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Did physists just mathematicall prove the existence of God?
The New York Times | Oct. 29, 2002 | DENNIS OVERBYE

Posted on 10/30/2002 8:05:24 AM PST by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

stronomers have gazed out at the universe for centuries, asking why it is the way it is. But lately a growing number of them are dreaming of universes that never were and asking, why not?

Why, they ask, do we live in 3 dimensions of space and not 2, 10 or 25? Why is a light ray so fast and a whisper so slow? Why are atoms so tiny and stars so big? Why is the universe so old? Does it have to be that way, or are there places, other universes, where things are different?

Once upon a time (only a century ago), a few billion stars and gas clouds smeared along the Milky Way were thought to encompass all of existence, and the notion of understanding it was daunting — and hubristic — enough. Now astronomers know that galaxies are scattered like dust across the cosmos. And understanding them might require recourse to an even broader canvas, what they sometimes call a "multiverse."

For some cosmologists, that means universes sprouting from one another in an endless geometric progression, like mushrooms upon mushrooms upon mushrooms, or baby universes hatched inside black holes. Others imagine island universes floating and even colliding in a fifth dimension.

For example, Dr. Max Tegmark, a University of Pennsylvania cosmologist, has posited at least four different levels of universes, ranging from the familiar (impossibly distant zones of our own universe) to the strange (space-times in which the fundamental laws of physics are different).

Dr. Martin Rees, a University of Cambridge cosmologist and the Astronomer Royal, said contemplating these alternate universes could help scientists distinguish which features of our own universe are fundamental and necessary and which are accidents of cosmic history. "It's all science, but science for the 21st century, to seek the answers to these questions," Dr. Rees said, adding that he is often accused of believing in other universes.

"I don't believe," he said, "but I think it's part of science to find out."

Some cosmologists now say the realm we call the observable universe — roughly 14 billion light-years deep of galaxies and stars — could be only a small patch of a vast bubble or "pocket" in a much vaster ensemble bred endlessly in a chain of big bangs.

The idea, they say, is a natural extension of the theory of inflation, introduced by Dr. Alan Guth, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1980. That theory asserts that when the universe was less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old it underwent a brief hyperexplosive growth spurt fueled by an antigravitational force embedded in space itself, a possibility suggested by theories of modern particle physics.

Because inflation can grow a whole universe from about an ounce of primordial stuff, Dr. Guth likes to refer to the universe as "the ultimate free lunch." But Dr. Guth and various other theorists — including Dr. Andrei Linde of Stanford, Dr. Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts and Dr. Paul Steinhardt of Princeton — have suggested that it may be an endless one as well. Once inflation starts anywhere, it will keep happening over and over again, they say, spawning a chain of universes, bubbles within bubbles, in a scheme that Dr. Linde called "eternal inflation."

"Once you've discovered it's easy to make a universe out of an ounce of vacuum, why not make a bunch of them?" asked Dr. Craig Hogan, a cosmologist at the University of Washington.

In fact, Dr. Guth said, "Inflation pretty much forces the idea of multiple universes upon us."

Moreover, there is no reason to expect that these universes will be identical. Even within our own bubble, tiny random nonuniformities in the primordial raw material would cause the cosmos to look different from place to place. If the universe is big enough, Dr. Tegmark and others say, everything that can happen will happen, so that if we could look out far enough we would eventually discover an exact replica of ourselves.

Moreover, cosmologists say, the laws of physics themselves, as experienced by creatures like ourselves, confined to four dimensions and the energy scales of ordinary life, could evolve differently in different bubble universes.

"Geography is a now a much more interesting subject than you thought," Dr. John Barrow, a physicist at the University of Cambridge, observed.

Inflation has gained much credit with cosmologists, despite its strangeness, Dr. Guth noted, because it plays a vital role in calculations of the Big Bang that have been vindicated by the detection of the radio waves it produced. The prediction of other universes must therefore be taken seriously, he said.

