Archive for the ‘Physics’ Category

God and The Big Bang are both just labels for Magic

January 22, 2018

The Universe was subject to a “Creation Event”. It was not, and then it was, (and if it always was it is even more troublesome). The Origin of Life is also a Creation Event. These two “creations” (of the universe and of life) are the great existential questions which require Magic.

Religion relies on the “inexplicable” to justify the invocation of Gods. God-magic. Atheism relies on the “power of reason” giving the lie to the existence of Gods.  But atheism is merely a rejection of one set of labels and explains nothing. Religions vest their Gods with sufficient attributes to explain away what cannot be explained. Atheism merely ignores the inexplicable or claims the inexplicable to be a consequence of random events. Theologians and physicists alike merely give labels to what they cannot explain – as if the label is in itself an explanation. Anything inexplicable is what Magic is. Of course, Magic itself is just a label. I take the view that the nature of humans is such that some things are unknowable. The Universe exists in dimensions we cannot access or even perceive. We can, through the process of science and reason, discover the laws applying to the universe we perceive but, at every step of increased knowledge, we find new “whys” we cannot address. We now believe there are four fundamental forces of nature (gravitation, electromagnetism, strong nuclear, weak nuclear) but have no idea why they should be just four and not five or a thousand. Depending on how you classify them there are 12 or 57 fundamental particles. Why 12 or why 57 is just as much magic as when the universe was considered to consist of just fire earth water and air. Gravity and electromagnetism are just as magical now as they ever were. You could as well have a gravity-god or space-time magic. “Why time” is the essence of magic. The Origin of Life is also just a label for a Creation Event. There are weird and wonderful theories about this, ranging from a random event in the primordial soup to extra-terrestrial intervention.

All religions and theologians – at best – indulge in lazy thinking. Creation Events are just assigned to an appropriately defined God. Gods are just labels generated to answer unanswerable questions. Physicists and biologists are not quite as intellectually lazy but still resort to labels to explain away inexplicable Magic. Physics and cosmology define their own Creation Event and call it the Big Bang. To resolve all the problems with the Big Bang theory, it is deemed a singularity where the laws of known physics did not apply. It is then stated to be the start of known time which neatly dismisses any need to consider what came before. We still have no idea of how life came to be, or can be, created from non-life. Theologians merely put it down to a convenient God.

Magic = inexplicable.

The universe was created by a magical event and dances to magical tunes played by magical instruments. Life was magically created by other magical music within this universe. Atheists and priests and physicists and theologians all actually believe in Magic. God-magic is no different to Big-Bang-magic or origin-of-life-magic. A belief in a God is just as much a belief in Magic as a belief in the Big Bang is.



Real Magic

December 26, 2017

Magic is perceived when

  1. an observation (an effect) has no perceivable cause, or
  2. an effect contrary to the laws of nature (as known) follows some cause.

“Magic tricks” and illusions create perceptions of either 1 or 2. This is not Real Magic. It is where the apparent magic lies in creating a perception which is contrary to reality.  A magician is then someone or some entity which causes effects, which are perceived – by others – as inexplicable and magic, but which would be no magic for the practitioner.

Real magic can thus never be practiced. It can only be perceived.

Hard sciences take the position that all observations are explainable even if the explanation is unknown at that time. All fields of learning – including the hard sciences and even philosophy and theology – perceive magic (observations with no perceivable cause, or effects contrary to the known laws of nature) but are extremely reluctant to admit to the concept of magic. There is a fear – in all fields of learning – to admit that some things may be unknowable. Physics and cosmology merely give labels to the inexplicable to disguise their perceptions of magic. Neither philosophers nor physicists can explain what time is or why it exists or why the arrow of time is unidirectional. The “Big Bang Singularity” is just a label as “Dark Energy” and “Dark Matter” are labels for postulated events or things that cannot be explained. “God” is also just a label used by theologians instead of admitting to the inexplicable. What scientists and theologians conveniently ignore is that a label is not in itself an explanation. The label “Big Bang” or the label “Allah” explain nothing if you add the prefix “Why”. The Why of waves and particles and quantum theory are all in the realm of magic. Why the physical constants of the universe are what they are is wondrous and magical. Why does the logic of mathematics work and why should π have the value it does? How could matter and anti-matter have been formed in the first place if they annihilate one another?

