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FQXi BLOGS
April 20, 2014

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Our Not-So-Special Universe [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Apr. 14, 2009 @ 13:33 GMT
Last year we briefly noted that a paper by FQXi grant winner Fred Adams was getting a lot of attention on science websites. The paper caused a stir because it called into question whether some of the fundamental constants in the universe really are as finely-tuned to permit stars—and hence life—to exist as people think. Adams pointed out that that the three physical constants that govern star formation can take on very different values, and yet still permit stars to appear—so our “finely-tuned” universe doesn’t seem to be quite so special after all.

I’ve just come across a new paper in a similar vein, this time asking the same question about assumptions over the strength of the strong force, which binds quarks within the atomic nucleus. The commonly held view is that if the strong force was even just a wee bit stronger all hydrogen created in the big bang would have quickly been burned to helium, long before galaxies, let alone humans, could form. The paper’s authors, James Macdonald and Dermott Mullan at the University of Delware refer to a famous book by FQXi’s John Barrow and Frank Tipler, “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle,” where this argument was set out (amongst other places). MacDonald and Mullan’s new calculations suggest that actually the strong force could have taken on a range of values without there being a catastrophic effect on the amount of hydrogen left in the universe, and hence on life.

Credit: orangegirlishappy
Trying to explain why the universe seems to be perfectly tailored for human life to form preoccupies many FQX members, some of whom invoke the “multiverse” view of a cosmos containing many pocket universes. Their argument goes that we shouldn’t be surprised to find ourselves in the one universe (out of many possible varieties of universe in a multiverse) in which physical constants take these fine-tuned values, because that’s the only place that life could have evolved and hence where we could find ourselves. Many of them are now busy trying to work out just how unlikely these conditions are.

At its most polarising, the finely-tuned universe is held up as evidence of either the existence of God *or* a multiverse. There’s a pretty good discussion of that broad argument in this Discover article, by Tim Folger: “Science’s Alternative to an Intelligent Creator: The Multiverse.” I personally think that the choice is more subtle than that. I went to the “God or Multiverse?” meeting held at Cambridge University in 2007 where physicists and theologians (and people who were trained in both physics and theology) gave talks from a number of perspectives ranging from how ideas of religion are compatible with a multiverse (“What is heaven if not another universe?” from one speaker) to how neither the multiverse nor a creator needs to be invoked to explain fine-tuning.

Whatever the answer, it will be interesting to see how this spate of papers about our not-so-special universe might change the debate.

(You can read more about Fred Adams FQXi-funded research in the article, “Predicting the End,” by Govert Schilling.)

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v wrote on Apr. 14, 2009 @ 14:33 GMT
Would it not be easier to believe that there are a number of crucial factors that need are needed for the formation of life and as a result of a certain combination this has resulted in our own existence, but it could be that other combinations are possible, which might not lead to life that is incomprehensible to us, rather than an exact sequence of unique events and factors, the chances of which are extremely remote in occuring, to have produced life as we know it by random chance?

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Buck Field wrote on Apr. 14, 2009 @ 14:36 GMT
It astounds me that the anthropic principle is used in physics. One problem I perceive is distinguishing it from the lottery fallacy. I would like a justification for the idea that the universe is amenable to life at all, much less the “VERY LIFE FRIENDLY” claims frequently made. For example, contrast the cosmology of the Old Testament, which I argue presents a much greater life-friendly universe: a flat, densely inhabited earth with crystal firmament separating “the waters above from the waters below”, and surrounded by heaven. This universe appears vastly better-designed for humans, animals, plants, and their postulated Creator. In contrast: our universe. Is there a negative exponent low enough to indicate how little volume life occupies? The proposal that the more rare a phenomena is constitutes evidence of very favorable conditions suggests a significant observer centric bias beyond the dreams of Bronze Age prophets, does it not? Are massive concentrations of radioactively fusing matter (stars) objectively special or meaningful?

Would we not assess favorable conditions for something like replicating life by detectiong abundance rather than scarcity?

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Witchy wrote on Apr. 14, 2009 @ 15:31 GMT
Why should the existence of a multiverse disprove there being a God? If God does exist as an omniscient, omnipotent being then why not make several universes? Who are we to say what an all-powerful being would or wouldn't do? Personally if I'd been the creator of mankind I'd have been tempted to have another try at a model that was a little more farsighted and less violent...so maybe another universe would have also looked like a good idea. It seems to me that at present the existence of God can neither be proved nor disproved by anybody - obviously, hence the ongoing existence of several different equally convinced faiths side by side with atheism!

