Monday, July 30, 2007

Where did the Universe Come From? Part 1

As I was checking my email today, I noticed an ad on the sidebar asking "Where did the Universe Come From?"

I just had to see this, so, since subscription is free, I subscribed.

Here is the first part, and my reactions to it. Please note that I'm posting this without the author's permission. But it was freely distributed. It isn't personal. And hey, fair usage.

Part 1: Einstein's Big Blunder

100 years ago this year, Albert Einstein published three papers that rocked the world. These papers proved the existence of the atom, introduced the theory of relativity, and described quantum mechanics.
I'll assume that this was written in 2005.

A quick look on Wikipedia shows that the above passage is not so much a lie as deceptive hyperbole.

“proved the existence of the atom” - Einstein published a paper on Brownian motion that explained "random movement of very small objects as direct evidence of molecular action, thus supporting [not proving] the atomic theory”

“introduced the theory of relativity” - yes, he published a paper proposing the theory of special relativity.

“described quantum mechanics” - he published a paper on the photoelectric effect, and suggested that the experimental results were best explained using
Max Planck’s idea of light as discrete quanta of energy. This "description" barely scratches the surface of quantum mechanics.

Oh look, Einstein published a fourth paper that year. Conservation (equivalence) of matter and energy. E=mc2 ? Sound familiar? I guess this one isn’t important.


Pretty good debut for a 26 year old scientist, huh?
We already know he was a genius, get on with it

His equations for relativity indicated that the universe was expanding. This bothered him, because if it was expanding, it must have had a beginning and a beginner. Since neither of these appealed to him, Einstein introduced a 'fudge factor' that ensured a 'steady state' universe, one that had no beginning or end.
Bullplop. In 1917 Einstein used his new theory of general relativity to describe the universe. By his calculations, the universe would collapse due to the gravitational effects of its own mass. He added an anti-gravity term (the fudge factor, lambda) to make his description fit the (then) observed reality (the current view was that the universe was static)


But in 1929, Edwin Hubble showed that the furthest galaxies were fleeing away from each other, just as the Big Bang model predicted. So in 1931, Einstein embraced what would later be known as the Big Bang theory, saying, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation
of creation to which I have ever listened." He referred to the 'fudge factor' to achieve a steady-state universe as the biggest blunder of his career.
Closer examination of Einstein's equations showed that they worked for collapse or expansion. Einstein, like any honest scientist presented with contradictory evidence, admitted that he had been wrong (to add the lambda term)


As I'll explain during the next couple of days, Einstein's theories have been thoroughly proved and verified by experiments and measurements. But there's an even more important implication of Einstein's discovery. Not only does the universe have a beginning, but time itself, our own dimension of cause and effect, began with the Big Bang.
Verified? Yes. Proven? No. Contradiction is becoming vanishingly unlikely, but still possible.

Yes, using general relativity alone, the universe would seem to have a beginning (t=0). However, theoretical physics cannot really get any further back than about t=5.39121x10-44s (one Planck time) before quantum effects make the calculations intractible, and so cannot say anything about t=0. However, the theory of loop quantum gravity may change that, and seems to support the idea of continual cycles of expansion and contraction (no beginning)

reference 1

reference 2

That's right -- time itself does not exist before then. The very line of time begins with that creation event. Matter, energy, time and space were created in an instant by an intelligence outside of space and time.
see the above refences. Also, this leap to an intelligence outside space and time is unfounded

About this intelligence, Albert Einstein wrote in his book "The World As I See It" that the harmony of natural law "Reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."
Here's a page of Einstein quotes on religion, including the full context of the above.

To me this sounds like poetic metaphor, but Einstein may well have been a Deist.

But so what? Atheists don't worship Einstein any more than they worship Darwin. They were both great scientists, but their opinions and personal views weren't divine pronouncements. Nor did their scientific work become dogma (See above where Einstein admits he was wrong)

He went on to write, "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe--a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble."
Again, metaphor or Deist. Either way, without mathematics or experiment, it's just opinion.

Pretty significant statement, wouldn't you say?
No, not really

Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment: "Bird Droppings on my Telescope."
I look forward to it

Respectfully Submitted,

Perry Marshall

Cosmic Fingerprints, 67 East Algonquin Road, S. Barrington IL 60010 USA

So in the end this is all just argument from authority (Einstein said...therefore God) and argument from ignorance (We don't know, therefore God). Meh.

Note: My references are not definitive sources, however they all make further reference to actual scientific publications.


5 people have spouted off:

jackal said...

Don't forget the argument where if one scientific theory can't explain it, you leap to the conclusion that God did it.

John said...
That's argument from ignorance. We don't know, therefore God.
8/1/07, 7:42 AM
jackal said...

I thought that the argument from ignorance was "if I haven't seen the evidence, then the evidence doesn't exist." Saying "god did it" would be tacking on an extra fallacy, in my opinion. I'm still looking for a good logic book that explains logical reasoning and fallacies.

John said...
I don't know about books, but here's a web page to check out:
8/2/07, 3:56 PM
Qalmlea said...

There was a math major who hung out with my SPS (Society of Physics Students) club at Colo. State who like to (jokingly) explain everything in terms of Little Green Men. Why does gravity work? LGM. Why do snow flakes form? LGM. He claimed that this was a counterexample to the Sword of Damocles...but I now realize that it just introduces a new level of complexity: Where did the LGM come from?