Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Tales of Creation

Every culture has them, stories about how the world came to be. The Greeks had Nyx, Uranus, and Gaia; the Norse had the Frost Giants and Asgardians; the Chinese had Pan Gu breaking from the egg, the Christians have Genesis and Adam and Eve, and so on.

While these stories vary wildly depending on the originating culture, they all share one feature: They all gloss over how something comes from nothing. One solution is to just start with something existing that acts to create everything else. On the other hand, the other solution is to dodge this problem by seeing everything as a cycle with no beginning or end, as in the Hindu tradition. Neither solution is very satisfying.

But we don't have to rely on myth anymore to discern the ultimate origins of our universe. We have science to find the answers for us, right?

Well, sort of.

The current theory for the origin of the universe involves some rather abstract concepts of complexity, chaos, and quantum mechanics. Basically, it goes like this:

First, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing. But nothing is kind of fuzzy, particularly when you get down to the quantum level. There's this thing called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, that tells us we can't know for sure the exact state of anything, not because we can't measure it, but because it is actually indeterminate. As you get to a smaller and smaller frame of reference, that indeterminancy grows, and when you get to nothing, the indeterminancy is large enough that nothing now varies from something to less-than-nothing. Now, this isn't a measurement error, but an actual variance in the real status. Zero, at the quantum level anyway, is an average of all the quantum variations from less than zero to greater than zero. These variations are sometimes referred to as the quantum foam. In theory, our universe is just a BIG variation in zero.

Complicating the situation, these variations do not take place over time, since without space, you cannot have time. So how can you have a variation without a time frame through which to vary? Simple, the variations occur in (I'm not making this up) imaginary time. (No, I can't do that math either. Here is a simpler explanation.) Adding in a little chaos theory, those fluctuations become bigger, and if you use just the right equations, you can get those fluctuations to explode from a quantum scale into the macro, or real world scale.

And now you have a lot of something from nothing. Pretty cool!

Of course, a bunch of something doesn't do much good if it's just laying about randomly like clothes in my kid's bedroom floor. It has to be organized, and organization requires an organizer, right?

Not in complexity theory, it doesn't. Self organizing complex systems are just the ticket to clean up a messy room! Put simply, when you throw lots of small parts together, and hit them with a stream of energy, they may begin to function as a whole. A mathematics to describe the process has been developed, but whether it has applicability to the real world or not has yet to be determined.

But it's kind of neat to mess around with.

So now we have science's answer to creation stories. First, there was nothing. Then, quantum level fluctuations around nothing, taking place in imaginary time, sort of "blew up" onto a macro scale, creating the entire universe, which then proceeded to organize itself in accordance with yet to be discovered mathematical principles.

Yeah, I'm convinced...
Posted by Rich
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And chess pieces seem move themselves around on a chess board until you realize there's a hand behind the scenes guiding them...
Posted by Barry  on  11/26  at  02:03 PM

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