Author Topic: the universe  (Read 502 times)

Zatarra

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the universe
« on: July 31, 2007, 04:02:05 PM »
This one has been bugging me for quite some time.
Both seem impossible. If it came into existence, what caused it to come into existence, since there was nothing.
And if it has always existed, how can something which never came into existence exist?
I know this is one of those chicken-and-the-egg ones but I thought someone might offer me a fresh perspective on it.

Number of times the word 'existence' appears in this post: 4.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Zatarra »

tacoma_kyle

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« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2007, 10:24:15 PM »
Depends what you call the universe...

But I have to say it has always existed in some form (matter, energy, other forms unknown or not). The main contradiction is still there; everything needs a start point. Believers have the same problem, the god this just numbs 98% of it away.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by tacoma_kyle »
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« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2007, 10:53:17 PM »
The universe as we know it now had an initial beginning and has changed and continues to change over time.  Prior to that it is hard to say.  However, last I read the cause of the big bang had to do with quantum fluctuations by one idea.  Another, within the string theory framework has emerged a multiverse model upon which we reside in what is called a "brane" (membrane) and the collision of two brains is what creates the big bang.

However, my theoretical physics and cosmological knowledge is nowhere near what it should be to adequately answer these questions.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Squid »

Whitney

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« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2007, 12:48:13 AM »
The universe came into existance via the Big Bang....what existed before that and if it had always existed or not; I don't know.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Whitney »

SteveS

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« Reply #4 on: August 01, 2007, 03:26:15 AM »
Hi Zatarra - I haven't finished the book yet, but I'm reading "Endless Universe" by theoretical physicists Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok.  They address the issue of the big bang "coming from nothing" in the book.  Before my quote below, they're talking about the research conducted in the 1960s and 1970s by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose who were studying what happens in a shrinking universe.  Here's the relevant material:

Quote
"A shrinking universe, they showed, continues to shrink until space collapses to a state of infinite density known as the cosmic singularity.  Similarly, 14 billion years ago, the universe must have emerged from such a cosmic singularity.

Hawking and Penrose's finding was widely interpreted as theoretical proof that space and time must have a "beginning".  That interpretation, however, was never justified.  What they really proved is that Einstein's equations become mathematically inconsistent at the big bang itself.  This should be interpreted as a clarion call.  Physicists must face up to improving Einstein's theory, if they want to describe the big bang."

Source: Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok. (2007) Endless universe: beyond the big bang (1st ed.), pages 184-185.  Doubleday.  ISBN 978-0-385-50964-0


So the idea that the big bang came from nothing appears to be an unjustifiable assumption.  This assumption is made precisely because Einstein's famous theory of relativity "blows up" trying to describe the big bang.

As Squid touched on, an emerging cosmological theory revolves around M theory (which is a sort of "more generalized" version of string theory) and paints the picture of an endless, cyclical universe where big bangs happen at regular intervals with no beginning and no end to the cycling - the "bangs" are the result of the membrane collisions Squid mentions.

The book I quoted from is where Steinhardt and Turok present a description of the theory and the science behind it that is accessible to a layman (like myself --- good thing, too, or I'd never understand it  :wink:  ).  It has made for a compelling read.  I think the idea of a cyclical universe is very appealing (although that hardly means it is correct).  I'd happily recommend the book, especially if big bang theory doesn't impress you and you'd like a realistic alternative.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

Zatarra

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« Reply #5 on: August 01, 2007, 04:10:55 AM »
I've heard the theory that the Big Bang was caused by colliding 'branes'. To me, this explains absolutely nothing. Where did the branes come from?
SteveS: I believe the universe is cyclical, and that the Big Bang may be a periodic occurance. However, as I see it, saying that the universe follows a pattern of Big Bang, Big Crunch, Big Bang, Big Crunch doesn't explain what caused the FIRST Big Bang.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Zatarra »

SteveS

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« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2007, 11:53:56 PM »
Zatarra - a few things to point out.  I think saying the brane theory "explains absolutely nothing" is a tad harsh.  Presume for a moment that this theory is found to be correct --- it has given us an explanation of the big bang --- something that big bang theory itself cannot do.  I call this progress.  Also, it gives us a deeper understanding of the nature of, well, nature itself.  Science has always found that answering a question leads to more questions, and this would be the case here.  Explaining the big bang, we now have a deeper question, related to the branes.