But Real Magic exists. Real Magic lies in that time exists and that the Universe exists (in that order). The concept of a flowing time is so ingrained that we cannot imagine the beginning of time without asking what came before time existed – even if “before” has then no meaning. That effect should follow cause is Real Magic. Why logic exists and why the Universe should follow any laws at all, is inexplicable and Real Magic.

Physics and religions have this in common. What they cannot explain, what they perceive as magic, they invent a label for.


From position to snap, crackle and pop

December 20, 2017

The rate of change of acceleration is the jerk and we experience that everyday when starting up our cars or braking when the lights turn red.

The rate of change of jerk, the fourth derivative of displacement with respect to time, is called the snap. Positioning spacecraft requires the calculation of snap.

Snap too may vary with time. The fifth derivative is called the crackle and the sixth derivative is called the pop but these and higher derivatives have not – yet – found practical application.


A second now must be longer than a second was then

December 12, 2017

We cannot measure time. We have no idea why time is unidirectional.

We claim to measure time periods and the passage of time, though we have no idea what it is that is passing.

We impute time periods to the observation of changes. We assume that the changes being observed are stable and regular. We used to assume that the earth orbited the sun in a stable and regular manner with every completed orbit taking what we called a year. We now know that the orbit is neither stable nor regular and is no longer accurate enough for use as the standard measure of a time period. We used to assume that the earth’s rotation around its own axis was stable and regular but now know that this rotation is slowing and days are getting longer by about 2.3 milliseconds per century. Of course, to be able to say that, we need a “second” defined independently of a “day” defined by the rotation of the earth. The modern definition of a “second” is now based on the vibration of a caesium atom.

The second is the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom in its ground state at a temperature of 0 K.

This assumes that this radiation is stable and regular. We assume that the 9,192,631,770 periods taken to constitute a second are each identical to the other. (Why it should be so is of course magic). For all practical purposes and relative to the duration of the lifespan of the human species it may well be so. But over the long, long term it cannot be so.

The earth-moon-sun system, the solar system and even our galaxy are all losing energy. Even all vibrating atoms must be losing energy for any radiation to occur or for any vibration to take place. For the “radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom in its ground state at a temperature of 0 K” to remain stable for ever requires an energy input which does not exist. Why any radiation should be regular is still a matter of magic.

What a “second” was at the Big Bang and before is unknown. But since then, it follows that “seconds” then were shorter than “seconds” are now. Every “second” now must be shorter than every “second” to come.

Of course what is even more magical is our fundamental assumption that the passage of time itself is stable and regular. We have no clue as to what laws of the universe require such stability or regularity and the why of any such laws is still in the realm of magic.

The magical speed of an inconstant time


The magic which makes the speed of light what it is

December 8, 2017

Through the process of science we have discovered a great many “natural” constants that apply to our reality. These include  the speed of light in vacuum c, the gravitational constant G, Planck’s constant h, the electric constant ε0, and the elementary charge e. But why these constants are what they are – and not greater or smaller – still escapes us.

Physicists do not like to be contaminated by magic, but they do in fact invoke magic every time they use any of these so-called natural constants. That they are constant over time is itself an assumption without rhyme or reason as to why they should be so. That the passage of time is regular is itself a magical assumption. That a second now is of the same duration as a second 9 billion years ago or of the same duration as a second 10 billion years from now or at the other end of our universe are all just magical assumptions.

And so it is with the speed of light.

We have now fixed the speed of light in a vacuum at exactly 299,792.458 kilometres per second. Why this particular speed and not something else? Or, to put it another way, where does the speed of light come from?

……. Whether it was the ‘hand of God’ or some truly fundamental physical process that formed the constants, it is their apparent arbitrariness that drives physicists mad. Why these numbers? Couldn’t they have been different?  ……. leads us to the anthropic principle, the philosophical idea that what we observe in the Universe must be compatible with the fact that we humans are here to observe it. 

