Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘science

Through Thick and Thin 2013

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nemo

Welcome new readers! Apparently one of my old posts made the front page of Reddit on 6 January, and I received over 200,000 hits in the days that followed. Typically I only get about a thousand hits a day, so for Doug’s Darkworld this was pretty crazy. The good kind of crazy. And of course I’d like to thank whoever posted on Reddit for me in the first place, I probably could figure it out if I looked, but I’m a writer, not an Internet geek. Hell, I didn’t even know what Reddit was until a few days ago and I looked it up on Wikipedia. In any event it’s a good way to start the year, and this is a good time to set course in 2013. What’s in store for Doug’s Darkworld?

For one thing, it’s not going to be quite so dark this year. I’m going to be posting less about politics and current events, and more about science and history. I enjoy writing the later more, but am more compelled to rant about the former. Still, being a grown-up (“There are no adults.”) means controlling  one’s impulses. I plan on more movie reviews too,  again, because it gives me pleasure to both watch a movie, and to deconstruct it afterwards. Granted my movie reviews tend to be dated, as I usually wait for the CD to watch a movie, but the good things in life are worth waiting for. I may blog more on current cultural events. I was tickled pink by the Gangnam Style phenomena last year, and also amazed by the negative reaction to it in some quarters. Lastly I will also try to add a bit more levity this year. Try likely being the operative word, my humor tends to go over a lot of people’s heads. Or under or around. Like the image above, it still makes me smile.

As always, I am open to suggestions about topics to write about. Sometimes I get to them promptly. Sometimes not. I still plan a post about the battle of Pegasus Bridge for example, and that was suggested years ago. Comments are always welcome as well, as long as they are reasonably polite. Granted I have had very few comments over the years that fell into “We’re you raised in a barn?” category. I think that speaks highly of my readers. (The spam-catcher isn’t perfect, if someone’s highly crafted comment doesn’t post, it was misidentified as spam. Fire me an email unitedcats@engineer.net and I will rectify the situation.) Also I suspect that I piss off the type of people who would make such comments, they rarely seem to follow my blog for long. I’m not complaining.

Fortunately, aside from the ongoing collapse of the US Empire, we still live in a  Golden Age of science and space exploration. Endless fodder for blog posts. And new discoveries in archeology and paleontology give new insight into our past all the time.  It’s safe to say that there has never been an era where humans were discovering so  such about the universe around us, and our own past and place in it. Even as a child it filled me with wonder, and as I have grown older, the wonder at same has increased. For me I’m perpetually a ten year on Christmas,  science puts new presents under the tree every day. It’s a dream come true, how could I not write about it?

Have a great 2013 all, old readers and new!

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, its use here in no conceivable way interferes with the copyright holder’s commercial use of the image, and arguably Tardar Sauce is a historically significant figure. Yes, that was a joke. See what I mean about my sense of humor? Credit and copyright: Tardar Sauce. Did I mention I will post more cat posts?)

Written by unitedcats

January 7, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Science, the limits of human knowledge, atheism, and religion. Part II.

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Yes, the last post was going somewhere. Or at least I thought when I wrote it, it was an extemporaneous post, so I’ll see if I can pick up on it. In the previous post I tried to make the case that the Universe we live in is vastly larger and more complicated than humans can really comprehend. That’s not to say scientists haven’t made great strides in understanding the Universe around us, on the contrary, our understanding of the broad strokes so to speak is breathtaking. It’s just that it’s clear that there is vastly more to learn, and the Universe is richer and more complicated than humans ever dreamt of until recently. In the mid nineteenth century scientists actually thought they were on the verge of figuring it all out so to speak, boy, were they wrong.

So that’s the science and limits of human knowledge part. Now we come to the atheism and religion part. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately in the Yahoo Answers Religion and Spirituality section. An experience I strongly advise against, it would be more aptly named Evangelical Trolls vs. Atheist Trolls. Leave it to people with no feelings, decency, and common sense … like professional bloggers for example.  And I noted a common theme there among the science deniers, primarily Evolution and Big Bang deniers, but they usually generalize to all science. And the theme is this, they are constantly looking for gaps in scientific knowledge, and using same to claim that science doesn’t have all the answers. The implication being that if science can’t explain it, a supernatural agency must be the cause.