One final thing,

Quote from: "Zatarra"
However, as I see it, saying that the universe follows a pattern of Big Bang, Big Crunch, Big Bang, Big Crunch doesn't explain what caused the FIRST Big Bang.

You're not gonna like my answer, but if the branes are eternal and brane motion and collision cycles go back in time infinitely, then there doesn't have to be a first big bang.  There is always a previous big bang, but never a first one (just like counting backwards from zero --- there is always a previous integer, but never a first one --- this fact doesn't prevent you from switching directions and counting forward).

This might sound crazy, but is it honestly any harder to understand this than trying to understand something coming from nothing?  Also, I think an important point here is that the universe was not presumed to have a beginning.  The researchers studying a "big crunch" inferred it from their findings (possibly incorrectly).  If the brane theory is correct as stands then there would be no plausible evidence that there was a beginning, because a beginning would not be required by the explanation (although infinite time and eternal branes would).  Right?
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »

Whitney

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« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2007, 01:02:59 AM »
I think part of the problem is our brains being able to contemplate what infinity would be like....infinity is one of those concepts that really make little sense past understanding what it is meant to mean.

It seems to me that one way or the other something had to always exist...I just don't think there is a reason for it to have to have been supernatural.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Whitney »

Zatarra

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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2007, 12:14:25 PM »
When I say the brane theory explains nothing I mean that, well, it seems like saying that a god created the universe. Saying that explains nothing because you then have to explain where god came from. Theists will probably claim that he has always existed. And you say that the branes are 'eternal'.
This also reminds me of my friend's explanation of how humans became sentient. You see, he believes that human beings are too complex/intelligent to have evolved naturally, so he suspects that an alien race 'uplifted' us or some such thing. What I couldn't seem to make him understand is that someone somewhere down the line HAD to have evolved naturally, so there was no reason to believe we were uplifted as opposed to evolving naturally. But I digress...
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Zatarra »

Will

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« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2007, 05:27:18 PM »
I think reality has always existed, but I can't back it up with any concrete evidence. By my understanding, the Big Bang probably came after the previous Big Crunch, which was preceded by another Big Bang, etc.
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by Will »
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MommaSquid

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« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2007, 07:13:40 PM »
I don't know how the universe came into being, if it was always here or was caused by a "bang"...and I don't think I care.

I'm just glad we have peanut butter!   :D
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by MommaSquid »

SteveS

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« Reply #11 on: August 03, 2007, 02:25:50 AM »
Hey Zatarra,

Quote from: "Zatarra"
When I say the brane theory explains nothing I mean that, well, it seems like saying that a god created the universe. Saying that explains nothing because you then have to explain where god came from.
I certainly agree with the god problem.  In fact, this ties into laetusatheos's point,

Quote from: "laetusatheos"
It seems to me that one way or the other something had to always exist...I just don't think there is a reason for it to have to have been supernatural.
This I agree with strongly.  The supernatural is posited as an explanation (by the mystics) for the existence of the natural, with the explanation that "something must have created the natural, and since a thing cannot create it self from nothing, then there must be a supernatural element".  This presumes that there ever was a nothing.  Once we see the presumption, we realize the answer is subject to the same problem --- where did the supernatural come from?  And, more to the point, if we can accept that the supernatural is eternal, why can't we accept that the natural is eternal?

Anyway, to get back on topic, the question it seems to me you're really asking is "why does anything exist at all?  Why isn't there just nothing?".  Which is a hell of a question!

I would argue that existence must be accepted.  I accept that I exist, because I really don't have any choice.  But if there ever was a time that "nothing" existed, then existence would have to start from non-existence (whether through "natural" or "supernatural" mechanisms), and this seems much harder for me to understand than eternal existence.  So, I voted "always existed" in the poll.

And, just a point of clarification,

Quote from: "Zatarra"
And you say that the branes are 'eternal'.

I certainly don't claim to know the "branes" are eternal - the veracity of the cyclic model is still in considerable doubt pending future experimentation.  My only point is that if the cyclic model pans out, then the theory can demonstrate that a beginning is not logically required to explain the universe (if we agree on the logical validity of the concept of "eternal" - don't worry, this bugs me too on some level).  

So that's all - my point was suppositional  :wink:
« Last Edit: January 01, 1970, 01:00:00 AM by SteveS »