Opening Up The Universe
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 2/27/03
In this essay
I am going to take a lay approach to some of the basic points about science-
specifically cosmology- the study of the cosmos. When I hit upon important terms
I will define them. Too often in science essays a science writer will assume the
reader knows some basic fact as a given. While I admire the sentiment to not
condescend, in certain instances this can lead to a general disconnect between
the writer & reader, where the latter merely grins & nods to themselves,
in a pretense of understanding. That won’t be a problem here. I will argue my
points not as an expert in any scientific field, for I am (in the best sense of
the word) an amateur, a lover, of science. My arguments will, however, contain
my lingual expertise. I point this out because while I cannot deny nor confirm
some of the scientific posits I will rest my claims upon, as they are based upon
generally accepted scientific notions, I can argue against an opinion when the
scientist’s own ideas come in to logical conflict- whether realized by the
scientist or not. Thus, any error that may arise from my theorizing do so based
upon the faulty conveyance of knowledge that I have read, not my interpretation
of it, because that will be logically sound & fidel. In short- the GIGO
defense will be mine.
I will be talking about the universe as an open energy system, as well as the idea of an open universe. The former idea is a known idea, but rarely discussed over the decades, outside of the recent growing affection cosmologists bear towards the idea of multiple universes. The latter is well known to the layety, as well as the ideas of closed & flat universes- ideas I will hit upon in a bit. 1st, let me define the idea of induction- the method upon which many of this essay’s posits will be based:
Main Entry: in·duc·tion
Date: 14th century
1 a : the act or process of inducting (as into office) b : an initial experience : INITIATION c : the formality by which a civilian is inducted into military service
2 a (1) : inference of a generalized conclusion from particular instances -- compare DEDUCTION 2a (2) : a conclusion arrived at by induction b : mathematical demonstration of the validity of a law concerning all the positive integers by proving that it holds for the integer 1 and that if it holds for an arbitrarily chosen positive integer k it must hold for the integer k+1 -- called also mathematical induction
3 : a preface, prologue, or introductory scene especially of an early English play
4 a : the act of bringing forward or adducing (as facts or particulars) b : the act of causing or bringing on or about c : the process by which an electrical conductor becomes electrified when near a charged body, by which a magnetizable body becomes magnetized when in a magnetic field or in the magnetic flux set up by a magnetomotive force, or by which an electromotive force is produced in a circuit by varying the magnetic field linked with the circuit d : the inspiration of the fuel-air charge from the carburetor into the combustion chamber of an internal combustion engine e : the sum of the processes by which the fate of embryonic cells is determined and morphogenetic differentiation brought about
2a(1) is what I am concerned with- taking particular observable facts, &
coming up with a general conclusion. The opposite of this method is deduction-
where in general facts are known, but specifics are needed. Crime solving is the
most manifest use of the deductive method, just as scientific inquiry is the
inductive method’s bread & butter.
I will now apply this to the idea of the universe as an open energy system (which would not violate the1st Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy can be changed from 1 form to another, but it cannot be created nor destroyed. The total amount of energy & matter in the universe remains constant, merely changing from 1 form to another. My guess that the universe is an open system harkens back to the old Steady State Theory (SST) of the universe- that the universe is eternal, & always creating new matter to replace that which runs down. This view has been roundly debunked in favor of the Big Bang Theory (BBT), wherein all spacetime was created in a single instant some 12-20 billion years ago. While alot of the observable evidence supports this interpretation, there are some flaws to this theory (which I will briefly limn in a bit), however minor. Yet, even more interesting is the idea, that even if 100% correct, the idea of the universe as an open energy system is wholly consistent with the BBT. Let us now use some induction to see why:
According to the BBT a) space is always being made in the ever expanding spacetime continuum. This is a bedrock principle of the BBT. Why is this important to know? Because if 1 views the observable universe as the room you are now sitting in, then 1 must view the entire room, up to its walls, ceiling, & floor, as the whole universe, whose walls & every thing in it are enlarging & diffusing as the literal space & time within balloon out. It is not as if the observable universe is just a clump of matter that is exploding within the room, 1 day to fill the entire room, or more. This is a key difference that most lay folk do not distinguish. So, if space is always being made in the ever expanding spacetime continuum, then fact b) that no physicist disputes that even a perfect vacuum, which technically the cosmos’s space is not, has latent energy [&, in fact, theoretical models on harvesting this theoretical energy grid have been proposed for FTL (faster than light) travel], becomes very cogent because c) therefore latent energy must be being constantly made (or added) with the expanding vacuum of spacetime. If so, then d) since it's the 1st Law of Thermodynamics that energy & matter cannot be made nor destroyed, then the latent energy of space expanding in the observable universe must, not may but must, be coming from elsewhere- somewhere outside this cosmos. This might be a dying universe leaking in to ours, or simply another cosmos that does not obey or Laws of Physics. But, regardless, e) if it's coming from elsewhere or elsewhen, then- it must posit a larger than observable universe, or an omniverse, or at least that the observable universe is an open system- ruling out entropy- by current known physics- & heed those last 3 words- because in a few decades this is liable to be as outmoded as the 5 perfect solids & music of the spheres.
repeat my prior claim- the logically sound inductive proof I have given is based
upon the information I have culled from years of scientific reading. If my
conclusion is wrong it is because the facts that I have taken for granted, &
those given to the general public, are wrong. My induction is flawless.
