Archive for the ‘Universe’ Category
First Law of Planetary Building: no two planets will ever be alike.
Corollary #1: if two planets are almost identical, then at least one of them will have at least one outrageously peculiar feature.
Corollary #2: Universes made of perfectly identical planets are not allowed.
The First Law is manifest in the fact that each planet in the Solar System and elsewhere appears to be a unique, very specific experiment with peculiar conditions that are never repeated elsewhere. Even single satellites are all very different from one another. And if you want to top strangeness, how about Corot-7b with its clouds of minerals?
One objection could be raised about Venus and Earth, or Uranus and Neptune, as both couples look like made of identical twins. However, Venus’s hellish atmosphere and very slow, retrograde rotation are truly outrageously peculiar features; and Uranus basically lies to one side (hence corollary #1).
Corollary #2 is necessary otherwise the First Law is invalidated. It seems plausible, since the number of universes is large but not infinite.
A truly extraordinary interview to Jesuit Father James Schall on the Vatican’s Zenit, about his book “The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays“, that “explores the habits of being that allow one to use the tools of faith and reason to explore all things seen and unseen“.
Somehow, there’s lots of me in that interview. A few extracts follow:
ZENIT: What does it mean to have a mind that is Catholic? What are its key elements?
Father Schall: The mind that is Catholic is open to all sources of information, including what comes from Revelation […] It is characteristic of the Catholic mind to insist that all that is knowable is available and considered by us in our reflections on reality.
[…] We think, in the end, that what is peculiar in Catholicism is not opposed to reason but rather constitutes a completion of it. It was Aristotle who warned us that the reason we do not accept the truth even when it is presented to us is because we do not really want to know it. Knowing it would force us to change our ways. If we do not want to change our ways, we will invent a “theory” whereby we can live without the truth. The “primary” source of the Catholic mind is reality itself, including the reality of revelation.
[…] Why do these and many other thinkers “embody a mind that is Catholic?” I think it is because they take everything into account. What is peculiar to Catholicism, I have always thought, is its refusal to leave anything out. In my short book, “The Regensburg Lecture,” I was constantly astonished at the enormous range of the mind of the present Holy Father. There is simply no mind in any university or public office that can match his. He is a humble man, in fact. It is embarrassing to the world, and often to Catholic “intellectuals,” to find that its most intelligent mind is on the Chair of Peter. I have always considered this papal intellectual profundity to be God’s little joke to the modern mind.
[…] Catholicism knows that all sorts and sources of knowledge flow into its mind, one of which — the primary one that makes it unique — is revelation. But it is a revelation, in its own terms, addressed to active reason. That too is the mind that is Catholic.
A mathematical theory places limits on how much a physical entity can know about the past, present or future…
David H. Wolpert, a physics-trained computer scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center, has chimed in with his version of a knowledge limit. Because of it, he concludes, the universe lies beyond the grasp of any intellect, no matter how powerful, that could exist within the universe. Specifically, during the past two years, he has been refining a proof that no matter what laws of physics govern a universe, there are inevitably facts about the universe that its inhabitants cannot learn by experiment or predict with a computation…
As Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, puts it: “That your predictions about the universe are fundamentally constrained by you yourself being part of the universe you’re predicting, always seemed pretty obvious to me…”
What is therefore the point to atheism? Even if there is nothing else but the physical universe, there is no way for any part of it to “learn it all by experiment” or “predict with a computation“. In other words, the physical universe is the only thing that can fully know the physical universe.
How far is that from the definition of Divinity? And what does that leave to the atheist? Absurdities like believing in the non-existence of the physical universe?
If Wolpert is right, there is no logic left in atheism. And Dawkins’ “Ultimate 747” proof of the non-existence of God appears quaint: the Divinity cannot be any part of the physical universe.
One of course can and will always be able to reasonably state agnosticism. But post-Wolpert agnosticism becomes simply the belief that the Divinity cannot be communicated with or experienced as such).
There is one thing we can be certain of, in any case: that there’s more out there than a collection of physical entities.
The Total Perspective Vortex […] shows its victim the entire
unimaginable infinity of the universe […] in an infinite
universe the one thing sentient life cannot afford to
have is a sense of proportion.
Just as a painter with a canvas, colors, brushes and inspiration is ipso facto bound to paint: so the Creator, having the capabilities and tools created the cosmos. And with no configuration preferred over another, the Creator painted all possible canvasses, and everything that could exist came into existence.
And so here we are, existing because we could.
And many, ever more different copies of ourselves exist in this Cosmos, but in other Universes, covering all the possibilities even beyond our imagination. Each one of them, existing only if but also every time it could.
In the big scheme of things, the existence of each one of us is thus even more irrelevant that anybody has ever dreamed of. But from each one of us’ point of view, it’s all we have: and so in a paradox, it is extremely important, just because such an existence is so singularly precious only to itself, and to a handful of otherwise just as irrelevant people.
and you know that these are the days of our lives
While analyzing the consequences of modelling the Cosmos as a collection of a huge number of Parallel Universes, I wrote some 18 months ago:
[…] We have learned that our planet is not the Center of the Universe. Apart from being able to harbor life, Earth is a run-of-the-mill planet in an average star in a not-so-special galaxy, belonging to an ordinary Local Group gravitationally linked to a Supergroup like many others, in a corner of the Universe that is not extraordinary at all
Let’s call that the “Banality Principle”, with us since at least since the times of Copernicus […]
As it happens, it is called the Copernican Principle indeed.
It is already quite important as it is, since it means we can investigate physics in our own vicinity and assume that the laws we observe are the same throughout the Universe.
There is another step usually missed though: if we just expand the Copernican Principle to include time, then the hypothesis is that then the same things will keep happening.
This is the so-called Perfect Cosmological Principle, rejected in the past because undermined by the overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang, a”Beginning” and therefore a “special Time” in the Universe.
However, this argument fails in in a Multiverse Cosmos, where the Big Bang is just one of many. If that is the case then, the Ecclesiastes may very well be right:
1,9: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun
Is your SUV destroying the Universe?
Supernovae data from the 1950’s to 2007 show trends very worrying for the fate of the whole cosmos.
The Magnitude (brightness) of observed explosions, after hovering for several decades around the 20 mark, has recently dropped to 15 (i.e. towards brighter supernovae).
Furthermore, the number of observed supernovae has been increasing at an exponential rate, again after many decades below 50 per year, to 95 in 1996 and a little less than 600 in 2007.
The fact that this is happening exactly as anthropogenic greenhouse-gases emissions are on the increase, cannot be just a coincidence. If this will not convince Governments about the importance of stopping CO2 emissions, nothing will!