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How can science ever hope to explain everything?

  1. May 25, 2007 #1
    We can say the universe was created with a big bang but, if we take the view that a separate reality exists outside of our universe, this doesn't answer the question of how all of reality was created. If we explain the causes of the big bang, perhaps by some theory referring to a black hole sea, bouncing brane or mother universe or something, how can we explain what caused the existence of those entities? And if we can explain how they were created, perhaps by some other entity, how can we explain its creation? It's the chicken and egg story. It seems like this is the wrong way to think about 'the creation of everything' but admittedly I am lost.

    String theory attempts to say that there can be a no more elementary object than a vibrating string. Could this be analogous to a multiverse? I.e. could there be a point where you can trace creation back no further and a single entity created everything, like a multistring or something? Sounds a bit like a God, albeit a multiversal one! However, I don't like the idea of a God mainly because we would still be left with the question of how this entity was created. In fact any attempt to think about the origin of reality seems to end up with the same problem.

    Maybe humans simply don't have the correct type of intelligence or equipment to approach this question yet and we need to work on it while evolving for a few more million years. Or maybe I should have studied physics at university...

    Can anyone give me hope? To all you pros; how do you resolve this matter in your head, if only temporarily, to stop you going insane while you study physics, without invoking philosophical paradigms?!
     
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  3. May 25, 2007 #2

    marcus

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    Why should we say the universe was created with a big bang?
    In a strictly scientific context, there is no reason to claim this. (one has equally good models that go back further in time, but duplicate the standard results.)

    It's my impression that speculations which at one time were fashionable, about a beginning that coincides with the big bang, are going out of fashion. Instead, one sees interest in models which go back further in time. There is currently no scientific reason to prefer the older model which failed to extend back further in time. So far no empirical evidence favoring one over the other: one simply doesnt know.

    About your other idea, I don't know of any strictly scientific reason to suppose that a "separate reality exists outside our universe."
    People can believe that if they want---as a kind of fantasy---but I don't see how it can be effective at explaining what we observe. It has no bearing on the price of apples, or the evolution of apple trees.:smile:

    As far as I know, the SIMPLEST thing to assume that is consistent with scientific evidence is that time continues back indefinitely with no beginning, and into the future with no end---that there is one universe and it has always been here. Possibly this is not true and some future experiments or observations will provide disproof. But so far we don't have the scientific tools and evidence to show that it is wrong.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2007
  4. May 25, 2007 #3

    marcus

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    Virtua, if you would like a survey paper, this one is written as an invited address to a 2005 conference of historians and philosophers of science:

    http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0605078

    You can skip the mathematics, there is not much and it is concentrated mostly in the middle section. I think it puts the issue of beginnings or no-beginnings in historical context and gives a glimpse of current developments that can be understood by nonspecialists.
     
  5. May 25, 2007 #4
    Thanks for that, will read and digest as best I can. I'm sure it will change my view somewhat.

    As for other universes though, there is a scientific reason which is the many worlds interpretation of quantum physics as championed by David Deutsch. The theoretical founding is based on quantum interference as exhibited by the twin slit experiment, among other things. I know what you're saying about this being academic - if you can't notice it, does it matter? But the invention of quantum computers, if they are possible, would make these other universes very real as computations would be occuring in them which would affect the results seen in our universe (if the many worlds interpretation is correct).

    So do you take the view that the universe is inifinite with regard to time? It would certainly make more sense than trying to trace back creation to a single point, for the reasons I've outlined above.
     
  6. May 25, 2007 #5

    Phobos

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    Every good scientist should be able to say "I don't know". Uncertainty & the Unknown provide exciting areas of research, and should not be something to only fret over.

    Scientists continue to collect more/better data and continue to improve/expand theories about the universe. What's "beyond" the Big Bang? No one knows. Let's keep investigating.

    And yes, it's possible that the universe has existed forever. The Big Bang marks the beginning of the visible universe (i.e., the portion within our field of view...but the whole universe is more than that).

    It's better to try than not, yes? :smile:
     
  7. May 26, 2007 #6

    Chris Hillman

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    Oh? What about Occam's razor?

    However, regarding the plea for humility, I like parts of this:

    http://www.arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0009020

    Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that cosmologists know an awful lot about the universe, knowledge which won't be overturned. The burning question is how best to organize all this knowledge into a coherent theoretical picture. The mainstream picture sometimes changes drastically, as happened fairly recently with Lambda, and then (apparently) the discovery of lots and lots of strange new stuff which doesn't act like the matter we know and love.
     
