It is currently Mon Apr 22, 2019 7:12 pm

Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 
 The Universe Explained 
Author Message
User avatar

Joined: Thu Feb 28, 2008 6:55 am
Posts: 3380
Location: 30 clicks N of 3030
Post The Universe Explained
The Universe Explained
January 9, 2012

Why is the universe the way it is?

Philosophers have debated the question for centuries. Clerics claim nature is the work of a divine hand. And modern scientists use a mix of logic, mathematics, and experiment seek the fundamental physical principles to explain why the universe behaves as it does.

But what if there’s a simple explanation for it all?

What if the universe is as it is because if it was different, mankind (and any other intelligent life) wouldn’t be here to think about it?

This apparently obvious and seemingly absurd observation is known as the anthropic principle.

It has some basis in scientific fact. Scientists have calculated that if the physical laws in our universe were just a tiny bit different, we (or any other intelligent life) could not exist. For example, if the force that holds atomic nuclei together were just a few percent stronger, the hydrogen atoms created after the Big Bang would have fused into helium atoms, and no hydrogen would remain. No hydrogen means no water, no organic molecules, and no life.

On the other hand, if the nuclear force was a tiny bit weaker, larger atoms like carbon and iron which are essential to complex life could not hold together. Again, no life. So it seems the nuclear force (and other forces of nature) are finely balanced in a way to allow the formation of galaxies, stars, planets, and people (and perhaps other forms of intelligent life).

The anthropic principle is an interesting idea and makes for good after-dinner debate. But it is– so far– a concept of philosophy, not science.

To scientifically test the anthropic principle, we would have to examine the conditions in other universes, a feat which may, by definition, be impossible.

But those other universes may well exist. Recent cosmological theories suggest our universe is not unique, but just one of a nearly infinite number of other universes called the multiverse (current theories suggest some 10500 universes may exist, give or take). Of these many universes, some collapse after a fraction of a second, others have different physical laws not friendly to intelligent life, and yet others may hold other forms of matter not yet imagined.

According to this view, our universe– completely by chance– is “just right”, with physical laws balanced enough to allow the formation of complex material systems like atoms and molecules, stars and galaxies. And intelligent life, like us.

The anthropic principle is not a used to predict any aspect of our universe. As a stand-alone idea, it’s a dead end. Indeed, Steven Hawking called the anthropic principle “a counsel of despair”. But it may simply be a natural consequence of the concept of the “multiverse”, that we happen to live in a habitable universe that allows intelligent life to form. If our universe was otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to observe it. But the idea that our universe takes its properties by chance, and not from any fundamental physical principle, is a depressing thought for many physicists who hope for a more satisfactory and elegant explanation of physical law.

The idea of the multiverse, that our universe is just one of countless others, is largely speculation, of course. But it puts the petty toils of everyday life into perspective. Because the fact that you, I, and all humanity are here at all to observe the universe, to look up into the night sky or enjoy a silent snowfall or the first blossoms of spring may simply be amazingly good luck. We won the “multiverse lottery”, where our elementary particles get to inhabit an orderly and long-lived universe conducive to intelligent life. This is surely a state of affairs to be celebrated and embraced, is it not?



We all have the choice to exercise Free Will.
Omnia Vincit Veritas
"Ignis natura Renovatur Integram"

Sat Jan 14, 2012 3:32 am
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by Vjacheslav Trushkin for Free Forums/DivisionCore.