Friday, August 1, 2008

The Anthropic Principle

The Anthropic Principle derives from the fact that our Universe is so well balanced, whether by intelligence or by accident, as to provide exactly for the conditions of our own existence. It is always annoying to butt our noses into everything the Entire Universe is doing. We are such nosy monkeys -- and we insist that everything be "about us."

Yet, any theory which describes the mechanisms of the Entire Universe must also describe our own existence, at least that of minimal life forms, as a subset of all the universal mechanisms. So far we haven't even described a theory that accounts for 5% of Everything. This is not so bad, though, since there is no "law" which states the Entire Universe must make sense to humans.

It may be the case that humans are not necessarily too stupid for such knowledge, but that "Everything" simply does not make any sense at all, even at the most fundamental level of existence. The existence of a tiny "particle" such as a photon may itself depend on the existence of everything else, and certainly there are ratios of the masses of electrons to protons which are constants -- as though there were gear teeth in which one turn of a proton would equal some exact number of turns of an electron (this is not a true analogy, of course, just an example of ratios...)

Yet, there are also no obvious laws that state it should be preordained that anything at all exist, let alone that all this fantastic complexity of stuff that we experience around us. It is as if we won the cosmic lottery -- the prime miracle. So, the prime miracle is that energy, space, matter and time (thus all of us who are comprised of such stuff) have the audacity to simply exist.

It is only a further, tiny deviation from that prime miracle that gravitational force must have an exact ratio with electromagnetic force and that the strengths of all forces (that we know of) are so exactly intertwined in such a way that humans and stars are possible to form -- or even that any single subatomic particle could form at all.

My usual tendency, when stuck on some process of vast complexity, is to rely on evolution to find a non-entropic method of existing within an overwhelmingly entropic Universe. It is as if a butterfly could somehow exist within an atomic explosion.

It is easier to think that the whole of space/time might be filled completely with almost entirely diffused heat -- but due to the huge space and limited heat, almost at absolute zero temperature. We would all lose our warmth and freeze up, never to move again, except as possible cinders to collide with other such cinders -- each increasingly rarer collision providing a little more energy, postponing the eventual icy end, but beyond any hope of returning to a life sustaining state.

Certainly, if the Universe was just a box full of cats in totally empty space, there would be a brief chaos of rapidly moving warm fur and claws followed by an eternity of frozen solid, motionless fur and claws. The "Big Bang" can be thought of as suddenly creating a very, very large box of cats in this analogy. If the current theories of the Cosmos are correct, and the Universe is expanding with ever increasing swiftness, then the distance between clumps of atoms (such as galaxies and stars) will presumably increase indefinitely, stretching the fabric of space so thin that it would be only infinitesimally significant (as if space had a measurable thickness.) Space would then be utterly transparent yet utterly black, supporting no photon propagation whatsoever, since all atoms would be frozen and cease emitting photons at all. Nothing could then be seen to move again, since there would be no time left to measure movement against.

If all atoms and other particles stop moving, then the Universe must stop as well. Yet, into this cold death would be the remains of the Entire Universe, like the ashes of a mighty fire that can burn no more. The ashes would be the blackened frozen dwarfs, tiny remnants of once mighty stars which shine no more, so far apart that even gravity has no meaning. All the once fearsome black holes, the crushers of everything into nothing, will have decayed as well, like popped bubbles of time, to crush no more. This doesn't matter, really, unless you believe you will somehow live forever.

But the meaning of all this is that, in the end, the Anthropic Principle will have evaporated with the substance of the Universe itself. No animals, no bacteria, no living things of any kind would remain once the Great Heat Death enveloped them. And if life depends upon water, then the Great Death would have occurred very long before the final stars snuffed out.

There does remain, however, the question of whether other Universes exist, Anthropic or not, in which existences come and go for all eternity (a term which is recursively dependent on the existence of time.) It could be that our "little" Universe is only one of countless others, bubbles of who-knows-what cosmic physics where time may only briefly exist or space may remain an infinitesimal pin point, or might become vastly inflated but entirely empty.

There is also the possibility that this is the only Universe to ever exist, (which most people probably assume,) and once all things have passed, then that is that. If that's true, then there is the question of how all this stuff like ourselves just happened to beat zillions to one odds against us -- lottery which would make winning the California lottery seem like an absolute certainty.

Did energy, space, time, quarks and atoms just evolve randomly from the meaningless ether? I suppose it is possible, since we are speaking of very, very unlikely things in the first place. It could also be that the "big bang" was actually a very long, complicated bang which only seems compressed into a tiny time slot by our looking back upon it from billions of years since. In such a situation, within the great "Big Bang" could have been zillions of "little bangs", each a tiny experiment, with the penalty of non-existence sufficing to end the experiment.

Obviously we exist now, so there must have been at least one "little winner bang" to eventually become us.

Now, I cannot assume that I know everything about physics, nor about metaphysics, so that I have "left out" the question about a supreme being having created all this stuff, including ourselves. I am not really leaving out anything, since I am also assuming that there are "dark matter and dark energy", which I know nothing about since no one knows anything about such things.