Lucky Numbers Adjusting the Dials of Nature's Console

The prospect of this plethora of universes has brought new attention to a philosophical debate that has lurked on the edges of science for the last few decades, a debate over the role of life in the universe and whether its physical laws are unique — or, as Einstein once put it, "whether God had any choice."

Sprinkled through the Standard Model, the suite of equations that describe all natural phenomena, are various mysterious constants, like the speed of light or the masses of the elementary particles, whose value is not specified by any theory now known.

In effect, the knobs on nature's console have been set to these numbers. Scientists can imagine twiddling them, but it turns out that nature is surprisingly finicky, they say, and only a narrow range of settings is suitable for the evolution of complexity or Life as We Know It.

For example, much of the carbon and oxygen needed for life is produced by the fusion of helium atoms in stars called red giants.

But a change of only half a percent in the strength of the so-called strong force that governs nuclear structure would be enough to prevent those reactions from occurring, according to recent work by Dr. Heinz Oberhummer of Vienna University of Technology. The result would be a dearth of the raw materials of biology, he said.

Similarly, a number known as the fine structure constant characterizes the strength of electromagnetic forces. If it were a little larger, astronomers say, stars could not burn, and if it were only a little smaller, molecules would never form.

So is this a lucky universe, or what?

In 1974, Dr. Brandon Carter, a theoretical physicist then at Cambridge, now at the Paris Observatory in Meudon, pointed out that these coincidences were not just luck, but were rather necessary preconditions for us to be looking at the universe.

After all, we are hardly likely to discover laws that are incompatible with our own existence.

That insight is the basis of what Dr. Carter called the anthropic principle, an idea that means many things to many scientists. Expressed most emphatically, it declares that the universe is somehow designed for life. Or as the physicist Freeman Dyson once put it, "The universe in some sense must have known that we were coming."

This notion horrifies some physicists, who feel it is their mission to find a mathematical explanation of nature that leaves nothing to chance or "the whim of the Creator," in Einstein's phrase.

"It touches on philosophical issues that scientists oftentimes skirt," said Dr. John Schwarz, a physicist and string theorist at the California Institute of Technology. "There should be mathematical ways of understanding how nature works."

Dr. Steven Weinberg, the University of Texas physicist and Nobel laureate, referred to this so-called "strong" version of the anthropic principle as "little more than mystical mumbo jumbo" in a recent article in The New York Review of Books.

Sorting Universes Finding a Home for the 'A-Word'

Nevertheless, the "A-word" is popping up more and more lately, at conferences and in the scientific literature, often to the groans of particle physicists. The reason is the multiverse.

"It is possible that as theoretical physics develops, that it will present us with multiple universes," Dr. Weinberg said.

If different laws or physical constants prevail in other bubble universes, the conditions may not allow the existence of life or intelligence, he explained.

In that case the anthropic principle loses its mysticism and simply becomes a prescription for deciding which bubbles are capable of supporting life.

But many string theorists still resent the principle as an abridgment on their ambitions. The result has been a spirited debate about what physicists can expect from their theories.

"They have the pious hope that string theory will uniquely determine all the constants of nature," said Dr. Barrow, who wrote the 1984 book "The Cosmological Anthropic Principle" with Dr. Frank Tipler, a Tulane University physicist. The book argued that once life emerges in the universe it will never die.

In a recent paper titled "The Beginning of the End of the Anthropic Principle," three physicists — Dr. Gordon Kane of the University of Michigan, and Dr. Malcolm Perry and Dr. Anna Zytkow, both of Cambridge — argued that a unified theory of physics, as string theory purports to be, when finally formulated, would specify most of the constants of nature or specify relationships between them, leaving little room for anthropic arguments.

"The anthropic principle isn't as anthropic as people wanted," Dr. Kane said in an interview.

