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KuangSi2Today, the Wilkenson Microwave Anisotropy Probe won the prestigious Gruber Cosmology Prize for "observations and analyses of ancient light have provided the unprecedentedly rigorous measurements of the age, content, geometry, and origin of the universe that now comprise the Standard Cosmological Model." This experiment eliminated a collection of theories about how the universe began, and left the Inflationary Big Bang theory standing alone. (More specifically, it left the Lambda Cold Dark Matter Inflationary Big Bang Theory standing alone.)

This award mentions WMAP's principal investigator Charles Bennett explicitly, and is shared amongst the WMAP science team members.

In 2003, WMAP was also awarded Science Magazine's Breakthrough of the Year. It is an experiment that measures the fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR), and by doing so, it is gathering data from the early universe -- when it was 380,000 years old. Looking at the CMBR is studying the light left over from the Big Bang, which has the same structure as it did shortly after the universe began.


The CMBR is the oldest light in the universe. Early on, the universe contained a hot plasma that was opaque to light, but when everything cooled to the point where atoms began to form (an event that is misnamed recombination), the universe became transparent to light. As the plasma cleared up, the light suffered its last scattering, and has traveled on unmolested ever since.

By studying this light, we can get a picture of what the universe looked like at the time of last scattering, right after the universe cooled enough that the plasma cleared. The fluctuations in that light tell us where the dense points were in the early universe that caused the gravitational collapses that clustered into galaxies. We can get the relative composition and age of the universe. Most notably, we can tell that the universe is inflationary.

Inflation occurred just after the Big Bang, when the universe expanded at an enormous rate. You can see this represented on the horn shaped diagram below, where time is along the axis of the horn, and the horn represents the space-like properties of the universe. The inflationary period is shown at the far left, where the radius of the horn grows quickly with respect to the time axis along the center of the horn.

The place on the left side of the graph where the horn stops getting wider is where the inflationary epoch ended. The physics between that end and the time of last scatter is pretty simple, so we can use the CMBR data to trace the events in our universe back until 10-32 seconds after the big bang. The temperature fluctuations in the light can tell us about the density profile of the early universe which can tell us something about how galaxies formed. Because we can measure this light, we know quite a lot about the content and structure of the universe.


So what does WMAP tell us?

The universe is 13.73 billion years old, plus or minus 120 million years. We know the age of the universe accurate to within the age of the dinosaurs.

The universe is inflationary. That is to say, of all the self-consistent cosmological theories we have, the ones that include inflation get the CMBR predictions right. We cannot say for sure that inflation is right, but we can rule out all of the theories that get the CMBR wrong -- and the inflationary models are the ones left standing.


The universe is flat and highly uniform. WMAP nailed down the curvature of the universe to within 1% of Euclidean flat. That doesn't mean the universe is shaped like a latke -- it means that Euclidean geometry is pretty good on a large scale. Also, ordinary atoms make up 4.6% of the universe.

The universe is dominated by dark energy. Dark energy makes up 72.1% of the universe, to within 1.5%. This means that universal expansion is speeding up -- we are undergoing a gentle inflation, so to speak. The universe will not collapse back down into a point as some theories predict.

The pie charts come from fitting the CMBR to cosmological models, and shows the composition of the universe at the time of last scatter as well as today. This is where dark matter and dark energy come from -- we see their effects in our measurements. Neutrinos and photons lose energy as the universe expands, so their energy density decreases. Atoms and dark matter become less dense over time as the universe gets bigger. The dark energy density doesn't appear to decrease very much. Although dark energy didn't contribute much to the universe when it was young, as the universe aged, it became dominated by dark energy -- which accelerates the universe's expansion. That acceleration is depicted in the timeline diagram above where you can see the bell curving outward as the diagram approaches contemporary time.

Nature was kind to us in that the CMBR light is so promordial that it gives us a picture of what the very early universe looks like. WMAP did a fantastic job in mapping the anisotropy (it superceded COBE), and the Planck satellite is now taking similar data.

Congratulations to Professor Bennett and the WMAP science team! (And my darling mr. rb137.)

Included in this award are:

Chris Barnes, Rachel Bean, Olivier Doré, Joanna Dunkley, Benjamin M. Gold, Michael Greason, Mark Halpern, Robert Hill, Gary F. Hinshaw, Norman Jarosik, Alan Kogut, Eiichiro Komatsu, David Larson, Michele Limon, Stephan S. Meyer, Michael R. Nolta, Nils Odegard, Lyman Page, Hiranya V. Peiris, Kendrick Smith, David N. Spergel, Greg S. Tucker, Licia Verde, Janet L. Weiland, Edward Wollack, and Edward L. (Ned) Wright.

Originally posted to rb137 on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by J Town, Science Matters, and SciTech.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Lovely. (154+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Gooserock, llbear, BonesJones, bubbanomics, JanF, ontheleftcoast, eataTREE, KelleyRN2, AnotherAmericanLie, ursoklevar, Garrett, bythesea, Otteray Scribe, slowbutsure, Miggles, retrograde, chimpy, OLinda, blueoasis, nomandates, slksfca, Mary Mike, Phil S 33, kerflooey, Cassandra Waites, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Roger Fox, yojimbo, wader, Oke, Margd, David54, Geenius at Wrok, Timbuk3, palantir, muddy boots, Habitat Vic, Alumbrados, AlyoshaKaramazov, jim in IA, carpunder, Jim P, ferg, greycat, OnlyWords, leftyguitarist, cooper888, GDbot, leathersmith, Glen The Plumber, bobsc, tonyahky, eeff, GeorgeXVIII, Missys Brother, wayoutinthestix, Ekaterin, marleycat, Matt Z, juca, eyesoars, FarWestGirl, bnasley, scribeboy, rb608, profh, tiponeill, One Pissed Off Liberal, chrississippi, flaky draky, whenwego, deha, Wreck Smurfy, psnyder, dougymi, Rumarhazzit, Timaeus, Valtin, Shockwave, bread, SoCalHobbit, gr8trtl, Angie in WA State, houyhnhnm, davehouck, Pithy Cherub, John DE, gizmo59, kbman, Orinoco, disrael, implicate order, G2geek, Liberal Thinking, alnep, ZedMont, Christy1947, Involuntary Exile, belinda ridgewood, mkor7, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, buckstop, jadt65, Larsstephens, Ironic Chef, owlbear1, thomask, basquebob, denise b, pgm 01, itsbenj, dkmich, jayden, Cedwyn, Emerson, koNko, tobendaro, sodalis, Texdude50, Don Enrique, Dragon5616, No one gets out alive, historys mysteries, petulans, leeleedee, absdoggy, Marc in KS, statsone, BYw, MT Spaces, david78209, p gorden lippy, Deep Texan, Apost8, PrahaPartizan, ER Doc, side pocket, Albanius, spunhard, patchmo13, Loudoun County Dem, cybersaur, citisven, Ooooh, trumpeter, paradise50, Knucklehead, madhaus, Aunt Pat, bill warnick, truong son traveler, Hopeful Skeptic, Randtntx


  •  this was most interesting to me (26+ / 0-)

    given what I learned in a bare-bones undergraduate class years ago:

    This means that universal expansion is speeding up -- we are undergoing a gentle inflation, so to speak. The universe will not collapse back down into a point as some theories predict.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

    by commonmass on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:10:49 PM PDT

    •  It's pretty eerie. (24+ / 0-)

      We don't understand Dark Energy well, and there are arguments about the ways theorists try and justify what we see in the universe. There is egregiously more dark energy than we expect, and we have to find a way to resolve that issue. Much more work to be done...

      •  I find extra dimensional expansion compelling (10+ / 0-)

        There are a few people looking at the role extra dimensional space may play in all this.  (Think less Buckaroo Banzai, more Brian Greene.)

        Based on my limited understanding of these approaches, they really only describe the mechanism of expansion.  They don't quite get to the whys or hows regarding the phenomenon of inflation occurring at this specific juncture of the universe's history.

        I'd love to see a survey of work in this direction and see who is positing that one or more sub-planck folded dimensions may be increasing in scale versus dimensions that may be further compacting in scale versus a combination versus inflation as a phenomenon resulting from the mere coupling of 9+ dimensional space.  And if any of those sub-planck dimensions turn out to be dynamic, what the friggin' hell does that mean for fundamental physics and the stability of matter as we know it?!?

        A part of me, who isn't qualified to write any such paper on the subject, can't help but think about the universe in terms of shapes that are of fractional dimension--such as space filling curves and fractals.  On an intuitive level these phenomena and the matrix of dynamic compacted dimensions with inflating dimensional space seem to be connected. Admittedly, that may be just because they all represent weird geometry beyond most human sensorial cognition.

        I find work in this direction to be very cool, creative and mind blowing, even if all theories in this direction are ultimately proven wrong.  Some people hate this leading edge of basic science where it often dances with metaphysics.  I love it.

        •  Greene is a string theorist par (9+ / 0-)

          excellence, but um, the lack of any known experimental data takes the edge off.  The Isaac Asimov roundtable (Neil deGrasse Tyson was the host - as always) at the Hayden Planetarium was very interesting because Dr. Jim Gates (on loan to MIT) displayed his beautiful fractal images while Dr. Greene argued for string theory and dimensions based on the math.  Theoretical vs. experimental in the case of the vibrating strings and the branes.

          Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up...East Wing Rules

          by Pithy Cherub on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:51:22 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Experimental Data Tends to Lag Behind the Math (5+ / 0-)

            One of the fascinating oddities of physics from the age of enlightenment forward is that mathematics, often not understood beyond the language of mathematics, seems to predict often by decades, if not nearly a century, dynamics that only later be fully understood and described in the vernacular.  It's as if these obscure corners of mathematics represent our collective cosmological intuition.

            IIRC, Maxwell's equations were way out in front of our understanding of electrodynamics.

            I like to think this is the territory that the heavy on math light on experimental data crowd operate in.  Brane universes are really neat and the mathematics of them tend to work pretty well.

        •  me too: the region where... (5+ / 0-)

          .... the edge of theory starts to reach into metaphysical questions.  

          From what you said, it seems that if folded dimensions are increasing in scale, then there comes a point where they have an impact on the basic geometry of spacetime.  But what if inflation is somehow proportional such that this effect remains in a stable relationship to effects upon the normal four dimensions?  Would there come a point where sub-Planck-scale phenomena have observable or measurable effects?

          Despite the falsification of theories that have the universe re-collapsing back to a single point (from which one might speculate that it recycles with another big bang), I can't help but feel that the principle of non-uniqueness is still relevant.  The idea that we are observing the "one and only" cycle of our universe, would make this universe unique, and that just doesn't seem likely.  So I'm still looking for theories that might result in the system recycling indefinitely, whereby we are in a non-unique position.  

          Seems to me the connection between fractal space and inflating dimensional space, is that the latter may at some point in its evolution appear to be the former.  Or the former may be the observable aspect (or at least that which can be calculated in theory) of the evolution of the latter.  

          To what extend do you think it's likely that altering the geometry of spacetime would result in collapsing one or more of the normal four dimensions?  And would that collapse produce "no distance" along that axis, or something else?

          In my experience, when "more reasonable" theories are discarded, it usually turns out that nature is more interesting than we expected.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:58:45 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Why is any of this metaphysical? (7+ / 0-)

            Part of it is certainly physics that we don't as yet understand. Some of it may be physics that we can never understand, because we just don't have the capability to think in the ways we would need to think to understand it. But metaphysical? Doesn't seem to be there.

            "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

            by sagesource on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:03:04 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  the definition of metaphysics i'm using.... (6+ / 0-)

              ... is basically "speculation about physical phenomena, that can't be turned into testable hypotheses due to limitations in our present theories and methods of observing" combined with "speculations about physical phenomena, of a kind that involve concepts brought in from philosophy."

              Your first two sentences converge with the first part of my definition.  

              For an example of the last part of my definition, see the item in my original comment about "non-uniqueness."  That's a philosophical idea, and I worked backward from there to the idea that the universe shouldn't be unique.  Strictly speaking that's bad science: one shouldn't work backward from a philosophical idea to a "should-be-this-way" statement.  If I had done it more skillfully (than there is room for in comments), then it would qualify as metaphysics without bad science.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:52:37 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Pretty much agree with this (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek, Pithy Cherub, Aunt Pat

                Another thing I'd add regarding "speculations about physical phenomena, of a kind that involve concepts brought in from philosophy" and related to Pithy Cherub's post on mathematics and experimental data is this:

                Despite your description of "bad science," I get the sense that the many folks working out at these margins are guided by intuitive revelations brought about by rapid fire and haunting thought experiments.  There are tales of Einstein first conducting numerous meandering thought experiments as he stumbled through his early work on relativity.  The descriptions I've read of his thought experiment process sounds more like the methods of a philosopher than those of a theoretical physicist.  (Perhaps that is part of Einsteins mystique and why he captured the public imagination so!)

                Even when the math leads, as I try to describe in my comment above responding to Pithy Cherub, when dealing with esoterica like relativity, quantum mechanics, string theory and beyond, the methods one arrives at interpretations--what the sets of descriptive mathematics mean for our direct understanding of nature--these paths seem quite similar to those of philosophers.

                i.e.: The quantum waveform of classic particles?  What does that description really mean?  Some assert it is a probability wave.  Others assert it is actually the identity of the particle and that each electron in your body smears from "here" to the Andromeda galaxy, with the bulk of their identity being in the here and now.  And just like with philosophy (for better or worse), aesthetics admittedly become selection criteria.  Again, likely as bad science as the celestial spheres were.  But part of this is about the stories we tell ourselves in order to make sense of the universe.  So how can aesthetics and philosophy not eventually play a supporting role?

