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Omega Point Theory

  1. Feb 3, 2010 #1
    Is the omega point theory by Frank J. Tipler plausible? or is it more of a pseudoscientific theory?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2010 #2


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    Wildly speculative, improbable and assumes numerous facts not in evidence - it otherwise looks promising.
  4. Feb 4, 2010 #3


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    I think the recent finding that the Universe is actually accelerating in its expansion would suggest that the big crunch which is necessary for this to work is unlikely.

    I don't know too much other than that.
  5. Feb 4, 2010 #4
    I see, but isn't the nature of dark energy currently unknown? how does dark energy accelerate the expansion of the universe anyway?
  6. Feb 4, 2010 #5


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    Basically by having an energy density that changes very slowly (or not at all) with expansion. You can see how this must work rather easily if you just consider the first Friedmann equation in flat space (neglecting constants):

    [tex]H^2 = \rho[/tex]

    The expansion rate is defined as:
    [tex]H = \frac{1}{a}\frac{da}{dt}[/tex]

    And the energy density is just the total energy density of the universe.

    So if we have a constant energy density, then we have a very simple formula:

    [tex]H^2 = H_0^2[/tex]

    Here I've replaced the energy density (which is assumed to be constant, independent of expansion, which would be the case if the only energy density out there was a cosmological constant) with the current expansion rate [tex]H_0[/tex].

    If you know your differential equations, you should immediately recognize the equation this reduces to:
    [tex]\frac{1}{a}\frac{da}{dt} = H_0[/tex]
    [tex]\frac{da}{dt} = H_0 a[/tex]

    This is just the equation for exponential growth:
    [tex]a(t) = a(0) e^{H_0 t}[/tex]

    So if you have an energy density that does not vary with expansion, you get exponential expansion. What we need to generate an accelerated expansion, then, is something that either doesn't vary at all with expansion (such as some sort of vacuum energy), or something that varies very slowly (such as some sort of quintessence field).
  7. Feb 4, 2010 #6
    I started out to sort out the riddle of gravity and wound up building my own theory. (sound familiar?) With no more than Newton and a splash of Einstein I can see how our sun MAY be gravity powered. My various therefores indicate that our solar system should be expanding and since I believe the laws of Physics should be the same everywhere, perhaps the other solar systems are expanding as well which would of course expand the galaxy. Whether or not this would affect intergalactic distances is another question, any thoughts?

    More questions, the answers to which I think would help: What does E = M c2 mean?
    A: it means that x amount of energy is required to bind y amount of matter together.

    B: it means that x amount of energy condenses (if you will) into y amount of matter.

    C: it means.............(fill in the blank)

    D: I donno

    And lastly, for now, does anyone have a good guestimate as to how much mass other than the sun is in our solar system?
  8. Feb 4, 2010 #7


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    Typing the following into Google gives you a good idea:

    (mass of Jupiter)/(mass of sun)
  9. Feb 4, 2010 #8


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    I don't think the solar system is expanding appreciably...but I haven't really read anything on this matter.

    The mass of the solar system is mostly concentrated in the Sun. IIRC, the Sun accounts for something like 99% (or more) of the mass of the solar system.
  10. Feb 4, 2010 #9


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    Chalnoth did a nice job showing why DE leads to an accelerated expansion, but I find it necessary to point out that we actually know a lot about how dark energy works, even if we know little about what it actually is. The situation with dark matter is very much the same -- the argument that we don't know what it is and therefore cannot be confident using it is innocuous because we do not need to fully understand the "why" to be confident with our predictions.
  11. Feb 4, 2010 #10


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    Another way of putting it is that if we write down a hypothetical mathematical model for dark energy, we can precisely state all of the implications of that mathematical model. Now, we may not yet know whether or not that particular model applies to reality, but there is no problem dealing with the model itself.
  12. Feb 5, 2010 #11
    It's a great idea. Unfortunately, it's about 120 years too late. Something that you can do with a little math is to calculate how long the sun will shine from gravity. You get about 50 million years, which poses a big problem since it the geologists say that the earth has been around for a lot longer than that. This was a very interesting puzzle that occupied people the first quarter of the 20th century.

    It's pretty interesting looking at how scientists of the early 20th century tried to deal with this puzzle, since it's pretty similar to how we are now dealing with dark matter/dark energy. I expect that if you go into an freshman astronomy lecture in 2050, the teacher will talk about the thing that causes what we are seeing as if it was obvious all along what was happening. "Those scientists of the early 21st century thought that they were dealing with mysterious dark energy and dark matter, but what they didn't know was ....... "

    This is a google question.
  13. Feb 5, 2010 #12
    It's a full-blown cosmological theory based on a particular application of Many Worlds theory and a particular quantum-gravity theory. Tipler doesn't believe Super-Strings or Super-Symmetry are sufficiently backed by observation to be correct so he has had to develop a theory independent of those two 'Mainstream' theoretical systems, thus making him something of a loner, but he's not a crank nor a self-deluded pseudoscientist.

