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Space Science

New Evidence for Open Universe 231

Observations made by the Hubble telescope have produced evidence that the universe is full of "dark energy", stuff that has mass but does not emit nor block light, and that a disregarded theory first postulated by Einstein about "negative gravity" is actually valid. If true, this would provide firm evidence that the universe will not collapse in a "big crunch" but will expand indefinitely. See the SF Chronicle, New York Times, MSNBC, or CNN for stories (the Chronicle story is the best, IMHO). For background information, you may want to check out the cosmology FAQ or more information about negative gravity. (Update: 04/04 11:03 AM by michael : A couple of people have pointed out that this write-up is inaccurate; I'm not going to try to correct it, but read the comments for more information.)
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New Evidence for Open Universe

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    We are made of atoms with electrons.
    The sun is an atom, earth "electrons" (we become quarks?)
    The galaxy is an atom, the solar system an "electron".
    The universe is an atom, the galaxy an "electron"

    Oh by the way, light behaves as a particle.
    Space contains light.
    Therefore space is never empty.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Surely everyone must remember `dark matter'. I held my breath over MACHOS and WIMPS... that is until the Hubble telescope was up and running properly, and thousands upon thousands of previously undiscovered galaxies were observed. This new data explained the `mising mass' of the universe much better than the Dark Matter theory ever did.
    No, it didn't. Even revised estimates for the luminous mass of the universe don't come close to solving the missing matter problem. The problem is still open.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    however: in both the case of the black hole, as well as the Casimir effect, [...] it seems to me that we're measuring the effect of virtual particle creation. Isn't this a contradiction?
    In the Hawking effect, the key result is the following: "particle" is not an invariant concept. What appears to be virtual particles to one observer (i.e., is unobservable) can appear to be real particles to another! This is demonstrated even more simply in the Unruh effect, a special relativistic analogue to the Hawking effect wherein an accelerating observer in flat vacuum spacetime nevertheless measures an incoming flux of real thermal radiation.

    As for the Casimir effect, what we're really measuring is virtual particle contributions to real physical amplitudes, no different than (say) the higher-order corrections to QED processes like Lamb shift and such.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    While the evidence does suggest that the universe is flat, when you plug in all the numbers, omega (a nifty number involving lots of fun constants and the total mass/energy of the univers), which should be exactly, precisely, not even a teeny weeny bit off of 1 if the universe is, in fact flat, comes out to .3.
    Yeah, Omega_matter. Omega_Lambda comes out to about 0.7.
    the problem is, this is an energy/time calculation, which brings Heisenburg uncertainty into the picture.
    Not in general relativity it doesn't.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yes, actually there is negative energy. When a electron tunnels through an energy barrier greater than its kinetic energy would normally allow, it has negative kinetic energy. However, the electron cannot have negative kinetic energy indefinitely and will tunnel to the other side of the barrier. This leads to interesting(but unlikely) posibilities such as having people walk through walls without breaking them, bullets passing through people without killing them, etc. etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I was under the impression that, if a black hole were to shrink below the size necessary to call it such, then it would explode merely in a large outpouring of gamma rays, not necessarily another Big Bang.
    That's what happens externally in our universe. But internally, the singularity could have pinched off into a Big Bang singularity for a new universe; that new universe would be spawned "within" the singularity and we'd never know it.

    Of course, "could" is a far cry from "does"... we don't really know what happens.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, what happens is reasonably well understood. Remember, once a distribution of mass falls through it's own event horizon (the size of the event horizon of a black hole with that total mass), the black hole appears, and we have a singularity.

    With the singularity there is no issue of the density becoming too low. The mass, and thus the radius of the event horizon, simply shrink as particles are radiated through the Hawking process.

    Interestingly, the rate of radiation is inversely proportional to the size of the hole, so as it shrinks the process accelerates. Eventually you would get a flash as the last of the mass radiated away very fast. Unfortunately this process does not look like a big bang.

    Of course, this is only the prediction of current theory. We have not watched a hole do this, that we know of.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    then who created God?

    Seriously. What was there before God?
  • Just wait till SGI hears about this :P

  • SGI is suing the universe for abusing their trademark on "OpenGL". "We feel that consumers will be confused between OpenGL and Open Universe, since the universe encompasses everything and therefore must compete with at least one of our products", SGI spokesmen said at a press conference.

  • I don't see how a big crunch or lack of the same makes life have a point. I belive life does have a point but that has nothing to do with science or the big bang. If you want to see a point to life I think you will have to look somewhere other than physics or biology. (Ok In biology there is a goal, reproduce but I digress). If you want to know what the point to life is ask your local priest, minister or rabbi. (Check the local pub they are probably having a drink together...)
  • the problem is, infinite questions (questions about the nature of the universe, beyond measurable time) require infinite patience. Unfortunately, I have finite time to exist in this universe.