                •  OK.... (3+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Brooklyn Jim, Pithy Cherub, Aunt Pat

                  .... When I said "bad science" I was speaking of my own layperson meanderings, and not those of working scientists.  

                  Agreed that all manner of thought processes can play a role.  Kekule got the structure of the benzene ring in the hypnagogic state (vivid imagery on the way from waking to sleeping), and Crick got the structure of DNA on a psychiatrist-supervised LSD trip back in the days before LSD was regulated.  

                  Plenty more examples where those come from.  I'm a strong proponent of the use of altered states to get new perspectives on data and hypotheses (though of course never take altered states input as "literally true," I call that the error of "psychedelic fundamentalism").  

                  In the same way, aesthetics play a role and emotional predispositions play a role.  Elsewhere in this diary I'm going on about causality violations, but of course when one stands back from that, it translates to: "information from the future getting into the present," and the logical question "where the heck is the future anyway?" and the strong emotional predisposition against superdeterminism (and in favor of free will).  

                  Yet none the less, allowing for a constant but low level of statistical causality violations would solve some thorny problems (and create others), and it's worth doing the thought experiments to figure out what would change in that case.   And it might be possible to allow for those without sacrificing free will.

                  For me the goal is to get to falsifiable hypotheses using variables that can be operationalized in a practical way.  It doesn't matter if someone gets there by doing a bunch of math and going "aha!" or if they get there by taking LSD and watching the visual images.  All of what happens on that side of the equation is "input," and then it gets turned into experimental designs and the results of those experiments are the "output."   And it's perfectly OK to do metaphysics, though preferably in a way that comports with empirical findings.

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:09:52 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Oh your definition of "bad science" is spot on (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Aunt Pat, G2geek

                    We simply need to have some structure of standards, flawed as they may be, to separate intuitive knowledge from distilled scientific knowledge.

                    If anything, I was just shootin' pool with you.  I thoroughly enjoy these sorts of exchanges.

                    So just like snark and sarcasm doesn't always register, please don't mistake my responses here for anything but shared enthusiasm for what you're putting out there!

                    And I forgot about that anecdote regarding the acid trip and the structure of DNA!  Thanks for the reminder.  I think I first heard that story from John Holland when I took a seminar in grad school on his work with induction and neural networks.

                    Love the bit about causality violations too.  Must admit I've had my own superstitious musings after learning of research into the possibility of birds navigation somehow being informed in part by entangled particles.  Spooky action at a distance indeed!

                    •  it's all good, and about those birds... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Brooklyn Jim

                      Yes, we need to have the standards in place, on the "output" side.  Observe, hypothesize, test, publish, refine.  The methods are well-known and well-reinforced by the culture of science.  However one arrives at a hypothesis, it still has to be tested using the standard methods.  

                      Sometimes I don't get snark but that's OK, and yeah these exchanges are valuable.  

                      Re. birds:  I recall that there were good empirical findings about this.  Apparently birds use entanglement to produce a "visual" representation of magnetic fields in their environment.  Also something about ferrous compounds in their eyes.  So the result is that bird-vision includes color or line gradients that conform to or represent the magnetic field lines in their field of view.  And they use this to navigate for migration purposes.  

                      Apparently it's robust enough to enable them to differentiate natural from artificial magnetic phenomena and not get confused.   For example you have a scrap metal yard with an electromagnetic crane that handles the scrap.  Birds flying overhead would see this as a strong localized field and recognize that it is not part of the field they are using to judge direction of travel.  By analogy flying into a cloud and recognizing it as a cloud.  The birds might not have any idea that the field around the scrap metal crane is artificial, but they would see it as a localized disturbance and not part of the pattern they were using.

                      What the bird finding demonstrates, is that QM effects can operate at animal body temperatures.  That's a pretty significant breakthrough.  There was also a finding about QM effects in plant photosynthesis, so there we are talking about ambient temperatures that can range higher than animal body temps.  

                      This stuff strikes me as strong support for the Penrose/Hameroff theory of neural computation, that involves QM effects in the proteins that make up the skeletal structures inside the neurons.  This supplies the missing piece of how it is that neurons can function as nodes in neural networks.  It also strongly implies that neural computation is a heck of a lot more complex than the "strong AI" theories presuppose.  And it also strongly implies that complex neural calculation can occur in organisms with relatively simple neural networks.  

                      One of the criticisms of Penrose/Hameroff is that they were calling for QM effects in warm wet brains, which was considered to not be possible.  The bird findings and plant findings overcome that critique.  

                      But how does this get you to "superstitious musings," or what did you mean by that term?

                      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                      by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:09:45 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

          •  In response to your direct questions: (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat
            To what extend do you think it's likely that altering the geometry of spacetime would result in collapsing one or more of the normal four dimensions?  And would that collapse produce "no distance" along that axis, or something else?
            These are difficult questions.

            First a bit of background: I am an artist whose work is driven often by ontological concerns across the spectrum of scales of our existence.  My graduate work in systems theory had me slogging through non-linear dynamics courses (the math heavy sort) to gain as solid a footing as I could in this territory.  (We were forced to trace things like the Lorentz attractor from formula to its signature shape and we learned the spooky voodoo of zero dimensionalization of unwanted terms in multibody problems.)

            In recent years, as a minor but nearly daily studio practice, I began free hand drawing higher dimensional (and eventually transdimensional) shapes working all the way into the sixth dimension.  I've yet to draw a 7 dimensional cube--but I hope to someday as the computer generated 7 dimensional lattices lose all comprehension of cubic space for me.

            For some, drawing as a method of understanding might be considered bad science or math.  But years ago, I had the privilege of meeting and working alongside a knot theorist at a research institute (who in fact was writing to my knowledge the first knot theory plugin for Mathematica).  His work helped liberate me, a very visual person, from the notion that all lines of inquiry need be alphanumeric in nature.  This was further reinforced as I got deeper into systems theory and saw the degree to which stuff like NK networks and generative transformations relied heavily upon non-alphanumeric visualizations in order to garner insight.

            Anyways, this meditative and mandala like practice of drawing regularly in higher dimensional spaces has slowly turned into an attempt to simply aesthetically understand >3 dimensional non-nested spaces.  Over time, some revelations have come to light.  Few are fully formed and very few are easily articulated verbally.  In some ways it's much more similar to how a dancer comes to a much deeper understanding of their own phsyique and fine motor groupings.

            For example, did you realize that the traditional "corners" of a five dimensional square (a 2 dimensional shape) are cubes?  It's there and obvious in the numbers.  Perhaps so obvious that it sounds trivial.  But the first time your freehand five dimensional cubic shapes become clear enough to render this geometry immediate, the clouds part and golden light streams from heaven and an angel or two can be heard clearing its throat.

            So, given all that background, your questions again:

            To what extend do you think it's likely that altering the geometry of spacetime would result in collapsing one or more of the normal four dimensions?  
            As I understand it, spacetime, if you accept the string theorists model of several more spatial dimensions compacted below the Planck length, the compacted dimensions ARE spacetime.  And when big bang, inflation, and string theories all come close to working together, the expansion of space (not spacetime IF I understand the interpretations correctly) is due to a nearly incomprehensible amount of energy.

            What might cause any of those dimensions to collapse involves a few questions related to interpretive stuff we tend to take for granted: can the three dimensions of expanded space be decoupled as easily as mathematical representations of Euclidean geometry make it seem?  Or if one compacted, would all three need to compact?  Similarly, if there are compacted sub-Planck spatial dimensions, are these also coupled?  Could a sub-Plank dimension expand and trade places with one of the spatial dimensions of spacetime?  Time is a nasty bug bear as well.  What is it?  In order to understand it better, a few people have been writing speculative papers and trying to work up models that involve 2+ dimensions of time.  IIRC there was a grad student coming out of Standford in the late 90's-early aughts who was getting some attention for his work in this direction.

            And one thing I've not even begun to throw into this mix is some of the brane space models of the universe that involve spacetime as we know it nested inside at least 1 if not several more dimensions, not too dissimilar I think from how the compacted sub-Planck dimensions are nested within our universe.  The thing that is spooky about the brane approach and nesting of dimensions for me though is it seems one could quickly find that those universes are turtles all the way down.  But hell, what if the Iroquois had it right and the universe in fact IS turtles all the way down?!

            The tl;dr answer to your first question: don't know.

            And would that collapse produce "no distance" along that axis, or something else?
            This as I take is a question of axioms.  There are fringe pockets of pure mathematics that are all about challenging axioms.  I remember some mathematician getting press a number of years back for work on was it Omega complexes or something that he called it?  Basically he claimed he had devised a method of proving that all mathematical knowledge existed in discrete islands, hopelessly separated by unknowable and insoluble territory.  It was really depressing stuff to read, in a Delueze and Guattari sort of way.

            For me, when I draw my transdimensional shapes, because I construct them via a means of transformational offsetting of nodes, I will sometimes simply not expand certain corners during one or several transformations.  (i.e. a triangle can be constructed as a square where one dimension expands at one extreme but remains compacted at 0 at the other.  And it is from this territory, with transdimensional cubes that are 3 to 3+ dimensional at different points in there geometry that I find myself garnering complicated, difficult to articulate insights into possible geometries related to universal inflation.  Or at the very least, deep sympathies!)  I find zero to be an EXTREMELY useful tool for my processes of investigation.  I'm really not sure how I'd even begin to incorporate negative dimensionality if such a thing could even exist.

            Someone working from a more alphanumeric basis could probably more easily answer, at least in a non-interprative manner, what negative dimensionality would do to matrices.

          •  Have you looked at the "Fecund Universe" theory? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat

            The idea that universes "bud" via black holes - that each one holds a universe of its own. Ours had a parent, who likely had a parent, and so on, back to the Firstverse. It's interesting because it explains how our universe "happens" to be so life-friendly - the conditions for life-friendliness correlate to the conditions for black-hole-friendliness.

            Universes "evolve", each offspring being slightly different, but largely the same, as the parent. Successful universes reproduce more, and so on. Cosmic evolution mirroring biological evolution.

            Ours is a successful universe. But not the first, and not the only.

            "Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage." - H. L. Mencken

            by Jaxpagan on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:02:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Yep. There goes my undergrad thesis. (5+ / 0-)

      Granted, it was in philosophy, not physics. But I was still holding out for the expansion/contraction theory. Ah, well.

      -8.38, -7.74 My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world. - Jack Layton

      by Wreck Smurfy on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 07:54:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If the Universe is flat then... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dragon5616, Aunt Pat

      it really did come from nothing.  

      If it is flat, then in three dimensions, there are 10 finite closed flat 3-manifolds, of which 6 are orientable and 4 are non-orientable.    That sounds a lot like string theory... except  I thoght Witten solved the problem of string theory with 11 dimensions. so there is one too many... and I'm confused again.

      Call Mitt Romney's campaign and ask "How much are the FREE bumper stickers, today?"

      by 8ackgr0und N015e on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:43:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Or rather, like in HHGTTG; mostly flat. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cybersaur, Aunt Pat
        to within 1% of Euclidean flat
        Watch out for Vogons.

        What struck me was the proportion of dark material in the universe.  IOW, most of the universe is stuff we know diddly about.  (using "we" to cover me, myself, and I).

        I have no idea where those conclusions come from, but it would be an interesting adventure to study cosmology enough to understand the Lambda Cold Dark Matter Inflationary Big Bang Theory.

        I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

        by tle on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:00:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  You see the wingnuts were correct. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat

        The universe is flat, just like the earth.

        And this proves that the whole thing is only 6,000 yrs old.

        Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.

        by NCJim on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:10:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Okay, smart guy... (24+ / 0-) what's "dark matter" and "dark energy", and, if the universe is primarily composed of these things, why is it that no one seems to be able to describe, explain, or show it to us?

    Wizard: Behold, I have proven that the universe is made of fleem!
    Onlooker: You amaze us, O wise one. But what is "fleem"?
    Wizard: Hmm? Oh, I don't know that!

    I support torturous regimes! Also, I kick puppies.

    by eataTREE on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:15:52 PM PDT

    •  You ask tough questions! (24+ / 0-)

      Dark matter is really an Occam's razor explanation for why galaxies seem to behave differently with respect to gravity. We could choose to think that each galaxy had its own set of physical laws, or we could find a simple solution that will allow the galaxies to share the same physics.

      Dark Matter is a simple solution -- it allows us to solve for how dynamics differ from galaxy to galaxy by applying physically similar distrbutions of matter within them. We just can't detect the stuff at present.

      So, if our present understanding of gravity is correct (experiments indicate that it is pretty good), we can expect there to be undetectable (to us) matter in the galaxies we observe.

      There is a lot of crazy speculation about what dark matter could be, but at present it is just speculation.

      We get dark energy from the rate at which we observe the universe expanding...

      •  The prof I had years ago for that introductory (10+ / 0-)

        class I mentioned up-thread kind of described it as a kind of cosmic balance or tare weight, always "x" and unquantifiable, which somehow makes our calculations work out. Or some such thing.

        Part of what makes science cool is not all the stuff we know for sure, but all the stuff we can't really wrap our minds around.