But in a rejoinder titled "Why the Universe Is Just So," Dr. Hogan of Washington argued that physics was replete with messy processes like quantum effects, which leave some aspects of reality and the laws of physics to chance. According to string theory, he pointed out, the laws of physics that we mortals experience are low-energy, 4-dimensional shadows, of sorts, of a 10- or 11-dimensional universe. As a result, the so-called "fundamental constants" could look different in different bubbles.

Dr. Hogan admitted that this undermined some of the traditional aspirations of physics, writing, "at least some properties of the world might not have an elegant mathematical explanation, and we can try to guess which ones these are."

Even string theorists like Dr. Kane admit that, in the absence of a final form of the theory, they have no idea how many solutions there may be — one, many or even an infinite number — to the "final" string equations. Each one would correspond to a different condition of space-time, with a different set of physical constants.

"Any set that allows life to happen will have life," he said.

Dark Energies When the Numbers Just Don't Add Up

But even some of the most hard-core physicists, including Dr. Weinberg, suggest they may have to resort to the anthropic principle to explain one of the deepest mysteries looming like a headache over science: the discovery that the expansion of the universe seems to be speeding up, perhaps in a kind of low-energy reprise of an inflation episode 14 billion years ago.

Cosmologists suspect a repulsion or antigravity associated with space itself is propelling this motion. This force, known as the cosmological constant, was first proposed by Einstein back in 1917, and has been a problem ever since — "a veritable crisis," Dr. Weinberg has called it.

According to astronomical observations, otherwise undetectable energy — "dark energy" — accounts for about two-thirds of the mass-energy of the universe today, outweighing matter by two to one. But according to modern quantum physics, empty space should be seething with energy that would outweigh matter in the universe by far, far more, by a factor of at least 1060. This mismatch has been called the worst discrepancy in the history of physics.

But that mismatch is crucial for life, as Dr. Weinberg first pointed out in 1987. At the time there was no evidence for a cosmological constant and many physicists presumed that its magnitude was in fact zero.

In his paper, Dr. Weinberg used so-called anthropic reasoning to pin the value of any cosmological constant to between about one-tenth and a few times the density of matter in the universe. If it were any larger, he said, the universe would blow apart before galaxies had a chance to form, leaving no cradle for the stellar evolution of elements necessary for life or other complicated structures.

The measured value of the constant is about what would be expected from anthropic arguments, Dr. Weinberg said, adding that nobody knows enough about physics yet to tell whether there are other universes with other constants. He called the anthropic principle "a sensible approach" to the cosmological constant problem.

"We may wind up using the anthropic principle to satisfy our sense of wonder about about why things are the way they are," Dr. Weinberg said.

Beyond the Dark Searching for Proof From Better Theories

For Dr. Rees, the Astronomer Royal, it is not necessary to observe other universes to gain some confidence that they may exist. One thing that will help, he explained, is a more precise theory of how the cosmological constant may vary and how it will affect life in the universe. We should live in a statistically typical example of the range of universes compatible with life, he explained. For example, if the cosmological constant was, say, 10 percent of the maximum value consistent with life, that would be acceptable, he said.

"If it was a millionth, that would raise eyebrows."

Another confidence builder would be more support for the theory of inflation, either in the form of evidence from particle physics theory or measurements of the cosmic Big Bang radiation that gave a more detailed model of what theoretically happened during that first trillionth of a trillionth of a second.

"If we had a theory then we would know whether there were many big bangs or one, and then we would know if the features we see are fixed laws of the universe or bylaws for which we can never have an explanation," Dr. Rees said.

In a talk last month at a cosmology conference in Chicago, Dr. Joseph Polchinski, from the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California in Santa Barbara, speculated that the there could be 1060 different solutions to the basic string equations, thus making it more likely that at least one universe would have a friendly cosmological constant.

Reminded that he had once joked about retiring if a cosmological constant was discovered, on the ground that the dreaded anthropic principle would be the only explanation, he was at first at a loss for words.

