If I were pressed to write less than 700 words on the current state of cosmology and tie it in with infinite number theory and the deplorable state of scientific media communication, then I might write something like this following email to my friend Syko.
Let me first get you “in” on this conversation:
Syko made a comment in an earlier email to the effect that he could agree the origin of the universe can be taken seriously, but … (in his words):
I … rather support the notion of the origin. I struggle with the idea that the universe is infinite. Doesn’t make sense to me. Don’t buy it.
Then I wrote back saying something like:
Things do not need to make sense for them to be real. There are some wonderful and bizarre levels of “infinite”, in fact far more infinitely many layers of infinity than most ordinary people realise, but since you Syko are not an ordinary person I can reveal some of the panorama for you. And in any case, you do not get to buy in to Nature, Nature has bought you, and you have no say in this deal! If it is an infinite universe then it’s infinite and you’ll have to suck that up, if it is finite then it’s finite and we have to live within that. As Feynman said, “The theory of quantum electrodynamics describes Nature as absurd from the point of view of common sense. And it agrees fully with experiment. So I hope you accept Nature as She is — absurd.”
One thing about the potentially infinite expanse is that it is darn hard to kill off our universe. How can you destroy it? In 1998 those crazy astronomers measured the expansion was accelerating. So gravity will not seem to be crushing us out of existence in a few trillion trillion years, so it’ll just keep expanding forever from what current measurements can predict.
But within that infinite expansion there are amazing things that could happen.One is a cyclical time cosmology. You can Google that along with “Penrose” since any discussion of cyclic time without Roger Penrose is probably New Age clap-trap. Penrose is however the real deal. I WARN YOU, it is pretty awesome stuff! So Google at your own peril! hahahaha!
Haha. Nature is not for me to buy, but the theories of mere men are, until proven. The infinite thing is a little to abstract. I get that there was a beginning. That the universe could be expanding. But the idea that it has no end or frontier and that it never ends. Well , I don’t think that’s right. It seems lazy to say it’s infinite.
And that led to my longer email about cosmology, the infinite, and science communication. Here it is …
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I’m curious why you think it is lazy to theorise the universe could have infinite extent in time? (Note that this does not imply infinite extent in space unless the expansion does not slow down to an asymptotic limit.)
Surely the idea of an infinite time is not really lazy, none more so than theorising time will be finite. However, stating a theory which begins with such an assumption, either way, finite or infinite, is a lazy approach in a sense (and perhaps that’s what you mean?) because it is simply assuming a fact that should be provable or falsifiable by other means, either by a less presumptive theory or by observational evidence.
But in any case, the best evidence available to date tells us the universe will expand forever. This is not a theory. It is a fact about the dark energy component of the universe together with the theory of general relativity. It could be wrong, but it’s the best answer we have at present.
These physical “potential infinities” are one thing. But the really exciting stuff, I think, is in pure mathematics where the transfinite numbers are considered. It takes some mental effort to wrap your head around the concepts, but there are amazing possibilities involving transfinite number theory being applied to solve hitherto impossible problems in analysis (calculus) including maybe tackling problems that arise in quantum mechanics and general relativity when calculations arrive at irreducibly infinite numerical answers. The idea before was that the theories had to be wrong or incomplete because they gave infinite numerical answers to fairly basic questions. But modern mathematic suggests the idea that the infinite number answers might be totally sensible if interpreted according to transfinite arithmetic. However, this is not all worked out and there is a communication gap between the physicists and the mathematicians.
When you have time… I am also curious about people who cannot conceive of anything existing prior to the “Big Bang”. People are fond of saying that the Big Bang arose out of nothingness as a quantum fluctuation. But this is sheer madness, since quantum fluctuations cannot fluctuate without a pre-existing spacetime in which to fluctuate. And no one has ever shown how spacetime can fluctuate itself into existence from nothing. In fact, there is not even a primitive philosophy about how to do it, so the physics has absolutely no hope of actually explaining the existence and origin of the universe.
What physics can do is explain how things evolved after the period of cosmic hyper-inflation which happened after the universe became more than a singularity. The actual history prior to this is completely mysterious to physics. We do not even know if there ever was an initial singularity. People who argue science says otherwise are completely deluded and are impossible to debate and argue rationally with.
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You know what, I actually prefer Sir Roger’s hand-drawn diagrams:
If you are interested in business strategy and economics and marketing, there is a dude Ben Thompson writing a great blog on such matter. I mention him because he also uses hand-drawn diagrams to amazing effect. It’s only data viz art, but funky cool. Check him out here: https://stratechery.com/, and there is his podcast here: http://exponent.fm/.
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