Furthermore, it can be argued that not only does the BBT’s verity make it likely
that the cosmos is an open energy system, but that the cosmos must be an
open energy system, & that the idea of multiple universes in an omniverse is
proved by this fact. I’m not sure on that last posit, but the inference is not
So why has there been such a big deal made over whether the SST or BBT was right, since it now seems likely that the Big Bang was merely a big bang in our localized portion of the omniverse? Simple- religious nonsense & scientific egos.
But, if the cosmos is creating space & energy, & we know that energy & matter are the same thing in different forms, then a question that would, or should, arise naturally is if the cosmos will some day have made enough matter/energy to ultimately close the universe back in a Big Crunch?
Let me now proffer 3 definitions for the possible states & fates for the universe. The terms are open, closed, or flat & depend upon whether the Big Bang’s expansion will continue forever, or will stop at some finite time, causing the universe to collapse on itself. If the former is true then the universe is open- meaning the universe is infinite in size- although it’s possible the universe could be finite, yet expand forever; if the latter is true the universe is closed- meaning the universe is finite in size, though unbounded; its geometry is similar to the surface of a sphere, where one can walk an infinite distance on a sphere’s surface, yet the surface of a sphere is finite. If neither, & the expansion will continue forever, but slow down, yet never quite stopping by any finite amount of time the universe will be a flat universe. This is where gravity & expansion are exactly equal, & the universe stops expanding only after an infinite amount of time. This universe could also be infinite. The flat universe seems to be where most current scientific thought resides, because- at most- physicists & astronomers estimate the amount of mass known in the observable universe is somewhere between 1 & 10% that needed for the combined gravity to re-collapse the universe, or close it. Even current estimates of the sundry types of dark matter bring the amount of mass needed to close the universe to a paltry 20% or so. Still, dogmatists persist in believing that the mass will get near, but not quite to that 100% mark, therefore making the cosmos flat. It is important to realize that this belief has no basis in observable facts, yet.
But it need not, because such dogmas are right in line with humanity’s self-centered belief that we are at the center of all creation. This thinking dominates ALL human religions, & even much of cosmogony, in the form of anthropocentric reasoning, or more formally the ‘anthropic principle’:
Main Entry: anthropic principle
: either of two principles in cosmology: a : conditions that are observed in the universe must allow the observer to exist -- called also weak anthropic principle b : the universe must have properties that make inevitable the existence of intelligent life -- called also strong anthropic principle
principle also has several other forms & corollaries, but you get the gist.
So ‘anthropic’ is the anthropic principle that not only is its
essence human-centered, but so is its nomenclature. Life, even if abundant on
many worlds, is only an infinitesimal portion of the cosmos. Still, life is much
more than human existence, so why not call it the biotic principle? Or the
biotic fallacy? In fact, the terms ‘hydrogenic principle’ or ‘black hole
principle’ would be far more apt since, percentage-wise both of those things
are far more plentiful than life, once described by a sci fi writer as (paraphrasing)
‘the rust on small rocky worlds’.
But, even the Big Bang Theory is not as airtight a case as it might seem. Problems have slowly been emerging over the last 20 or so years. Instead of seeking possible alternatives the current hierarchy in cosmology seems content in putting Band-Aids on the theory instead of objectively evaluating its merits & demerits. Despite almost a decade of tinkering there seems to be a disconnect between the ages of the oldest stars (at least 15+ billion years) & the 12 billion or so years that the values the Hubble Constant (a # to indicate the rate at which the universe is expanding. The HC is used to determine the intrinsic brightness and masses of stars in nearby galaxies, examine these properties in more distant galaxies, deduce the amount of dark matter in the universe, obtain the size of galaxy clusters, & serve as a test for theoretical cosmological models.) claims as the universe’s age. Another problem is the non-uniform distribution of matter in the cosmos- with great pockets of emptiness with galactic superclusters rimming the outside of these voids like some giant soap bubble, as well Alan Guth’s deus ex machina of universal inflation- which, while it works theoretically, has not yet yielded any tangible evidence. The lack of mass to close the universe, or even flatten it, seems to come up way short from all current predictive models. Worse, is that there are no theories that even can predict what sort of mass could make up the difference.
So why stick with the BBT? Another definition:
1. A stubborn belief that a proposition is true, despite firm evidence to the contrary.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
3. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, an idea, or a thing.