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

        by commonmass on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:28:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  When was the assumption that redshift (6+ / 0-)

        is a measure of speed, from which you could then derive distances, proven?

        Seems like the whole edifice of current cosmology rests on "redshift = velocity" but I can't imagine how that could be proven short of "flying a tape measure" out to the nearest stars.

        If I understand correctly, the equation is adapted from the Doppler effect, how sounds alter with distance in the atmosphere. But if there's no interstellar atmosphere, why would the analogy hold?

        Further, as to gravity... we've all seen those "science illustrated" things where our Sun is a dot, the earth a microscopic speck an inch away, and the nearest star is a dot 4 or 5 miles away. Has anyone ever measured the gravitational effects of one tiny dot on another at those distances?

        I appreciate the essay, and science is always fun, but I do wonder, what with dark matter and dark energy being unrecorded on any instrument at all, but owing their existence to mathematical constructs rather than -- well, --physical observation, just how much real physics is going on with all that.

        The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

        by Jim P on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:24:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  "redshift" is Doppler shift. (9+ / 0-)

          You know what colors to expect if the universe is static. The redshift (or blueshift) is just the Doppler effect acting on that light because of the relative speed between us and the source. It isn't an assumption. It's a measurable fact.

          Light is Doppler shifted just as sound. The effect isn't dependent on the presence or absense of a medium (like air). It just depends on the relative motion between the source and the receiver. The effect is the same for both sound and light.

          Check some of my earlier comments -- I explain the rationale behind dark matter and dark energy. The explanation is pretty short, though, and you might have more questions. Fire away.  :)

          •  Thanks for answering. I really like your stuff. (5+ / 0-)

            Though I remain unconvinced.

            As to "measurable fact, not an assumption" again, was this confirmed by ... but how?, without a station at, say, Alpha Centauri? Without a physical ability to check, don't you just have "the assumption confirms the conclusion, and the conclusion confirms the assumption" thing going on?

            Reading around, I've seen it argued that redshift is a function of age, and not distance. Though a complete layman who might easily garble things (but one who won the Brooklyn Diocese Science Medal when a kid!) it seems a young star, in this view, is simply more energetic and throwing out more juice in the red range. Nothing to do with distance. And then: Quasars! (sorry if that's incoherent, but then so am I. You get the drift, I'm sure.)

            I was deeply struck, when a youth, by Ptolemy's model of the heavenly spheres which mostly (an important qualifier) matched observations, for a time, but was completely wrong. Seems every development in cosmology always has these loose ends. Now in accounting, you might balance your books to find there's a one-cent difference between the debit and credit sides. But what's really going on is a number of million-dollar errors which has as it's fruit the one-cent difference.

            If it happened once with Ptolemy, a great thinker and mathematician, ...

            The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

            by Jim P on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 07:03:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The Ptolemaic model wasn't so good, though. (7+ / 0-)

              And it's happened again and again. It happened to Newton, as well.

              Science isn't about saying what it "right", actually. It's about trying to disprove. Any theory must agree with observable fact, or it gets eliminated.

              You've brought up a bunch of points here, and I must get to dinner tasks at the moment -- but I'll be back to answer your questions.  :)

            •  ... (6+ / 0-)

              In large part these things are assumed, mostly because we cannot create coherent theories that don't assume them.

              However, we can measure optical red-shift: it's responsible for any speeding tickets you have, so the effect is quite well-known and extremely predictable. It can also be predicted and measured in light as light climbs out of a gravitational field (it red-shifts) here on earth. And it can be measured out to the farthest probes that we have (the voyager probes -- they return the signals we send to them, and we measure their velocities very accurately from the result, to tiny fractions of a cm/s). So we know out to the outer limits of the solar system that the basic Newtonian/Einsteinian gravitational equations are accurate to parts in 10^9 or better.

              For a long time, it was a huge argument in astrophysics whether the red-shift was "real" or an unknown physical effect of some sort (google "tired light" theories). The evidence consistently weighed in against all the other theories, and it's now accepted. And the rate of the expansion of the universe is called the Hubble constant. You've probably heard that name somewhere.

              Estimates of the distances to the farther reaches of space are still relatively poor. Hubble created the first decent ones by finding individual stars in the Andromeda galaxy of known brightness (Cepheid variables, whose regular pulsations correlate with their intrinsic brightness) and measuring their apparent brightness. Other methods have refined and augmented this technique since (e.g., type I-A supernovas), but it is still a hard problem.

              As for "younger stars being redder", there are a number of arguments against the thought. Even the very farthest stars and quasars we can find show spectral lines corresponding to the elements we have here on earth. Unless those lines have changed, the sources are very far away. There are good reasons to believe that those lines, in the farthest history of the earth, have not changed. Perhaps they change in space, but the particle physicists say that if they do, they would almost certainly change in certain specific ways. Many studies have been carried out to determine if they do change in those ways, and the studies have shown either no effect or extremely small effects at the limit of our detectors' resolution abilities, even at the largest distances we can examine (several billions of light years).

            •  You don't need Alpha Centauri (7+ / 0-)

              to measure this..  we can measure Doppler effects on light right here on Earth.

        •  Doppler shift applies not only to sound waves, (9+ / 0-)

          but to electromagnetic waves. Light wavelengths are affected by the receding speeds of distant sources. The faster they recede, the longer is the observed wavelength. It is a well established principle.

          Respect the middle class. Include everyone in economic recovery. Empower all to move the nation forward.

          by jim in IA on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:32:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Answer: Shifted stellar emmision/absorption lines (0+ / 0-)

          Here's the answer:

          Star far away emits a photon.  "Depending on the type of gas, the photon source and what reaches the detector of the instrument, either an emission line or an absorption line will be produced. Dark lines in a broad spectrum are produced when a cold gas is between a broad spectrum photon source and the detector." (wikipedia)

          So depending on the kind of gas, the photons will be emitted at very specific, and multiple wavelengths.  For instance, here's what a neon sign light would look like if you put it through a prism:

          Let's say gas xyz emits photons at (totally made up numbers): 500nm, 687nm, and 1045nm.  You can verify this in the lab by heating up said gas

          So, those three "emission lines" (500nm, 687nm, and 1045nm) are essentially the fingerprint of a given gas.  When you see those three lines together, you can say for sure "ah ha, those are emitted by gas xyz!"

          Now, you look at the spectra coming from a distant star.  You notice that the emission lines are the exact same spectral distance from one another as some known gas, BUT that they're all shifted to longer wavelengths (in our made-up case, exactly 300nm more "red")!  

          In the lab: 500nm, 687nm, and 1045nm
          Observed from a star: 800nm, 987nm, and 1345nm

          So, it's clear that the emission lines are from gas xyz (due to the pattern), but for some reason the pattern is "shifted" to the "red", or longer wavelengths (redshift).

          The only reason this can happen is if the object is moving AWAY from us at high speed (or us from it, or both).  Redshift is EXACTLY the same as the doppler effect, except with light instead of sound.

      •  Dark matter is the packing peanuts of space. At (6+ / 0-)

        least that's how I see it, which I don't, of course.

        History merely repeats itself; it doesn't cure its own ills. That is the burden of the present.

        by ZedMont on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:57:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  if i had to guess, i'd say it's likely that... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rb137, Dragon5616

        ... dark matter is just an observation problem: it consists of burned-out stars, space dust, hydrogen, and misc. crud of sizes too small to pick up with current instruments and so pervasive that its effects normalize into the background of what we do observe.  If we were able to clear out a region of space with none of the "crud" in it (not possible with present technology), we could compare observations through that region with what we see everywhere else.  

        Dark matter would appear to decrease over time as it clumps together with other matter and is counted as part of the latter.

        But I have a tough time with "dark energy" other than the idea of something that is the opposite of gravity, which is a nice black box but doesn't say anything about the mechanism.  Alternately, another phrase that comes to mind is "an entropic state of energy" but that doesn't appear right either because in that case it would have no effect on anything around it.  

        Seems to me that scientists in the mid 20th century were pegging their hopes on the unification of gravity and electromagnetism but I don't hear much about that now.  Is that because that goal has been more or less abandoned, or because there are more exciting questions to work on?   Reason I ask is, unification might lead to some methods for testing hypotheses about dark energy.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:14:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  not an observation problem (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, Dragon5616, rb137, terrypinder

          One can determine the amount of baryons (protons and neutrons) in the universe from the synthesis of primordial nuclei, and the answer is around 4% of the total (we only observe about 2-3%, so the remainder is your misc. crud).  But dark matter is 23%....

          It doesn't decrease over time (at least not measurably) since we can measure the amount a billion light years away and it's about the same.

          Dark energy is a nice black box, and I agree that we know nothing about it.

          Nobody works on unifying gravity and EM any more since EM has already been unified with the weak force and there are good theories that bring in the strong force (not yet tested).  String theory does unify all of them, but may not be testable, alas....

          •  aha, "non-baryonic matter." (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            OK, that was the fatal flaw in my thinking about that.  Funny thing is, I've read about non-baryonic matter, I just didn't think of it in relation to those two pie charts.   D'oh!

            I just keyed in 23/4.6 on a calculator and was slightly shocked to see the result of 5, as in 5.000.  Nature doesn't often do something quite so clean as that, and I wonder if there is anything "meaningful" about a result that's a nice clean whole number?

            So there's 5x as much dark matter as conventional matter, which raises the interesting question about "us" being the minority component of the universe.  Presumably the findings to date have converged to the idea that the DM is basically an amorphous cloud of fuzz that exists within and around each galaxy, rather than anything with meaningful structure to it, such as "stars and planets" or something that describes a non-obvious geometry.    

            Aside from the need for DM to render a bunch of empirical observations complete & consistent, I have to wonder "why" the universe would have created something quite so odd: what function it performs that could not be performed equally well by conventional baryonic matter.  Clearly that function requires being mutually irrelevant to EM but being affected by gravity.  

            This raises the issue of other types of particles that would be mutually irrelevant to some aspects of the universe while affected by other aspects, e.g. neutrinos.  

            Where it appears to be going is a kind of metaphysics whereby there are various weakly-interacting components of observable physical reality, almost in the manner of a whole bunch of mutual dualisms analogous to mind/body dualism: aspects of reality that are real enough to themselves but are "ghosts" to others.  One envisions a cartoon illustrating the point as a bunch of "worlds" that are "ghosts" to each other but real to themselves.  "Oh look, did you see the ghost?" "Yeah that's just Reality Layer 3, and he thinks we're ghosts too."  One has to wonder how many more of these nature has in the background waiting to be discovered.

            Gravity/EM: oh well, so much for "inertial drive" for a trip to Jupiter:-)

            String theory unfalsifiable: that's the weakness of it, makes it another metaphysics.   And to think, our view of the universe used to hold together so nicely & neatly before "all this messy stuff" came up starting with QM.  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 03:20:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I'm starting to doubt Dark Matter and Energy (8+ / 0-)

      Because as instruments get better, astronomers are finding that there are HUGE numbers of previously undetected red dwarfs, brown dwarfs, and orphan planets in the universe - all objects that are 'dark' and nearly unseeable. Couldn't all these objects that were unknown before make up all that 'missing mass', without having to create the magical 'fleem' that we can't detect, doesn't interact with anything, and leaves no proof of its existence?

      Romnoid T-2012 - It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or fear, or remorse. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are deemed corporate property!!

      by Fordmandalay on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:26:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It isn't just an amount of missing mass... (11+ / 0-)

        It's how the mass is distributed that's important. A galaxy would behave differently if you threw in a brown dwarf.

        Anyway, dark matter and dark energy are names given to things that drive dynamics we do observe. If you want to create a theory that eliminates them, that's fine -- but you have to also describe the universe as we observe it and make accurate predictions about how it's evolving. That's harder.

        •  That's a great way to explain that. (10+ / 0-)

          I was just thinking about how all of this relates to my area of expertise, which is music. Everyone thinks it's all about art, but what it's really about is physics and math. Throw a pulse into, say, an "A" at 440hz and it's not an "A" anymore. Except, of course, when it is.

          Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat

          by commonmass on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:36:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Dark Matter/Energy are also mutually exclusive (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          commonmass, rb137, G2geek, Dragon5616

          Here's another thing; the argument for Dark Matter is that galaxies can't form without all that missing mass we can't see that made them clump together.

          Then the argument for Dark Energy is that it must exist because everything is flying apart, instead of clumping together.

          Which leads me to say; Illogical, illogical - Norman, co-ordinate!  (goes to play with kitteh)

          Romnoid T-2012 - It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or fear, or remorse. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are deemed corporate property!!

          by Fordmandalay on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:42:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You're right, you (8+ / 0-)

            don't have to consider them both together. They address quite different issues.

            And things do clump together. Galaxies, for example. It's just that we observe galaxies moving away from us -- and the further away they are, the faster they're moving. This comes from direct observation -- not imagination.

            •  has there been enough observing time to... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              rb137, Dragon5616

              .... actually observe a galaxy drop out of our local universe due to its speed "exceeding" c relative to our position?  

              Galaxy Q was here yesterday, redshifted all to hell, and then today we can't find it where it was, so we conclude it has increased speed to the point where its light can't reach us: that kind of thing.

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:23:56 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  We can't observe that! (4+ / 0-)

                "Our local universe" travels away from us at the speed of light. Everything inside it travels more slowly -- or at the speed of light if it isn't massive.

