Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Where did the Universe come from? Part 3

Where did the Universe come from?
Part 3: Why the Big Bang was the most precisely planned event in all of history

In your kitchen cabinet, you've probably got a spray bottle with an adjustable nozzle. If you twist the nozzle one way, it sprays a fine mist into the air. You twist the nozzle the other way, it squirts a jet of water
in a straight line. You turn that nozzle to the exact position you want so you can wash a mirror, clean up a spill, or whatever.

If the universe had expanded a little faster, the matter would have sprayed out into space like fine mist from a water bottle - so fast that a gazillion particles of dust would speed into infinity and never even form a single star.

If the universe had expanded just a little slower, the material would have dribbled out like big drops of water, then collapsed back where it came from by the force of gravity.

A little too fast, and you get a meaningless spray of fine dust. A little too slow, and the whole universe collapses back into one big black hole.

Bullshit analogy for the win. I'm convinced. [/sarcasm]

The surprising thing is just how narrow the difference is. To strike the perfect balance between too fast and too slow, the force, something that physicists call
"the Dark Energy Term" had to be accurate to one part in ten with 120 zeros.

If you wrote this as a decimal, the number would look like this:


In case you were sleeping in math class

In their paper "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant" two atheist scientists from Stanford University stated that the existence of this dark energy term "Would have required a miracle... An external agent, external to space and time, intervened in cosmic history for reasons of its own."

I think he means this paper. Notice that there are actually three authors (Lisa Dyson, Matthew Kleban, Leonard Susskind) all three of whom are from Stanford (although Dyson seems to be associated with MIT, also). Nowhere in the paper do they mention their personal beliefs, so how does Mr. Marshal come to the conclusion that they are atheists?

As for that alleged quote, I did a text search of the paper:

occurrences of "would have required a miracle" : 0

the word "miracles" does occur once in the paper, as shorthand for extremely unlikely events

occurrences of "external agent" : 1

The question then is whether the origin of the universe can be a naturally occurring fluctuation, or must it be due to an external agent which starts the system out in a specific low entropy state?

However I did find the quote Mr Marshal is mining.

Another possibility is an unknown agent intervened in the evolution, and for reasons of its own restarted the universe in the state of low entropy characterizing inflation. However, even this does not rid the theory of the pesky recurrences.

Notice the difference in meaning. The authors are saying that even allowing for God won't solve the problem they are discussing.

Mr Marshall's 'quote' is bullplop. The quoted text before the ellipses doesn't exist, and the rest is a partial sentence taken (way) out of context. And he doesn't even get that right. Maybe he was home-schooled and never had an English teacher to tell him that what he puts between quotation marks is supposed to be exactly what is written in the original.

Here's the last quote in the paper that I was able to follow (the rest of the paper is a lot of physics/maths that require a more thorough reading than I have time for):
The implication of such a description, as we have suggested in Section (1), is that Poincare recurrences are inevitable. Starting in a high entropy, “dead” configuration, if we wait long enough, a fluctuation will eventually occur in which the inflaton will wander up to the top of its potential, thus starting a cycle of inflation, re–heating, conventional cosmology and heat death.

As best I understand, this is saying that the universe as it is may just be a hiccup in the vast nothingness

Just for comparison, the best human engineering example is the Gravity Wave Telescope, which was built with a precision of 23 zeros. The Designer, the 'external agent' that caused our universe must possess an intellect, knowledge, creativity and power trillions and trillions of times greater than we humans have.

Absolutely amazing.

Not really. We already know that humans didn't create the universe. The leap to God the Designer is still completely unfounded. This is just argument from incredulity.

Now a person who doesn't believe in God has to find some way to explain this. One of the more common explanations seems to be "There was an infinite number of universes, so it was inevitable that things would have turned out right in at least one of them."

The "infinite universes" theory is truly an amazing theory. Just think about it, if there is an infinite number of universes, then absolutely everything is not only possible...It's actually happened!

It means that somewhere, in some dimension, there is a universe where the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last year. There's a universe where Jimmy Hoffa doesn't get
cement shoes; instead he marries Joan Rivers and becomes President of the United States. There's even a universe where Elvis kicks his drug habit and still resides at Graceland and sings at concerts. Imagine the possiblities!

Non-sequitur, the paper he quotemines has nothing to do with multiple universes. I don't know much about multiple universe hypotheses, but I do know that the real ones aren't like the Marvel Comics version Mr Marshall describes. And even if his implications are true, we don't have Reed Richards to build a device to let us go vist.

I might sound like I'm joking, but actually I'm dead serious. To believe an infinite number of universes made life possible by random chance is to believe everything else I just said, too.

Some people believe in God with a capital G.

And some folks believe in Chance with a Capital C.

Whatever. But if you don't believe the multiple universe theory (which I pretty much don't), "I don't know" is still a better answer than "Goddidit". I call false dichotomy.

Tomorrow's installment: "If you can read this email,
I can prove to you that God exists." Sound a little bold?
Tune in tomorrow - same time, same station.

Respectfully Submitted,

Perry Marshall

This is starting to get boring. Weak analogies, blatant quote mining, incredulity and false dichotomies. What, no argument from authority today? Oh, wait! That must be why he claimed the authors were atheists.


6 people have spouted off:

Qalmlea said...

So we have another version of the "fine-tuning argument." Somewhere, and unfortunately I don't remember where, I saw a simulation that played with randomized changes in the values of constants (gravity, EM, c, etc.), and found that most configurations were stable and resulted in a semi-recognizable universe. Admittedly, the results are only as good as the simulation, but it was interesting.

John said...
I think I remember that. I don't know where I saw it, either.
9/27/07, 9:00 AM
jackal said...

First of all, I'll thank you to not imply that home schooling is the same as no schooling. I had geometry, algebra I and algebra II before entering public school 9th grade, and I graduated high school in the top 10% of my class.

Secondly, the multi-universe explanation in that paper is false. Infinite universes does not mean that every possible universe exists. Each possible universe could exist. Every one of the infinite universes could be exactly the same as this one. Every other universe could be lifeless. The multiverse implication is that there were many, many chances to get the constants right, and of course, if we're here to ponder it, we are in a universe that can support life. I like the multiverse theories as I've heard them described. I haven't looked deeply into them because I don't believe I have sufficient knowledge to judge their plausibility. I'll leave that to the astrophysicists.

John said...
Yeah, but even homeschooled, YOU did have an English teacher.
9/27/07, 12:46 PM
John said...
That was the point of my Marvel comics/Reed Richards comment.
9/27/07, 12:47 PM
Qalmlea said...

I've seen both good and bad examples of homeschooling. If the parent is committed enough to do a good job, it can be better than standard schooling. The problem is that the motive is usually religious objection to something in the curriculum, and so that particular subject will be, at best, glossed over; at worse, misrepresented entirely.