In 1992 a
book by Eric J. Lerner came out called The Big Bang Never Happened. In it
EJL pointed out how eerily similar the penchant for rationale by modern
cosmologists is, how similar to the rhetoric of die-hard religiots it is, &
that both POVs serve the same purpose of assuaging the human soul. Quoth EJL: ‘Today
Big Bang theorists see a universe much like that envisioned by the
medieval scholars--a finite cosmos created ex nihilo, from nothing, whose
perfection is in the past, which is degenerating to a final end. The
perfect principles used to form this universe can be known only by pure
reason, guided by authority, independent of observation. Such a cosmic myth arises in periods of social crisis or retreat, and reinforces
the separation of thought and action, ruler and ruled. It breeds a fatalistic
pessimism that paralyzes society.’ Basically EJL tasks
physicists for an obsession with mathematical beauty over observed phenomena,
& ascribes much of what is observed as fitting in just as nicely with the
Plasma Theory of the cosmos put forth by Swedish Nobel laureate Hannes Alfven. A
good portion of EJL’s book also posits that the cosmos is complexing even as
it expands- which would seem to gibe with my 5 part postulate above- that the
creation of spacetime de facto also creates matter/energy, & the universe is
an open energy system. Another icon that EJL skewers is the vaunted search for
TOEs & GUTs, Theories of Everything &/or Grand Unified Theories.
Still, critics savaged EJL’s book, & it has languished in obscurity. Several online websites hammer at it. EJL attacks the idea that superclusters could form in the 12-20 billion years since the Big Bang, stating far longer periods would be needed. 1 online detractor writes:
Lerner gives the example of filaments or sheets 150 million light years apart in Figure 1.1, and then asserts that material would have to travel 270 million light years to make the structure. Obviously 75 million light years would do the trick. With material traveling at 1000 km/sec, that would take 22.5 billion years, which is about twice as long as the probable age of the Universe. But when the Universe was younger, everything was closer together, so a small motion made early in the history of the Universe counts for much more than a motion made later. Thus it was easier for the material to clump together early in the history of the Universe. Lerner's math here is like ignoring interest when planning for retirement. If you save $1000 per year for 50 years, you don't retire with $50,000. If the interest rate was 7 percent throughout the 50 years, you will have a $460,000 nest egg.
OK, this refutation simply falls logically flat. 1st off, since when does financial interest rates have anything to do with the physical properties of the cosmos? 2ndly, while correct that a 150 million light year gap could be created in 75 million years, there is no reason to believe that the clumpability of the young universe was any greater than now. This is a statement put forth without any real backup of facts. It is, however, as plausible (or implausible) as the inflationary theory of the universe.
The Holy Grail of Dark Matter, which EJL targeted in his book has, even over a decade later, proven to be more elusive than initially thought. Every year people are told dark matter will be found within 5 years- this starting nearly a quarter century ago. In fact, more & more scientists seem to be coming around to the idea that the ‘excess’ gravity observed in this universe may not be produced by dark matter in this universe, but by masses in parallel universes which make their presence known in this 1. Imagine the fairy tale of The Princess & The Pea, where even through several layers of linens the supersensitive Princess can feel the pea’s presence, & now imagine the mass of extra-cosmic peas intruding their effect (gravity) but not presence on our side of the quilt (our observable universe).
As I stated earlier, I am not an expert, & there are uneasy feelings I get when reading EJL’s posits for his Plasma Universe, but the sturdiness of his criticisms of the BBT have held up remarkably well, even if his alternative is no better. & some of his claims have gotten some bolster, such as his hypothesis that not all the redshifting of light in supposedly receding galaxies comes from recession. While his claim of ‘tired light’ seems a no go, the mid-1990s saw the confirmation that some galaxies’ light naturally gets redder with age. Another factor that seems to bolster the idea of an open energy system for the cosmos is the seeming confirmation of Albert Einstein’s 'greatest error'- the Cosmological Constant. This was a great part of the Steady State Theory, but discarded after the BBT came into vogue. Einstein’s original universal model was a static, homogeneous model with a spherical geometry. The gravitational effect of matter caused an acceleration in this model which Einstein did not want, since at the time he was ignorant of the BBT, & cosmic expansion. Thus he introduced a Cosmological Constant into his equations for General Relativity. This acts to counteract the gravitational pull of matter, so was called an anti-gravity force. The newer version, however, has become a sort of backup plan to bolster the BBT, should dark matter prove a bust.Let me again state that all of my posits are based from things I have read from what scientists claim to have observed. My ideas are all 2ndhand accounts. That said, it seems obvious, if what I’ve read is true, that the observable universe is expanding, but expanding in to something far larger, something whose energy is pouring in to our cosmos. Therefore the Big Bang was probably just a big bang in a much larger omniverse, 1 in which there may be other forces, elements, & may just include such things as a ‘true’ non-relativistic super-time. But, that is something for another essay. In this 1 I just want you to ponder the possibility that a) either the universe is far stranger than currently thought (as the shade of Haldane smiles), or b) science writers, while in a Golden Age of wordsmithing, need to punch up on the clarity with which they convey highly technical ideas. Either option, however, can only be a positive for science readers. Shout it along with me: 1-2-3- Booyah!
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