Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Universe and all that Stuff

Hubble Photo: Giant Disk of Cold Gas and Dust Fuels Possible Black Hole at the Core of NGC 4261

In proposing an alternative to the conventional "Big Bang" theory of cosmology, Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok point out that "the standard model does not explain the beginning of time, the initial conditions of the universe, or what will happen in the long-term future." For me, these are reason enough to consider other explanations for the nature of the reality we refer to as our universe.

For as long as I can remember pondering the imponderables -- when did the universe come about, when will it end, how big is it, and what is my place in the nature of its reality? -- I have been uncomfortable with the idea that all existence came about suddenly in a massive explosion spewing matter into the void -- the so-called cosmic singularity. What exploded? Where did it come from? Now what?

Steinhardt and Turok propose a cosmological model with an "endless sequence of cycles of expansion and contraction." In their scheme of things, there is, by definition, neither a beginning nor end of time, nor is there a need to define initial conditions. This appeals to me, because I've always felt that my views of reality are inextricably entangled with my experience. That's how I came to understand that touching the glowing red spiral on the stove top would cause pain, but it's also why I am predisposed towards believing that, like me, things are finite, have beginnings and endings, and exist in three dimensions. Truth is, it ain't necessarily so.

Steinhardt and Turok's description of their cosmic model involves black holes, dark matter, string theory, M-theory, quantum theory, branes (short for membranes), gravitational and microwaves, and other challenges for the lay person, like myself. But their cyclic model deals directly with the cosmic singularity, explaining it as a transition from a contracting to an expanding phase.

Of course physicists argue with each other about whose theory best represents "truth." Their arguments are based on evidence already assembled, testable theories/hypotheses, and mathematical proofs. And then there are religious proponents who by and large favor the Big Bang theory because it's a "creation event" -- presumably the big bang happened in the first nano second of the first day and a week later we had physicists arguing about dark energy -- and they weren't referring to Lucifer.

In any case, we have at least two distinct theories of our universe, one in which the universe has a definite beginning, and one in which the universe is made and remade forever. For me, based on nothing more than aesthetics, I believe in an infinite number of parallel universes passing into and through each other -- maybe through black holes -- in an unending blending of energy, dark energy, matter, and anti-matter, all of which looks very nice on God's flat-panel display.

Hubble Photo: Orion Nebula


MaríaLC said...

hi, i like what you wrote

Richard Badalamente said...

Hola! MariaLC. Gracias.
I see that you too have a blog. I wish I understood more Spanish. From what I can understand, you write very affective -- with great feeling --poetry.