The Origin of the Universe(s)?

Having just done a post on quantum mechanics and particle physics, fields as distant from political science as one can imagine, and whose math I cannot grasp, I tried to resist the temptation to venture into modern physics yet again, but an article in Discover has me thinking.

Stephen Hawking is perhaps the best known physicist in the world, whose long term stature is still to be determined.  Putting forth theories virtually untestable at the current time, he hasn’t had the practical impact of many other of the century’s physicists.   His handicap — he has suffered from “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” or ALS since the early sixties — has been a blessing in disguise.   It has turned his body useless, meaning he communicates with a sophisticated computer read out and voice, and he is permanently bound to a wheel chair.  He is unable to enjoy life the way most people do, and unable to do his work and calculations in a manner typical for theoretical physics.   Yet, as the article points out, this also has forced him to think differently, visualizing ideas in a geometric fashion, generating insights he probably would not have had if he handled the thinking in a usual way.

Alas, for nearly thirty years Hawking has been less relevant than famous.  His major works were in the seventies, and while he still is active in science and culture (appearing on Star Trek and the Simpsons, for instance), his fame is more his image — the handicapped genius scientist — than recent output.   Yet his new theory is fascinating.    Not being a scientist or science writer, allow me to quote Discover, July/August 2009, p. 51:

“It is not the case that the past uniquely determines the present.  Because the universe has many possible histories and just as many possible beginnings, the present state of the universe selects the past.  ‘This means that the histories of the Universe depend upon what is being measured,’ Hawking wrote in a recent paper, ‘contrary to the usual idea that the Universe has an objective observer-indepent history.’   This idea could cut through some long standing scientific mysteries.  One debate now roiling the physics community concerns string theory, currently the leading candidate for a so-called theory of everything.  String theory holds that all the particles and forces in the universe can be explained as arising from the vibrations of vanishingly small strands of energy.  But it has one huge problem: Its fundamental equations have a near infinite number of solutions, each corresponding to a unique universe. Hawking’s idea provides a natural context for string theory.  All those universes might simply represent different possible histories of our universe. “

Think of the implications of this theory.  Hawking, like most physicists, doesn’t really like it when one starts jumping from quantum weirdness to speculation about spirituality or the nature of life.   I think the reason is less that they want to hold on to raw materialism, but more that such a move seems to ignore the absolute beauty and elegance of the equations and models which generate these theories.   Those models, which I am unable to appreciate due to my lack of math skill, are elegant, complex and to those who understand them, aesthetically beautiful and dramatic.  To jump to speculation about spirit or God, or something like that, well, that even seems to diminish the beauty of the theory.

Yet those of us who don’t get the math have to think in mundane terms about the meaning.    The article notes that this theory may be testable, since the background micro-radiation from the universe’s early days may contain evidence of the existence of other quantum universes.   If Hawking is right, then the present as a point in space time is not just a determined reality that must exist, but the actualization of a particular quantum probability that is not connected with any one particular past, or determinate of any one particular future.   Clearly we are not constantly shifting pasts (at least in any way we notice) , so human existence probably deals with a narrow range of quantum fluctuation (as macro objects we do not experience the wildness of the micro quantum world), but yet that may be the nature of the universe(s).

Hawking is trying, with this theory, to overcome the need for the universe to begin with a singularity — an infinitely dense point.  Singularities are mathematical possibilities in relativity, but seem impossible to imagine — how can a point be infinitely small and infinitely dense?   Well, general relativity and quantum mechanics have fundamental disagreements, and thus one or both of them have errors.  Hawking believes that if you apply quantum physics to the start of the universe, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle could mean that a singularity does not form, and the uncertainty fosters these multiple probable universes.

That would mean that consciousness exists at a point in space time, moving through it in ways that can vary.   Herein is an opening for free will, and for speculation on why consciousness has that power.  It opens up room for spirituality, even religion, and a recognition that the world may be a lot weirder than we realize.  But for me, there is one reason why I find myself especially enticed by this theory.    In a blog I wrote last year, on June 20, 2008, I speculated on this kind of possibility: Spinoza, Quantum Mechanics and Free Will.

On a different note, in an honors course I’m co-teaching with five other professors, we had a good discussion today about history, perspective, and truth.   Is there one historical past we can “discover,” or a clear set of indisputable facts?   Well, if Hawking is right there are probably an infinite number of probable pasts, and at any given point what we measure affects which past exists.

OK, I think I need a drink.    This is starting to make my head hurt.

  1. #1 by Mike Lovell on September 4, 2009 - 15:08

    So…Confuse the Big Dumb Guy Day huh? Well, I seem to remember a certain past where you owed me $500k…I’m sure you spiraled into another quantum universe and had the memory erased, but don’t worry, I’ll mail the bill!

    Its a thought process like yours that prompted me to say any discussion on Reagan would be a 1 1/2 sided debate!

  2. #2 by Gordon Stangler on September 4, 2009 - 23:02

    While Dr. Hawking argues that quantum indeterminacy may cause universe path splitting, there are still fundamental laws that the universe follows. For example: Wavefunctions time evolve to a Gaussian state, nothing goes faster then light, spacetime is orthogonal at all points, and particles and their fields are quantized.

    There are many more, but in general, these are the big ones.