                Inflation at the beginning of the universe did something like that. Right now, though, we're doing the opposite -- "inflating" slowly so we're encroaching on things in our universe that would not otherwise be causally related to us. (I think I said that right.) It's the opposity of the event you proposed here, though. Still a good point.

                •  that's *really* interesting. (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  My picture of inflation was that all of threespace was expanding in all four dimensions: time passes (movement along the time axis), and there is uniform expansion along each axis of normal threespace.  The result of the latter being that all objects gain increasing distance from all other objects.  (The simple visualization of this includes the error of uniform velocity of movement away from any given point.)

                  What you just said was:  there is a gradient of "increase of velocity" such that objects closer to us are moving away from us at slower velocity relative to us, and objects further from us are moving away from us at greater velocity relative to us.   (Any visualization of this should include the idea of the increase of speed relative to distance from a point of observation, irrespective of the location of the point of observation.  I can do that one for a single point of reference but I can't quite do it (yet!) for "all points of reference.")

                  So far these ideas have a common denominator that over time our local universe appears to become more and more empty, or lose objects over time.  

                  But what you said that I've never heard before is "we're encroaching on things in our universe that would not otherwise be causally related to us."

                  What that suggests is that over time our local universe appears to become more and more "full," or gain more objects over time.   Is that what you had in mind?  It doesn't make sense to me and appears to contradict what I'd heard before about inflation.

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 11:27:03 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  you're right (4+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    mrblifil, Dragon5616, G2geek, rb137

                    I don't quite understand the "we're encroaching on things in our universe that would not otherwise be causally related to us." statement.  

                    Galaxies very far away wouldn't "drop out".   They would gradually red shift more and more until they no longer emit visible light, then no longer emit IR, then no longer emit radio....this would take billions of years.

                    •  i was oversimplifying that part... (0+ / 0-)

                      .... figuring that it would take some time for a galaxy to shift outside of our local universe, but "yesterday/today" illustrates the point somewhat.   I didn't expect it to take billions of years, which illustrates another point, namely the fact that intuitive estimates of things do not easily deal with large numbers, particularly where one has to map between different sets of large numbers: one might consciously grasp one set (with some effort) and lose grasp of another set.  

                      Ha, this is funny, I'm used to believing that I'm pretty good about thinking on cosmic time scales, but you just found a nice big hole in my ability to do that!  Thanks for the insight-prompt there, it's highly useful to see where the blind spots are.  

                      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                      by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:16:24 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  About that comment I made... (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Brooklyn Jim

                      I didn't say it very well (an artifact of the champagne I'd had, no doubt.) All I meant was since expansion is accelerating, so is our horizon. The way I said it was really unclear, though.

        •  I remember my Chem/Physics teacher in HS (5+ / 0-)

          saying that matter has a natural frequency. Caught my attention because it sounded strange. Haven't been able to find reference for it lately, maybe it was April 1 and I didn't notice it, but he a retired petrochemist and wasn't really the April Fool's type. Anyway, one of the things I took from that and our experiments in interference, plus the fact that most matter is empty space was a thought that maybe all this missing mass is just vibrating on different frequencies. It would be limited by the frequencies that cancel each other, and some would compound and some would have no effect on each other. I was thinking of a sort of phase shift where matter of differing frequencies could occupy the same physical space and have no noticeable effect on each other aside frm the gravitational effects that we're trying to explain with dark matter. Probably silly, just me thinkin' out loud. ;-)

          Information is abundant, wisdom is scarce. The Druid

          by FarWestGirl on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 07:35:10 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Lee Smolin's "Fecund Universe" Model (0+ / 0-)

          The idea that universes actually "reproduce", acting like giant organisms, via "budding" through black holes. Each black hole essentially becomes its own new Big Bang, its own new universe, sprouting from our own. It's a fascinating theory, and explains why our universe is so life-friendly - the natural laws that benefit biology are the same ones most conducive to black hole creation, so a successfully fertile universe will be one that is hospitable to life. Universes have offspring, similar but slightly different, and the successful ones have more offspring, etc - Cosmic Evolution.

          When I think of dark matter and energy, I have to wonder if it could be tied into our universe being one of those black-hole "buds" of a parent universe. . .  idle speculation from a physics layman (though my cousin did work at Fermilab for awhile).

          "Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage." - H. L. Mencken

          by Jaxpagan on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:23:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  no, you are completely wrong (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        All of those measurements you mention show that while they may exist in large numbers, they don't amount to very much in mass.

        •  If they have no idea how many there are... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          How can it be said they don't add up to much?

          Romnoid T-2012 - It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or fear, or remorse. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are deemed corporate property!!

          by Fordmandalay on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:55:50 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  you know (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rb137, Dragon5616

            how many protons and neutrons there are, since the abundance of primordial He3, He4, deuterium and lithium depends very sensitively on that number.   It is roughly 1/5 of the amount of dark matter.

            •  Again, weirdly mutually exclusive arguments (0+ / 0-)

              Physicists; we have calculated EXACTLY HOW MUCH matter is in the ENTIRE universe!

              Astronomers; Gee, suddenly we're discovering trillions of bodies that we had no idea existed....

              And wasn't it just a few short years ago when there was huge debate over whether ANY other planets existed AT ALL?

              Romnoid T-2012 - It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or fear, or remorse. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are deemed corporate property!!

              by Fordmandalay on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:15:20 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  We can "see" that dark matter's bends light. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Actually the dark matter creates a curvature in space.

                And in galactic interactions behaves differently that the kinds of matter we know about.

                Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.

                by NCJim on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:28:21 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  That's a little unfair. (0+ / 0-)

                You're making two straw men and creating a false dichotomy here...

                Neither physicists nor astronomers (who, last I checked, were physicists) said either of those things. That said, we have a pretty good idea of how much of what stuff is in the universe, as the poster with username science conveys.

                I don't understand how you mean. Can you explain your objection to me in different terms?

      •  In short, no. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rb137, Dragon5616
        Couldn't all these objects that were unknown before make up all that 'missing mass'
        In short.  It wouldn't even come close to enough mass for observed effects.  But setting that aside....  Let's just say it is "ordinary" matter that we simply just can't see for whatever unknown reason.  Such a hypothesis falls in direct contradiction to observations that we've seen.

        Here is a simulation of the famous Bullet Cluster (scroll down)

        Through gravitational lensing effects they've are able to pin down areas of large mass.  What you see in this simulation is that "ordinary" matter (red) interacts with each other in many ways other than gravity.  Colliding, heating up, shockwaves, etc.  But the dark matter (blue) just passes right on through.  Dark Matter and ordinary matter simply do not interact (that we know of) except via gravity.  If the "dark" matter were simply ordinary matter that we just couldn't see, this would not happen.

    •  In the alternate multiverse where the higgs (9+ / 0-)

      boson has already been discovered -

      Just kidding - way above my paygrade!

      ...Son, those Elephants always look out for themselves. If you happen to get a crumb or two from their policies, it's a complete coincidence. -Malharden's Dad

      by slowbutsure on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:39:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What I like about the inflationary model (6+ / 0-)

    is it shows that under the right set of circumstances the current speed of light was exceeded. Of course it took universe shaking amounts of energy to do it, but it happened. It also may not be possible to ever achieve it again but the dream lives on. FTL, baby, FTL!

    All my sig lines are hand-crafted by demented elves living in my skull.

    by ontheleftcoast on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:15:57 PM PDT

      •  Heh, of course not. And even if the universe (5+ / 0-)

        expanded faster that the current speed it would not have been faster than the speed at those conditions. I'm just having some, pardon me, light hearted fun.

        All my sig lines are hand-crafted by demented elves living in my skull.

        by ontheleftcoast on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 07:03:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Ummm.... it sorta does. (4+ / 0-)

        Relativity is left intact by it, though.

        Because the universe is expanding, and all parts of it are expanding, there are parts of it (the very, very distant! parts) that are receding from us at more than the speed of light. We can't view those portions (obviously!), but the equations and the rough constants describing the universe's expansion makes clear that they are (or were!) out there.

        Relativity doesn't have a problem with this, because it's space itself that is moving. Similarly, near an extreme black hole, theory predicts that because space is being twisted by the black hole, particles there can move at more than the speed of light relative to a distant observer.

        The gravity probe B experiment was designed to verify both general and special relativities' predictions about space near rotating masses, and how it is twisted and warped. So far, Einstein is still unrefuted.

        •  Thank the FSM he's not unrepudiated either. ;D (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          eyesoars, GDbot, Dragon5616

          All my sig lines are hand-crafted by demented elves living in my skull.

          by ontheleftcoast on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:05:26 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  It does not--locally. (5+ / 0-)

          I suspect you've got this, but to clarify: causality is never violated (you can't go back in time) which would be the case if anything could ever locally go faster than the speed of light w.r.t. anything else at the same place.

          Inflation makes separated points move away from one another, at "speeds" which can indeed exceed c. (When they get far enough apart).  But that's the space between them stretching out-- each point is locally at rest w.r.t. everything around that point.

          The only real problems with going faster than the speed of light happen if you do so locally, so causality breaks.

          If you consider two objects in spacetime -- but at distances from one another that are great enough that they are not causally connected -- one points version of "now" might be well into the other points version of "past" or "future", depending on their relative motion. This isn't a problem, though, because they are not causally connected.

          •  ... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            G2geek, Dragon5616, terrypinder

            Yes -- there are no known circumstances where "real" local phenomena travel faster than light. (Making apparent phenomena move faster than c is not hard; one can paint a spot on a large wall that moves faster than light fairly easily by rotating a light source fast enough.) That's definitely a good way to look at it, for every situation in the universe we can see or measure. (Though someone may someday figure out how to use entanglement to violate causality, it hasn't been done yet.)

            Whether it's true that causality cannot be violated or not is still an open question. There are a number of physics papers on how causality might be violated: google 'closed timelike curves'. The math and physics get very weird very fast, and the mass/energy required to set up the situations are galactic in scale. But the math works out... with the physics we know today.

            •  Open to whom? (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              G2geek, Dragon5616, terrypinder

              Hawking writes about closed timelike curves that maybe could exist in universes that aren't causally connected to our universe -- or sections of our universe that are not causally connected to us. So what? What we call science is about verifying things we can measure. But Hawking isn't violating causality in this universe. He isn't opening the question. Nor are any other scientists of note.

              •  ... (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                G2geek, Dragon5616, terrypinder

                Try looking up Kip Thorne (he's definitely a notable in GR). Robert Forward (now deceased) has also explored it, both in (IMO highly readable) fiction and physics. Kurt Gödel was the first to do so; IIRC he was one of very few to find new solutions to Einstein's GR equation, and is certainly well-known outside of physics. Kerr (of Kerr-Newman black hole fame) also has.

                I believe Hawking has explored causality violations, although both he and others have also explored wormholes (many reasonable interpretations of GR guarantee wormholes to "other" universes (universes that are, whatever they are, not ours)).

          •  what happens if you allow for.... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rb137, Dragon5616, Pithy Cherub

            ... a slight statistical degree of local causality violation?  

            It seems to me that the reason we don't "allow" causality violation is essentially that we don't like it (and we have plenty of observations to support us in this) since it would generate logical paradoxes.  

            But what else changes if you allow just a little: just a constant but low-level statistical effect that doesn't cause macroscopic effects on the astrophysical scale?  

            It seems to me that "disallow causality violation" is an a-priori constraint backed up by sufficient observations that any minor variations could be written off and disregarded even to the degree of claiming that they do not exist.  What I'm asking is, what if we were to stop writing off any such minor variations or violations?  What would that do for our picture of the universe?

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:35:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  We disallow this locally. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              G2geek, Dragon5616, Pithy Cherub

              In principle, there is nothing that prohibits causality violation via wormhole or such -- Einstein's equations don't prohibit it, anyway. The thing is that the chances for this to happen are miniscule...

              But you bring up an excellent point. What do we do with the paradoxes that make us uncomfortable? Does our discontent matter at all? No. Nature is what she is, in spite of what theoretical physicists think.

              Nova's done a great series with Brian Greene that you'd enjoy, if you haven't seen it already. It's four videos, which you can find on pbs or youtube. Search of The Fabric of the Cosmos. Really well done. And they go exactly where you're headed in your comment.  :)

              •  OK, i'll go check those out. And... (1+ / 0-)
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                The Fabric of the Cosmos, on YouTube.  

                Here's the thing:

                We have plenty of empirical evidence for paradoxes.  The dualistic nature of light (wave/particle) is an example: anyone can replicate the relevant experiments for themselves.  

                For many of these paradoxes we have math that resolves them well enough to overcome our common-sense "dislike" of them, so we allow those.  The math tells us that our "common sense" isn't right, so we override that uncomfortable feeling and keep going.  

                But we have some paradoxes that are really nasty, and for which we don't have nice math to tell us to override our "common-sense" objections & discomforts.  Causality is a ferocious one of those, and for various reasons I've been thinking a lot about this one since about age 11 so I know how it feels "from the inside" as well.  

                Bad analogy:   We're trying to push a door open and getting nowhere.  Maybe it's time to try pulling on the door to see if it opens inward instead of outward.  It can't hurt to try.

                So let's try the assumption that causality violations occur, that they are a regular part of the nature of things, but they are a small effect that is stochastic (statistically predictable but individually unpredictable).  