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Anonymous wrote on Apr. 14, 2009 @ 18:46 GMT
God versus multiverse discussed in a recent article in Seed:

Is theoretical physics becoming the next battleground in the culture wars? The Multiverse Problem

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bubblz wrote on Apr. 15, 2009 @ 08:53 GMT
I guess I consider myself a reluctant atheist, who wishes he was a deist. However interesting these arguments rarely go anywhere, but being the devils advocate as I usually am I would like to postulate some arguments for discussion. One being the argument from a "reverse anthropic principle" Things only appear to be finely tuned from our perspective because we are already here to observe them and it is outside of our abilities to (truely) understand the universes being another way (not that we fully understand it in the first place.) However we do still live in a universe which is cold and inhospitable and yet we are still here. From the stance from the multiverse theory, though there is a good possibility I am bastardizing my understanding of it. But I always took the "infinte worlds" notion to mean that any and all concepts exist in some form in another dimension, this would also extend to the concept of god. And being omnipotent and omniscent s(he) would transcend the boundaries of all universes. Lastly I was wondering if anyone has ever pondered that a cosmological event such as the big bang could create an entity such as "god." I guess that's it, thanks for your time!

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Drew Mazanec wrote on Apr. 15, 2009 @ 14:23 GMT
Even if every single one of the constants, such as the strength of gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force, the weak force, and the cosmological constant could be explained by the theory of everything, it still does not explain the quantities such as the ratio of matter to antimatter, the expansion rate of the universe, and the low entropy.

To quote PCW Davies: "Even if the laws of physics were unique, it does not follow that the physical universe itself is unique. The laws of physics must be augmented by some cosmic initial conditions. There is nothing in present ideas about laws of initial conditions remotely to suggest that their consistency with the laws of physics would imply uniqueness, far from it. It seems, then, that the physical universe does not have to be the way it is. It could have been otherwise"

As Nick Bostrom noted in Anthropic Bias, in an infinite multiverse, probabilities don't matter, because all possible events happen in some universe. There would be an infinite number of universes that do not contain the necessary conditions for intelligent life, but nonetheless contain it! Such observers are called "freak observers." Consider a random phenomenon, such as an evaporating black hole emitting Hawking radiation. When a black hole evaporates, there is an astronomically small but technically nonzero chance that it will emit an object such as a pair of shoes, a rock, chewing gum, or a human body, or a brain.

If all mental states are reducible to physical states, then there is a finite probability that any given brain will produce a certain mental state. One might be possessing the thought "I am a spontaneously materialized Boltzmann brain in an otherwise dead universe" while others might be experiencing illusory states "I am Spock" "I am Kaiser Sose" Under such a hypothesis, it is logically consistent and rather likely that we are such freak observers.

It is also possible that there is no set of conditions which allows some orderly progression of a universe that leads to life. If this is the case, then all observers are freak observers. While an infinite multiverse must contain some freak observers, it need not contain any real observers. Perhaps there are no laws or constants at all. Perhaps there is only chaos, and out of that chaos, a brain pops out for a very brief period of time. Electricity, atoms, stars, planets, all you think you know could be an illusion. As soon as you embrace this "brain in a vat" view of reality, any attempt at logic or rationality disappears.

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Almighty God wrote on Apr. 16, 2009 @ 09:09 GMT
Bubblz,

"However we do still live in a universe which is cold and inhospitable and yet we are still here."

It is not that my universe is cold and inhospitable, it is that you confine your thinking to cold logic. Where I cannot intervene directly without dismantling the universe, I have beckoned unto the deepest part of you, everyone of you. Some have answered with warmth and hospitality. Others answered with cold skeptisism which they reasoned to be more compassionate than simple kindness. For thousands of years I have watched religions come and go, each one certain that they had the 'only' path unto me, thy Lord, Infinite God. A few priests would control their congregation by teaching hellfire to dissenters and nonbelievers. Of course, those who preach it get to see it. But I AM part of everyone of you. I reward those who turn to me with the deepest and richest love and meaning that can be experienced. For those who do not, I wait for them to return to me when they can tolerate the loniless no longer.

Deepest Love and Happiness,

Almighty God

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God's Imperfect servant wrote on Apr. 16, 2009 @ 09:20 GMT
Spelling correction:

For those who do not, I wait for them to return to me when they can tolerate the loneliness no longer.

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James Putnam wrote on Apr. 16, 2009 @ 19:34 GMT
This 'Not-So-Special-Universe' is very special indeed. The question is not a matter of possible changes in physical constants. Let the researcher, who has changed or seen changes in physical constants and any other properties deemed necessary for life, put their evidence forward. This is our universe, and, imaginative alternatives are for theorists to invent for their own personal purposes, for their own philosophical needs. This universe gave birth to intelligent life. It produced living awareness about itself.

