Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Atomic structure

God’s ongoing struggle against science

The topic of God is deeply tied to our existence in many ways – and continues to influence society both positively and negatively. The fact that politics and religion should be kept separate does not mean that this is easy.

However, this is also a topic on which evidence is sorely missing, and faith has to take its place. To be educated means to be a searcher for the truth through the exercise of reason. But the faith-based concept of God – with its potential implications for our lives and the hereafter (if any) – sits uneasily with the reality of our material world where evidence is king. Nothing that we do in our life is ultimately without reason. But not God. At that stage reason takes a back seat.

Surely this topic cannot be exempt from the application of reason. We must continue to research God rigorously and stretch reason till it reaches an end.  And that is what Victor Stenger's book God: The Failed Hypothesis, does (I wrote a short blog post a few weeks ago on this book).

The book is a fascinating battle against the concept of God. Those who have John Hosper's read  exposition on these issues (i.e. arguments in favour of and against God) in his book, Philosophical Analysis will find further food for thought in Stenger. 

I'm therefore providing below an interesting extract from Stenger's book, noting that there are people out there who dispute Stenger's arguments  (e.g. see here). Personally, I haven't yet finished this book nor will I attempt a rigorous and critical review of the facts of the matter at this stage (That is something I will do in due course when I have the time and inclination for such analysis). But I've learnt a lot of useful scientific information from this book. Definitely a book worth having in every educated person's library.

(Note: a recent issue of The Economist reported on work by Roger Penrose and Vahe Gurzadyan that argues that the world had no beginning and that data from the big bang show traces of a previous universe! This concept has been discussed in Stenger's book but empirical proof has only recently been published. Read this report here. Fascinating! 

To me, though, there remain many gaps in our knowledge about the universe, the most important being that we still don't know how energy is converted into matter – although I suspect there is a purely mechanical explanation for that process . If you are interested in such topics, then join me on Facebook here.)



The anthropic argument for the existence of God can be turned on its head to provide an argument against the existence of God. If God created a universe with at least one major purpose being the development of human life, then it is reasonable to expect that the universe should be congenial to human life. Now, you might say that God may have had other purposes besides humanity. As has been noted several times in this book, apologists can always invent a god who is consistent with the data. One certainly can imagine a god for whom humanity is not very high on the agenda and who put us off in a minuscule, obscure corner of the universe. However, this is not the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islarn, who places great value on the human being and supposedly created us in his image. Why would God send his only son to die an agonizing death to redeem an insignificant bit of carbon?

If the universe were congenial to human life, then you would expect it to be easy for humanlike life to develop and survive throughout the universe.

As we will discuss in chapter 6, the cosmological universe bears no resemblance to what is described in Genesis. Indeed, the biblical myth is more akin to what one might expect from a perfect creator. But that is not what we see. Earth is not the flat, immovable circle at the center of a firmament or a vault of fixed stars, circled by the sun, moon, and planets pictured in Genesis. Rather, Earth is one planet among ten or so (depending on how you count) revolving around an atypical star, our sun. On the distance scale of human experience, the solar system is immense. Earth is one hundred and fifty million kilometers from the sun. Pluto is some six billion kilometers away. The Oort cloud of comets, which marks the edge of the solar system, extends to thirty trillion kilometers from the sun. Although the space between the planets contains smaller asteroids, comets, and dust, the solar system consists mainly of empty space that seems to serve no purpose.

On this distance scale, the planets are tiny points. Yet they are huge on the human scale. The diameter of Earth is 12,742 kilometers. The largest planet, Jupiter, is 139,822 kilometers in diameter.

Beyond the solar system we find even more space. The next closest star (after the sun), Proxima Centauri, is forty trillion kilometers away. This is part of the triple-star system called Alpha Centauri. On this scale we should start using light-years as the unit of distance, where the light-year is the distance traveled by light in a year (9.45 trillion kilometers). The Alpha Centauri system is 4.22 light-years away. Note that multiple-star systems, which are very common, do not provide the kind of orbital stability we experience on Earth that is very important to our survival. It would seem that only single-star systems are likely to support life, another indication that life is not high on the universe's agenda.

Our sun and its planetary system are well away from the center of a galaxy containing an estimated two hundred to four hundred billion other stars. Called the "Milky Way," after the band of stars we see across the sky on a clear night, our visible galaxy is a flat, spiral disk one hundred thousand light-years across, and about ten thousand light-years thick.