                Stochasticity might also solve the logical paradox problem.  Think of nonlocality experiments with photon pairs.  You receive a photon and make a measurement, but you don't know if its polarization has been altered until you receive that information which is limited to c or below.  In one sense a local variables assumption is violated, because you have something that reached you instantaneously.  But in another sense there's no violation because what you "have" does not include another piece of information that you "need" and that travels at c.  

                OK, now apply to causality violations.  They are statistically predictable but individually unpredictable.  You have a region of spacetime and you know that in this region you should get let's say ten causality violations a year, and you start making measurements.   But you don't know which of the measurements you make are going to turn out to be the ones that show causality violations until "later."  

                Now you have "the information" but as with entangled photons, you don't quite because there's something else you need that you don't have, that you will only get in the course of the normal flow of causality and time.  

                I'm going to stick my neck out and say that this pretty neatly solves it, and it even works as "new common sense" for anyone who understands the entanglement experiments.  

                Another bad analogy:

                You have a room full of 100 stock market analysts, each of whom is making 10 predictions a day about the behavior of companies in the market, total of 1,000 predictions per day.  You can expect statistically, based on some track record of observation, that the room full of analysts is going to produce 10 correct predictions per day, or a 1% rate of correct predictions.  

                But you don't know which 10 of today's 1,000 predictions will be the correct ones.  You only find out which predictions were correct when they come true.  

                Thus, today you "have" the correct information, that violates causality, but you don't have something else you "need" that tells you which of the information is correct.  You don't get the "something else you need" until the events actually occur: the predictions do or do not come true.  

                So in one sense you have allowed for the causality violation of market analysts predicting the future correctly, but on the other hand that "information" does not have practical effects because you don't know which information is the correct information until normal causal events occur.  

                Is this useful, interesting, maybe-kinda-sorta-right, or wrong, or not-even-wrong?  

                "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:03:42 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  it's interesting (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek, Dragon5616

                  but is it testable?   Causality violation can completely eliminate the "paradoxes" of quantum entanglement, but it leads to other paradoxes that are worse.   But stochastic causality violation?   Interesting thought, I'd need to think about it.   Since quantum entanglement is measured over distances greater than kilometers, I suspect it won't work, but maybe...

                  •  at least you can model it with... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    ... a room full of untrained laypeople looking at today's stock market data and making forecasts about how specific stocks will perform tomorrow (the human brain is a good pattern detector even without training).  

                    That isn't a causality violation, it's just an illustration of how you can have information but not know which of the information is valid until the following day.  So far that's only a model, not a theory.  But it should suggest ways to look for examples from nonbiological systems.  

                    Here I should say that the only thing that i expect would exhibit causality violations is information.   We don't expect a kinetic system to demonstrate a causality violation whereby e.g. a billiard ball moves before it is struck by another billiard ball.  We don't expect a thermodynamic system to do so either, e.g. a planet isn't going to vaporize before a star goes nova.  

                    I was trying to think through a bunch of thought-experiments and you're quite right it is difficult to figure out a good test that doesn't have a bunch of embedded assumptions about what is connected to what and how.  

                    Lastly, what are the "worse" paradoxes that occur if you assume a low level of statistical causality violations with information?  Are we talking about "grandfather paradox" type events (you travel backward in time and convince your grandfather to wear a condom that night, and when he says Yes, you suddenly blink out of existence)?  Or something else?

                    The way I envision this is, the "information" is available at an earlier point in time, but it has no effect on the course of events: you go back in time and tell your grandfather to wear a condom and he says "no thanks, we're trying to have a kid right now," and that's that, and you don't blink out of existence.  (The version where you shoot your grandfather doesn't qualify: that's a kinetic system interaction, not informational.)  

                    Not to sound wacko but I think I'm on the right track with this.  And I'm looking for serious critical feedback because I don't want to run around with dumb holes in my theories.

                    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                    by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 05:11:27 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  the worst paradox (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      with causality violation is simply that if you have FTL information transfer, then if event A influences event B in one reference frame, then event B influences event A in another reference frame.   This doesn't seem possible (especially if event A is a destruct signal).   Maybe you can figure out a way to make that consistent.   I can't.

                      •  sounds like the generic version of the.... (0+ / 0-)

                        ... grandfather paradox.  You call up your grandfather on the tele-time-phone and ask him to use a condom, and he agrees, and you blink out of existence, thereby being unable to call him on the tele-time-phone, and the whole dynamic goes into oscillation mode.  

                        The way I make that consistent is:

                        = No kinetic interactions.  You can't time travel your physical body, so you can't shoot your grandfather.

                        = No thermodynamic interactions.  You can't have a pot of water boil before the burner is turned on.  Heat runs downhill (dissipation) unless something external pushes it uphill.

                        = Informational interactions only.  Information gets to run backward in time, and only information gets to do that.

                        = Information passing backward in time is indistinguishable from noise until the event happens.  You can't tell which market analyst's stock picks are correct until the close of the market tomorrow.  This is consistent with nonlocality experiments: you don't know if the photon's polarization was flipped until you get the information at c or below.  

                        = The consequences of acting on the correct information are indistinguishable from the consequences of not acting on any of the information.  Your grandfather was going to wear a condom anyway, whether or not you called him on the tele-time-phone, but what actually happened, that you had no way of knowing, is that the condom broke.  

                        = Occasionally something weird and paradoxical happens.  When it does, the universe isolates it in some way (think of a vacuole:-) so its effects don't propagate.  An outside observer might see information disappear or more likely might see an absence of information where information would be expected.  

                        = However there is no way to conclusively support that there is information "missing," because the distribution of information is random and you may only have found a randomly-occurring area of low information (such as a precinct that voted overwhelmingly for Santorum:-)

                        Is any of this any good at all in terms of reasoning or intuition or whatever, or am I just so "not even wrong" that I'm completely uneducable?  

                        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                        by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:40:05 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  getting a little far (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          from my area of expertise, but the sentence "Information passing backward in time is indistinguishable from noise until the event happens." indicates that we may have different definitions of the word "information".    

                          By definition, information is distinguishable from noise.   So you're sort of saying that it isn't really information until the event happens, in which case information isn't really going backwards in time.    

                          But I could be wrong---this seems interesting and not crazy.....

                          •  definitions of information are another area... (0+ / 0-)

                            ... i've been pondering a lot over the years.  Shannon information is not the same thing as semantic information.  The former consists of ordered bits, the latter consists of ordered bits that convey subjective meaning.  But semantic information doesn't much care about thermodynamics: for example the word CAR requires a smaller quantity of energy to transmit than the word AUTOMOBILE but both carry the same semantic meaning.  The thermodynamic entropy of AUTOMOBILE is higher but the semantic content has not increased proportionally.  

                            So, going back to my thought experiment about the laypeople reading the business pages and predicting the performance of stocks.  You're trying to make an investment decision so you have to pick which layperson's output to use as the basis of your investment.   All you have is their outputs, and you don't know the thought processes they used to produce their outputs.  

                            In effect you are trying to guess which one of them has arrived at a "right answer" (a profitable forecast).  All other factors equal, there is no way to tell which of their forecasts are any good until after the market closes tomorrow.  Today you're staring at their outputs and you can't tell which one is going to be correct: so the "information" you need is indistinguishable from the "noise" of the apparently random scattering of their forecasts.

                            Now in fact the "information" did "go backward in time," in the sense that some of the people in the room did make correct (profitable) market forecasts.  But the correct answers are sitting in the midst of a bunch of answers, most of which are wrong, and you can't tell which is which.  It does not become clear which answers were correct until the close of business tomorrow.  

                            Now let's change the experiment slightly.

                            In this version, you're a trained market analyst and you're trying to teach all these laypeople how to spot trends and make accurate forecasts.   On the first day of class you give them the business pages and ask them to make stock picks.  Now you receive a pile of pages of results, exactly the same as in the previous thought experiment.  

                            OK, but this time you're a trained analyst, and your analyses are usually pretty good.  So you can look through their pages and you can spot the ones that are more likely to be correct: for example Alice over there has picked two biotech firms and one software firm, and you happen to know something about the industry so you spot this as a good forecast and you infer that she has seen some news about a development in software that relates to biotech.  

                            In this version, the fact that you are a trained analyst helps you spot the information and pick the information out from the random noise.  Thereby demonstrating that the information was actually present in the first place, amidst the noise, and someone with the right training could spot the information.  

                            BTW human brains are very good at this kind of task, for example hearing the approaching predator or seeing the camouflaged prey.  These are analog signal/noise tasks but the pattern-seeking capability can also go after things such as patterns in stock market forces, or patterns in encrypted text that provide the opening for cryptanalysis.  

                            So in that sense, the information is present but it's mixed in with a bunch of noise.  An uninformed person might not be able to pick out the information, but a trained person might very well do so.  

                            Is this explanation any good?

                            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                            by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:32:13 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  correction: (0+ / 0-)

                            "These are analog signal/noise tasks but the pattern-seeking capability can also go after things such as patterns in stock market forces..." should be "patterns in stock market forecasts."  Editing typo, oops.  

                            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                            by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 04:55:29 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                      •  Find "Time Master" by Robert L. Forward (0+ / 0-)

                        There has been some very bizarre work, with even more bizarre conclusions by legitimate physicists about what happens when time travel is possible.

                        Time Master represents one line of thought on this: time travel is possible, but only between points and times where the time machine has been set up. E.g., imagine paired portals, where going through a portal one way takes you into the future some distance and some amount of time, and going through the matching portal takes you conversely back some distance and time. You can't go backwards through the portal to a time where the portal didn't exist, nor can you go forwards in time to a time where the portal doesn't exist.

                        And the physicists argue that if something goes through the portal in one direction, then physics demands that it must go or have gone through the other end of the portal: that this must happen -- physics itself denies the possibility of paradox. And consequently, whatever astounding or improbable things must happen in order to make this occur will occur (e.g., if something must occur in the future to cause an event that happened in the past (specifically, like something emerging from the 'past' portal), no matter how apparently improbable.

                        Time Master.

                        I think Paul Preuss may have done something with a similar premise.

                •  The thing about entanglement... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  G2geek, terrypinder

                  Entanglement itself isn't so surprising if you want to accept that entangled particles share a wave function. The issues rise when we try to apply the idea practically and within our own framework.

                  Let me suggest that causality isn't the issue. We know well that two entangled particles remain entangles non-locally. they can't send a message to one another to decide who assumes what state when they are measured, but they get it right every single time in the lab.

                  Simultaneity, for me, holds the paradox. If you and I created a pair of entangled particles -- but you measured one at one part of space time and I measured the other in another part of space time -- who measured it first? Special relativity states that we disagree on the order of events.

                  So, if I think I measured the particle first, and you think you measured it first -- which one of us collapsed the wave function?

                  •  ooh, good one. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    And needless to say, thanks for taking the time to engage with a layperson who can't even work the maths for this stuff.

                    I think of a wave function as a piece of math that describes a wave (using a sine wave as an example), in which case entanglement is actually a special instance of "common causality" e.g. A caused B and C simultaneously.

                    Interestingly that converges with what you said about simultaneity.  Or at least we both end up using the same word.

                    The reason it's said that the entangled photons can't send a message to each other is that they both propagate from a common cause, and (hereby contradicting myself earlier) they can't signal backward in time to influence the common cause.  (Alternately, the apparatus constrains that possibility, by analogy one can't talk into the speaker of a public-address system and have sound come out of the microphone.  A different apparatus design might get different results but we do not know how to do that yet.)

                    "Who measured first?" is a good way of putting it.  I would expect that an additional observer who is equidistant from both you and I, would be able to ascertain who measured first, but that observer could only communicate with us at c or below.  

                    "Who collapsed the wave function?":  The third party observer would know the answer to that, but assuming there isn't a third-party observer, you and I would each think that we had done so.  The information each of us receives from the apparatus appears to be retrocausal when in fact it's causal from the other's perspective.

                    Now I need to sit & think that and relate it back to the point about what happens if we allow a constant low level of causality violations that are indistinguishable from random noise.  

                    I've been pondering this time/causality stuff since pre-adolescence and it would be nice to end up with something more than an intellectually acceptable answer that still does not "feel" complete, by which I mean "understand" the result in more than an abstract manner.  I'm getting the impression that the answer (or at least "an" answer) is just outside my grasp but with a little effort might become tangible.

                    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                    by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:57:04 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  A third party observer (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      would not be able to settle the disagreement. That person would have his own sense of simultaneity, which is different from yours or mine. He might agree with you or me, but he's only right in his own frame of reference.

                      •  oopsie. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:

                        My pesky Newtonian instincts again:-)

                        OK, the third party is only correct from within his frame of reference, and you & I each still observe that we were the ones who collapsed the wave function.  

                        To my mind that also sounds like support for a kind of "many worlds" theory where things are seen slightly differently in each of these local universes that are all more or less sitting right next to each other.

                        I've gotta scoot momentarily and will be back later today.

                        Thanks again for taking the time; and i'll be back to pick this up later.  

                        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                        by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:37:04 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  It is one of the strongest arguments (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:

                          toward a want for a many universes approach to quantum mechanics.

                          I'm dreadfully behind in responding to comments here -- especially the ones I need to put thought into. I'll probably get back this evening, though. See you...

                          •  but this is a different version of "many worlds".. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            ... than the one proposed by Everett, or ordinarily considered the paradigm case.  Universes that are not mutually interacting.

                            In this case there is interaction between local universes, but each of them entails a slightly different set of observables and interpretations from those.   This strikes me as something that's falsifiable, in contrast to non-interacting many-worlds theories.  And it also strikes me as correct though not exclusively so.  

