one time. The bubble may be expanding and that could be what contributes to the overall decay of everything. Scientists have a word for this and a more complex description of the decay. They call it entropy. The entropic effect means that, although one might be able to regather energy, one could never get back the the full original amount. Yes you can mop up a spilled bucket of water and theoretically have all the water back, but, there would always be some missing from soaking in and evaporation and other ways of loss. Everything experiences decay.
Thus, everything is winding down. Everything also has mass and exerts a gravitational force on everything else. That must mean that things are energy. That little leap came from my conclusion that a force requires energy. I alway try to simplify things. Will everything wind down completely someday? What would happen? Where would the energy go? Could the bubble pop someday? The answers to these questions are unanswerable as long as we are within the time space continuum of the bubble. We should be satisfied with the limits the bubble confines us to.
I’ll bet you are now wondering what I think is beyond the bubble and what might happen someday with the bubble. Well, Beyond the bubble is eternity. Eternity is the absence of space, time and gravity. There is no need for the substance we now have and are confined to. It is the place, or non-place, for spirit. Without space or time, think about what I said above, one can be everywhere at the same time, or non-time, as spirit. Oh there is another world of a sort, but remember, that is beyond us now. I am describing the eternity of God and God is going to burn everything up in our bubble someday. What happens to us at that time is the real question. The theories that occupy the minds of scientists are certainly interesting. More interesting is the notion that we are more complex and therefore interesting than the universe. God is more interested in us than the whole universe. Someday, I may tell you more. Or, you might explore for yourself.