    Is it plausible? His current version incorporates the accelerated expansion of the Universe - it's due to the Higgs being in not quite its vacuum state. Tipler thinks intelligent Life will develop a means of "baryon burning" (reverse baryogenesis) which will ultimately cause the Higgs to decay into its lowest state once enough baryons are turned into leptons & energy, thus causing acceleration to cease and eventual recollapse.

    He has made specific observational claims, which can in principle be falsified, so it's a scientific theory. The theological conclusions he derives from it are a matter of philosophical quibbling and probably unscientific, but his physics is sound even when discussing the Cosmological Singularities/Singularity. However whether we have to accept that space-time really is a Continuum, as he claims, is debatable. I'm not convinced that discrete space-time isn't possible, so I reserve my scientific judgement on whether I accept the Omega Point Theory or not. But it is a logical outcome of the input physics that Tipler invokes.
  14. Feb 5, 2010 #13
    Personally, Tipler's omega point ideas are a good example of a "professional crank." He uses a lot of complicated math, he has good credentials and has done some excellent work in other areas. But his omega point ideas are pure crankery. These ideas have all of the hallmarks of your standard crank theories, the only difference being that Tipler understands the math, and can use equations in his crank theories.

    Some other examples of "professional cranks" are Stephen Wolfram, Roger Penrose, and Issac Newton. Issac Newton is a good example of what a "professional crank" can be like, because he came up with some brilliant ideas about mechanics, but he always had some other very weird ideas.

    Ummmmm...... OK.

    The problem is that he has his physics and theology so mixed up with each other than I don't think anything useful can done with the theory. You probably salvage something useful from it, but the theory as a whole is something that is rather unusable.

    I don't think it is. The nice thing about logic is that it is rigorous. If you accept point A, then you *MUST* accept conclusion B, and this forces things to happen. The trouble with Tipler's writings it that they are too scattered and disorganized for me to make any sense out of it, which is the standard problem with crank theories.

    I really don't see much difference between Tipler's Omega Point ideas and John Hagelin's ideas on TM. This goes to show you that even professional scientists can be cranks. One reason that I keep this in mind is that I have an "inner crank" that has some ideas similar to Tipler, but I keep my "inner crank" chained up.
  15. Feb 5, 2010 #14
    I think it's a crank theory. Tipler himself is not a crank, and has done a lot of good work, but this particular theory is pretty cranky. And as a comparison, you can point to Isaac Newton that came up with some really, really weird ideas.
  16. Feb 5, 2010 #15
    One thing I think you'll quickly find when you get into this discussion, is that different people have ***very*** different ideas about what is and is not science. I think we are pretty much agreed that young earth creationism and intelligent design are not science, while Newtonian physics clearly is. However if you ask me whether Tipler's omega point theory is science, I would say very, very clearly that it's not, and I think if you find out why my answer is different from other people's, its because we define "science" very differently.

    I would define science as a process that takes facts and creates useful models. That's something of a non-answer, because to understand the definition, you need for me to define "fact", "useful" and "model." I think that if you brought up about fifty different things, and asked me "is this science" you could come up with a coherent definition, that probably would turn out to be radically different from other people's. For example, I think of history as a science while string theory is barely scientific.

    One thing that illustrates how tricky things are, was that for the longest time, scholars looked at Chinese society of the 19th century and thought there was no science (or at best "pre-science"). What has come more obvious in the last thirty years is that what was going on was that Europeans were looking at China with preconceived notions of what "science" is, which were quite different from what was there. This is important to this discussion because a lot of what I think of as science and what I don't comes more so out of Chinese kao-cheng traditions than Western Platoist ones.
  17. Feb 5, 2010 #16
    I disagree that the OPT is a cranky theory, but the theological and philosophical conclusions don't help distinguish it from the usual cranky theories. Tipler is a self-proclaimed physics pariah because of his attitude to Supersymmetry & String theory, but I suspect he rather enjoys the notoriety.
  18. Feb 5, 2010 #17
    I read his book on "the Physics of Immortality" several years after it was published, in fact after the accelerating expansion was discovered; as I read the first twenty or thirty pages, I noticed a few things that I thought were wrong. It then occured to me (my opinion, here) "He is writing this in an attempt to win the Templeton Prize", ( see Google ). I started over at the begining and made notes of all the things that I questioned. I ended with fifty or sixty items, three of which were "proof" against the theory (as far as I am concerned). The issue of re-contraction has been "resolved" according to one of the earlier replies, above.

    Second issue: the "resurrection". His idea is that some future intelligence -not necessarily human- will have the means and desire to simulate all possible DNA combinations and therefore all humans (and others) will be re-created in computer memory. If this is resurrection, then why not assume we are already in a computer memory?

    Third issue: immortality implies forever; to me this does not mean ending at the 'big crunch'. I forget the details, but Tipler says that time will slow down, so it will seem like eternity. I think he invoked something like the time stretching that occurs as a body falls into a black hole. If Tipler has "solved" the contradiction between his theory and eternal expansion, then perhaps this issue is also solved.

