Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Grand Design

The title: The Grand Design
The author: Stephen Hawking (and Leonard Mlodinow)
Publication: Bantam, 2010
Got it from: The library

Ha! I just realized this book and my last one I reviewed start with "The Grand." And two very dissimilar books, too. Funny!

Stephen Hawking's newest book promises to answer the "ultimate questions of life," such as: how did the universe begin? Why are we here? Does the grand design of the universe prove there is a creator? Not bad for a book less than 200 pages long, and that includes the index and glossary too!

Does he answer these questions so fundamental to human life? The answer is yes - as far as we know. And don't read too quickly, or you'll miss it. Perhaps a disappointing answer, but then if you read this book, you'll learn that the easy answer - or the most obvious - is not always right. I was repeatedly reminded of the quotation from the astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington: "Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." Even though Stephen Hawking states in this book that the universe is not actually so difficult to understand, I'd like to add, "yes - if you're Stephen Hawking."

Believe me, reading this book is a total head trip. If it makes sense to you, you're probably either insane or an astrophysicist. Not that I don't believe every word is true, I just can't wrap my mind around it. For instance, did you know there are actually believed to be eleven - eleven! - dimensions? That time did not exist before the Big Bang but was created by it? Or - hold on to your seats, because this is going to get weirder than you've ever thought possible - not only are there alternate histories, but that every single alternate history exists, simultaneously, right now. Seriously. For real.

Don't let the big ideas scare you. This is important stuff, but it's good stuff, and even if you can't follow everything you can at least be amused by Hawking's writing style and sense of humour. Just when you think an analogy is going to be dry, he comes out with gems like these: "In physics a system is said to have symmetry if its properties are unaffected by a certain transformation such as rotating it in space or taking a mirror image. For example, if you flip a donut over, it looks exactly the same (unless it has a chocolate topping, in which case it is better just to eat it)." Scientists have such a great sense of humour. That's why everyone laughed at a Neil deGrasse Tyson talk I attended when he said, "the universe is trying to kill you." It would be scary if it wasn't so funny.

To sum up:
Universe - crazy to puny humans and our puny minds
Stephen Hawking - brilliant and funny
Chocolate donuts - delicious

4 comments:

Ron Krumpos said...

In "The Grand Design" Stephen Hawking postulates that M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics...the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate, but never completed. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

E=mc², Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

Uchitrakar said...

Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?
Part II
Now regarding the M-theory: I have already written something on multiverse theory (not yet published anywhere). There I have come to the conclusion that if there are an infinite number of universes, then only within that infinite number of universes there will certainly be at least one universe in which life will emerge. If the number of universes is only 10 to the power 500, then it is very much unlikely that any one of them will support life, because no universe will know which set of values the other universes have already taken, and if everything is left on chance, then there is every probability that all the universes will take only those set of values that will not support life. There will be no mechanism that will prevent any universe from taking the same set of values that have already been taken by other universes. There will be no mechanism that will take an overview of all the universes already generated, and seeing that in none of them life has actually emerged will move the things in such a way that at least one universe going to be generated afterwards will definitely get the value of the parameters just right for the emergence of life. Only in case of an infinite number of universes this problem will not be there. This is because if we subtract 10 to the power 500 from infinity, then also we will get infinity. If we subtract infinity from infinity, still then we will be left with infinity. So we are always left with an infinite number of universes out of which in at least one universe life will definitely emerge. Therefore if M-theory shows that it can possibly have 10 to the power 500 number of solutions, and that thus there might be 10 to the power 500 number of universes in each of which physical laws would be different, then it is really a poor theory, because it cannot give us any assurance that life will certainly emerge in at least one universe. So instead of M-theory we need another theory that will actually have an infinite number of solutions.

Uchitrakar said...

Philosophy is dead. Is Logic dead also?
Part III
Now the next question to be pondered is this: How did the scientists come to know that an entire universe could come out of nothing? Or, how did they come to know that anything at all could come out of nothing? Were they present at that moment when the universe was being born? As they were not present there, therefore they did not get that idea from the creation event. Rather they got this idea being present here on this very earth. They have created a vacuum artificially, and then they have observed that virtual particles (electron-positron pairs) are still appearing spontaneously out of that vacuum and then disappearing again. From that observation they have first speculated, and then ultimately theorized, that an entire universe could also come out of nothing. But here their entire logic is flawed. These scientists are all born and brought up within the Christian tradition. Maybe they have downright rejected the Christian world-view, but they cannot say that they are all ignorant of that world-view. According to that world-view God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. So as per Christian belief-system, and not only as per Christian belief-system, but as per other belief-systems also, God is everywhere. So when these scientists are saying that the void is a real void, God is already dead and non-existent for them. But these scientists know very well that non-existence of God will not be finally established until and unless it is shown that the origin of the universe can also be explained without invoking God. Creation event is the ultimate event where God will have to be made redundant, and if that can be done successfully then that will prove beyond any reasonable doubt that God does not exist. So how have they accomplished that job, the job of making God redundant in case of creation event? These were the steps:
1) God is non-existent, and so, the void is a real void. Without the pre-supposition that God does not exist, it cannot be concluded that the void is a real void.
2) As virtual particles can come out of the void, so also the entire universe. Our universe has actually originated from the void due to a quantum fluctuation in it.
3) This shows that God was not necessary to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going, as because there was no creation event.
4) This further shows that God does not exist.
So here what is to be proved has been proved based on the assumption that it has already been proved. Philosophy is dead for these scientists. Is it that logic is also dead for them?

KJH said...

Uh...okay then.