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

Materialists believe in dark unseen life

Awhile ago I wrote about Lisa Randall, Professor of Science at Harvard University, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, who proposed that the dinosaurs went extinct due to the actions of unseen dark matter.¹ There now appears again an article in the popular science magazine Nautilus with the title “Does Dark Matter Harbor Life? An invisible civilization could be living right under your nose.”² It would appear to be excerpted from Randall’s book Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs. In the article Randall asserts that we may, in fact, be kind of racist against dark matter, well, at least, we are biased towards ordinary matter, where, she claims, in fact, that dark matter is the stuff that holds galaxies together so it is really important stuff.

The common assumption is that dark matter is the “glue” that holds together galaxies and galaxy clusters, but resides only in amorphous clouds around them. But what if this assumption isn’t true and it is only our prejudice—and ignorance, which is after all the root of most prejudice—that led us down this potentially misleading path?

People in foreign relations make a mistake when they lump together another country’s cultures—assuming they don’t exhibit the diversity of societies that is evident in our own. Just as a good negotiator doesn’t assume the primacy of one sector of society over another when attempting to place the different cultures on equal footing, an unbiased scientist shouldn’t assume that dark matter isn’t as interesting as ordinary matter and necessarily lacks a diversity of matter similar to our own.² (emphasis added)

randall-article

Illustration by Jackie Ferrentino from Nautilus article, representing (I assume) dark life.

She goes on to promote the possibility of dark life, invisible creatures living on dark planets around dark stars in dark parts of galaxies. She suggests dark matter may be much more than just amorphous matter, but have a rich life with dark forces and therefore this implies a dark invisible universe of creatures we cannot detect. Sure sounds like good material for a sci-fi story.

Partially interacting dark matter certainly makes for fertile ground for speculation and encourages us to consider possibilities we otherwise might not have. Writers and moviegoers especially would find a scenario with such additional forces and consequences in the dark sector very enticing. They would probably even suggest dark life coexisting with our own. In this scenario, rather than the usual animated creatures fighting other animated creatures or on rare occasions cooperating with them, armies of dark matter creatures could march across the screen and monopolize all the action.

But this wouldn’t be too interesting to watch. The problem is that cinematographers would have trouble filming this dark life, which is of course invisible to us—and to them. Even if the dark creatures were there (and maybe they have been) we wouldn’t know. You have no idea how cute dark matter life could be—and you almost certainly never will.

Though it’s entertaining to speculate about the possibility of dark life, it’s a lot harder to figure out a way to observe it—or even detect its existence in more indirect ways. It’s challenging enough to find life made up of the same stuff we are, though extrasolar planet searches are under way and trying hard. But the evidence for dark life, should it exist, would be far more elusive even than the evidence for ordinary life in distant realms.

Dark objects or dark life could be very close—but if the dark stuff’s net mass isn’t very big, we wouldn’t have any way to know. Even with the most current technology, or any technology that we can currently imagine, only some very specialized possibilities might be testable. “Shadow life,” exciting as that would be, won’t necessarily have any visible consequences that we would notice, making it a tantalizing possibility but one immune to observations. In fairness, dark life is a tall order. Science-fiction writers may have no problem creating it, but the universe has a lot more obstacles to overcome. Out of all possible chemistries, it’s very unclear how many could sustain life, and even among those that could, we don’t know the type of environments that would be necessary.² (emphasis added)

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Antimatter matters for the big bang origin of the Universe

In what physicists have called a “technical tour-de-force”, scientists have for the first time made measurements of how antimatter atoms absorb light.1

The ALPHA antimatter experiment at CERN has measured an energy transition in anti-hydrogen.

The ALPHA antimatter experiment at CERN has measured an energy transition in anti-hydrogen. Credit: CERN

Researchers from the ALPHA collaboration team at CERN, the European particle physics laboratory outside Geneva, collected cold antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic “bottle” and irradiated them with an ultraviolet laser to test what frequency of light is needed to excite the antimatter atoms into an excited state. This was done to test to see if antimatter atoms behave the same way as their normal matter counterparts. No discrepancy (a null result) was found with standard theory, which predicts that antihydrogen should have the same energy levels as normal hydrogen.

The null result is still a thrill for researchers who have been working for decades towards antimatter spectroscopy, the study of how light is absorbed and emitted by antimatter. The hope is that this field could provide a new test of a fundamental symmetry of the known laws of physics, called CPT (charge-parity-time) symmetry.

CPT symmetry predicts that energy levels in antimatter and matter should be the same. Even the tiniest violation of this rule would require a serious rethink of the standard model of particle physics.

Cosmological implications

So what? you might ask! Continue reading

When will God reverse decay in the Universe?

In biblical creationist discussions and presentations we often talk about the restoration of the Universe back to its original perfect uncursed state that it had before the Creator destroyed the perfect paradise. That Curse was put on all creation and we see that the removal of the Curse is an integral part of understanding the message of the Bible, especially the gospel.

It was because of Adam’s original sin that the Universe was cursed and altered in a way that brought forth all types of imperfections in all living creatures, resulting in sickness, disease, mutations, death, violence and the many sins of mankind.