  8. May 27, 2007 #7

    marcus

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    Not sure the razor applies when comparing ordinary FRW cosmology with attempts to quantize it such as Wheeler DeWitt or LQC
    In the case of LQC you get something new, namely removal of singularities, and a reasonable chance of falsifiability (eventually being able to derive signatures to look for in CMB or early structure that are either there or not).
    Quantizing is not exactly a case of multiplying entities unnecessarily.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2007
  9. May 28, 2007 #8

    Chronos

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    We certainly have hit a wall observationally. It appears the universe in which we reside had a definitive beginning around 13.7 billion years ago. It does not yet appear possible to describe what, if anything, preceeded it. Is that unappealing? Certainly, but those are the facts as best we know. Appealing to previous universes, or multiverses, is little more than mathematical alchemy until tested, and that is a problem. What would be the signature of a prior incarnation of this universe? Can information survive a 'bounce', or would any such survival ultimately lead to something akin to a heat death? It's a problem that may be inherently unsolvable, hence scientifically irrelevant.
     
  10. May 28, 2007 #9

    Wallace

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    Science is never going to answer touchy-feely philosophical questions such as 'why is there something rather than nothing?'. Science will never tell us why there is a Universe but can tell us how it evolved.

    Is this a flaw in science? No. But it is a flaw in reason to ask science these questions. I could make some platitude about these questions belonging to the realm of philosophy or theology but I suspect that these fields are equally useless at answering these questions.
     
  11. May 28, 2007 #10
    I think when all is said and done the answer will be 'because there is no other way it could be'.
     
  12. May 28, 2007 #11

    marcus

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    what other choice was there?:biggrin:
    (just paraphrasing blumfeld. I like it.)
     
  13. May 28, 2007 #12
    I'm not entirely sure about that. What we learn from science is that the universe is completely logical. And one truth from logic is that a true conclusion can come from a false premise. In other words something can come from nothing - this is permitted by logic too. So the question, "Why is there something and not nothing?" is the same as asking, "Can something come from nothing?" And the answer is yes.
     
  14. May 28, 2007 #13

    Wallace

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    You speak of philosophy and abstract logic, not science. The assertion you've just made cannot be verified by experiment or observation and hence science is moot on this point.
     
  15. Aug 27, 2007 #14
    Someone, perhaps many, have said that "our universe exists only because it is a (necessary) perturbation about zero". That could be considered a neat reason for its existence.
     
  16. Aug 28, 2007 #15
     
  17. Aug 28, 2007 #16
    Some times i just hope god came from the sky and tell us: "Look this is how i did it", sadly i don't believe in god!
    No really i personally think that the universe contains everything from nothing to all, everything that could happen will happen, that doesn't put our visible universe in any special position, the anthropic principle does the rest.
     
  18. Aug 30, 2007 #17
    What if the laws of physics as we presently know them could be derived from the abstract principles of logic alone (I'm getting close myself to doing just that), will we call that science or religion? Does "science" deny logical deduction? Is there anything in all reality that is not logical? If it is the goal of science to explain everything, then that ultimate explanation cannot depend on some object which itself needs explaning too. The ultimate explanation will have to depend on principle alone. And it would have to depend on principles that concern existence or not, true or false.
     
  19. Aug 30, 2007 #18

    Wallace

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    Let me know when you get there ;)

    You're several hundred years behind scientific method. The Greek philosophers thought as you do that everything that is 'true' must be deducible from Logic alone and rejected empirical verification as unnecessary and even misleading. A few braves souls over a millennium later named Galileo and Newton (amongst many others) rejected this notion and realized that there were many things that could not be deduced, but had to be inferred from observation and experiment. Gone was the need for rigid axiomatic foundations and as a consequence empirical science flourished and forever changed the world.

    I see no reason to (quite literally!) return to the dark ages of science in the way you suggest.
     
  20. Aug 31, 2007 #19
    I would think the first place to look would be my home page.


    I don't reject empirical verification. There has to be some method of verifying the math. Verification is unavoidable. For the only reason that we would even start such an effort would be to make predictions. It would then become immediately obvious whether such a theory was correct or not.

    The ancient greek phylosophers did not have the mathematical tools to prove their intuition. Symbolic representation of propositional calculus did not even exist until 1850's with Boolean algebra. But you might wish to consider that logic originally was a tool for physics - the propositions that made up the premises and conclusions were described in terms of physical circumstances whose actual existence was considered either true or false. And this is even the case today. There is simply no way to understand physics without logic. The question is how dependent is physics on abstract logic? We know that mathematics has a logical origin, with the union and intersection of elements in a topology used to defined mathematical concepts such as continuity, etc. So we know that as far as our mathematical description of physics is concerned, it is based on logic.
     
  21. Aug 31, 2007 #20

    russ_watters

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    That's simply, factually wrong. Aristotle reasoned out a great many things that were mathematically simple, factually wrong, and easily testable. The most obvious are his most famous 'reasoned theories' that objects fall at an acceleration proportional to their mass and that objects require a force to stay in motion. Both of these are easily falsified with disturbingly simple experiments. 400 years ago, Tycho Brahe used to challenge the first one at dinner parties and people would just about fall off their chairs when he dropped apples and grapes and they both hit the table at the same time.

    Wallace2 is correct: this concept of how science should work is clearly proven flawed and more than 400 years out of date. It is wrong. Period.
     
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