    If you find out the answer in the next one, look me up and let me know :)
  • Birth

  • If you want to feel less significant, look up at the sky on a clear night.

    Most people generally think of what they are looking at as billions of billions of galaxies.

    Not true. With the naked eye, you are looking at a few thousand local stars. There are only two galaxies that can be seen with the naked eye (outside of the Milky Way, our own). Andromeda, and Magellenic clouds.

    Those billions upon billions of galaxies are not visible to the naked eye, nor even with your average consumer-grade telescope. They're out there. But too far away for you to see.
  • It's turtles, all the way down man!

  • Ya know, this sounds like the omega number theory that was posted on here.
    " But if one oracle knows Omega, it's easy to imagine a second-order oracle that knows Omega'. This machine, in turn, has its own halting probability, Omega'' , which is known only by a third-order oracle, and so on. According to Chaitin, there exists an infinite sequence of increasingly random Omegas. "

    Interesting, don't you think?
  • by Amphigory ( 2375 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @07:00AM (#315801) Homepage
    As always, I am most interested in the philosophical implications. If this ever-expanding universe idea is correct, then there is no "cosmic contraction" to provide the point of mass & energy which exploded in the big bang. That is, there is no never-ending cycle of "big bang/big crunch", and steady state is well and truly dead.

    This leaves you with a singularity that exploded for no apparent reason and existed for no apparent reason. Where did it come from? Why did it explode?

    How complex do things have to get before "God did it" becomes the best explanation?


  • I don't happen to have any moderator points just now, but thanks for a really clear and informative post.
  • What kind of destiny can we have as a species in this sort of environment?

    I wouldn't fret too much. The lights won't be going out all over the universe until next Tuesday at the earliest ;-)

  • Heh, Michael, doing a writeup that's inaccurate?

  • > Infinitely complex, for no explanation to be the best explanation.

    I wouldn't call that "no explanation". It's simply stating the posibility that, perhaps there are some things which fall outside of the scope of what we have narrowly defined "science".


  • And that a good while ago too?

    Closed = expands up to a certain point, then contracts

    Flat = reaches a ceratin size then stops expanding but stays that size forever

    Open = expands forever
  • I'm no expert at this, but I think that only the state where energy is created from/destroyed to nothing must be unobservable. The actual act of separating the virtual particles and thus making particles out of nothing is not observed.

    The observation shows you a stream of particles escaping from the black hole (although nothing should be able to leave from the inside) and the black hole losing mass. No energy or mass is created or destroyed in the observation.

  • That gamma radiation comes from matter spiraling in on the black hole. It forms a disc around the black hole, which is hot and has strong magnetic fields. That should be bright by itself, but charged particles getting accelerated in a magnetic field directly emit radiation.

    The virtual particle radiation is a function of event horizon surface, the smaller it gets the more energy is lost through radiation. That's why black holes are said to explode at the end of their lives and that's why microscopic black holes that could possibly created in future particle accelerators won't eat the earth.

  • Oh yes the aboriginal observations of an ancient tribe of desert shepherds... very convincing.

    How is it any more valid than, for example, my pet theory that the Universe was created by the sneeze of a gigantic cosmic platypus?

  • Whoa... All that cryptic stuff that Lao Tze said was true. Science... the search for the obvious. Well, it keeps me employed and the benes are great.
  • check submission post submission

    -David T. C.
  • by Pig Hogger ( 10379 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `reggoh.gip'> on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @07:21AM (#315813) Journal
    Observations made by the Hubble telescope have produced evidence that the universe is full of "dark energy", stuff that has mass but does not emit nor block light, ...
    Ah, great! They finally found the styrofoam packing peanuts the Universe was packed with when it still was in the crate...


  • That was the tentative best theory for a while. This seems to be the best theory right now. Current evidence seems pretty strong, but it's not an issue that it makes sense to be absolutely certain about, at least not yet.
  • There IS a point to life.

    "The wisest man who ever lived said it this way:
    Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.

    For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil."

    God loves you and longs for relationship with you. If you want to know more about this, please email me at tom_cooper at bigfoot dot com

    One thing that has me wondering is this: if the universe can expand forever, how could there have been a Big Bang in the first place? Are the rules different for this universe than they were for the last one?

  • It may very well be 'God did it'.

    If you want to believe that, get down with your bad self, and see these articles as humanity trying to discover how God did it.

    Do not confuse 'Who' and 'How' questions.

  • Scientific theories are just that-- theories. No good scientist will claim that a theory is fact, just that it's the best match to reality they could come up with given the information, equipment, and methodologies they had access to at the time. If any of those things improve and a new perspective is gained, theories are revised in short order to be more accurate. When things prove wrong, they are scrapped.