    Besides ignoring all religions except Christianity, his ideas seem to stem from Roman Catholic teachings---a lot of people will be very confused as to why everybody is immortal.

    The book is too big ( and strange? ) for me to read it again, or to even look for his "resolution" to any of the problems.

  19. Feb 6, 2010 #18
    He has also come up with a theory of everything.
    He argues that that an extended standard model and Feynman, Weinberg theory of quantum gravity are correct.
    He says the theory has an countable infinite number of constants for gravity. And an intelligent civilization at the omega point will know all of them. whew..

    To me it sounds like a crank theory. But The possibility is very intelligent life at the end of cosmic history(assuming it collapses) is very intriguing
  20. Feb 6, 2010 #19
    No. He & John Barrow hinted at the OPT in "The Anthropic Principle" in the end notes, then Tipler released a few papers on it. "The Physics of Immortality" (1994) is his first version of the OPT and "The Physics of Christianity" (2007) is the updated version, which answers the problems of the original, albeit in a popularization which points to his technical papers for anyone looking further.

    All his papers are available around the Web and on his page. Follow them along chronologically and see how his ideas evolve.

    Nick Bostrom asks that very question in a series of papers. There's no reason why not and no way we'd ever know from within the system if the emulation is flawless.

    He proves mathematically that an infinite amount of information processing can occur in a suitably engineered Universe - assuming infinitely divisible space-time, which he can't prove. The infinite processing can occur because the amount of energy available for computation diverges (goes to infinity) in a finite proper time, thus the finite time can be made infinite subjective time by speeding up one's computational clock-speed as quickly as the energy available diverges. That infinite computation is supposed to happen in an infinitesimal point is hard to imagine, but that's what Tipler's physics says.

    Belief in "life again" is pretty much world-wide. Which religion doesn't believe that? Aside from 19th Century Protestant sects - take your pick.

    I always found the physics more interesting than the speculation. "The Physics of Immortality" suffers from a weak theology, which he attempts to correct in "The Physics of Christianity". Whether he succeeds is a matter of your philosophical assumptions.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2010
  21. Feb 7, 2010 #20
    That's much of the problem. If Tipler was able to separate out his physics from his theology (like most physicists can) he might have something useful. But he can't, and I'm not sure where his physics ends and his theology begins, and that makes him a crank. Tipler seems to think that his philosophical conclusions are a logical consequence of his physics. Again a crank sign.
  22. Feb 7, 2010 #21
    I think it comes from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Tipler didn't invent the idea of the Omega Point.
  23. Feb 7, 2010 #22
    Which is not surprising. The problem is that if you assume that space-time is infinitely divisible you run straight into Gibbs Paradox. If you have infinitely divisible space-time, then it turns out that you cannot define entropy in any reasonable way. If you cannot define entropy there is no second law of thermodynamics, and if you are in a situation in which that does not apply then pretty much anything is possible.

    The trouble with that is just quantum mechanics. Heisenberg's uncertainty theorem says that you *can't* divide space into infinitely divisible parts.

    The term omega point comes from a specific Catholic theologian, namely Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

    One thing. If you can get yourself into a situation in which the first and second laws of thermodynamics don't apply, then resurrection of the dead and immortality is easy, and it's not hard for me to think of situations in which the first and second laws of thermodynamics don't apply, but at that point I'm not doing science.

    I'm an empiricist. One reason that I'm not too concerned about what trying to figure out happens to me after I die, is that I'm going to find out in about forty years or so. Instead of wasting my time thinking about what happens after death, I'll just wait a few decades, and find out for myself. The easy thing for me to do is that if I find myself dead, I'll find the first being that I see in the afterlife, and ask them what just happened.
  24. Feb 7, 2010 #23
    Thermodynamics has problems in most cosmologies so it's a generic feature, not unique to the OPT.

    No. It says no such thing. As the energy increases so the localization of the particle involved gets tighter. The smaller you go trying to pin a particle to a position, the higher the energy uncertainty of the particle. Geometric versions of Heisenberg that try to merge QM and GR might imply a discrete size limit to space-time, but such theories are unproven as yet and no sign of "bumpy" or "discrete" space-time appears in the gamma-rays from distant galaxies. A degree of dispersion is supposed to occur if it were so, and such dispersion is not seen.

    The term, not the cosmology. de Chardin's scenario was localised to a "noosphere" surrounding planet Earth, not an embracing of the entire Cosmos by Intelligence.

    The OPT obeys thermodynamics all the way to the Singularity - entropy goes to infinity along with the available energy. In Tiplerian physics, entropy is a measure of information and that too diverges as the Singularity is approached. No Thermodynamics violations at all, aside from the naive interpretation that neglects gravitational shear.

    Hopefully whatever meets you on the Other-Side isn't hungry.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2010
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