The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself?

Review in brief of the book: “The Big Picture, On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself,” by Sean Carroll a theoretical physicists at the California Institute of Technology. The book is the winner of the 2013 Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books.

Front cover of book. Published by Oneworld Publications, London, 2016, 470 pages.

On the inside book cover these questions are written:

Where are we? Who are we? Do our beliefs, hopes and dreams mean anything out there in the void? Can human purpose and meaning ever fit into a scientific worldview?

Carroll’s message in this book is that there is no ultimate purpose, we are only the product of matter and material forces, there is no meaning to life, there is no afterlife and meaning and purpose do not fit into any scientific worldview. But the author tries to dress it up saying that it’s what you put into your life that counts. Beauty is found in the observer. But he cannot escape his own bondage because his worldview ultimately does not allow for intrinsic meaning or purpose. He is just dead in the end.

There is nothing new in this book but a lot of atheistic philosophy stemming from Enlightenment philosopher David Hume. The author uses circular reasoning and begging the question. By assuming there is no Creator because He is not needed in the universe, to cause it or operate within it, and by assuming everything in the past evolution of the universe, and life in it, is explained by man’s current knowledge (Darwinian evolution of mutation and natural selection) then everything can be explained how it came to be. The universe needs no reason to exist. It simply is. Life needs no reason, it simply is. There was nothing before time began in the big bang so no question can be asked what was before? There is no First Cause because either the universe came into the existence with the beginning of time itself, or, time is fundamental and always existed so from it and the laws of physics the universe spontaneously arose from some quantum fluctuation. Now that we are smarter we have become to understand this true fact.

He talks of methodological empiricism as the correct way to learn the truth about the universe but he offers no direct empirical evidence for the origin of the universe in a big bang, or for the initial alleged low entropy state it started in, or for the spontaneous origin of life by random chance, or for the alleged Darwinian evolution of living organisms by natural selection over eons of history. We are essentially asked to just believe these as given facts as much as the author seems to. Only he offers up stories to justify his beliefs. As a book alleged to give the Big Picture of the Universe and all life in it, it fails on the very premise the author sets out to use—direct observation of the world to discover the truth. Continue reading

Has the dark matter mystery been solved?

Unseen dark matter has been invoked several times to solve problems in astrophysics and cosmology. Historically the most significant problem has been the rotation curves of galaxies, particularly spiral galaxies. Using the Doppler Effect the speeds of the stars and gases in the disk regions of spiral galaxies can be measured. See Fig. 1.

By now hundreds of thousands of galaxies have been measured this way. What is observed is that the speeds of the stars, and the gases beyond where the stars are observed, are much greater than it would appear Newtonian physics allows for.

Figure 1: Edge on spiral galaxy and a rotation curve. Speeds of stars measured from the centre of a galaxy like this, as a function of distance in light-years. Using carbon-monoxide (CO) as a tracer gas the speeds of gas in the rotating disk can be also measured where there are no visible stars (labelled “No Stars”).

As a result it has been suggested that there is an invisible halo of cold non-interacting matter. This putative invisible halo has the needed gravitational effect on the stars and gases but it cannot be seen, hence it is called dark matter. Dark matter is alleged not to be normal atomic matter, made from protons and neutrons (which are known as baryons), but some sort of slowly moving (cold) exotic non-baryonic matter. Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) were suggested. Continue reading

Intelligent design or the “simple unguided” laws of nature

This year I restarted a hobby that I hadn’t participated in for over 40 years. That is oil painting. One of my fears in restarting to paint was that I would not have the ability I had when I was young and I would just waste my time. Some examples of the art I have been doing in the past few weeks are shown below.

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For the past month, I have been staying in a guest house at the National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (A.I.S.T.) in Tsukuba, Japan, while I have been working on some developments of ultra-stable sapphire clocks for the National Metrology Institute of Japan (N.M.I.J.), which is an institute within A.I.S.T.. During my free time, mostly on weekends, I have been oil painting.