    This is a lot like you and I writing code-- these folks do their best to find answers that fit in with our (admittedly limited) knowledge of the universe, and they're not going to get it right at first. Unless you write perfect, bug-free code the first time every time, I suggest you cut the scientists some slack. At least they admit they were wrong, fix the theories to fit the new information, and try to improve. Using the willingness of science to admit and attempt to correct its mistakes against it hardly seems fair to me.

    I suspect that if someone can find strong scientific evidence for the tale in Genesis, that you will find science quick to accept it. (I can certainly vouch for myself! Prove it, and I will see you in church 28 times a week.) On the other hand, just claiming something is true and being unwilling to budge hardly makes you more right than another person. Just more stubborn.
  • Science deals with it quite well...sort of.

    It doesn't have a "beginning" or an "end" per se. Those words indicate an existence of a "time before" and a "time after", which there isn't, since time didn't exist until the universe "appeared" and probably won't exist after it either dies from miserable heat death*, or contracts back into the singularity whence it came. Time can only be measured by events. When there are no events, there can be no time. Simple as that.

    * Do quantum laws allow for a "heat-dead" universe to truly be "dead"? That is to say there is absolutely zero random pair-generation/destruction going on in the vacuum? Can the energy density == zero? If not then there will always be some aspect of time. It's been a good 6 years since my last modern physics class (which we never got into advanced cosmological stuff like this anyhow...)!!

  • This whole 'dark energy' crap is just that... crap. "We can't explain why it keeps expanding so let's invent 'dark energy' containing 'reverse gravity'. Nobody will ask us what the fuck it is, or ask for proof of existance because were scientists and are not open to questioning."

    I'm inventing upside-down energy with a multiple 'sideways' gravity. SO THERE!
    (no, I don't have to prove anything, TAKE THAT!)
  • > there's one explanation for the origin of the universe (1 Genesis) that is still going strong.

    Don't be a fool. Everyone knows that Genesis is wrong, and Homer gave the real explanation.

  • by RobertFisher ( 21116 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @09:12AM (#315821) Homepage Journal
    For full disclosure, I am a physics graduate student working in the astronomy department at Berkeley. Although I am not a cosmologist, I heard the latest on the supernova searches from one of the key investigators yesterday at an informal brown bag lunch. As a regular /. reader, I thought I would put in my own two cents worth of corrections and additional info.

    First, the existence of a cosmological constant is NOT at all news. Prior observations by both the LBL group doing observations of supernovae type Ia (group page [lbl.gov]) and the BOOMERANG group doing observations of the cosmic microwave background (group page [ucsb.edu]) verified the existence of a cosmological constant several years ago.

    Second, as a previous poster has stated, the geometry of the universe is NOT necessarily open.
    See especially this informative figure [ucsb.edu] which shows the allowed region of parameter space based on both the SNIa and the BOOMERANG results. As you can easily see, the combined results are consistent with a flat universe with a cosmological constant, but the flat universe is a critical case, and one cannot exclude either an open or closed universe.

    Third, what IS new is the detection of an extremely distant SN at redshift z = 1.6. The discovery, made largely by Adam Riess, who is now at the Hubble Space Telescope Institute, was largely serendipitous; it was detected in the Hubble Deep Field, and a number of prior observations allowed Riess to piece together a light curve from which he could infer the intrinsic luminosity. The NEW results are remarkable for two main reasons :

    1) Critics have argued that a thin smattering of grey dust in intergalactic space could mimic the effect of a cosmological constant (ie, for a fixed redshift, objects seen are dimmer not due to an acceleration of the expansion of the universe, but instead due to obscuring dust along the line of sight, where the dust must absorb equally well at all frequencies). However, at very high redshift, the relative contribution of matter is higher, and so objects seen are BRIGHTER than what one expects in a freely coasting universe. This is not the trend predicted by the simplest dust model. So the recent evidence is one further advance for the non-zero cosmological constant model.

    2) At such high redshifts, clocks appear to be moving faster because of the relative expansion of the universe since then (a photon wavelength is stretched out, but c remains constant, hence the photon frequency is also slowing in time in the universe, as are all clocks). The high redshift SNIa light curve exhibits this general relativistic time effect, and one cannot make sense of the curve without correcting for it.
  • Discussions about what came before the Big Bang miss an important element of Relativity. It's not that there was nothing before the Big Bang, it's that the very notion of before time is nonsensical. The Big Bang represents an edge of time itself. There's no going back beyond that point in time because, even more than Oakland, there's no there there. The very idea of the begining of space-time being a creation event is open to question. It is as likely as not that the entire continuum - all points in space as well as all points in time - already exists, and that conciousness is simply the experience of moving through time. As likely is the recently proposed idea that there is actually a creation of this universe happening along the edge of the time dimension, and that conciousness is a by-product of this process.