God, assuming there is such a being, is simply a part of the Entire Universe, and as such is not available as an external factor in the creation. The question of where existence came from, or where God came from, remains intact no matter which theory of creation one pursues. You just can't get around the fact that "something" came from "nothing", whether God created Himself, or if God simply existed forever and ever, long before the Universe as we know it existed. This is like the "turtles all the way down" response to the ancient idea of what holds up the "Turtle that carries the World."

Infinity is another issue I have long argued -- unless one can actually count infinity sheep, then there is no such thing as infinity. Whether one replaces sheep with atoms, space points, time points, or whatever, is immaterial. The point is that no human can count that many things. The definition of infinity as being "indefinite" or "countless" is probably OK, and certainly the mathematics of canceling out infinity by division is still valid, since any variable X can be handled algebraically, regardless of its content. But the actual concept of a number called "infinity" is bogus.

To assume that there is such a number "infinity" and then to have an "infinite number of infinities" is just further folly. No matter how many times one multiplies infinity by infinity, there is only one infinity left in the answer column. I bring up infinity because it has caused so many problems for scientists or scholars in the past.

The "electric field" was once thought of as a continuum, and as such could be divided into an infinite number of points in a sphere (regardless of the size of the sphere itself). This turned out to be false, and that electrical charges are finite, and there is a maximum number of divisions one can make of the electrical field until a definite amount of charge is encountered which cannot be divided.

The idea of an infinite space for the Universe seems to run into this same problem. Early ideas about space seem to think of it as a continuum which can be infinitely divided, just like the electric field. If one holds a cubic millimeter of space in a container, then it should have exactly infinity points within that container. Expand the container to hold the Entire Universe and there are still exactly infinity points within.

This is silly, since there are also quantum jumps -- point-like locations in which particles can exist or not, which some theories invoke finite numbers of tiny "strings" or "space vortexes" as explanation. At any rate, when attempting to understand the Universe's "Big Bang" beginnings, there either has to be some kind of preexisting room into which the bang expands, or the space itself is created along with the stuff that is expanding.

Since normally things can only go the speed of light, it seems like the absolute distance the presumably spherical Universe's edges could be apart would be whatever X age of the universe is (i.e. 13 billion years or so) times 2 -- some 26 billion light years, depending on X.

Some ideas about this initial expansion include a "special time" in which the expansion can go extra fast, so to beat light particles and matter, otherwise it is difficult to understand the boundary conditions between existence and non-existence if something like a photon is butted up against the edge of the Universe as it propagates.

Since there is this stuff called "dark stuff" -- dark energy, dark matter, whatever it is it's dark -- there is plenty of room for speculation. We know little about the dark stuff other than it must be there and have some amount of mass and so forth, in order to explain the behavior of galactic spirals and lensing effects observed through telescopes.

It is fun to speculate that the Universe is composed of lots of little "dark dots" of some kind, but I really don't know what good it does unless it actually explains something precisely. One thing dark stuff would be good for, assuming a few magical quirks, is to "expand more rapidly than light", and thus allow light, atoms, gravity, and so forth to propagate within as the Universe expands without.

Another manner of explaining things is also conjecture -- such as imagining that the Universe was always the same exact size and that everything is merely shrinking inside that preexisting, finite shell. If we are getting smaller or the stuff our leptons are made from is getting more crowded together, how could we know any more than know if we were getting bigger? Without an external frame of reference, which we don't have, there is no way to know.

For all we know we might be inside a kind of giant dark black hole made from enormous amounts of dark matter, but which envelops us within a bubble of local physical space/time laws. The laws might not always be "Anthropic" in each bubble, so it may be just lucky we are in the bubble we are in. The bubble may be the Entire Universe, or it might only be something completely local like a galactic star system. However, observations of far distant objects shows a consistency and continuum of red shifts, blue shifts and other phenomena related to energy interactions with matter. If there is a bubble effect on the laws of physics, it does not seem to be localized.

The other problem with infinite expansion: is there an absolutely unbounded "place" for the Universe to expand within -- preexisting space? Even if it was a "dark place" or a regular space/time place, what does it matter. We cannot get outside to measure it or to find whether there is an edge or not. Or does it eventually butt up against some other limit, such as the edge of another Universe?

If there is some Universe Foam -- like a sea of bubbles, of super universes -- that would be OK, but it does take the concept of the "special status" of Earth to extreme depths. We are not only NOT the center of our star system, nor especially of the Universe, but we may only live in one of zillions of universes, and not necessarily the "Boardwalks and Park Places" amongst them.

Whatever, I guess it doesn't matter until the properties of dark energy and matter are pinned down. All the speculation in the world adds up to less than a pebble of reality. The fact the we exist is puzzling and the probability of our existence having emerged at all may be very near 0.0, yet the fact that we exist is 1.0. So all the probability analysis in the world may not amount to a hill of zeros.

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