                            We all know what's going to happen, right?;-)  The empirical data are going to support "both" a many-worlds theory and a wave function collapse theory and something that evolves out of the Copenhagen interpretation.  But the pesky problem of splitting universes (where does the energy come from? much less the matter?) will exit the scene along with the Heisenberg's cat paradox, leaving something that doesn't have such strong incompatibilities.  

                            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                            by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 04:51:53 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Well... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            A theory is right if and only if it is descriptive (agrees with experiment) and predictive (can make accurate predictions.) If a theory fails either of these tests, it's wrong.

                            I would say that a theory has to be testable by experiment to be scientific, as well, but that isn't the case here.

                            The Copenhagen Interpretation already fits the bill perfectly -- it is the most succesful physical theory that exists today. We can't manage to dream up an experiment that violates it. It's passes every stinking test we throw at it. Still, it carries with it a number of paradoxes, like the simultaneity/entanglement paradox we discussed above.

                            The Many Worlds (or Many Universes) Interpretation does a great job of dealing with the paradoxes, and it remains predictive and descriptive in this universe, at least. Problem is that we can't measure anything about other universes.

                            So, on the one hand, we have a perfectly good scientific theory that makes theoretical physicists profoundly unhappy. On the other hand, we have a predictive, descriptive (in this universe) theory that's mathematically useful and doesn't have the issues in the former case that make physicists unhappy. Problem is that it's not entirely testable.

                            Does it matter if we tuck our paradoxes away in universes we can't measure? Maybe, and maybe not. Is it enough to be able to measure everything the theory can affect in this universe?

                            Or it the question really just about our discontent? Does our discontent matter? Nature is as she is whether we like it or not.

                          •  nice, well said. (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            Descriptive & predictive: yes, of course.   And I agree about falsifiability as well, which is why I tend toward skepticism of "many non-interacting universes" and string theory and strong AI.  

                            The way I'm thinking about things these days, "making a measurement" = "extracting information."  The process of extracting the information is what collapses the wave function.  A probabilistic statement about something has a lower information content than a measurement of a specific characteristic.  

                            But I'm reluctant to say that it scales up to the macro level of a cat in a box, because that crosses over from the "information" domain to the "kinetic" domain.  Per my comments on retrocausality: you can tell your grandfather to wear a condom but you can't shoot your grandfather.  Information can propagate but kinetic effects (and thermodynamic effects) can't.  This is all wild speculation but none the less it appears consistent.  

                            What this calls for is a version of Heisenberg's cat that doesn't involve a kinetic effect (poisoning the cat), only an informational effect of some kind.  I'll have to think that one through a bit further.

                            I don't think we should export paradoxes to other universes; that strikes me as similar to exporting entropy in the Maxwell Demon sense of things.  If I had to guess I'd say that there is an entropy cost for exporting paradoxes (as with exporting heat: refrigerators consume electricity to perform that task), and it might come in the form of a decline in observable or extractable information, or some other loss such as an energy penalty.  

                            I'd say the discontent is a datum, and it matters as far as it affects our evaluation of hypotheses and theories.  But emotional state data are like any other data from any state of consciousness: beware "psychedelic fundamentalism" and don't take them as literally true or as hard boundaries to one's thought process.  Kekule still had to test his hypnagogic image of the benzene ring, Crick still had to test his LSD image of the DNA double helix, so we should be testing our emotional responses to various theories.  

                            And toward that end one of my methods is to "deliberately go there."  Example: emotional state value is negative: "I don't like this theory."  OK, "go there," as: "what if my emotional state value for this is wrong, what if this turns out to be true instead?"   That's how I got into the long item about retrocausality:  

                            My emotional state value is in favor of preserving free will, retrocausality implies superdeterminism, I "don't like" superdeterminism, so: "go there," and ask "what if I'm wrong, what if it's true?" and also "how could retrocausality be true without violating free will?" (Answer: if what goes backward in time is only information, not kinetics or mechanics or thermodynamics:  One can freely-will to disregard information, for example your grandfather can choose to decline your request to wear a condom: "no thanks, we're trying to have a kid right now."  And this also solves the paradox of reverse causation and oscillation.)

                            So in one sense, discontent matters because an emotional reaction is a reaction to "something," which points out that "something" deserves one's attention.  But in another sense, what one should do is "go there" and not let the discontent dictate an outcome.  

                            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                            by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:42:50 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  Incidentally, (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            there are a group of Many Universes Interpretation folks who hope to someday see a signature in the CMBR. For example, if our universe got close enough to another universe, that scatter might leave ripples in the structure -- stuff like that. My personal feeling is that it's a remote possibility, but it's a fun idea.

                            Consider how the second law of thermodynamics might force time forward and not in reverse. If you think of the universe statistically, you have to keep track of all the possible configurations for the system you're studying. What I mean here is that if you consider the distribution of gas molecules in the room where you're sitting, there are a zillion different possible ways that the given particles could be arranged -- and most of those possibilites are more or less randomly mixed. The possibility that all of the oxygen molecules are in one corner of the room (and you'll thus collapse dead from oxygen deprivation) is just as valid a possibility. There are fewer ways to pull that off statistically, though, so we don't experience that happening in mundane life -- we don't keep it within the realm of expectation.

                            Similarly, there are fewer possible configurations for the objects on your desk to be neat as a pin than a giant mess -- there are many, many more ways where you can arrange your stuff so it's scattered randomly over the surface. Statistically, there is much more opportunity for disorder than order.

                            There is nothing in physics really prohibiting things from starting in a disordered state and spontaneously moving to an ordered one. The reason we don't experience that in real life is simply statistical. The likelihood that something becomes more disordered is much higher than the likelihood that something becomes more ordered. In fact, we observe the order to disorder path so often that it's a thermodynamic law.

                            Entropy is an expression of disorder, as you probably know. The fact that we observe the universe moving from lower to higher entropy might well have consequenses on the flow of time -- if we were to consider it statistically, as well. If time were allowed to reverse (and lets suppose that it can freely reverse just as it can move forward, for the sake of argument) the likelihood that it would do so is not remote -- time reversal also be required things to move from disorder to order, which is statistically unlikely.

                            I'm suggesting that what we think of as "forward" in time can be thought of as a consequence of the second law. Given no reason, a priori, that things can't play themselves backward in time, doing so is still thermodynamically unfavorable.

                            Just a thought experiment to add some spice to your discussion...

                          •  Oh, editing correction! (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            If time were allowed to reverse (and lets suppose that it can freely reverse just as it can move forward, for the sake of argument) the likelihood that it would do so is not remote -- time reversal typically requires things to move from disorder to order, which is statistically unlikely.
                            I hate it when I editing mistakes!
                          •  yes, after all it's a thought-experiment... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            First, re. CMBR: noted, in the event there is ever any news about this, and it would certainly be major news.  


                            Re. thermodynamics:  Yes, I fully understand that: heat entropy, low probability of spontaneous emergence of increased order, and you must have seen my desk at some point:-).


                            It takes an input of energy from outside the system to increase the order within the system e.g. an electromagnet at one corner of my desk would pull all the ferrous objects into a pile there, which would be a minor increase in order.  

                            Then we get to dissipative structures (per Prigogene).

                            Chemical reactions that harvest energy from ambient entropy-flows, to create localized increases in order.

                            All of biology is that.  Solar entropy produces heat/light radiating into space, Earth intercepts a tiny fraction of that, as an external energy input to Earth, which drives all of biology starting with photosynthesis.  Extremophiles find other ambient entropy-flows such as heat from sea-floor vents, to drive their biology.  


                            And then we get back to my item about information vs. thermodynamics.


                            Two teletype machines connected via a simple circuit.  

                            Voltmeters and milliamp-hour meters connected to each power supply (teletype 1, teletype 2, telephone-like common-battery transmission line between them).

                            Paper punched-hole teletype tape with text of Shakespeare play.

                            Run A:  Alice inserts tape in forward direction into teletype 1, output is printed on teletype 2, Bob reads Shakespeare.  Received semantic information is 100%.

                            Run B:  Alice inserts tape in reverse direction into teletype 1, output is printed on teletype 2, Bob sees gibberish spewing from the printer.   Received semantic information is 0%.  

                            Compare power consumption between Run A and B (voltage drop, total milliamp-hours) : it's identical to as many decimal places as you prefer.  

                            Conclusion: the energy penalty for semantic information is zero.  There is no increase in thermodynamic entropy for conveyance of semantic information as compared to conveyance of equivalent bit-length of Shannon information that contains no semantic information.  

                            Inference:  Semantic information is not identical with Shannon information.

                            Inference:  Transmission of semantic information does not have a thermodynamic penalty.  Further extension of inference:  Semantic information is not a thermodynamic phenomenon.

                            Speculation:  If thermodynamic entropy is necessary for, or defining of, vector time, and if semantic information is independent of thermodynamics, then semantic information should also be independent of vector time.  For semantic information, time should be scalar: quantity without required direction.  In which case semantic information can propagate "backward" in time.  You could ask your grandfather to wear a condom.  

                            Further speculation:  You ask your grandfather to wear a condom but the most-probable outcome is that he says "no thank you, we're trying to have a kid."  You have successfully conveyed semantic information over the tele-time-phone to your grandfather, but he chooses to not act upon the information: he chooses to proceed as if he has not received the information.

                            That situation is roughly analogous to my "room full of untrained stock market forecasters" who read the business pages, make market forecasts, and each hand you a page of their recommendations.  Somewhere in that stack of pages is information that turns out to be true (profitable), but you have no way to know which is true so you don't act on any of it.  The untrained forecasters are producing output about a future event, but you don't know which of their output is meaningful information until the event occurs (the market closes at the end of the next business day).  

                            Central point: Information from the future gets into the present but, all other factors equal, it has no effect upon the present.  

                            The only way for that future-information to affect the present is by increasing the information content in the present (speculation: increasing the content of information from the past that has persisted into the present):  you're a skilled market analyst and you can spot which student's stock picks are more likely to be correct.  You have some additional quantity of information (training & skills = embodied information) that enables you to spot the true information among the random pile of output.  


                            I recently ran into TIQM, which seems to allow for this stuff, and I'm still trying to digest the basic ideas of retarded and advanced waves being physically real rather than mathematical conventions.  

                            Another piece of the puzzle is Wheeler's "it from bit" theory, and I just met someone here who studied under Wheeler and has some ideas about that.  

                            Also there is the inherent difficulty of operationalizing "semantic information" in a manner that can be translated to non-biological systems (as with Schroedinger's cat translated to a non-biological system with embodied information).  

                            It seems to me that semantic information is more than just a subjective sensation: I think it is likely that it is related to something simpler and more basic than patterns of activity in human brains: something external and objective, but not Shannon information, something else where the content is more relevant than the bit length.  

                            So that's why I've been obsessing over this stuff lately:-)

                            Needless to say, thanks majorly for taking the time to deal with a ditzy layperson and his crazy ideas.  

                            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                            by G2geek on Fri Jun 22, 2012 at 12:30:23 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  But... (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:

                            How would the words find your grandfather?

                          •  yes, that's the difficult part:-) (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Otteray Scribe

                            For the moment I've black-boxed it as the tele-time-phone, but the point is to look at it as a way of resolving the grandfather paradox:  if kinetics are barred but information is allowed, you can't shoot your grandfather but you can ask him to use a condom, and beyond that, he can decline.  

                            The information from the future is available in the present but one can choose to not act on it = similar to the stock market forecasts of random laypeople, the information that correctly forecasts the future is present but a person of comparable skills (embodied information) can't find the signal for the noise.

                            BTW in case I didn't mention it, I've been pondering Wheeler lately.  "It from bit," information as "the" fundamental constituent of the universe.  Ordinarily that formulation would be too radical for my taste ("a" is OK, but "the" is an extraordinary claim) but I like to examine ideas that are counter-intuitive or run against my "preferences."  So, "what else would be true if this was true?"

                            Beyond that, there's some truly crazy-ass stuff I've been thinking about as plot devices for fiction, such as 3D time.  Normally we assume one axis of time.  What would a second axis of time be like, that was 90 degrees to time as we know it?  That's easy: it would be "distance from our timeline as-experienced, to some other hypothetical timeline."  This is already fairly common in alternative-history fiction, such as "what if the Axis had won WW2?"

                            It's easy to get a 2nd time dimension, other writers have used that already, so what about a third?   (I could go pester David Brin about that, since he hangs out here, but I'd rather come up with something original and see what he thinks of it.)  What would be time at 90-degrees to the two time dimensions I've mentioned so far?  How about "depth" of time?    What if anything, does that phrase even mean?  Perhaps "depth of time" = "degree of determinacy vs. indeterminacy that acts on the timeline as-experienced at that moment"..?  

                            As far as I know, no other writer has done "3D time" before, so I'd like to see where that idea takes me, and if there's anything that could be written from it that wouldn't end up falling into an obvious genre trap such as space opera.  But that's another topic for another day:-)

                            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                            by G2geek on Sat Jun 23, 2012 at 03:40:06 AM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

    •  not quite (6+ / 0-)

      Relativity only says that information can't be transmitted from point A to point B faster than light.    In inflation, the expansion certainly is faster than light, but that is space expanding, and you still couldn't send information faster than light, alas.....