The Milky Way is but one of perhaps a hundred billion galaxies in the visible universe. We have two satellite galaxies, just outside the Milky Way, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. The next galaxy nearest to us, Andromeda, is 2.44 million light-years away.

And, you might ask, how big is the universe? The farthest observed galaxy at this writing, Abell 1835 IR1916, is 13.2 billion light-years away. Since it has taken 13.2 billion years for its light to reach us, and the current estimate of the age of the universe is 13.7 billion years, we are seeing this galaxy as it was only five hundred million years after the start of the big bang. Because the universe has been expanding since the light left Abell, this galaxy is now about forty billion light-years away.

The farthest distance we can ever hope to see, what is called our horizon, is 13.7 billion light-years from Earth. Beyond that, light would take longer than the age of the universe to reach us. As vast as is the universe within our horizon, cosmology suggests that a far vaster one lies beyond. If the inflationary big bang model of the early universe is correct, then in a tiny time interval (something like 10-35 second), the universe expanded in size by a factor that is almost impossible to imagine. Here is one estimate of that factor: Write down the number 1 and follow it by a hundred zeros. Then raise the number 10 to that power (10 to 10100). I have not been able to think of any analogy from common experience or science to help visualize that number. The size of the visible universe (1026 meters) is only 1061 times larger than the smallest distance that can be defined, the Planck distance (10-35 meter).

In short, if God created the universe as a special place for humanity, he seems to have wasted an awfully large amount of space where humanity will never make an appearance.

He wasted a lot of time, too. Instead of six days, he took nine billion years to make Earth, another billion years or so to make life, and then another four billion years to make humanity. Humans have walked on Earth for less than one-hundredth of one percent of Earth's history.

In fact, when you think of it, why would an infinitely powerful God even need six days? Wouldn't he have the ability to create everything in an instant? And, why would he have to rest when he was all done?

Let us also ponder the enormous waste of matter. The hundred billion galaxies, each with on the order of a hundred billion stars, are composed of "atomic matter," that is, chemical elements. The portion that is luminous, that is, visible to the eye and optical telescopes, constitutes just one-half of one percent of all the mass in the universe. Another 3.5 percent of the matter in galaxies is of the same atomic nature, only nonluminous. Just 2 percent of atomic matter is composed of elements heavier than helium. One-half of 1 percent of this is composed of carbon, the main element of life. That is, 0.0002 of the mass of the universe is carbon. Yet we are supposed to think that God specially designed the universe so it would have the ability to manufacture, in stars, the carbon needed for life?

Still-unidentified "dark matter" makes up 26 percent of the mass of the universe, while the bulk of the universe, about 70 percent, is "dark energy," which also remains unknown in nature but possesses no known miraculous properties. From this breakdown of mass, we see that 96 percent of the mass of the universe is not even of the type of matter associated with life.

Energy is wasted, too. Of all the energy emitted by the sun, only two photons in a billion are used to warm Earth, the rest radiating uselessly into space.

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Telepathic and spiritual fraud prevention agency

James Randi set up a foundation in 1996 to fights charlatans, uninformed media, and as Randi says, “woo-woos” (!) including faith healers, miracle mongers, and such frauds. Randi's long-standing challenge to psychics now stands as a $1,000,000 prize administered by the Foundation. It remains unclaimed. His website says: "He is the world's most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. He has pursued "psychic" spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water "with a memory," and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public's eyes in the name of the supernatural."

One of the biggest problems in India is charlatans in the guise of religion. Even the educated are not exempt because our educational system is deplorable and does not inculcate the scientific attitude. Even Indian scientists are easily hoodwinked. 

Long many years Chanakya's suggested that "Deceptive occult practices shall be used to frighten the enemy. It is also said that these can be used against one's own people in case of revolt in order to protect the kingdom" (Rangarajan's famous Penguin translation of Arthashastra1987,1992, p.504).

India has a huge industry of petty magic tricksters. Whatever else you see on Youtube, do see this. Thereafter you can marvel at the  fraud being committed by some famous 'babas' and gurus. 

The basic unchallenged truth is that THERE IS NO SUPERNATURAL INTERVENTION IN THE UNIVERSE. All the laws of nature were created at the moment of the big bang. That energy continues eternally, never ever diminished, only transferred from one form to another. The constants in nature inevitably lead to life and then to evolution, and then to what we are today. Note that this does not mean that spirituality is false. Just that MIRACLES, OR DISTORTIONS OF THE LAWS OF NATURE, ARE IMPOSSIBLE

I have no evidence to deny or accept a "God" and so I am comfortable with the idea of people believing whatever they wish. Plus spirituality is a personal matter. There is nothing in nature that denies the existence of a God, should one wish to believe in it.

