Friday, January 15, 2016

There's Nothing There - Part 10

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand binary, and those who don't.

So. Part 10. Base 10. It's all in how the universe defines the terms.

(Isaac Newton)
So. Napoleon and this other French guy Pierre Simon Laplace were having this conversation about this book that Laplace had written about Isaac Newton's new physics. The book said that the universe operated according to laws and always had. 

(Not Isaac Newton.
Looks like him, tho.)
Napoleon said, so, um, there's no room or need for God in this picture, is there? 

And Laplace said, nope. Don't need God. Got laws. The laws make stuff happen. Not God.

And oh, btw. If the laws of physics make EVERYTHING happen, then our brains make NOTHING happen. So there is no free will, either.

But. Of course, that assumed that the laws had always been there in an infinitely old universe.

And, as it happens, that turns out not to be true. 

The universe arrived, and shortly after that, the laws of physics arrived.

So now you have two questions that you didn't have before. 

One. Where did the universe come from?

Two. Where did the laws of physics come from?

And then we learned other, fascinating and disturbing things. Like, the most powerful and definitive law of physics isn't really a "law", it's a bunch of quantum mechanical equations that folks just made up that seem to work all the time and describe matter and energy and they're always right and never wrong and they tell us quite clearly that things don't always happen because some law made them happen. Sometimes things just .... happen. Uncaused. 

In fact, in Quantum Mechanics, nearly everything just ... happens. Uncaused. 

And Quantum Mechanics is all about matter and energy. Everything in the universe that's not nothing, in fact. Although we've already seen that everything is mostly nothing, anyway.

And so free will becomes a possibility once again.

Because if not everything is caused by a law of physics making it happen, then it's entirely possible for us to make decisions that are independent of causes and effects.

And God becomes a reasonable answer to the two questions. Not the only reasonable answer, but still, a pretty good answer.

How? you might ask Is that possible?


Perhaps you've heard of SETI? It's an organization that searches for life elsewhere in the universe. SETI stands for Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

One way that they do this is by searching the skies for signals that might be from aliens somewhere else in the galaxy. The rest of the galaxies are too far away for us to get signals from their aliens, so we have to focus mostly on our galaxy, most of which is also too far away, but you gotta start somewhere.

How? you might ask Do they know when they get a signal from aliens?


That's a problem. Because aliens won't speak any of our languages, not even our computer languages.

So we wouldn't be able to recognize their language as, well, a language. 

And. The signals will be coming as energy waves of one sort or another.

So we have to assume that the aliens are smart enough to figure all of this out, and they will try to send signals that we could recognize as signals.

Assuming we are smart, too. And that we are here, too. We would be aliens to the aliens.

So they have to send something we would recognize. So we have to look for something we would recognize.

And that would be ... go ahead, guess.

I'll give you a hint.

The laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe.

Go ahead. Guess.

I'll give you another hint.

The constants of nature are the same everywhere in the universe.

We hope.

Go ahead. Guess.

I'll give you another hint.

A circle here is the same as a circle there.


OK. Time's up.

That means that the aliens could figure out what the value of Pi is. (Pi is the ratio of the circumference of the circle to the diameter.)

It's 3.14159265358979323846264338327950288419716939937510582... and it just keeps on going forever. And it's the same everywhere in the universe.

And the aliens know that, too. So all they have to do is to send it out as data, and all we have to do is recognize it.

It's pattern recognition. Intelligent life both produces and recognizes patterns. The more complicated the pattern, the more likely that it is coming from something intelligent.

That's what we assume. That's how we look for alien life forms. We look for some sort of recognizable pattern that could only be produced by intelligent life. If it's not natural constants, it's city lights or gases that don't occur naturally or the remnants of some sort of massive war (like, radioactivity from bombs) or any number of other things.

Now what in God's name you might ask does any of this have to do with God?

Well. Funny you should ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment