Tuesday, February 2, 2016

There's Nothing There - Part 13

So the universe just ... pops ... into existence out of nothing for no reason in the tiniest fraction of a second, and then, inside that first second, produces the laws of physics (the 4 [so far] forces of nature), energy, particles, and inside the first 100 seconds, simple elements, and somewhere along the way, the Higgs Boson, and Dark Energy and Dark Matter. Much later, Darth Vader. And Peter Higgs. Not the same guy.

There are two interpretations of this (for us, anyway) momentous event. It was just an accident. Or it wasn't.

In the words of Douglas Adams, the universe was just one of those things that happens every now and then.

Or, it wasn't.

We'll talk about that.

First, the questions that arrived with the universe. OK, that's not exactly true. First we had to have questioners. That would be us. And then we had to discover that the universe had not always been there. Which we eventually did. And then we had to say, holy crap, now we've got some questions that need answering.

OK, then. The Questions. Some of them, anyway:

Where did the universe come from?

What caused Big Bang? Was it unique, or were there other (lots of)(an infinite number of) Big Bangs?

Where did the laws of physics come from?

What language does the universe speak? (math)

Why does the universe speak a language? (math)

Why does the universe make sense? Why can we figure things out? (math)

Why is there something instead of nothing?

Why did the universe do anything at all?

Why is there order and structure in the universe?

How does the universe go from what is presumably, right after Big Bang, a great big mess to a universe that has complex forms in it, that is, a universe that is not a great big mess?

Where do the elements come from?

Where did all the energy come from? And all the matter?

Where do stars and galaxies come from?

What makes all of this happen?

Where does life come from?
Is there any meaning or purpose to the universe? To life? To, well, not to sound all narcissistic and selfish, but, well, me? I mean, you know, it kinda matters. To me, anyway. And all the rest of you "me's" out there.

And the answer is ... (drum roll) ... we don't know where the universe came from (nowhere, it seems), we don't know what caused Big Bang (some sort of measurement or observation or interaction by somebody or something outside of space and time and the laws of physics and everything, but if you call it "God" it
makes people nervous), and the laws of physics just ... arrived ... in the universe, and math, God (oops, sorry) only knows why math is here, and then we very much later on figured out the math and the physics (not necessarily in that order) and that gave us the answers to most of the rest of the questions. Sorta. Kinda.

Like, we don't know why the universe makes sense, but it's useful that it does so that we can understand it (via math and physics), and we know HOW there is something instead of nothing, but not really WHY except that ... (drum roll) ...

The laws of physics made everything happen.

But some things had to be reeeeeally carefully dialed in first.

For example.

The early universe had to be in the highest state of order that it would ever be in. Physicists call that extremely low entropy. "Entropy" means "disorder", and the universe had to have almost no disorder in it.

Because it only goes one direction. That is, from order to disorder.

So if it had been a big mess, it would still just be a big mess and we wouldn't be here.

Like, your kitchen doesn't start out as a mess. It starts out nice and clean. And then you cook (like, a universe), and it gets messier and messier until you have two things - a lovely meal, and a big mess.

That's what the universe does. It starts out nice and clean, the same temperature (nearly) everywhere, and then as time goes on, as it gets messier, the mess produces a lovely meal.

Well, not a meal, exactly. It produces matter first, in the form of quarks, electrons and gluons. Then protons, neutrons out of the quarks and gluons. Then simple elements out of the protons, neutrons and electrons. Then gas clouds out of hydrogen and a bit of helium (very simple elements). 

Then out of the gas clouds, stars.

And out of the stars, three things: galaxies full of stars, black holes, and more complicated elements.

And then planets, and sometime later life, and sometime after that, complex life, and then (wait for it) you and me. 

A lovely meal I ate in Lima once. Note: no lima beans.
We'll call all of that a lovely meal, surrounded by a universe that is much messier than it use to be. Much more "entropic". Disordered.

But somehow, because the universe started with very little disorder (entropy) in it, it produced a lovely meal.

And you start to wonder ... how exactly did that happen?

Because (let's be honest), lovely meals don't become either lovely or meals without a cook, maybe some recipes, surely some ingredients, some heat, a bit of stirring, and time. And a kitchen. We'll call the kitchen "space-time". So?

And the answer is ... the laws of physics made it happen. Those would be the recipes, sorta.

But only, as we've been told, if the recipes are juuuuuuust right.

Goldilocks. Coming up.

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