Sunday, October 17, 2010

My New Blog

I've started a new blog that's just about anything and everything. Basically it's just a place to cut loose a bit and talk about whatever's on my mind from the latest computer gadgets to last night's basketball game.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Big Blue Castle

Stephen Hawking made some big waves last month upon the release of his latest book: The Grand Design. You've probably heard about it already, but indulge me. For the record, I haven't read the book yet and have only browsed the internet for quotes from it.

In The Grand Design Professor Hawking syllogizes (his hypothesis is based on both M-Theory and the Big Bang Theory) an argument for a self-creating universe. You may have heard lately that Hawking has stated that the universe was not made by God. Well he hasn't actually said this. He does, however, come very close to it. This seems to stem from an article in last month's Wall Street Journal where they printed an excerpt from the book. The excerpt was titled: "Why God Did Not Create the Universe (There is a sound scientific explanation for the making of our world—no gods required)." Then below this it says: "By STEPHEN HAWKING And LEONARD MLODINOW." This makes it appear as though Hawking and his physicist writing partner had written the excerpt and the title of it. Obviously a guy like Hawking does not send in articles to publications like the WSJ. Of course the excerpt title was given by a staff member there.

But Hawking does say something very disturbing: "As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

That sure sounds like an atheist talking to me. This genius professor has never professed a belief in any kind of God, but in his past books he always seemed open to the possibility of a mind in the mix of things. What happened? Hawking is now 68 years old. With Lou Gehrig Disease, it's amazing he's lived this long. He's made some amazing discoveries throughout his career. It seems to me, however, that he's losing his perspective on what science is actually capable of achieving.

For instance, he says, "According to M-theory, ours is not the only universe. Instead, M-theory predicts that a great many universes were created out of nothing."

Really? Out of nothing? Undoubtedly he's knowledgeable about primordial matter—that small bit of stuff which has always existed and from which our universe sprang. The only thing that comes from nothing is nothing. Something had to have always been here. According to Big Bang Theory, in the beginning the universe was a very tiny place indeed. There was not in it the four forces of energy we know so well today, but instead one super-force. Was there matter? We have to remember that all energy has matter, and all matter has energy. It's very much like the way a particle can also be a wave. Therefore we have to think of this super-energy as being matter also, but not yet in a material state so to speak. The super-energy would remain in an energy state for a an unknown period of time before it changed into matter, so we should probably think of it more as potential matter. At the very least we can say that the energy has always been here. Energy is not "nothing." But I am certainly not telling you anything Mr. Hawking does not know himself and know better than I, so why he states that universes were created out of nothing is curious. He even mentions primordial elements (what that energy turned into) at one point in the book and goes on to list many of the things that had to have taken place to the nth degree for a place like Earth to exist where life can thrive.
The tale of how the primordial universe of hydrogen, helium and a bit of lithium evolved to a universe harboring at least one world with intelligent life like us is a tale of many chapters. The forces of nature had to be such that heavier elements—especially carbon—could be produced from the primordial elements, and remain stable for at least billions of years. Those heavy elements were formed in the furnaces we call stars, so the forces first had to allow stars and galaxies to form. Those in turn grew from the seeds of tiny inhomogeneities in the early universe.

Even all that is not enough: The dynamics of the stars had to be such that some would eventually explode, precisely in a way that could disperse the heavier elements through space. In addition, the laws of nature had to dictate that those remnants could recondense into a new generation of stars, these surrounded by planets incorporating the newly formed heavy elements.

By examining the model universes we generate when the theories of physics are altered in certain ways, one can study the effect of changes to physical law in a methodical manner. Such calculations show that a change of as little as 0.5% in the strength of the strong nuclear force, or 4% in the electric force, would destroy either nearly all carbon or all oxygen in every star, and hence the possibility of life as we know it. Also, most of the fundamental constants appearing in our theories appear fine-tuned in the sense that if they were altered by only modest amounts, the universe would be qualitatively different, and in many cases unsuitable for the development of life. For example, if protons were 0.2% heavier, they would decay into neutrons, destabilizing atoms.

If one assumes that a few hundred million years in stable orbit is necessary for planetary life to evolve, the number of space dimensions is also fixed by our existence. That is because, according to the laws of gravity, it is only in three dimensions that stable elliptical orbits are possible. In any but three dimensions even a small disturbance, such as that produced by the pull of the other planets, would send a planet off its circular orbit, and cause it to spiral either into or away from the sun.

The emergence of the complex structures capable of supporting intelligent observers seems to be very fragile. The laws of nature form a system that is extremely fine-tuned. What can we make of these coincidences? Luck in the precise form and nature of fundamental physical law is a different kind of luck from the luck we find in environmental factors. It raises the natural question of why it is that way.

Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God.
In reality he hasn't even begun to list all the things that had to happen for us to be here. That life exists anywhere is a miracle beyond any proportion the mind can conceive. There are billions of biological evolutionary steps that had to happen and happen in just the right way at just the right time, all while the cosmological setting of our planet maintained a near perfect orbit for billions of years in just the right conditions. Professor Andrew Watson from the University of East Anglia, a mathematician, says:

If we learned the planet would be habitable for a set period and that we had evolved early in this period, then even with a sample of one, we’d suspect that evolution from simple to complex and intelligent life was quite likely to occur. By contrast, we now believe that we evolved late in the habitable period, and this suggests that our evolution is rather unlikely. In fact, the timing of events is consistent with it being very rare indeed. ... Complex life is separated from the simplest life forms by several very unlikely steps and therefore will be much less common. Intelligence is one step further, so it is much less common still....
He goes on to say that the probability of each step occurring at all is less than 10% and that the probability of intelligent life occurring is less than .01% over 4-billion years. Also, each step must happen in a precise order, and this is even less likely.

Professor Hawking invokes the atheist magic dust of infinity to account for all this. M-theory predicts nearly an infinite number of universes to have coincided with the Big Bang. He believes that with an infinite number of universes anything and everything will eventually happen—possibly more than once. Some people actually believe that infinity could eventually produce an exact duplicate of Earth somewhere in some world—perhaps many copies with doppelgangers of each one of us.

Now I ask you, if you were to roll one die, what are the chances of that die coming up on a number you predict? One in six of course. And the chances of two dice coming up on the same number is much greater than that. If you had a trillion dice, what do you think the chances are of every one of them coming up on the same number? It will likely never happen did you say? Every time you add more dice your odds get worse—not better. The number of particles that had to be aligned just so in such a way to get an Earth and intelligent life on it is immeasurable. It might as well be an infinite number. To think this would ever happen again is the stuff of such madness that only a conspiracy theorist of the highest order would entertain such a notion. I've heard similar imaginative ramblings from professors who claimed that if you tossed a box of sand in the air enough times, the grains would eventually land on the floor in a perfect outline of the Mona Lisa along with every other piece of art ever created. The fact is that this has been attempted several times with computer generated random graphics, and not once has it ever exactly duplicated any recognizable artwork.

Here's something else to consider. I mentioned before a trillion dice all coming up on the same number as probably being impossible even given an infinite length of time. Let's say they all had to come up with the number-3. That atheist magic dust of infinity also works the other way. If you want to say that anything is possible given an infinite amount of time, then it's just as possible that a trillion dice could all land on the number-4 every time you threw them till the end of time... (Wonderful how a tiny ellipsis can represent something as large as infinity isn't it)?

I'll tell you how I view this world of ours. Suppose you had a bush pilot fly you to a remote part of Alaska that wasn't on any map. Someplace where there exist mountains, valleys, and lakes that no man has ever seen or set foot on. And after hiking through this barren landscape for several weeks you climb to the top of a mountain and find there a large blue castle luxuriously furnished with all the requisites for life—a refrigerator full of food, running water, a bed and chair that seemed tailor-made for you, a furnace to keep you warm, a thermostat set at the exact temperature your body desires, electric lights along with a hydro powered generator outside perfectly placed by a waterfall to keep them on, and every other modern convenience you could ever desire. If it's a matter of odds, which would seem more likely to you: that this big blue castle and everything in it "just happened" to be produced by mere chance? or that someone created it?