Later he said he hoped the range of solutions and possible universes permitted by string theory could be narrowed by astronomical observations and new theoretical techniques to the point where the anthropic principle could be counted out as an explanation.

"Life is still good," he said.

But Dr. Hogan said that multiple universes would have to be taken seriously if they came out of equations that science had faith in.

"You have to be open-minded," he said. "You can't impose conditions."

"It's the most scientific attitude," he added.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Unclassified
KEYWORDS: god; physics; realscience; space; stringtheory; universe
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Sorry this is long, but I had to sign up and post it. It's about science so it isn't as slanted as most NYT garbage. The way I read this story, physicists have mathematically come to a road block to explain what two thirds of the Universe is composed of and even the most "hard-core" scientists are starting to call it "God". My favourite part is the quote at the end.
1 posted on 10/30/2002 8:05:24 AM PST by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
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To: Riesen Schwanz
I am ashamed that I made spelling mistake (y is missing in mathematically) on my first post.
Please forgive a newbie.
2 posted on 10/30/2002 8:06:40 AM PST by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
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To: Riesen Schwanz
Since the beginning of time, whenever man could not explain something, he attributed it to God.....just because we can't explain it (yet) does not mean that "God" made it....
3 posted on 10/30/2002 8:11:45 AM PST by ContemptofCourt
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To: Riesen Schwanz
'Scuze my skepticism, but it seems like they have a long, long way to go before they reach that conclusion.

Right now they are just guessing at what they don't know yet.

Not all that different from aboriginals watching the sun rise.
4 posted on 10/30/2002 8:14:34 AM PST by El Sordo
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To: Riesen Schwanz
Before any claim to have proven the existence of God, most decent scientists would attempt at least a rough definition of what they meant by "God".
5 posted on 10/30/2002 8:15:19 AM PST by per loin
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To: ContemptofCourt
Actually, many top scientists now believe God (or for those that refuse to acknowledge him) an intelligent creator formed the universe. This coincides with the big bang theroy as the way it was developed.

Ironically many scientists who were athiests have now come to believe in God through their studies on this and the mistaken belief of evolution (where living beings came from non-living matter) which have been disproved.

Some very interesting, though highly detailed books about that in book stores.

6 posted on 10/30/2002 8:17:12 AM PST by shoedog
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To: Riesen Schwanz
Rationalism is a funny bedfellow. At one point we deny what we can't see (God) and then as we realize the magnitude and immensity of our own universe we suddenly begin to imagine things that we assume are there by drawing conclusions about our prior understanding of galaxies. In the leap we have of course continued to skip over the notion of God because it doesn't fit into our context. I find it funny that scientists are making philosophical leaps about multiverses simply because we at one time believed there was only one galaxy.
7 posted on 10/30/2002 8:19:25 AM PST by Frapster
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To: Riesen Schwanz
Please forgive a newbie.

Why don't you start by explaining your choice of name? Don't you think it's in rather poor taste?

8 posted on 10/30/2002 8:20:50 AM PST by general_re
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To: Riesen Schwanz
People, without thinking much about it, generally agree that God created the universe; and most people like to believe that God created man in His image, and some believe that God actually sent his Son to live on earth as a human for the purpose of guiding people to everlasting life with God in heaven.

What people haven't seemed to consider is that ... If the universe is infinite, then God must be something greater than infinity; making the concept "God" an indeterminate form in mathematical terms.

Personally, I think there is a God; and I think the best way to live life -- while preparing for (should it exist) an afterlife -- is in wisely using the abilities given individuals by that indeterminate form concept -- God.

Considering the fact that reason is man's greatest ability, the question "What where your achievements?" might be the crucial entrance question at the gate.

9 posted on 10/30/2002 8:39:42 AM PST by thinktwice
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To: Riesen Schwanz
You are also ashamed that you spelled "physicists" 'physists'.

