Tuesday, April 5, 2011

(1) New Cosmology

The New Cosmology about our universe starts out with the
"Big Bang, originally labeled by antagonist Fred Hoyle. He
actually didn't accept the Big Bang theory and used the term
in a derisive way. However, in 1964, Arno Penzias and Robert
Wilson accidentally discovered the cosmic background radiation
of the Big Bang At the time they were in charge of a new Bell
Laboratories microwave receiver, and this receiver kept
picking-up signals--from everywhere! They thought there were
kinks in the receiver, no, then they figured it must be some sort
of outside interference, like birds defecating on the receiver,
again no. So it had to be cosmic radiation residue from the
Big Bang!

At the same time, in nearby Princeton University, scientists
were intent looking for this cosmic background radiation. Word
got around, and they knew that Wilson and Penzias' microwave
receiver had done it. And 25 years later, in 1989, the Cosmic
Background Explorer satellite (COBE) was launched--and its
findings were consistent regarding the cosmic microwave
background of the Big Bang.

As to what this means is yet another story. The theoretics for the
Big Bang were already in place, years before its background
radiation was picked-up by Penzias and Wilson. In 1927
Georges Lemaitre, a physicist and a Roman Catholic priest
from Belgium, had presented his theory of what was to become
known as the Big Bang. He believed that the universe began as
a single point, a form no larger than a cell, and it "exploded."
In a few seconds the universe began to expand into what is now
considered a dense, hot "primordial soup." Later elements evolved
that allowed for the formation of galaxies, millions upon millions,
with billions of suns and presumably solar systems. Hence the
possibility of finding planets, eventually, that might sustain Life.
We have only begun the search, and someday we might be

Using special astrophysical technology, the latest estimate is
that our universe is some 13.7 billion years old. Scientists
believe that it's an expanding universe, with the galaxies moving
farther away from one another. And here it begins to get strange.
Astronomers today figure that our present universe is composed
of Dark Energy (74%), Dark Matter (22%), and Normal Matter (4%)--
and out of that 4%, most is gas and only a minute percentage
accounts for stars and their systems.

And whatever might be Dark Matter and Dark Energy? They are
hypothetical terms that cosmologists use. They believe that
Dark Matter can be inferred by its gravitational effects on normal
matter. As for Dark Energy, it is believed that it permeates all
space and is behind the increasing expansion rate of the universe,

As for the surface of the universe, geometrists are continuously
challenged. The geometry of the universe considers two
possibilities, either the universe is curved or it is flat. And recently,
NASA announced that their WMAP (Wilkinson Microwave
Anisotropy Probe) spacecraft has pretty much confirmed that
our universe is flat--with only a 2% margin of error.

So whatever does this mean? Well a flat universe involves
accelerative expansion. As cosmologists put, absent
Dark Energy a flat universe will expand forever with an
eventual fixed rate. But with the presence of Dark Energy--
all 74% of it--the acceleration of the universe slows down,
but in time eventually increases.

Alas, an uncomfortable topic--the ultimate fate of the universe!
The candidates have been as follows: Heat Death, the Big
Freeze, the Big Crunch, and more recently the Big Rip. If the
WMAP is definitely correct about ours being a flat universe, and
the measurement of Dark Energy is on the mark, well than the
leading candidate is the Big Rip. If so, all normal matter will
disintegrate into unbound elementary particles as the rest of
the universe continues to expand infinitely. But cosmologists
tell us that sad event is a long, long way off. Still it's not a
comfortable thought.

Overall, however, our fledgling empirical observations of our
universe are leading into a Mystery. If we continue to increase
our knowledge, who is to say what Wonder we might discover.
But for now it's just strangely weird.

There's Black Holes, for example. Cosmologists speculate that
they are usual in the centers of galaxies. Our contemporary
astrophysical technology helps us feel around the conclusion
that there is such a thing as a Black Hole. However, one does
not want to get close to such a cosmic beast. According to
general relativity, a Black Hole possesses a gravitational field
so powerful that nothing, but nothing can escape its pull. This
includes matter and even light. Nothing escapes--maybe.

Some theorists believe that a Black Hole might actually be
a wormhole. Thus it is a kind of an inner tunnel where one
might travel from one point to another point in the universe.
Hard to figure, however, if everything that enters such a hole
is destroyed. On the other hand, maybe matter seemingly
dumped into a Black Hole arrives at the other end of the tunnel.

Regardless, cosmic theories are fascinating There's the String
Theory that combines general relativity and quantum mechanics
into a quantum theory of gravity. This theory also involves
additional dimensions to our usual three spatial dimensions
plus our one dimension of time. And further developed String
Theory moves into what is deemed the Holographic Principle.
More on that as we get into Quantum Theory.

The basis of Quantum Theory can be summarized in three
propositions: (1) In the subatomic world, few things can be
predicted with 100 % precision; however, accurate predictions
can be made about the probability of any particular outcome;
(2) One has to work with the probabilities rather than certainties,
because it is impossible--for an observer--to describe all
aspects of a particle at once as to its speed and location; and
(3) Electromagnetic energy, such as light or heat, does not
always behave like a continuous wave--rather it is grainy
because energy can be transferred only in quantum packages,
and thus light has a dual character, sometimes displaying
wavelike aspects and in other circumstances as particles.

And the magic component in this cosmic story, whether it's about
us or whether about the whole universe, is Energy!

In 1900 Max Planck had originated the theory of Quantum
Mechanics, which is a theory of energy as emanated in discrete
packages. Soon Albert Einstein took Planck's idea one step
further, assuming that light was quantized. And later David
Bohm, a premier physicist, known as the "Father of Quantum
Mechanics," believed that this underlying background of Energy
to be the plenum of the universe. Bohm likened this plenum,
this immense background of Energy. to be one whole and
unbroken movement that he called the "holomovement."

At least some major cosmological theorists say out-loud
that there is a Plenum of the Universe. But hold on! There just
might be a problem. Could be that our universe is *not* the one
and only universe!

Maybe the theories are getting out-of-hand. There's the
theory that there is a multi-universe derived from the many-
worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. In quantum
mechanics, there is this paradoxical situation in which an
object often seems to exist in two or more different states at
the same time. (Remember the dual character of light, or
electron, sometimes appearing as a wave, sometimes a particle.)

The many-worlds interpretation deals with this, theorizing that
if an electron seems to exist in two states, then that at every
quantum mechanical event, the universe splits into two, This
could go on infinitum, it you will. And ultimately this could lead
to incredibly huge numbers of branching universes.

And there is yet another theory that really is boggling--especially
if true. That there is a Parent Universe that spawns universes,
including ours. This idea is interesting, because the Big Bang
seems almost like a "birthing." Maybe this theory of a Parent
Universe isn't so way out after all.

[The above information is an extract from one of my earlier
works, the "Sol Scientia." ]