There’s two major problems with this line of reasoning. The first, as I laid out in my premise, is that there are always going to be gaps in scientific knowledge. The second problem is that because science doesn’t understand something, doesn’t mean there must be a supernatural explanation. As a long time student of science and the history of science, I can safely say that it’s almost unknown for a scientist to say “science can’t explain this, so God must have done it.” And in the past 400 years, as science has expanded its knowledge of our Universe, there’s always been some religious type claiming “Science doesn’t understand this!” Then when science does indeed understand it, the religious type just moves the goalpost to some new area that science hasn’t yet explored. And it goes on. At this point one would think that literal Bible defenders would long ago have realized that challenging science to explain some unknown aspect of reality is a lost cause. It’s clear now that the amazing Universe we live in is in fact internally self consistent, and that no invisible hand of God is required to make it work.

Which brings me to my thought, and the reason I am rambling on about this nonsense instead of pounding my forehead bloody on my keyboard parsing the Olympic class nonsense certain Republican candidates are espousing. My thought is, why the hell are Evangelicals so terrified of science? At this point huge numbers of religious people have accepted science for a century or more. The vast majority of my friends and relatives practise a religion to some degree, and they all have no problem with the scientific understanding of the Universe. Why do the Evangelicals reject the scientific understanding of the Universe? I used to think that it was because it contradicted Genesis, and they were threatened by anything that made out the Bible to be less than  perfect, and reduced man’s central role in their ideology.

And, to a certain extent, that’s still true. I think there’s a deeper reason though. They are afraid of God. Or more on point, they are afraid of a God that makes their petulant, one dimensional, predictable, old testament God look like a loser. If God created the Universe with the Big Bang, which scientifically is the only viable God hypothesis remaining, it means God created a Universe that is almost infinitely grander than the fairy tale posited in Genesis. An entire Universe sprung from a single point, expanding and evolving and creating new stars and galaxies and forms of life for billions of years, with no end in sight. A Universe so magnificent and complex and perfect on so many levels that humans will never be able to completely understand and comprehend every aspect of it. A Universe where God is truly grander than the insignificant worms crawling around on a minor planet orbiting a minor star. A Universe where God expected people to think for themselves, not base their lives and morality on the pronouncements of a talking bush. A Universe where God is real, not just a fairy tale in an old book.

That’s what truly frightens Evangelicals and why they are still sticking their heads in the sand centuries after science showed that Genesis cannot literally be true. If they admit science is true, then they have to admit that the God of science is far greater and far more frightening than the Teddy Bear God they cling to so fiercely. A God that expects his creations to act like grown ups and think for themselves, not scared little children repeating their lessons. Evangelicals are like children telling ghost stories around a fire, terrified of the dark … and even more terrified to throw more wood on the fire to see what’s actually out there.

“But of the tree of the knowledge of science, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Genesis 2:16-18

(The above image as created by me, not God, using the tools of science. Credit and copyright: Doug Stych © 2012, all rights reserved. I used the image because it gives me pleasure. Tomorrow, back to ranting about something or other. )

Written by unitedcats

February 28, 2012 at 8:32 am

The Ekpyrotic Theory: Looking for God at the End of the Universe

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It recently dawned on me why so many religions are so threatened by a few branches of science. It’s because certain branches of science, like SETI, cosmology, evolutionary biology, and astronomy are all basically looking for God. They are looking at the origin of the Universe, and the origin of the human race, and even if they aren’t actually looking for God … this is where God is supposed to be in so many religions. Yes, at the origin of the Universe, we should find this big glowing bearded white guy on a plinth, saying “Let there be light.” Well, there might be, but him and his plinth exist in five to nine dimensional space and don’t look like anything our feeble brains can even conceive of. In any event, this is a background and conclusion post to some of my long promised posts about God and the origin of the Universe and how the Universe created itself. I skip over a lot of details here because they would make the post too long, and more importantly, if people can follow my logic here, it will be far easier to go back and clarify in future posts. Also if it turns out I have made some glaring mistake, best to find out now and correct it later, assuming it can be corrected.