The usual image used to illustrate this is to show that sin caused the world to be corrupted but later God will remove the Curse and restore the perfect paradise of His original creation. See illustration below.

marred-by-sin

The world now is not that perfect world that God originally created. Death, pain, disease, suffering are intruders on God’s perfect creation. But the Scriptures give us hope, that through Christ, of the restoration of the world back to the same state in a new heaven and a new earth after Christ’s second advent. The world will be restored back to the same state that it once had before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.

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Quantum theory to eliminate the beginning of the Universe

Genesis begins with “In the beginning God …”. But those who deny the creation of the Universe by God, the self-existent Creator, as described in Genesis–the book of beginnings–the first book of the Bible, would very much like to eliminate the beginning itself.

singularity

Mathematical illustration of a fictional singularity

I have reported before on various attempts to eliminate the beginning, even a big bang beginning in a singularity.1,2 Those who do attempt such a thing, think if they can find a mathematical description by way of some quantum gravity theory then it must also follow that the Creator is not needed and that that somehow eliminates Him.  As an example of this the following was stated in 2015 on the Phys.org news site in relation to some theoretical research, which I have previously reported1 on, but it is worth reiterating. It was stated that

The universe may have existed forever, according to a new model that applies quantum correction terms to complement Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The model may also account for dark matter and dark energy, resolving multiple problems at once.3 (emphases added)

The desire is there for an eternal universe because it eliminates the Creator. What is interesting in this case is that it also intends to eliminate the need for dark energy and dark matter, which I have long said are fudge factors. There is no laboratory evidence for their existence; they are only invoked in cosmology and astrophysics because the standard model just does not describe what we observe without them. This is an admission that that is the case.

The other big big bang problem is the singularity itself. No one has a clue about the physics that should have operated if the fictional singularity was once reality. The mathematical descriptions used in modern cosmology—developed from Einstein’s general relativity—just don’t work when time and space no longer exist as is believed to be the case in the alleged singularity.4 Continue reading

A cosmic dragonfly

A galaxy, known as Dragonfly 44, first detected in 2015 using the Dragonfly Telephoto Array in New Mexico by Professor Peter van Dokkum is now claimed to be made of 99.99% dark matter.1 It is a galaxy where very few stars can be seen. It took a two-hour exposure using one of the very biggest telescopes on Earth, one of the Gemini telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to get a picture of this wispy galaxy as shown in Fig. 1 below.

cosmic-dragonfly

Figure 1: Astronomers photographed the ultradiffuse galaxy Dragonfly 44 using the Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph (GMOS) on the 8-meter Gemini North telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Credit: Pieter van Dokkum, Roberto Abraham, Gemini Observatory/AURA

Professor van Dokkum from the Astronomy Department and the Physics Department of Yale University is not only an astrophysicist but also a photographer of insects, particularly dragonflies.It is a strange coincidence, or is it, to find that one of his particular interests in the cosmos are these ultradiffuse, or “fluffy” galaxies. One of them is named Dragonfly 44, which van Dokkum and team determined to be at a distance of 300 million light-years from Earth, in the Coma Cluster.3  That distance is easily close enough for a big telescope to see, which can see galaxies at billions of light-year distances but no one had previously noticed these fluffy galaxies before even though they are ‘so close’.

Dragonfly 44 was like “a dirty smudge on a photo of deep space.”1 And it was one of the largest and brightest galaxies of those they found. From its distance its size was determined and it was concluded that it is as big as our Milky Way galaxy, yet it only emits about 1 percent as much light. So I suppose to van Dokkum the galaxy is reminiscent of the very fragile, lightweight and transparent wings of dragonflies he likes to photograph. Continue reading

SUSY is not the solution to the dark matter crisis

On August 19, 2016, the “SUSY Bet” event took place in Copenhagen at the conference on Current Themes in High Energy Physics and Cosmology at the Niels Bohr International Academy. An adjudication of the wager on supersymmetry (SUSY) first made in 2000 was given. The detail of wager is explained in the image below.

Supersymmetry

The bet involved two aspects of supersymmetry theory.1

  1. That after 10 years (from 2000) the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) would have collected enough experimental data to confirm or deny the existence of the supersymmetric particles that the theoretical physicists were thinking about at that time.
  2. That supersymmetric particles with sufficiently low masses would be discovered like “sitting ducks” (as Gerard ‘t Hooft put it).

At the event, the Yes side of the bet, who believed the particles would be detected, conceded the loss of the bet to the No side. The bet was meant to be decided on June 16th 2016 if no SUSY particle was detected after effectively 10 years of operation of the LHC. The adjudication of the bet was extended by the ‘No’ side by an addition of 6 years due delays in getting the LHC online, part of which was a delay due to an explosion, which caused a delay of 2 years.

On the larger question of the significance of the negative LHC results, a recorded video statement by Nobel Laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft (who had bet against SUSY) can be viewed above, and a statement by Stephen Hawking (not in on the bet, but in the audience) claimed that if arguments for SUSY were correct, the LHC should have seen something, so they think nature has spoken and there’s something wrong with the idea.
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