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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Four Places to Look for a Calling Card of the Transcendent

The cosmology PhD Zeeya Merali authored a recent book entitled A Big Bang in a Little Room: The Quest to Create New Universes. When I look up this book on www.amazon.com, I see the following claim in the text promoting the book: “As startling as it sounds, modern physics suggests that within the next two decades, scientists may be able to perform this seemingly divine feat – to concoct an entirely new baby universe, complete with its own physical laws, star systems, galaxies, and even intelligent life.” The claim is complete nonsense, and there is nothing at all in the book that justifies such a laughable claim. What the book actually discusses rather briefly are a few cases where a theorist has speculated that if his theory is true, then you might be able to create some fleeting microscopic irregularity; and the theorist calls such irregularities “universes.” The theories in question are just speculative schemes which are completely unproven.

Merali's book is fairly interesting and has some interviews with prominent cosmologists. Having lots of material for a good book, we can only wonder why she chose a book title hyping this “manufacturing of baby universes” nonsense. Maybe, it was kind of a “that will attract attention” type of thing. As the Big Bang involves an entire universe, the very phrase “a Big Bang in a little room” makes no more sense than a “big galaxy in a little soda bottle.”

One of the interviews in the book is with a cosmologist named Anthony Zee who suggested an interesting idea: that a Creator of the universe might cause a message to exist in the cosmic background radiation. The cosmic background radiation pervades all of space, and is believed to be the afterglow of the Big Bang in which the universe began. In a scientific paper entitled “Message in the Sky,” Zee and co-author S. Hsu speculate that if a Creator of the universe wanted to provide a message, the cosmic background radiation would provide a “stupendous opportunity,” since the same message could be observed all over the visible universe. It is believed that the cosmic background radiation looks the same to observers all over the universe. 


Zee and Hsu do not provide any evidence that the cosmic background radiation actually has such a message. They merely speculate about low-level details of how such a message could be implanted in the cosmic background radiation, suggesting that such a message could be found “hidden in very small temperature fluctuations in the CMB (of order 10−5) ,presumably resulting from primordial density perturbations.”

Another interesting idea is that a Creator of the universe might put a message or signal in pi, the ratio between the diameter and the circumference of a circle. Some scientists wrote a scientific paper entitled “Pi in the Sky” which addressed this possibility. The paper begins by suggesting that there is statistical nonrandomness in both pi and the cosmic background radiation. We hear a discussion of various such abnormalities, and it sounds fascinating.

But then the paper tells us that if we convert the digits of pi into letters, we get a message. There's a visual suggesting that when the first digits of pi are converted into letters, we read the full name of Stephen Hawking: Stephen William Hawking. At this point the paper gives away that it's a fake. The paper has a date of April 1, 2016. I think poorly of people who put up fake material on the Internet, and I do not excuse them for using April Fool's Day as an excuse.

The idea that a divine creator might use pi as a kind of divine calling card was once suggested by an unlikely source: the late astronomer Carl Sagan. In his nonfiction writings Sagan had always sounded completely irreligious. So it must have come as a surprise to readers of Sagan's novel Contact when they read the book's end. In the novel's end, scientists discovered that there was a gigantic circle pattern embedded in the digits of pi, something that the novel said was proof that the universe had been designed. This highly original ending was removed from the movie version of Contact starring Jodie Foster, which left in an unoriginal “meet an extraterrestrial looking just like a human” element that reminded people of previous scenes in The Twilight Zone and The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Sagan's idea of a message embedded in the digits of pi raises the interesting philosophy of mathematics question as to whether such a thing could conceivably be done by an omnipotent agent. Are the digits of pi some transcendental thing that must be the same in every possible universe? Or could an omnipotent agent create a universe that had pi digits with some desired sequence?

Another idea along these lines is the possibility that some transcendent force might leave a calling card in the genetic code, the system of symbolic representations used by all earthly life. Something along these lines has been suggested in the scientific paper “The 'Wow! Signal' of the Terrestrial Genetic Code” by two scientists. The scientists claim to have found “readily recognizable hallmarks of artificiality” in the genetic code, and claim that this may indicate that earthly life was brought here by extraterrestrials.

I can think of one other possibility along these lines, a scenario that we might call “a calling card left in the subatomic particles.” Imagine you are creating a universe. You could create the universe so that all matter was built from two or three stable subatomic particles, including a positively charged particle and a negatively charged particle. Each of the positively charged particles might be hundreds or thousands of times more massive than each of the negatively charged particles. But when you set up this universe you could make it so that the charge of each of the negatively charged particles was the exact opposite of the charge on each of the positively charged particles. Across the universe you had created, scientists would be able to discover this coincidence. After the scientists across your universe had measured that the charge on the negatively charged particle was the exact opposite of the charge on the positively charged particle, with the match extending to twenty decimal places, would they then not conclude that this was some “signal in the particles” that indicated you had set things up very precisely?

No, they would do no such thing; the scientists would simply ignore the exact match. We know this from the example of our universe. For there exists exactly such a match in our universe, in which each proton has a mass 1836 times greater than each electron, but in which the charge of the electron is the exact opposite of the charge of the proton, with the match being to twenty decimal places. Our sharp-eyed scientists have paid no attention to this exact match.