      •  Thanks for saying it correctly, I was just having (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rb137, G2geek, Dragon5616

        some fun. One of the hosts of a local radio show had the chance to submit questions to Dr. Hawkings and his one on FTL was answered. So that topic was in my mind. Actually, one of the puzzles for me in this area is while the relationship between time and the speed of light are talked about, time dilation, etc. I can't recall seeing discussions of the relationship between the speed of light and gravity. Even though the relationship 2=cg where c is the speed of light and g the gravitational constant. To me it suggests there is some relationship. Nature doesn't "accidentally" do small integral constants.

        All my sig lines are hand-crafted by demented elves living in my skull.

        by ontheleftcoast on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:04:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hawking is coming to Seattle, I think. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ontheleftcoast, G2geek, Dragon5616

          I believe he's giving a key-note at the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair celebration. Keep an eye peeled.

        •  had clever scifi idea for keeping causality w/ FTL (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          In a universe with instantaneous travel/communication through wormholes, paradoxes play merry havoc with relativity, but in practice people just ignore them: sure, lightspeed and FTL signals sent at the same time won't arrive at the same time, but who cares?!  We're only paying attention to the FTL signal! Relativistic probes that receive and transmit through wormholes would allow the people back home to explore the universe within a human lifetime by "sharing" the probe's accelerated reference frame, seeing what it sees when it sees it (according to the probe's clock) as it's instantaneously transmitted back.

          If you assume larger wormholes, a lot of the logistical problems with space travel disappear: orbital mass drives just shoot people pods and shipping containers through them.

          To those who say the New Deal didn't work: WWII was also government spending

          by Visceral on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:59:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  What instrument could show faster than (5+ / 0-)

      light movement if it existed? I can't imagine it.

      There was a young lady from Bight
      Who could move much faster than light
      She left home one day
      In a relative way
      And returned to preceding night.

      I've forgotten the name of the original author, regretably.

      The Internet is just the tail of the Corporate Media dog.

      by Jim P on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:27:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontheleftcoast, G2geek, Dragon5616

      I just wrote a comment downthread that addresses what you're saying.

      The point you're bringing up is subtle. I was having fun teasing you about it, but it really is worth discussing. :)

    •  no, no.... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rb137, Dragon5616, cybersaur, Pithy Cherub


      The space itself expanded.  That's different.  Say you have a road that's one mile long and that you have two cars at each end of that road driving away from each other at on that a road at 10 mph.

      Now also say that the road is actually made of some amazingly super stretchy rubber (SUPER stretchy) material and that road is being stretched by something pulling on the ends at 20 mph (ie, the road would stretch equally throughout it's whole length).

      After 1 hour, the road would be 41 miles long. How far apart are the cars?  If you said 21 miles you'd be wrong.  They are actually much much further apart because the space in between them is stretching.  

      If you had another frame of reference that wasn't moving (like standing on the sidewalk next to the road) you could say that the cars had additional velocity due to being "carried" by the road but there is no other frame of reference.  The universe IS everything.  There is no way to "step outside" the universe to "measure".

  •  What came immediately after the Big Bang? (15+ / 0-)

    The Big Cigarette!

    (credit to Johnny Carson)

    Romnoid T-2012 - It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or fear, or remorse. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are deemed corporate property!!

    by Fordmandalay on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:19:13 PM PDT

  •  Congrats to (Mr.) Dr. rb137. (11+ / 0-)

    And the whole team of course.  This is a really prestigious award.  

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 05:32:43 PM PDT

  •  This makes Rick Santorum seem so irrelevant. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, commonmass, GDbot, G2geek, Dragon5616

    Oh, wait...
    Cool graphics! Thanks for sharing!

    •  lol! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yojimbo, commonmass, G2geek, Dragon5616

      Click on the WMAP website -- lots of cool graphics there.

    •  this makes politics in general seem.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rb137, Dragon5616, Pithy Cherub

      .... pathetic in a way that should quadruple our will to fight and win a crushing victory.

      Like this:

      Here we are discussing the nature of the universe.  What more sublime topic could exist in our times?, like contemplating the mind of God in times when religion was the only lens through which humans glimpsed a greater reality.  

      And yet there are people such as Santorum whose goal in life is to dominate others, extract work-value from others, and violently oppress anyone who won't go along.  

      Compared to RB and the rest of the science crew around here (and to poets, painters, theologians, etc.), Santorum and his ilk are like a bunch of drunken monkeys who break into an art studio, and start flinging monkey-poop at the art.  

      So here we are, artists painting our pictures when the drunken monkeys break into the studio to try to fling poo at our paintings, and turn us into their slaves at the same time, and kill any of us who won't go along.  

      Or if you prefer, ancient scholars studying in the great library when the barbarians come raging in to try to burn it down and kill us.  

      Compared to painting those paintings, or studying in that library, having to deal with drunken monkeys or raging barbarians is a huge come-down.  Really, nobody should have to deal with that shit.  

      So what do we do?

      The answer is, we fight harder and we win the conclusive victory.  We chase away the drunken monkeys or the raging barbarians for once and for all, and we find a way to keep them the hell O-U-T permanently so they will not afflict us or anyone else ever again.  If we don't score the conclusive crushing victory, we'll be stuck dealing with them time and time again, so it's in our interest to do it once and for all and so conclusively that the source of our trouble does not come back again.  

      So that's why we should be motivated to defeat the Santorums and the rest of them so they cannot ever come back to haunt us.  It's better to pause our art or study for the crushingly powerful counter-attack, and get it over with.

      And that's why we fight.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:27:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  excellent diary, rb137 (9+ / 0-)

    I work on this stuff, and your diary is clear and accurate.   Thank you.

  •  I shared this with every single network (6+ / 0-)

    i could. I am so proud and happy for you and your family!!!! What an awesome, awesome honor!

  •  Weird (15+ / 0-)

    that "ordinary matter" makes up 4.6% of  existence while the exotically-named "dark energy" makes up 72.1% or so. Like so much of the world today, the rare is called mundane - the commonplace exotic. Why don't we recognize that what we are made of is the magical, rare and wonderful stuff of nature? Her common stuff is the dark goo that fills the void, that ubiquitous canvass in four dimensions on which, in bright and exotic colors, all of existence is writ large

  •  I hope you'll forgive me for (7+ / 0-)

    Tipping, Rec'ing, and Reposting.

    Bang :)

    Great stuff.  WMAP and the team deserve the attention and award.

  •  Very cool... (5+ / 0-)

    ...congrats indeed to Professor Bennett, the WMAP science team and Mr. rb137!!


    May 9, 2012 - Evolution Day

    by cooper888 on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:35:55 PM PDT

  •  Thank you for the story. A lot of hard work... (7+ / 0-)

    and clear scientific thought went into this experiment. The advances of science can seem slow. But, we want to be as certain as possible. The only word I have any issue with is 'proof'. But, that is a minor thing.

    Great story and diary. Kudos to all.

    Respect the middle class. Include everyone in economic recovery. Empower all to move the nation forward.

    by jim in IA on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:43:38 PM PDT

  •  Ooh, ooh, I've got a question! (6+ / 0-)

    I don't quite get this "flat" aspect.

    Was the big bang not omnidirectional?

    Romney - his fingernails have never been anything but manicured.

    by Pescadero Bill on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 06:45:53 PM PDT

    •  Apparently it didn't (7+ / 0-)

      proceed that way. It probably not quite right to say it's shaped like a pancake, but it's pretty darned flat. Let me think a little while about how to answer your question. I'll get back to you soon.

      •  Hmmm, like it came out of a cracked door or (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rb137, Dragon5616, jayden, Aunt Pat

        something.  I always thought it was a 3-dimensional explosion that spread in every direction from a central point.  Of course, I had no reason for thinking that, other than watching flak explode in old WWII bombing documentaries.  

        History merely repeats itself; it doesn't cure its own ills. That is the burden of the present.

        by ZedMont on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 10:10:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  it was isotropic (6+ / 0-)

      "flat" doesn't mean two-dimensionally flat, like a pancake.  It is a statement about geometry.   On the two-dimensional surface of a sphere, angles of triangles add up to more than 180 degrees (line from north pole to equator, turn right, go 90 degrees around, turn right, go back to the north pole, and you have a triangle with three right angles).   In two-dimensional flat space, they add up to exactly 180 degrees.

      In three-d, same thing.  If you drew a triangle (defined as three intersecting lines, where "line" is the shortest distance between two points), then the sum of the angles depends on whether the geometry is open, flat or closed.   It is something to be experimentally determined.  It has been determined to be flat to an accuracy of better than a percent.

      •  Yes. (6+ / 0-)

        And this is really directed to Pescadero Bill, but I wanted to reply here to add to your commentary.

        "Flat" means "little curvature". The universe could explode radially outward (in a way), which is what I think PD means by omnidirectional. I think of it like a balloon expanding, stratching unformly outward.

        •  stretching. (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZedMont, G2geek, Dragon5616, Aunt Pat

          We are also celebrating here. I am typing impaired.  :)

        •  So in theory (or fact), there could be (or is) (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, Aunt Pat

          a whole other side of the universe expanding out in the opposite direction from us that we'll never be able to see because of the limitations of light. That is to say, we'll never be able to see because we can't look past the point of where the big bang took place and where all photons and the like originated?

          I guess I'm limited by the lack of knowledge to help my imagination get past thinking of the big bang as not unlike a super nova spreading hot gasses and matter in a circular pattern out and away from the original exploding star.

          Of course we can see all sides of a super nova from our vantage point, but we'll never be able to see all parts of the universe due to the point source of all things being, well...nothing, I guess.

          Am I making sense?

          And thank you for taking the time to enlighten us dedicated but amateur science lovers.

          Romney - his fingernails have never been anything but manicured.

          by Pescadero Bill on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 03:49:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  not quite; here's what's going on.... (0+ / 0-)

            The mistake was the analogy with an explosion, and it produced the erroneous result of thinking of "the opposite side of the universe from where the explosion originated."

            Here's something that might make it more clear, and also leads to what you were originally trying to get at.

            First, what I think you were thinking of is the idea of "local universe," meaning, everything we can observe from here.  If an object is so far away that its light has not reached us yet, we say it's outside of our local universe.  We can't observe it because we can't see its light, because there hasn't been enough time for its light to reach us from where it is.

            A similar effect occurs when space is expanding.  Think of a long piece of rubber mat or rubber conveyor belt: just a very long piece of rubber.  Two cats are sitting on it, let's say they're 20 feet apart.  And at each end of it, someone is pulling on it really hard to cause it to stretch.  Originally the two cats were 20 feet apart, but now the rubber band has been stretched a little and they're 30 feet apart, and then 40 feet apart, and so on.   Now one cat tries to roll a golf ball down the rubber mat to the other cat.  But the mat is being stretched faster than the speed of the golf ball, so the golf ball doesn't have a chance to reach the other cat.  

            The rubber mat is the fabric of spacetime, expansion is what stretches it, the cat who rolls the golf ball down the mat is a star or galaxy, the golf ball is a photon (light) and the cat who was waiting to catch the ball is an astronomer on Earth.  And yes, spacetime can expand fast enough that the relative speed between the distant star and us would be "faster than the speed of light."  But there is no "neutral" place from which you can observe that the difference between the star and the Earth is "faster than the speed of light."  Since photons (light) have a speed limit, if space is expanding too fast, they can't get from the star to Earth.  And since we don't see those stars (we can't detect their light) we say that they are outside of our "local universe."  Our local universe is everything we can see because we can detect its light from here.  

            OK, now onward to the Big Bang.

            Normally we're tempted to think of it as an explosion radiating outward from a central point.  By analogy, you have an empty parking lot, and you set up a bunch of tin cans covering an area of let's say 50 feet in each direction, and then you put a small piece of dynamite in the center of the field of tin cans.  Now you set off the dynamite, and if you watch closely, you see the wave of the explosion moving outward in a circle and knocking over the tin cans as it goes. This happens really fast so you use a high-speed video camera and then you slow down the playback so you can see how the wave of the explosion moves outward and knocks over the tin cans in an expanding circle as it goes.  The expansion of that circle of action of the dynamite, is what we are tempted to think of as the expansion of space.  But it's not quite right: it's not how the Big Bang works.

            Instead it's more like this:

            You're an invincible bug that has somehow managed to fly into a cylinder in an automobile engine.  And you have managed to slow down time so you can watch closely what's about to happen.  As the piston reaches a certain point, you smell gasoline: aha!, a mixture of gasoline and air has entered the cylinder.  Now there's a spark, and the gasoline ignites.  The flame of the burning gasoline is everywhere in the cylinder, and the pressure of combustion causes the volume of gas in the cylinder to expand, pushing on the piston to move the car.  Since you're an invincible bug this doesn't hurt you, and what you observe is that the fire is everywhere in the cylinder at the same time.  

            Strictly speaking, the ignition of the fuel in the cylinder had a point of origin, at the spark plug.  But the impression I'm trying to convey here is that from the observer's point of view, it's as if the fire of the burning gasoline occurs in the entire cylinder at once, and the volume of the space expands as the piston is driven downward.

            The Big Bang is like that: the "explosion" occurs everywhere simultaneously.  Unlike the dynamite, it doesn't start at one point and propagate outward from that point.  It's not an explosion "in" space, it's an explosion "of" space.  It causes the volume of space itself to expand.  And as the volume of space expands, it cools down, and the "fire" cools down to ordinary temperature and what you see now is smoke and fog.  Then over time the particles of smoke and humidity condense into droplets and then into bigger drops of sooty water.  That's a rough analogy for the soup of particles from the Big Bang condensing into stars.  