I'm therefore comfortable with a range of non-magical views such as Advaita and others who speak on a logical basis about spiritual belief. BUT I am not comfortable with people being taken for a ride. I detest fraud of any sort. I detest "religious" preachers who claim to have supernatural healing powers. Such fraud, I gather, is extremely prevalent in India among missionaries. Faith healing is the usual method used to perpetrate such fraud (I trust you've seen, by now, the Youtube video I cited above).

Telepathic and spiritual fraud prevention agency

Consumer laws protect us against fraud of all kinds. We need a law to protect gullible innocent people (including many science PhDs in India who have no scientific attitude!) from cheap magic tricks being projected as mystical power.

I believe that India ought to (and all societies ought to!) establish a publicly funded institute to prevent telepathic and spiritual fraud. This should be populated by scientists who license anyone who purports to have supernatural powers. All "God" men and "God" women will need a licence to ply their obnoxious and fraudulent "trade". I am 100% CERTAIN that no license will ever be issued. Such an agency would protect us against fraudulent magicians who make money from the gullible, or "convert" others to their 'religion'. 

People ought to be free to complain to this agency if any supernatural claims are made during the conversion process. I think it is time to call the bluff and end the nonsense that is perpetrated by 'religions' on innocent gullible tribals in the various corners of India. Such fraud makes it difficult for "religions" to argue that they are the custodians of morality.

(I have an extensive discussion on DOF to show how religions and morality are poles apart. Have a read of it. You might be surprised.)  

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Matter is an energy trap

[Note: On reflection, I've changed the title of this post from 'Mass is an energy trap' to 'Matter is an energy trap'.]

If you recall, a few weeks ago I raised the question of how matter can exist when only energy was created at the Big Bang.

The model I 'expounded' was based purely on some internal thinking. So I've now shortlisted some physics books to read over the next year or two [e.g. here and here]. The first of these (that I've just started reading) has persuaded me that I've probably proposed at least a viable solution to something that is bugging the physicists even today. Indeed, the more I think about it, it becomes obvious to me that matter is an energy trap (explained in my previous post, and briefly below).

It appears that theoretical physicists have been grappling with this problem (that to me was not a "problem" till it popped up inside my head recently!) for quite a while  now, without success.

'Mark Wise is a leading theorist working on particle physics beyond the standard model. At a recent seminar … he talked about the problem of where the masses of the elementary particles come from. "We've been remarkably unsuccessful at solving that problem," he said. … [W]e have no idea why neutrinos (or any of the other particles) have mass.' [Smolin, Les, The Trouble with Physics, London: Penguin, 2006, p. xi, xiii).

(I've just started reading this book, so I'll have something more to say after I've read it). 

I wonder if they've realised that there can be NO other explanation for mass apart from the energy trap theory. Why am I so confident about this energy trap model?
I say so because the only raw material available at the time of creation of the universe was energy. Nothing else. [Where this energy comes from is the next question, which the pantheistic model (advaita) explains simply by the tautology that God and the universe, including us, are essentially the same. Not very illuminating, but it is unlikely that science will ever breach this question and explain the first formation of energy.]
My point is that if energy is the only raw material, and energy has just a few properties (e.g. waves travel in a straight line and are limited by the speed of light), then mass can ONLY be explained as a combination of energy and space. Mass simply can't spring up from ether! It is made up of energy and space.
Intense energy is trapped inside a tiny, warped, space bubble, and travels at the speed of light in a straight line inside it for ever  (actually, the more one thinks of it, this can't occur merely at the speed of light. This must relate to a phase change – when energy travels FASTER than the speed of light). This warped space bubble distorts nearby space and creates the property of attraction and replusion that gives us the APPEARANCE of mass. There is, in this model, no mass, only energy. Mass is irrelevant, being only a property of high-intensity energy.
It would seem to me that this theory is fully compatible, in principle, with quantum theory and the uncertainty principle. 
Of course, this theory must have been been examined at length in the theoretical physics literature. Such an obvious explanation couldn't possibly have been missed. So in the next few weeks/months/years, in my spare time I'll read a lot more on this topic and clarify where things stand.
"The consensus among physicists is that particles began massless and got their mass subsequently from something known as the Higgs field—the search for which was one reason for building the Large Hadron Collider, a huge and powerful particle accelerator located near Geneva. Mass, then, is not thought an invariable property of matter." [Source]
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Why does energy “travel” in “circles” inside an atom?