  3. #3 by Mike Foster on September 6, 2009 - 22:29

    I think Hawking is on to something. Case in point: when I go to a left-leaning blog I see “The Republicans have dominated the airways…”. When I go to a right-leaning blog I see “The Democrats have dominated the airways…”. Which is right? Maybe both! Thanks for clearing that up, Hawking!

    Nice article, Scott. I have to run out and get that issue of Discover now 🙂

  4. #4 by Anirudh Kumar Satsangi on September 29, 2009 - 06:28

    Based on my recent comments which I have posted in various blogs, I have now postulated a hypothesis. Theoretcal Physics describes four fundamental forces of nature viz., weak nuclear force, strong nuclear force, electromagnetic force and force of gravity. Here we can present an analogy. Weak and strong nuclear forces represent pancha-bhutas or the five elements. Electromagnetic force represents force of current of mind which mainly works through sensory organs and force of gravity represents supra-causal state of Consciousness. We know that during advanced stage of practice of meditation and yoga pancha-bhutas or five elements merge into mind and mind into supra-causal state of Consciousness and ultimately Individual Consciousness merges into Cosmic Consciousness. This is the state of Perfect Bliss or Self-Realization. Likewise during the reverse process of Cosmic Evolution i.e. Perfect Dissolution of the Universe, weak and strong nuclear forces merge into electromagnetic force and electromangnetic force merges into force of gravity.

    In the beginning, the enetire Creation came into existence from this Single Force Current which later on manifested into many force currents during the process of Cosmic Evolution.

    Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator, this paper I presented at the 1st Int. Conf. on Revival of Traditional Yoga, held at The Lonavla Yoga Institute (India), Lonavla, Pune in 2006. The Abstract of this paper is given below:

    The Universe includes everything that exists. In the Universe there are billions and billions of stars. These stars are distributed in the space in huge clusters. They are held together by gravitation and are known as galaxies. Sun is also a star. Various members of the solar system are bound to it by gravitation force. Gravitation force is the ultimate cause of birth and death of galaxy, star and planets etc. Gravitation can be considered as the cause of various forms of animate and inanimate existence. Human form is superior to all other forms. Withdrawal of gravitational wave from some plane of action is called the death of that form. It can be assumed that gravitation force is ultimate creator. Source of it is ‘God’. Gravitational Field is the supreme soul (consciousness) and its innumerable points of action may be called as individual soul (consciousness). It acts through body and mind. Body is physical entity. Mind can be defined as the function of autonomic nervous system. Electromagnetic waves are its agents through which it works. This can be realized through the practice of meditation and yoga under qualified meditation instruction. This can remove misunderstanding between science and religion and amongst various religions. This is the gist of all religious teachings – past, present and future.

  5. #5 by Anirudh Kumar Satsangi on December 27, 2009 - 04:06

    According to His Holiness Huzur Maharaj, the Second Most Revered Spiritual Head of Radhasoami Faith had stated : “Love or Force of attraction (i.e. the Force of Cohesion) is the Param Tattva or the chief ingredient of the creation, i.e. the entire creation has come into existence out of Love and is sustained by Love.” In scientific terminology this is known as Gravity.

  6. #6 by Anirudh Kumar Satsangi on November 9, 2010 - 05:52

    Stephen Hawking writes in The Grand Design, “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going.” Hawking said the Big Bang was merely the consequence of the law of gravity. In A Brief History of Time, Hawking had suggested that the idea of God or a divine being was not necessarily incompatible with a scientific understanding of the Universe.

    Although Hawking is very close to Truth yet he is not perfect in his views while discarding the role of divine being. I consider the role of eternal gravity uppermost but I strongly differ with Hawking on the role of divine being. I consider Divine Ordainment is the cause of Creation of Universe.

    Now I give Radhasoami Faith view of Creation Theory. In Sar Bachan (Poetry) composed by His Holiness Soamiji Maharaj the August Founder of Radhasoami Faith the details of creation and dissolution has been described very scientifically. It is written in Jeth Mahina (name of Hindi moth) in this Holy Book: Only He Himself (Supreme Father)and none else was there. There issued forth a great current of spirituality, love and grace (In scientific terminology we may call this current as gravitational wave). This is called His Mauj (Divine Ordainment). This was the first manifestation of Supreme Being. This Divine Ordainment brought into being three regions, viz., Agam, Alakh, and Satnam of eternal bliss. Then a current emerged with a powerful sound. It brought forth the creation of seven Surats or currents of various shades and colours (in scientific terminology we may call it electromagnetic waves). Here the true Jaman or coagulant was given (in scientific terminology this coagulant may be called as weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force). Surats, among themselves, brought the creation into being.

    These currents descended down further and brought the whole universe/multi verse into being i.e. black holes, galaxies etc. were born.

    I would like to add further that sound energy and gravitational force current are non polar entity and electromagnetic force is bi-polar. Hence spiritual polarization, if occurred, is occurred in the region of Sat Lok and region below to it only.

  7. #7 by r.l. dwyer on March 2, 2011 - 22:27

    For the newest theory on the creation of the Universe, see The Sun Creation Theory at yahoo. Written in 2008, it is a theory that needs to be looked at from a mathematical viewpoint to see verify how the Sun could birth/eject/shed another Sun.

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