Wednesday, December 16, 2015

There's Nothing There - Part 6

Here's where it gets interesting.

As if it weren't already. We might have said that once before.

There are two schools of thought, more or less.

One says, the universe is random and arbitrary and indifferent to humans, earth, the Milky Way galaxy, all the other galaxies, any other aliens that might be living out there somewhere, all the other possibly life-supporting planets that exist, any galaxies that they might be in, and itself. The universe and everything in it, including humans, is just a big accident.

That is, nothing matters.

The other school says, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

That is, everything matters.

OK, there might be another school in the middle that says, there is no God, but everything still matters. This school is adorable, but tends to be operating out of a position that says, on the one hand, the universe is a big accident and nothing matters, but, on the other hand, I refuse to believe that I personally don't matter, damn it.

Interestingly, nearly everybody who doesn't believe in God is in the last group. I feel bad, but here's the math: if the universe and everything in it don't matter, and you're in it, then, well, there you go.

The response at that point is usually, well, damn it, I matter to me, and the universe matters to me.

Which is ... adorable. That is, terrible science, but kinda necessary in order to be able survive mentally and emotionally until, um, survival is no longer an option. A convenient, useful, not-optional delusion. To use Dawkins' word again. Turns out we need to pretend that we matter in order to stay sane and get stuff done. Otherwise, you know, what the heck is the point? So we have to act like there's a point.

Even more interestingly, actual science messes up all three groups. The way the actual universe actually is, is incompatible with any of these world-views.

OK, group the first and the second, here's your problem. Group the last, you should pay attention. The universe is not indifferent to the existence of humans or any other intelligent life form that might be out there somewhere.

The universe needs intelligent, sentient, self-aware observers in order for reality to exist.

You don't have to like that, but at the moment, it's still true.

And somehow the universe put itself together in such a way as not only to produce life, and humans, but did so in such a way that the chances of it happening by accident are mathematically and physically non-existent.

It's called fine-tuning. The universe is finely tuned.

That means that the constants of nature are each and every one of them dialed pretty much to exactly what they need to be to produce and sustain human life.

Gravity. Strong force. Weak force. Electromagnetic force. Juuuuuust right. It's so striking that Paul Davies wrote a book about it called "The Goldilocks Enigma" and another one called "Cosmic Jackpot". Because it's not only those four forces, but over 200 more constants of nature that each have to be juuuuuust right. Stuart Kaufmann wrote a book called "At Home in the Universe", and John Gribbon and Martin Rees penned another called "Cosmic Coincidences." (Neither Gribbon nor Rees are big fine-tuning fans, btw.)

Roger Penrose at Oxford calculates the odds of an ordered universe (any order, not just our type of order) appearing by accident at 10**10**30th, and the odds of life (any type of life, not just what we've got) appearing at random at 10**10**123rd.

That's not gonna happen.

As a way out of this conundrum, scientists have come up with the idea of a Multiverse, an infinite number of other universes outside of ours, as the only possible alternative. With an infinite number of universes, 10**10**123 is not a problem - order, structure and life will happen somewhere automatically.

In fact (because Infinity is always bigger than you think it is), with an infinite number of universes, this very exact universe that you live in will happen not once, but an infinite number of times, and every possible variation in any kind of universe will happen not once, but an infinite number of times.

So there would be an infinite number of You out there exactly the way you are right now, plus an infinite number of You, only slightly different, each slightly different version appearing an infinite number of times in an infinite number of places.

But of course, because science is always about evidence, and there is no evidence of any other universe, the Multiverse isn't science yet, and never will be. We don't even know what most of this universe is like, the very universe that you live in, and never will. Detecting other universes - not gonna happen.

Apart from the fact that there will never be any evidence of even one other universe outside of ours, there is still the Observer Problem. You still need an outside observer in order for any reality in any universe to exist, regardless of how many universes you might have.

That's not to mention (although I seem to be mentioning it right now) that the idea of the Multiverse comes from three areas of physics - string theory, inflationary theory, and the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics - for which there is no evidence in science. They each are pretty cool, but, well, no evidence means they aren't science yet.

The only solution inside this universe is for it to be infinitely old and large.

But Big Bang messed that up nicely. That's the problem, really. Big Bang.

Before Big Bang came along, we could pretend that the universe was infinitely large and old and had always been here and didn't have a starting point and the laws of physics had always been here making stuff happen, and it was all quite lovely and pointless, just the way we like it. Didn't need any observers. Didn't even know about most of the constants that have to be juuuuuuust right.

Dang Big Bang.

So your problem, groups 1 and 2, is that the universe is set up juuuuuuust right to produce humans so that they can look at it and make it be there. That's just good physics.

And what's more, it is, as we have noted, not a universe that is full of things, but a universe that is full of relationships, a universe full of things that interact, a universe where the interactions define and create reality. Reality exists in the universe because of interactions.

It's probably worth mentioning that 1) lots of smart (and some dumb) people don't like the fine-tuning argument at all and 2) make fun of people who do. Normally, people who disagree will 1) use good, real, not pseudo-science but science-with-real-evidence as a rebuttal and 2) not make fun of people. That doesn't seem to happen with fine-tuning. For what it's worth.

(This image is wrong, btw. There are probably not 100 but more like 300 billion or more stars in the Milky Way, and maybe 1 trillion other galaxies instead of just 100 billion. And many more than 7 billion people now. And that's in the observable universe. The rest of the universe may be 10**26 times larger than the part we can see. And maybe it's infinite. Which would make you ... infinitely insignificant. Sorry. I feel bad. "Infinite" is infinitely bigger than "enormously".)

Now, group 3, you have another problem.

PS Those purple spinny things up there come from String Theory, which needs ten or eleven dimensions to work, but we only see three in our universe, so the thought is that there are seven or eight other dimensions that used to be here (at the beginning of time), but aren't anymore, so where the heck are they? That's them. Little 7-dimensional lumps called Calabi-Yau Spaces, one in each elementary particle in the universe. So you've got a ton of them lurking in all of your particles, each electron, each quark, each gluon. If they exist. And we'll never know.

No comments:

Post a Comment