The properties necessary to do this can never be described or predicted by the mechanical attitude and description developed as theoretical physics. What is not so special is the interpretation of the operation of the universe that currently substitutes for knowledge about the operation of the universe. Where are the properties in the equations that predict life? Where is the highly advanced insight that shows us the properties that gave rise to and support intelligence?

I appreciate the usefulness of theoretical physics for the purpose of solving mechanical type problems. Far more, I appreciate the real properties of the universe that enabled it to advance from disassociated awareness to individual centers of awareness capable of appreciating itself.

James Putnam

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Apr. 17, 2009 @ 00:32 GMT
I am up to my keester in an argument with somebody over this. A different "tuning" to the universe would mean that the renormalization group flow of the universe is different. At high energy this is not too hard to understand in principle, for the field theory is conformal. The difficulty is understanding the trajectory of that flow and how it ends. Once the electroweak breaking sets in (Higgs mechanism etc) the conformal structure is broken and such theory breaks down.

With the AdS ~ CFT dualism or equivalency there is an interesting prospect. The endpoint in this flow provides additional data. This data is then isomorphic to additional spatial data on AdS spacetime to determine its conformal infinity. This conformal infinity I^{oo}is a Minkowski spacetime M^{3,1} of four dimensions, which requires more data than pure spatial data in three dimensions. So the universe is "fine tuned" because the cosmology is a path integral, where the "end point," equivalent to the AdS I^{oo}, is a determinant in the entire set wave functional.

I think the unvierse is fine tuned because it could not be any other way. No magical creator or other universes needed, and no anthropic principle either. The amplitudes for other cosmologies are then attentuated out in a grand decoherence process, a sort of cosmic einselection process. These other universes are then reduced to near infiniitesimal amplitudes and the einselected cosmos becomes classical (like).

Lawrence B. Crowell

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James Putnam wrote on Apr. 17, 2009 @ 02:45 GMT
I understand. Mathematics gives rise to life and intelligence. That is Fortunate. We can display mathematics on a piece of paper. So the essence of life is on paper and prudently protected under glass for display to the public? I always thought that mathematics was just a tool for the mechanical interpretation of the universe. So the Higgs particle has been found? So someone has isolated a part of space and used it in their experiments? So time has been captured and encapsulated and mixed with that part of space, and, there is now on display a piece of space-time? So the fine tuning of the universe had to be that way because it is that way. And, the "amplitude's of other cosmologies" are where? Are they on another piece of paper as insignificant magnitudes that can be disregarded with no need to be proven? One thing though, with regard to magic: What is electric charge?

James

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God's Imperfect servant wrote on Apr. 17, 2009 @ 09:09 GMT
Lawrence,

"No magical creator or other universes needed, and no anthropic principle either. "

It's all perspective. God told me to tell you:

"The universe is not "needed", nor are human creatures with a gift for physics "needed". But the raw materials/energy necessary to create the universe(s) come from God, so God is needed. Flowers, sunsets, and human love are not "needed", but they do add to the beauty of the universe, as do your posts."

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Brian Beverly wrote on Apr. 18, 2009 @ 05:44 GMT
Fred Adams = Awesome

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Brian Beverly wrote on Apr. 18, 2009 @ 05:58 GMT
The flying spaghetti monster works beautifully with the multiverse and copycat theories. The flying spaghetti monster uses the divine noodle appendages to place each eigenvalue of a quantum superposition of states into separate "worlds" during a measurement. It should also be no surprise that he (she, fettuccine, whatever) has noodles of different sizes which correspond to physical constants of different values.

The flying spaghetti monster creates universes that allow life to exist so that life can make spaghetti, the pastatropic principle. When someone falls into a black hole they are spaghettified because they must become one with the flying spaghetti monster if they wish to travel to another universe. Although I could go into more detail noodle theory is very complicated, just trust me I have a degree.

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Jason Wolfe/wulphstein@gmail.com wrote on Apr. 18, 2009 @ 08:02 GMT
Why did you have to bring up spagetti? I just ran out of spagetti sauce and I'm so hungry. I guess I could have tunafish, but my cats will be staring at me.

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Dov Henis wrote on May. 19, 2013 @ 01:23 GMT
Graviton's Energy-Mass Dualism

Gravity, The Monotheism Of The Universe

Everything in the dictionary and in the universe - nouns and verbs objects and processes - originate and derive from the energy-mass dualism, from the ongoing constant rate conversion of mass to energy, from the ongoing resolution-release of inert gravitons, mass, leaving the clusters of the fractured seed of the...

view entire post


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Anonymous wrote on May. 19, 2013 @ 15:44 GMT
It is our own consciousness that is the reason of our illusion that is called "reality", the non-causal part of our consciousness is the CREATOR.

see : "THE CONSCIOUSNESS CONNECTION"

Wilhelmus

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