We may need holy men to get us into heaven but we definitely need astrophysicists to keep us out of hell“
“Despite its name, the big bang is not really a theory of a bang at all. It’s really only a theory of the aftermath of a bang.” Astrophysicist Alan Guth
Emerging from a dark and mysterious abyss, “spontaneity” boldly dances forth!
Historically, people have followed their shamans, priests, and other holy men, not astrophysicists, related to explanations of the Universe, probably in part because ‘inexplicable’ things and events happen and holy men often explain the inexplicable to many who can’t or won’t understand science. Four in ten Americans believe God created the Earth and anatomically modern humans, less than 10,000 years ago, according to a recent Gallup poll.
With reports of hundreds of Pennsylvania priests abusing children Pope Francis likely has more on his mind than the the Universe but he is a holy man who also appreciates science and it’s explanation of the Universe. To his credit, Pope Francis, a Jesuit priest, invited Astrophysicists and other experts to attend the Vatican Observatory to discuss black holes, gravitational waves and space- time singularities. The gathering was in honor of the late Jesuit cosmologist Monsignor Georges Lemaître who first proposed “the Big Bang” which he called his “hypothesis of the primeval atom” or the “Cosmic Egg”.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so. The big bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it. Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
As he opened the conference, at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope declared God is not “a magician with a magic wand” and evolution and Big Bang theory are real.” The Academy of Sciences, one of the Pontifical academies at the Vatican in Rome, is headquartered in the Casina Pio IV in the heart of the Vatican Gardens. The academy holds a membership roster of the most respected names in 20th century science, including such Nobel laureates as Ernest Rutherford, Max Planck, Otto Hahn, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, and Charles Hard Townes.
The head of the Vatican Observatory, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, went on to say Father Lamenter’s research proves that you can believe in God and the big-bang theory. “Lemaitre himself was very careful to remind people — including Pope Pius XII — that the creative act of God is not something that happened 13.8 billion years ago. It’s something that happens continually,” Father Consolmagno said. According to him “Christians believe in a supernatural God who is responsible for the existence of the universe, while our science tells us how he did it.”
The well being of all humanity on Earth demands we pay more attention to astrophysicists than “holy men” when it comes to matters related to the Universe, unless of course, the holy men are also astrophysicists.
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As far as science is concerned unexplained “things and events do indeed happen” but generally because of forces driving change throughout the Universe. Isaac Newton defined a force as a push or pull that changes an object’s state of motion or causes the object to deform. According to Newton a force is anything that causes an object to accelerate — F = ma, where F is force, m is mass and a is acceleration. The four fundamental forces throughout the Universe are :
- Gravity — phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy are brought toward (or gravitate toward) one another.
- Electromagnetism — a physical interaction that occurs between electrically charged particles.
- Strong Interaction — holds the nucleus of an atom together
- Weak Interaction — responsible for radioactive decay
Even though it may appear forces are causing the galaxies to shoot or waltz away from each other it’s actually the space underneath them that’s doing all the work of expanding; the galaxies are just along for the cosmic ride.
In cosmology, a Hubble volume or Hubble sphere, like the one illustrated below, is a spherical region of the observable universe surrounding an observer beyond which objects recede from that observer at a rate greater than the speed of light. The Hubble volume is approximately equal to 10³¹ cubic light years.
The cosmic inflation known as the Big Bang was intrinsic to the universe, and not imposed on it from outside. In effect the Universe came into existence Causa Sui. It needed no specification with which to comply because it was “generated within itself”.
According to quantum mechanics, a vacuum isn’t empty at all. It’s actually filled with quantum energy and particles that blink in and out of existence for a fleeting moment — strange signals that are known as quantum fluctuations or vacuum state fluctuations. They are a temporary change in the amount of energy in a point in space. The vacuum state contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence.
Quantum fluctuations were critical to the structure of the universe. Quantum fluctuations that existed when inflation began were amplified and formed the seed of all current observed structure. These quantum fluctuations produce randomly fluctuating electric fields that can affect electrons, which is how scientists first indirectly demonstrated their presence back in the 1940s. Even famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson describes the quantum fluctuations that started the Big bang to be “admittedly speculative physics” but both he and Pope Francis agree, the Big Bang is the beginning required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe.
For decades, that was all scientists had to go on. Then, in 2015, a team led by Alfred Leitenstorfer from the University of Konstanz in Germany claimed they’d directly detected quantum fluctuations, by observing their influence on a light wave. The results were published in Science.
For many years, cosmologists relied on the idea that the universe formed spontaneously, that the Big Bang was the result of quantum Fluctuations in which the Universe came into existence from nothing. But physicists really needed more — they needed a mathematical proof to give the idea flesh.
Dongfeng Gao and researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Physics and Mathematics in China came up with the first rigorous proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously because of quantum fluctuations. The breakthrough came in the 1960s when physicists John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt combined the two pillars of modern physics — quantum mechanics and general relativity — in a way that reasonably described the universe.
The new work of Dongshan and his co-explores added new solutions to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. At the heart of their thinking is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle which allows a small empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to fluctuations in what physicists call the metastable false vacuum.
All of these efforts have come together to explain many of the events that appeared inexplicable other than through the myths and stories of shamans, priests, and other holy men. Since Newton much has been added to the laws of physics that represent what we call the Universe.
Many would like to pretend the Universe is some type of mysterious place, understood only by those who speak to God, but it is anything but. Physicists have been revealing both the atomic and subatomic laws of the Universe for centuries. It’s those laws and how well we abide by them that will continue to determine the quality of life for all humanity for all time to come. Like Father Lemaitre, physicists can be both holy men and scientists so we ask for blessings on the ones that get us into heaven but praise the ones that keep us out of hell. _______________________ — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
1 Chris Ransford, “God and the Mathematics of Infinity” | Conscious Connection Magazine, January 29, 2017
7 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_state 8 Tyson, Neil deGrasse. Origins: Fourteen Billion Years of Cosmic Evolution (p. 25). W. W. Norton & Company. 2004