TBP coverAlso during this time I have been reading Sean Carroll’s latest book The Big Picture, On the Origins of Life, Meaning and the Universe Itself (2017). In that book, for which I will write a review later, he writes that according to “science” life arose, and has subsequently been driven to evolve by Darwinian evolution, because the apparent design we see has been the natural consequence of available ‘free energy’ (Gibb’s free energy that is available to do work, derived from sunlight), an increase in entropy (the outcome of the Second Law of thermodynamics) and Darwinian natural selection. No intelligence was necessary, he says. The complexity we observe in living organisms is a consequence of the initial condition that we live in certain a time and place in the universe far from equilibrium and the “simple unguided” laws of nature act in a way to produce what we think looks like intelligent design. Continue reading

Genesis mission to the sun: Did it confirm the nebular theory of formation of the solar system?

The Genesis spacecraft mission, launched in August 2001 by NASA, was designed to observe the solar wind, particles coming from the sun, entrap a sample of those particles on substrates and safely return them to Earth. The spacecraft travelled to a point about 1.5 million kilometers (or about 1 million miles) from Earth called Lagrange point, L1, where the gravitational force of the earth is matched by that of the sun. At this location the Genesis spacecraft was well outside of Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic environment, allowing it to collect a ‘pristine’ sample of the solar wind. Genesis’ overall flight path resembled a series of loops (Fig. 1): first it circled five times around L1, called Halo orbit, where it remained for 850 days, then it moved back for a short loop around the opposite Lagrange point, L2, in order to position the spacecraft for a daylight return to Earth.

Figure 1: Genesis spacecraft mission trajectory. Credit: NASA/JPL

On board the spacecraft, ions from the solar-wind impacted the collectors at speeds over 200 km/sec and buried themselves in specially-selected materials. These samples were sealed in enclosures for their safe return to Earth in a sample-return capsule (SRC). Then during the return-to-Earth stage something went horribly wrong. On NASA’s Genesis Search for Origins website it is described as follows.1

On 8 September 2004 the SRC entered Earth’s atmosphere as planned, but its gravity switches were oriented incorrectly as the result of a design error and the parachute system failed to deploy. The high-speed wreck compromised the SRC and shattered many of the Genesis collectors.

The samples were scattered and shattered. But all was not lost it seemed.

However, the Genesis Preliminary Examination Team was able to show that, because the solar-wind ions were buried beneath the surface of the collectors, it is possible to detect and quantify elements in the solar-wind.1

Composition of original solar nebula

Thus in March 2005, Johnson Space Center curatorial staff started allocating solar-wind collectors to the international scientific community to see what could be determined from those samples. The purpose was to glean information on the composition of the solar wind, and hence to determine the chemical and isotopic composition of the original solar nebula which it is alleged formed our solar system. See Fig. 2. Continue reading

Why search for life in outer space?

dawn-at-ceres

Figure 1: A gamma ray and neutron detector on board Dawn was used to determine the elements in the subsurface of the dwarf planet. It found water on the dwarf planet Ceres, located in the asteroid belt between Earth and Mars. Ceres. Credit: LA Times

In a recent LA Times news item it was reported that NASA’s Dawn spacecraft mission found life’s building blocks on the dwarf planet Ceres.1  However, the reality is that all that was found are possibly some biochemical molecules, molecules that are pre-cursor molecules to form the more complex chemistry in living cells.

Organic molecules are carbon based molecules and the chemistry of life is a special subset of those but from the spacecraft data no biochemical molecules were identified.  Those would be molecules like carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids.

The news item reports that this new spacecraft

… using its Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer instrument, … has spotted organics lying on the surface.1

That is the only real fact in the report, that organic molecules of some sort have been found on Ceres.

While the scientists aren’t sure exactly what the compounds are, the fingerprint is characteristic of material containing carbon-hydrogen bonds, and may include components like methyl and methylene.(emphasis added)

But they don’t even know what the molecules are, and the research is hyped up in hope that scientists may find life–even just microbes–living on worlds other than our own.

We can now add this dwarf planet Ceres to other ‘space rocks’ that have been so hyped in the past few years in the quest to find life out there in the solar system. Examples are Mars,2 Enceladus (the sixth-largest moon of Saturn),3 Titan (the largest moon of Saturn),4,5 Europa (one of the 4 Galilean moons of Jupiter),6 and the asteroids.7 Continue reading

The movie “Arrival”

arrivalposterRecently I watched the 2016 movie “Arrival“. It depicts the story of the arrival, at twelve separate locations around the earth, of twelve mysterious spacecraft. The key character, a linguistics professor, Louise Banks is seconded by the military to interpret the language of alien visitors.