…… Why should the multiverse work like this, and not that? Perhaps it isn’t possible for the intellect to overcome a sense of the arbitrariness of things. We are close here to the old philosophical riddle, of why there is something rather than nothing. That’s a mystery into which perhaps no light can penetrate.

We don’t know why the speed of light is what it is. We don’t know what would have to be different in our universe for this speed to be different. We do not know if this value was always what it is now and will always be so. We don’t know if there are regions in our universe where it does not apply. It is what it is by magic.

I take the view that to the finite human mind some things are unknowable.

And as long as the unknowable exists in physics, physics must take recourse to magic. Giving magic a name or a label does not reduce its magicality.


The universe shouldn’t exist

October 28, 2017

Even if the Standard Model is right and an equal amount of matter and anti-matter was produced at the Big Bang, it still does not explain why the matter and anti-matter did not exterminate each other with a huge flash of energy. Why a huge amount of energy was first triggered to be absorbed to create matter and anti-matter at the Big Bang is brushed aside as being at a singularity, before the laws of physics existed and maybe before even time existed.

CERN has a new press release showing that apart from sign – as the standard model requires – no difference can be detected between a proton and an antiproton.

It is not the new measurements which say the universe should not exist. It is in fact the standard model which says that the universe should not exist. Maybe the standard model has to be modified.

Riddle of matter remains unsolved: Proton and antiproton share fundamental properties

Scientists are still in search of a difference between protons and antiprotons which would help to potentially explain the existence of matter in our universe. However, physicists in the BASE collaboration at the CERN research center have been able to measure the magnetic force of antiprotons with almost unbelievable precision. Nevertheless, the data do not provide any information about how matter formed in the early universe as particles and antiparticles would have had to completely destroy one another. The most recent BASE measurements revealed instead a large overlap between protons and antiprotons, thus confirming the Standard Model of particle physics. Around the world, scientists are using a variety of methods to find some difference, regardless of how small. The matter-antimatter imbalance in the universe is one of the hot topics of modern physics. …….. 

The BASE collaboration published high-precision measurements of the antiproton g-factor back in January 2017 but the current ones are far more precise. The current high-precision measurement determined the g-factor down to nine significant digits. This is the equivalent of measuring the circumference of the earth to a precision of four centimeters. The value of 2.7928473441(42) is 350 times more precise than the results published in January. “This tremenduous increase in such a short period of time was only possible thanks to completely new methods,” said Ulmer. The process involved scientists using two antiprotons for the first time and analyzing them with two Penning traps.

We have to bear in mind  that CERN has a massive confirmation bias. Their primary reason for existence is to confirm the standard model.


The edge of the universe is to humans as the surface of the water is to fish

July 18, 2017

Things become weird and wonderful when physicists or cosmologists or astronomers talk about the “edge of the universe” or the “finitely bounded but infinite universe” or the “expanding universe” which does not expand into anything but creates space as it expands (the balloon analogy). I read that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago but the size of the universe is said to be a diameter of (around) 93 billion light-years. Some photons, they say, have traveled 46-47 billion light-years since the Big Bang. Now how did they do that in just 13.8 billion years? The answer, say the physicist-philosophers, is that things aren’t moving away from each other so much as that the space between them is expanding. Really!

How can the universe be 93 billion light-years across if it is only 13.8 billion years old? Light hasn’t had enough time to travel that far…? Ultimately, understanding this facet of physics is the key to understanding what lies beyond the edge of the observable universe and whether we could ever get there. 

To break this down, according to special relativity, objects that are close together cannot move faster than the speed of light with respect to one another; however, there is no such law for objects that are extremely distant from one another when the space between them is, itself, expanding. In short, it’s not that objects are traveling faster than the speed of light, but that the space between objects is expanding, causing them to fly away from each other at amazing speeds.

Ultimately, this means that we could only reach the edge of the observable universe if we develop a method of transport that allows us to either 1) Travel faster than the speed of light (something which most physicists think is impossible) 2) Transcend spacetime (by using wormholes or warp drive, which most physicists also think is impossible).