Now, where were we? Nine dimensional God, right. Fortunately there are humans whose brains are nimble enough to think about five to nine dimensional space, cosmologists and mathematicians for one, not to mention nuclear physicists. And they seem to have come up with a pretty good, experimentally verifiable, logical theory about what is on the “other side,” so to speak, of the Big Bang. Things are actually pretty exciting in these rarefied realms of science now, but one wouldn’t know it from the popular press. So anyhow, there seems to be a logical and scientific origin for the Big Bang. And not only was  the Big Bang logical, it was also inevitable, it was in fact a natural consequence of the nature of reality itself. The universe we live in is only a slice of reality, a slice created by natural events in background reality. Which has always existed. In other words, if God did indeed create everything, he created a reality where the Big Bang and the creation and evolution of our Universe were natural and inevitable outcomes of the nature of reality.

In other words, if God exists, he created a reality so perfect and self sustaining, that no God is required. In other words, (yeah, will be saying that a lot as I try to understand and explain this,) if the Ekpyrotic Theory pans out … there is nowhere left for God to hide. Now of course this theory doesn’t explain everything, in fact it’s clear now that reality is so complex by definition there will be things we can’t explain, but it does explain how we got here. Reality has always been here, the Big Bang wasn’t the “‘start” of anything, it was just another event in the seething mass of five to nine dimensional quantum reality for lack of  a better name. Well, I think cosmologists call it the “bulk” but that’s both  singularly tepid, and also inaccurate. There’s incredible things going on “out there,” our universe being only one example.

Now there’s two things with the Ekpyrotic Theory that make it particularly attractive as explaining the origin for the Big Bang. For one thing it eliminates the need for a singularity as the source of the Big Bang. What’s a singularity? Um, it’s where you cram a large amount of mass, say up to a universe, into  a dimensionless point. Some trick, eh? Well, no longer needed, since the Ekpyrotic theory says the Universe started as a cosmic string, and that has dimensions. What’s a cosmic string? A topic for another post, trust me. Secondly, the Ekpyrotic Theory does away with the need for the Inflationary Epoch to explain the early hyper fast expansion of the Universe.

So the Ekpyrotic theory, to sum it all up now, not only explains the origin of the Big Bang, it makes the Big Bang Theory  an even more elegant and therefore robust theory. And this will all be tested on the Large Hadron Collider, because if one can look at the basic structure of the Universe at a fine enough scale, predictable effects from these proposed “outside the Universe” realities bleed through so to speak. This is what I meant when I said scientists were going to look for God by weighing “tiny pebbles.” Well, no, much smaller than pebbles. Tiny little bits of our reality itself hurled to speeds not seen since the Big Bang. And at this scale things should be effected by forces “outside” of reality. Well, outside of our Universe, a universe that is but a slice of a much greater vaster reality that has always been here.

No God required is my final analysis. At the very least the “Well, everything has to have a creator” argument  is demolished. Reality has always been here quietly (well, it’s probably a noisy process in a  manner of speaking) spawning universes, ours being just one of an infinite number of them. And if one still wants to believe in God, well, he was clever enough to create a reality that appears to have always existed and doesn’t require the hand of God at any point to work. God’s day of rest so to speak lasts forever. So if you see a big glowing bearded white guy sitting on a beach chair in Cabo with a drink with a tiny umbrella in it, tell him to get back to work. Pretty sure though he’ll just point to his t-shirt which has  “Not My Problem Anymore” printed on it.

(The above image may help some understand other dimensions, pictured is a hypercube or tesseract, a cube in four dimensions. A tesseract is to the cube what the cube is to the square. Notice there are eight areas bounded by six sides, eight “cubes” if you will. The one on the interior, the big exterior one that encloses them all, and the six that surround the inner core. All eight of these cubes are exactly the same size and consist of all right angles, but of course we can only draw a poor three dimensional representation of a tesseract in our reality. Oh, it’s a public domain image too. It future posts I will expand on cosmic strings, brane theory, problems with the Big Bang and other supporting elements of the above, if people are interested.)

Written by unitedcats

June 22, 2010 at 7:11 am