The movie is based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang (1998).1 It was directed by Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.

Here is the trailer from Paramount Pictures:

The 7-foot tall aliens, heptapods,2 which look something like octopuses with 7 tentacles and a human hand, are depicted as enormously technologically advanced on humans. Their 7 tentacles each have 7 tendrils, out of the centre of which they eject an ink-like substance. Remember octopuses produce a black ink like substance. (And you might ask why all the 7’s. It’s science fiction after all.)

Alien language and perception of time

These alien heptapods use a vocal communication that is unpronounceable by humans (classified as Heptapod A), but, as professor Banks discovers, they also have a written script (Heptapod B), which can be dissected and interpreted. But strangely enough the vocal and writing components are unrelated, in the sense that Heptapod B does not represent sound. Heptapod B is written with the ink-like substance they eject from their tendrils and they are able to manipulate it in space to form the characters of Heptapod B.

We are told that a deep understanding of their language can induce a non-linear perception of time in those who learn it. This idea is where it really gets crazy.arrival_2016_heptapod_and_doctor

The story introduces the concept of when one learns a new language, one also learns to think the same way that the producers of that language think–the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis–because one’s brain is rewired to think that way.

Then, with this new perception of time, time-like loops are introduced (really time paradoxes) where, because the professor experiences (in her thoughts or perception) the future, she gets knowledge (of future events) that she then uses to determine the future events she perceives.

The concept here of our perception of time does have some basis in real physics. It is still an open question of why do we remember the past and not the future. That might sound strange to some but most of the laws of physics are time reversible. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, where entropy never decreases in a closed system, but generally increases, is an exception and the primary reason we always perceive the forward arrow of time.

However, for particle physics (including electromagnetism) there is no preference to which way time flows. Physicists call this a symmetry. And in this movie this is highlighted by the name, Hannah, of the yet to be conceived daughter of Prof. Banks, about whom she experiences future memories. The word “HannaH” is a palindrome–a sequence of letters or characters that can be read either forward or backward and produce the same word.

arrival-movie-symbolsHeptapod B is written in a circular way and is palindromic. At least that is what I understood it was intended to be. Looking at one of the alien sentences (on the right) it does not seem to have reversible symmetry, in the structures that form their words (spiky bits that stick out), though, of course, a circle is not linear in one sense as it is represented on a plane.

Of course, this story is just that, a story and total fiction. Nevertheless, it is an entertaining one.  Continue reading

Evidence against the big bang — new video

A new video has been released by Real Science Radio (RSR), and available in DVD, Download, and Blu-ray formats! I recommend you buy and watch it. I made some critical suggestions during its production and find it to be an excellent product. To download it or buy a DVD or Blu-Ray disk click this link RSR’s Evidence Against the Big Bang.

evidence-against-bb-banner-rsrDuring RSR’s on-air debate with Lawrence Krauss, this leading big bang proponent said that, “All evidence overwhelmingly supports the big bang“. So Bob Enyart began assembling a bulleted list of mostly peer-reviewed scientific evidence against the paradigm. That assemblage led to the production of this video RSR’s Evidence Against the Big Bang!

The makers PRODUCT DESCRIPTION is as follows.

Evidence Against the Big Bang – Blu-ray, DVD or Download

When people wonder what evidence exists for the Big Bang, many ask Google. And not surprisingly, when folks search for: evidence against the Big Bang, Google sends most of them on over to Real Science Radio’s List of Evidence Against the Big Bang. Yet this is surprising: When NASA urges you to trust the theory because of its confirmed “predictions”, folks who Google: big bang predictions, also find RSR’s article ranked #1!

This video can help prepare you for the coming revolution in cosmology. The nine pieces of evidence presented herein are bringing people out of the failed science of the 1900s and into the 21st century demanding truth regarding both the origin of universe and ultimately, the origin of ourselves.

And now, let’s leave out the word “predictions” and leave out the word “against”. Increasingly, when scientists and others just Google: big bang evidence, the search engine is sending them on over to RSR’s evidence AGAINST the Big Bang! So whether you are a creationist or even if you’re dug in still defending the old scheme on the origin of the cosmos, you’ll want to watch this video to catch up with the latest amazing science on the big bang!

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