The reality, I think, is that human cognition is limited. I reject the converse, that human cognition is unlimited, because, if it was, we would not have imponderable questions. Stephen Hawking has often said that “outside the universe” makes no sense, because if the universe came from nothing and brought everything into existence, then asking what lies beyond the universe is an invalid question. When physicists invoke dark energy and dark matter and, in the same breath, point out that they are unknown and undetectable, then it follows that human understanding is incomplete because of the limits to human cognition.

If human cognition is limited, whether at the level we have reached or ten times that level, our understanding of the universe around us is, and will be – and must be – also limited. We will always have a “conceptual edge” to the universe around us corresponding to our cognitive limits. Beyod this edge lies what is “unknowable”. The edge of the real universe lies at at the furthest reaches of our cognitive abilities.

As most fish (with exceptions for flying fish and lung fish) cannot conceive of the world beyond the surface of the water, so can humans not conceive a universe beyond the “conceptual edge” defined by their cognitive ability.

We can never observe what is beyond the “observable universe” because light will never get there. But it isn’t just light that doesn’t get there. Our minds don’t reach there either. There may be a multiverse out there – or maybe not. There may be just the ultimate void being converted into space-time as our universe eats into it. Or maybe there is The Restaurant at the End of the Universe awaiting the intrepid few who get there. Or maybe there is a Thing with a long white beard observing us to see if any human-fish manage to leap through the “edge of the universe”.


Science (and the gods) rely equally on magic

July 3, 2017

The fundamental assumptions of science can be written in various ways but, for me, seem to boil down to four:

  1. The Universe exists
  2. Laws of nature (science) exist
  3. All phenomena are constrained to obey the laws of nature (science)
  4. The laws of nature (science) apply everywhere in the universe

The laws of nature are such that compliance with these laws is inbuilt. If there is any non-compliance it is not a law of nature. If compliance is all that we observe then it is a law of nature. But why the laws are what they are are usually beyond explanation.

Assumptions are not amenable to further question. You could apply an “if” to them or question “why” the assumption is true, but that is futile for there are no answers. They are just taken as self-evident and the starting point of rational thought. They are never, in themselves, self-explanatory except in the trivial form. (Assume that 1+1=2. Therefore 2+2=4 and that proves that 1+1=2).

I apply the word “magic” to all that is inexplicable. And all the fundamental laws of nature (science) are built on a foundation of inexplicable magic. How many fundamental particles exist and why? It’s magic. If the laws of science only apply after the Big Bang but don’t apply at the Big Bang singularity itself, what laws did? It’s magic. If the laws apply to a supernova but not inside a black hole, it’s magic. (Never mind that a black hole seems to be a part of the universe where the laws of science do not apply which violates the assumption that the universe is homogeneous and isotropic (Assumption 4 above). Why are there 4 – and only 4 – fundamental forces in nature? It’s magic. How did time begin? It’s magic. Can empty space exist without even the property of dimensions? It’s magic. Can time be a dimension and not have negative values? It’s magic. Dark energy and dark matter are merely labels invoking magic. All science which relies on fundamental assumptions is ultimately built upon and dependent upon a set of inexplicable, fundamental statements. They are just magic.

A fundamental flaw with the claim of physics, that all of history up to just after the Big Bang is explainable by the laws of science, must also mean that all of the future is also fixed and determined by the laws of science applied to conditions now. What will happen was therefore fixed for all time by the Big Bang itself. And that, too, is indistinguishable from magic.

Religions do not just rely on magic, they claim the magic for their gods. Modern, “with-it” religions, which try to be “compatible” with the latest knowledge discovered by science, merely claim that their God(s) pushed the button which caused the Big Bang. That my God is greater than your God is magic. That there is a life after death, or reincarnation, or rebirth or an ultimate state of grace is also just magic.

Shiva, Kali, Jesus, Allah, nirvana, dark energy, dark matter and the Big Bang singularity are all labels for different facets of magic.

Magic, by any other name, is just as inexplicable.