I’ve been puzzled by a strange fact recently, and am publishing this issue in the hope of getting an answer to my question from the ether called the internet.

Three basic facts, first.
a) Energy can never be destroyed. Every drop of energy created at the Big Bang still exists and will continue to exist for ever.
b) Every object remains in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.
c) Energy is essentially a wave and will always travel in a straight line through vacuum (corollary of (b)).

This means that the wave-like energy created at the moment of the Big Bang never changes “direction” but ALWAYS and invariably travels in a straight line, for ever. We do know that the low energy radiation produced at the Big Bang is “visible” as microwave radiation today due to red shift. But we also know that most of the energy was converted into sub-atomic particles. Most of the Big Bang’s energy is therefore found inside matter (e=mc2).

The energy inside atoms has been goinground and round intinycirclesthrough vacuumfor about 13.7 billion years, and will do so for many more billion years. Nothing can make this energy change direction. Hence, unless an atom is impacted in a nuclear or fusion reaction, it is going to remain unchanged for ever. That much is clear.

The question I have is this:
If energy can only travel in a straight line, then under ordinary laws no atoms can possibly form (energy can never travel in circular paths else it will violate Newton’s laws). And yet, quarks, atoms, and the lot, do exist. So how did the energy generated at the Big Bang, travelling at speed of light, and in a straight line, become particulate?

My half-baked hypothesis:
I’ve got a half-baked hypothesis which I’m sure must have been examined by atomic physicists in the past, possibly decades ago, investigated, and rejected. However, I’d like to find out more about this issue from anyone who can point me in the right direction.

So I thought that what could explain the ‘circular’ shape (and I know this ‘circular’ shape is only probabilistic), is a law of physics whereby ultra high frequency energy at the Big Bang might have forced space to curve sharply – but only at the atomic level. Thereafter, that high frequency energy seemingly travels in a straight line but to us appears to travel in circles.

One can be reasonably sure that there is no reason for different laws to apply to different ‘things’ at the time of ‘creation’. All energy was necessarily the same, being a chip of ‘the same block’. Depending only on the probability of certain events (such as high energy radiation sharply bending space, and low energy radiation being unable to do so), various types of sub-atomic particles were presumably created, as well as the light and heat of the Big Bang.

Does this hypothesis make any sense? Has it been discussed in the literature? When, by whom? What was the consequence? If it is true, then do we know under what conditions energy impacts the space through which it is travelling so as to sharply bend it and create the strong atomic/nuclear force? I’d like to know the current state of knowledge on this question. Happy to be provided with references for me to read.

ADDENDUM 4 June 2009
This would mean the following:
a) Low frequency energy would travel straight for ever (visible, and the usual electromagnetic spectrum)
b) Energy that is about to reach a critical threshold would start getting “bent”, and should travel in a massive spiral shape forever, never finally collapsing into a “bubble”.
c) Energy the frequency of which exceeds a critical threshold would bend space so dramatically that it would get ‘caught’ inside a space bubble.

It would appear to me that the bending of space creates ripples in the surrounding space of two types: (a) gravitational and (b) magnetic. Both these are weak ripples, but the sum of all of them can add up considerably in large bodies.

Explaining the bonds between atoms (to form molecules):
It would seem likely that the distortions in space created by energy that has become particulate (e.g. an atom) creates a variety of opportunities for ‘bonding’ (such as ‘concavities’, which implies a kind of ‘force’ at work) that suit particular atoms better than others. Imagine a ‘cavity’ in the surrounding space of atom A that suits another atom B which can then happily ‘bond’ with A until the motion of A becomes too fast for B (as a result of heating AB, say), that the ‘slot’ created in the ‘hyperplanes’ of the two atoms split apart. I know this is getting really into the realm of fantasy, but I need to know of a single principle that will explain all atoms and all molecules. I find the depiction of the world in two parts: as matter and energy, deeply unsatisfactory. Matter is nothing but a bundle of energy bound in space, else the universe doesn’t make sense.

Note that if this perspective of the creation of atoms is even slightly true it almost certainly rules out the steady state infinite duration universe, for the creation of atoms requires an event that pumps out such huge amounts of energy, at such a large frequency and short amplitude, that it can only occur in a cataclysmic even of the Big Bang type.

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