            That doesn't get you planets yet: that process entails interactions between dying stars and un-condensed "dust" (hydrogen etc.) in the interstellar space.  Stars that eventually explode (novae and supernovae) spew quantities of fusion products into space, and this stuff includes the elements that later condense into solid matter that goes on to form planets.  All of this happens over an enormous time scale.  

            OK, so how do we get from the Big Bang (this strange kind of explosion that occurs "everywhere simultaneously") to objects in space that we can't see?   Like the combustion of the gasoline in the cylinder of the engine, causing the piston to move and thereby increasing the volume of space inside the cylinder:  space itself expands.  

            That gets us back to our rubber mat with two cats sitting on it as it gets stretched.   That was an expansion in one dimension: let's call it "length".   Now let's say we have a rubber sheet instead, and it's the size of a rug in a room, and there are mice sitting quietly at various places on the sheet.  Now you have people on all four sides of the sheet pulling on it, causing it to expand.  As it does, the mice notice that they are all getting further and further from each other in all directions.   That would be expansion in two dimensions: length and width.

            Now let's do that with an entire room, and pretend the room and the air in the room are stretchy like rubber.  Instead of mice we have bumble bees hovering in the air in the room and not moving.  Now we have people on all sides of the room tugging on it from all sides.  So the room and the air begin to expand.  And the bumble bees notice that they are also getting further apart in all directions.  That would be expansion in three dimensions: length, width, and depth.

            Finally, what we think of as space has a fourth dimension of time, and we call it spacetime.  Events occurring in space are also occurring in time.  So with all of those other examples, finally with the bumble bees, while the space is expanding, the time is passing, so we have movement through time.  

            OK, this comment is too long so I should stop here for now.  Is this useful? or do you have questions (and for any scientists here, did I screw up something)?  

            "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

            by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 07:11:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  It's hard. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, Dragon5616, Pescadero Bill

      As I understand it, it's like early cartographers on the Earth. They had pretty good maps, but the problems (and some physics) eventually made it clear that an accurate map of the earth could not be made flat -- that the Earth is in fact a very-slightly-oblate globe.

      That's a fairly difficult conclusion to reach from entirely local measurements, and it took a long time to reach that conclusion and accurately establish the size of the Earth and its environs. (Apropos the recent transit of Venus...)

      Similarly, the universe could be "flat", as we imagine Euclidean 3-space to be. But there's no guarantee, and the physicists worry that we might be living in a hyperbolic or spherical (or even toroidal) geometry. (Viewing this in any reasonable sense requires imagining it in 4-dimensions, as the curvature to space could not be seen in 3.)

      We haven't ruled out any of these possibilities, but so far the physicists tell us that the universe seems to be Euclidean ("flat") to as near as they can (so far) measure.

    •  how'bout this: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dragon5616, Pescadero Bill

      The Big Bang is omnidirectional, but when you are inside the spacetime it defines, any "plane" that you draw is actually flat rather than curved.  

      For example you are a person sitting in your house.  Your floor is flat, your wall is flat, your other wall is flat: now you've defined planes that describe three spatial dimensions.  Now you sit in your house and time passes, and your three-dimensional space moves through the fourth dimension of time, but your walls are still flat.

      Now imagine you are a planet or a star or a galaxy, and you're sitting in a "room" that's scaled to the size of yourself as a planet, star, or galaxy.  The floor, walls, and ceiling of that room will each also be flat, just as they were in your house.  

      So even though the universe is expanding, it's doing so in such a manner that those floors and walls and ceilings each remain flat.  That is, the geometry is still Euclidean, and planes in the expanding universe are still flat.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:38:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for your reply. And here's the original (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        reason I asked in the first place:

        Good luck trying to follow my tortured attempt at grasping how space and time and the big bang all fit together. But I've always been curious about the conundrum I'm trying to explain in that comment/question. It seems like it should, and probably has been, asked and answered. I just haven't found it.  

        Romney - his fingernails have never been anything but manicured.

        by Pescadero Bill on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 03:56:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  aha! (0+ / 0-)

          I see what you were trying to get at, and where the mistake was.  I'll reply to that comment.  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:15:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I was sitting outside enjoying the evening (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, G2geek, Dragon5616

    when I read this. I came inside as soon as I finished and told Dear Partner, "The big bang theory has been proven!"

    He gave me the strangest look. It's the look he gets when he has no idea what I'm talking about. Then I realized he was watching "The Big Bang Theory" on TV. Heh.

    Thanks for a fantastic diary. T&R.


    A little blue dot in a vast sea of red.

    by deha on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 07:54:56 PM PDT

  •  Republicans will deny it. (4+ / 0-)

    Cuz where was god? See? Big bang bogus.

    "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened." Sir Winston Churchill

    by psnyder on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 07:55:38 PM PDT

  •  I'm very impressed (7+ / 0-)

    You made this almost comprehensible to a science-averse English Major. Nice job, that. :)

    "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

    by ChurchofBruce on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:01:21 PM PDT

  •  Congrats to the WMAP team! (8+ / 0-)

    When I despair of the irrational mess of this world we live in, I am heartened to think of the hard workers in science, who stick to reason, and believe in asking the questions, and searching, always searching and questioning. That (in the short run) is the kind of behavior that will save us as a species, if anything does.

    In the long run (ah yes), I don't know if I'm so thrilled to think the universe is endlessly inflationary, because that means everything will ultimately come to a pretty blah end, yes? ("This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper").

    But since such inevitability is eons away, let me say congrats again to Mr. rb137. And a big thanks to rb137 herself, whose talents as a science writer are nothing to sneeze at.

    War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

    by Valtin on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:09:46 PM PDT

    •  Thanks. (6+ / 0-)

      And the end is pretty boring, it seems. Except that it goes on forever, so everything that can possibly happen will actually happen. That's pretty cool.  :)

      •  Yes (5+ / 0-)

        "...everything that can possibly happen will actually happen."

        William Blake's comment from "Marriage of Heaven and Hell" popped into mind:

        "Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth."

        War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight, The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade Invictus

        by Valtin on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:53:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  but if entropic heat death occurs... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... then motion effectively stops, except at a quantum scale where the motion is random.

        The fact that the dark dead remnant of galaxy A is still moving away from the dead remains of galaxy B is irrelevant if they're outside each others' light cones.  Each galaxy and ultimately each atom becomes thoroughly isolated in its own local universe.  There is no way to judge relative motion between objects.

        Without relative motion, there is no way to measure time, so time effectively ceases to exist.

        So, what happens to a 4-coordinate system (spacetime) when you collapse or remove one of the coordinates (time)?

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:46:39 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Einstein's cosmological constant (4+ / 0-)

    returns with a vengeance! LOL.

    What a fabulous diary!

    Every time history repeats itself, the price goes up...East Wing Rules

    by Pithy Cherub on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 08:55:07 PM PDT

  •  We still know less about the Universe than (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, G2geek, Dragon5616

    we know. But we're getting there.  In theory at least.

  •  I'm proud to be an American when news like this (5+ / 0-)

    arrives on my doorstep.

    I had a big sad when the Euros built the LHC and we mothballed the Tevatron. But perhaps there are still some  Nobel Prizes waiting out there for American theoretical physics.

    ... damn! The Planck Space Observatory - successor to WMAP - was built and launched by the European Space Agency!

    Have you noticed?
    Politicians who promise LESS government
    only deliver BAD government.

    by jjohnjj on Wed Jun 20, 2012 at 09:33:07 PM PDT

    •  The big sad was (4+ / 0-)

      mothballing the SSC. The equivalent accelerator would have been in the US at the turn of the century, otherwise. And it could have been put in series with the Tevatron -- using the Tev as an injector. It was all politics during the HW Bush admin. Sad stuff.

      I do mention Planck at the end of the diary. They've published their engineering results, but we're still awaiting the scientific ones. I'm pretty excited about it, because they should be able to tell us some things that WMAP didn't.

  •  Very Nice (4+ / 0-)

    A well-written diary that focuses on the big picture. Elegant and very nicely done!

  •  It is amazing to realize (4+ / 0-)

    that is has still been well less than 100 years that anyone has really understood what makes the Sun shine.

  •  I certainly feel privileged to share in such (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, Dragon5616, Pithy Cherub

    knowledge.  I can't pretend to comprehend everything you have written, but I feel like I can catch a glimpse of our universe as it has matured from its infancy.

    Seems to me that everything, the universe, galaxies, stars, planets, atoms, energy and even life all start with a big bang.

    Next time I have a drink with friends, I will give a toast to everything and everyone's big bang beginnings.

    One thing I really enjoy is the continued mystery of dark matter and dark energy.

    For some reason I find comfort in knowing that not everything is yet understood.

    A good mystery is stimulating.

  •  Alone? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    " left the Lambda Cold Dark Matter Inflationary Big Bang Theory standing alone."

    Not quite alone, unless Profs Steinhardt and Turok have thrown in the towel recently.

    Their book, Endless Universe, explains their ekpyrotic/cyclic cosmology, in which the big bang is explained as a collision between two “brane-worlds.” This hypothesis can also fit the WMAP data.

    See my 2007 review:

    Paul J. Steinhardt is the Albert Einstein Professor of Science at Princeton; he was an early proponent of cosmic inflation and coauthored with Alan Guth the article in Scientific American that presented the inflationary universe theory to the general public.

    Neil Turok was Chair of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge, is now
    Director of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo Ontario.  He also founded the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, promote the study and math and science in Africa, "so that the world's next Einstein may be African."

    There's no such thing as a free market!

    by Albanius on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 12:33:45 AM PDT

    •  I was going to say something (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe, Dragon5616

      about Neil and Paul, but this diary is about WMAP. Still, they are creating a cyclic universe that is consistent with WMAP data -- but there is controversy about their stuff. I have the utmost respect for both of them, but I disagree with the statement that their theory is universally accepted.

      Maybe we can have a diary about that sometime, but it's really off topic here.

    •  By the way... (3+ / 0-)

      I didn't mean to be rude -- I don't think that your comment is inappropriate. I think going into post-WMAP cyclic models of the universe is too much a digression in this particular diary.

      I also mean no disrepect to Neil, Paul, and their colleagues. Neil's career particularly has often been about raising healthy skepticism, and that's a good thing.

      At the time WMAP published their first set of results, CDM inflationary big bang really was the only theory left standing.

  •  ooh, what kind of cat is that (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, historys mysteries, Dragon5616

    in your profile pic?

    I don't know nuffin. I have always been partial to the idea of a big bang that bangs, goes for a few hundred billion years, then eventually contracts back in to another singularity and then bangs again. I guess I just want to hold onto the happy feeling that gave me, even if it doesn't look to be right. it seemed so logical. orr, maybe "people" in 3012 will think briefly about the fact that people in 2012 thought the universe was 'flat' and have a good brainchuckle.

    thanks for the info!

    Think of me what you will, I've got a little space to fill. - Tom Petty

    by itsbenj on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 01:18:24 AM PDT

  •  Great article. Many thanks! (4+ / 0-)

    Wish we had a few more like this!  Really top notch science writing and reporting.

  •  Technically, Big Bang wasn't "proved". Scientific (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    theories are never proved, but, if they are false, they might be disproved.  Who knows, some data may come along later to disprove it.

  •  And it will take how many light years (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dragon5616, rb137, cybersaur

    for the Catholic church and other Fundamentalists to acknowledge this Scientific truth?  After all, it took them only 300 years to say  Yeah, Galileo was right.  The earth isn't the center of the universe.

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant

    by historys mysteries on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 05:18:10 AM PDT

    •  They are slow to come around. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      historys mysteries

      I wonder, really, how much disagreement there is anymore. Sure, there are packs of influential anti-science people here and there, but they are falling away. Maybe not as quickly as some of us would like, but it's happening.

      I think something like that takes generations. Some fundamentalists now embrace what they call "micro-evolution" -- an acknowledgement of biology that leaves creation as untouchable territory. At least that what it seems to me.

  •  No, I'm sorry, this is wrong (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, jo fish

    The universe is only 6,500 years old, as per the bible.

    God just made it look like it was 13.73 billion years old when he created it.

    Just to fuck with us :)

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 05:32:49 AM PDT

  •  One thing readers should take away from this Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb137, cybersaur

    and others like it is this.

    In the last analysis all the advances that Humankind have made since our earliest days in the  jungle have come to us not through Politics, or Statesmanship, or Wars, or Free Market Capitalism ( whatever that is ) or even  Religion -- but rather through the unrelenting application of Scientic Thought and Experimentation to the myriad mysteries of existence.

  •  I'm a "Big Bounce" guy myself (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But this is awesome news on the physics front.

    "Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage." - H. L. Mencken

    by Jaxpagan on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:09:16 AM PDT

  •  Bazinga! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    A celibate clergy is an especially good idea, because it tends to suppress any hereditary propensity toward fanaticism. -Carl Sagan

    by jo fish on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 06:35:36 AM PDT

  •  Thank you for posting this, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've hotlisted it to read more deeply when I have time to really let it sink in.

    Great post!

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene 5

    by Ooooh on Thu Jun 21, 2012 at 08:29:11 AM PDT

  •  The Higgins Boys & Gruber (0+ / 0-)

    So that's what Gruber has been up to since their cable show was canceled.

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