I forgive you.


10 posted on 10/30/2002 8:39:50 AM PST by boris
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To: ContemptofCourt
Your statement is correct in that many man-made phoney religions have been invented. However, the preciseness of the universe, small tolerances of constants, DNA structure, etc all point to intelligent design. The designer is Jesus Christ. Numerous prophecies, Saints, miracles, the Resurrection, etc affirm this. All He asks is for you to accept him as your personal savior. In other words, knock and he will let you in. Otherwise, perish. Fairly reasonable request. Reasonable or not, He's God and it's his game.
11 posted on 10/30/2002 8:43:39 AM PST by plain talk
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To: general_re
OK, I admit it, my brain is working slower than normal this morning, I got no sleep last night.
I didn't catch the name until you pointed it out. I agree, names like that aren't exactly appropriate for a conservative forum. It may be appropriate in a yahoo sex chat room, but not here.
12 posted on 10/30/2002 8:50:45 AM PST by JavaTheHutt
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To: *Space; *RealScience
13 posted on 10/30/2002 8:51:29 AM PST by Free the USA
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To: general_re
OK, I admit it, my brain is working slower than normal this morning, I got no sleep last night.
I didn't catch the name until you pointed it out. I agree, names like that aren't exactly appropriate for a conservative forum. It may be appropriate in a yahoo sex chat room, but not here.
14 posted on 10/30/2002 8:52:20 AM PST by JavaTheHutt
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To: Riesen Schwanz
"...physicists have mathematically come to a road block to explain what two thirds of the Universe is composed of..."

"Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."
I Corinthians 13:12
Oh, to sit (kneel) at the feet of the Master Physicist, and have Him patiently explain what now baffles us...

15 posted on 10/30/2002 8:56:04 AM PST by Psalm 73
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To: JavaTheHutt
It seems to me that there are plenty of ways to be funny or unique without going in that particular direction...
16 posted on 10/30/2002 8:58:13 AM PST by general_re
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To: thinktwice; Alamo-Girl
Ethical Monotheism and Alamo-Girl's Origins

A-G, ping.

17 posted on 10/30/2002 9:00:08 AM PST by onedoug
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To: ContemptofCourt; Mind-numbed Robot
Since the beginning of time, whenever man could not explain something, he attributed it to God.....just because we can't explain it (yet) does not mean that "God" made it....

You've done an adequate job of describing the intellectual filter through which you look at history, but not the history itself.

As far as people talking about science never having proven the existence of G-d and thinking that statement actually means something--those people have already assumed an affirmative answer to two previous questions: 1. Is there a definitive test by which "science" or "mathematics" could prove the existence of G-d? 2. Has the test been carried out?

The answer to the first question is that, up to this point, there is not such a test and that there has been little serious thought even devoted to the matter. Given the mindset of naturalism (similar to that of liberalism), there is little desire to spend time on it. The answer to the second question is no.

The immediate thought of many with respect to the first question is that if there has been no test, it just proves that G-d doesn't exist. This assumes that if such a being did exist, his existence would be subject to the conditions of the intellectual tool known as "science" and that, therefore, such a test could be devised. There is no reason to suppose this assumption to be valid. If anything, the most that can be drawn from the inability of "science" to devise such a test is that there are limitations to "science"; it certainly wouldn't be that whatever "science" cannot measure cannot possibly exist.
18 posted on 10/30/2002 9:02:49 AM PST by aruanan
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To: RadioAstronomer; longshadow; PatrickHenry
19 posted on 10/30/2002 9:04:31 AM PST by Aracelis
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To: plain talk
"...knock and he will let you in. Otherwise, perish. Fairly reasonable request. Reasonable or not, He's God and it's his game."

Preach it, Brother! That's some "plain talk" if I've ever heard it - good stuff.

20 posted on 10/30/2002 9:06:32 AM PST by Psalm 73
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