Why does the earth rotate in 24 hours? It’s just magic

June 26, 2017

The rotational speed of a planetary body around its own axis is primarily set by the angular momentum the mass of matter making up the body had when it first coalesced into a planet. What determined that initial angular momentum is unknown. All known effects thereafter (mainly tidal and all fundamentally gravitational effects) slow this rotation. For the last 3,000 years the earth’s rotation has been slowing down to cause the day to lengthen by about 2 milliseconds per century.

Currently the solar (siderial) day has a mean value of about 2 milliseconds greater than 86,400 seconds while the stellar day (relative to the fixed stars) has a mean value of about 86, 164 seconds.

But we have no real understanding of why it is what it is. We can observe that the day length on the planets are:

We have no real explanation for why Mercury and Venus rotate as slowly as they do. But it is believed that at coalescence the angular momentum must have been similar but subsequent gravitational effects (solar gravitation effects on Mercury and “tidal” effects on Venus and it’s thick atmosphere) have drastically slowed the rotation. But this is mainly speculation. It is now thought that even distant Jupiter may be having an effect on Mercury’s orbit and spin.

Mercury spins three times on its axis for every two revolutions around the sun. It was natural to assume the sun was influencing Mercury’s spin. Now scientists have learned that distant Jupiter – largest planet and second-largest body in our solar system – also may also be influencing Mercury’s orbit and spin, which is more complex than scientists realized.

Among the outer planets there is a very rough correlation between the size of the planet and rotational speed. But there are no apparent correlations with mass, density, distance from the sun or any other parameter. All we can say about any planet’s spin is that it depends on the angular momentum of the material which coalesced to form the planet and thereafter it changed due to collisions as the planet formed, subsequent gravitational interactions with other bodies, and tidal interactions.

SciAmIn our solar system, the giant gas planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune) spin more rapidly on their axes than the inner planets do and possess most of the system’s angular momentum. The sun itself rotates slowly, only once a month. The planets all revolve around the sun in the same direction and in virtually the same plane. In addition, they all rotate in the same general direction, with the exceptions of Venus and Uranus. These differences are believed to stem from collisions that occurred late in the planets’ formation. (A similar collision is believed to have led to the formation of our moon.)

Planetary spin (Pinterest)

The laws of physics (as we know them) did not apply at the Big Bang singularity. All the energy (dark, imaginary and real) in the universe and all the momentum in all the materia (dark or otherwise) making up the universe was determined in the singularity when the laws of physics did not apply. How the Big Bang caused matter to gain spin in the first place is also unknown. So the simple answer to why earth’s day is 24 hours long (and why any planet’s rotational speed is what it is) is that we haven’t a clue.

It’s just magic.


First nothingness was not, then came the Big Bang and the Gods came later

June 12, 2017

The Rig Veda was probably written between 1500 and 1200 BC and consists of 10 mandalas (books). The first and tenth books were probably written last. The 129th verse of the tenth mandala contains what is called The Hymn of Creation. Nasadiya sukta

It begins:

Then even nothingness was not, nor existence,
There was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.
What covered it? Where was it? In whose keeping?

It is not difficult to equate this “then” to “before” the Big Bang and the “it” to all the compressed matter which participated in the Big Bang. (Accepting, of course, that “before” is meaningless when time does not flow).

Then there was neither death nor immortality
Nor was there then the torch of night and day.
The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.
There was that One then, and there was no other.

At first there was only darkness wrapped in darkness.
All this was only unillumined water.
That One which came to be, enclosed in nothing,
arose at last, born of the power of heat.

arose at last, born of the power of heat” sounds very like a modern description of the Big BangEven though the Rig Veda’s main 8 mandalas are in praise of various deities, the first and tenth books take a much more agnostic position – perhaps written to bring some balance. The plethora of gods are effectively made subservient to an unknowable, unfathomable creation event. “An atheist interpretation sees the Creation Hymn as one of the earliest accounts of skeptical inquiry and agnosticism”.

Who really knows?
Who will here proclaim it?
Whence was it produced? Whence is this creation?
The gods came later, with the creation of this universe.
Who then knows whence it has arisen?”

First even nothingness was not and existence was not. Then came the creation of the Universe whether by Big Bang or otherwise. And the Gods came later (made by man in the image of man).


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