Wednesday, November 18, 2015

There's Nothing There - Part 2

In a previous Blog, "There's Nothing There - Part 1", we finished by noting that according to one way of looking at the universe, there's really nothing in it. And that's pretty much right. At the smallest level of "something", on the level of electrons, quarks and gluons (which make up protons and neutrons and atoms and hence all the matter in the cosmos), electrons, quarks and gluons aren't really there. It's a Quantum thing. And as far as everything bigger than little things goes, it's all mostly empty space, the parts that aren't empty being occupied by things (matter) made up of things (smaller matter) that aren't really there.

Clearly, that needs fixin'.

OK, then. Here we go.

First, Chaos Theory. Chaos Theory says that the universe is radically unpredictable (think "Jurassic Park"), and the reason that it's unpredictable is because there are too many tiny little things that we can't know about that make bigger things happen. The Butterfly Effect. A butterfly flaps its wings off the coast of South American and you get a hurricane (instead of not a hurricane) in the Atlantic.

Like, a fruit vendor in Tunisia gets hacked off at his government, sets himself on fire, the dominoes that became Arab Spring start falling over, and still nobody knows what the end result will be.

Or, a tiny rubber ring on the space shuttle gets a bit cold, loses a bit of its elasticity, and the Challenger blows up 72 seconds into its launch. Or a 1 kg bit of insulating foam hits the wing in the wrong way, makes a tiny little crack, and the Columbia disintegrates on reentry into the earth's atmosphere.
 One tree branch falls on one power line in Ohio and causes the largest black-out in North American history, hundreds of miles away in New York and eastern Canada. Another falls on a power line in Switzerland and blacks out all of ... Italy.

Tiny things can and do have a huge impact on the way universe does its business.

So, second. Big Bang.

Big Bang came from a Singularity. This Singularity was an infinitely compressed point of pure energy potential.

It had no size. It had no substance. Nothing was in it. Not matter, not energy. Nothing. It was the tiniest of all possible things, since it wasn't even there in any sense that we understand about "being there", especially since there was no there for it to be there in. Time and space didn't exist yet. The potential for them was in the Singularity.

And in the tiniest of all possible times, the universe blew itself into existence. One theory suggests that in a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second, the universe went from a nanometer square to 250 million light years across. Our own Milky Way is a puny 100,000 light years across, an embarrassingly small 1000 light years thick.

In .000000000000000000000000000000000001 of a second.

1,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles across.

Everything coming from nothing in as close to no time as it's possible to imagine.

Time and space and energy and matter and the potential for everything that became everything that is. From nothing.

Tiny things seem to be able to do very, very large.

Now we have a cool question to deal with.

Since the universe arrived, that is, since it used to not be here, and now it is, where did everything inside the universe come from? Why did the universe do anything? Why is there something instead of nothing?

Technically, that's three questions. Tant pis, as they say in France.

Part 3, coming up. Watch this space.

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