    In any case, to imagine any events occuring outside the space-time continuum in which we reside - including the formation or destruction of our universe, we must assume that some analogue of time also exists outside. At this point, that is rampant speculation; as are any guesses about the nature of that meta-time or of the meta-processes that take place within.

  • You're assuming that there exist no anti-entropic processes, which, while likely, may be not true, thanks to Hawking radiation. Not my belief, though, because I don't belief that one quantum process in the presence of a unique macroscopic object can fundamentally change the way the universe works. (Anti-entropic meaning they destroy information, which means they lower entropy, breaking the Second Law. This may be possible. Imagine a black hole sweeping through a cloud of lowest-energy state electrons and photons, and then in a large amount of time (10^100 yrs) turning those lowest-energy state electrons into a massive burst of high energy particles)

    That, and I don't like the idea that the fate of the universe depends on whether or not enough black holes are created to constantly redistribute the amount of energy in the universe. This would mean that there is a 'critical black hole density', as of course, white dwarves don't have any antientropic process. Some sense of aesthetics prevents me from believing that the fate of the universe is affected by something as random (and affectable!) as star formation. This is just my indication that there are no real antientropic processes, and black holes do not 'consume' information.

    I'm not sure I buy the reasoning on bounded dimensions including time: time is on a different footing than space altogether, and it's fully believable that we live in a universe with three bounded dimensions and one unbounded - I honestly wish I understood more about mixed-signature geometries, because it may be that you could determine this answer from something other than the energy content of the universe.

    That's just me, however - I don't like the universe having *any* input parameters at all: after all, energy itself is just a manifestation of the fact that the universe is time-translation symmetric, and if the concept of "time" isn't well defined outside the universe, then the concept of "energy" isn't well defined outside the universe either. Therefore, the fate of our universe must be determinable from some basic property of the physics of the universe in which we live.

    I digress: all I meant to point out is that while aesthetics may be a guide in this case, since 3+1 dimensional spacetime has some 'quirky' properties, it may be that 4 bounded dimensions may not be possible considering the symmetries that the 3+1 dim spacetime has to obey.
  • I'm beginning to think that this is simple miscommunication, but...

    Yes. I am saying that a sufficiently good experimentalist can always invalidate his own experiment (at least initially), because a good experimentalist knows the weak points and what can be improved. If you don't, you're lying to yourself. A good experimentalist, faced with a result that is way the hell away from expectations, will immediately go back to the experiment and stare at it for hours and come up with a dozen reasons of what might've gone wrong. Then, after all of those have been checked, he'll go to colleagues and ask for assistance. Then, after THEY'VE checked, and confirmed that's what's going on, then they might publish a quiet paper (or more likely, give a talk at a conference) to see if anyone can come up with an intelligent answer that they've missed. Then they'll go to press. That's what I'm talking about. If you can't do that, don't bother going into the field, as you'll end up ruining your reputation. Monopoles in California (it was California, right?) and the Weber bar experiment. Both classic examples of "what the hell??" experiments that should guaranteedly have been checked more thoroughly before going to press.

    I think you're talking about an experimentalist in the last stage of the game, where they've run out of every answer other than the "new physics" answer. But still, at least some of those questions will be unanswerable without a new experiment (or should be. Maybe it was a perfectly designed experiment. But every experiment I've seen always has compromises inside it) and that's what I mean.

    And no, I'm *definitely* not suggesting that every repeatedly tested experimental effect can be explained away. I'm suggesting that any questionable result in an experiment can be explained away right after performing the experiment. Now, if the results stand after testing as many of the limitations of the experiment as you can think of, then it's real. But no experimentalist in his right mind would ever believe a bizarre result right away.

    Let me put it another way. I'm working on an experiment right now that is designed to look at high energy cosmic rays. We have a guess at what their flux should be. If it's orders of magnitude above that, I can immediately give a dozen things to check. Without hesitation - those are mainly instrument failure things, however. If everything seems to be working, I'll go out and check things myself manually. And if everything still seems to be working, I'll run another experiment to check to see if I can confirm my results. Then, if everything's still wacko, I'll ask colleagues for help.

    I'm confused, actually, as you seem to be supporting my point - you admit that a good experimentalist will be able to think of more problems with the experiment. That's what I'm trying to say - that a good experimentalist can explain a bizarre result without automatically resorting to new physics, and then in the same breath suggest an experiment to check that problem. His explanation might be totally wrong - maybe the new physics is there - but he'll always be able to come up with something that should be tested first. Compare this to the amount of time it took experimentalists to believe the Solar Neutrino Problem. It took years before anyone believed that, and experimenters were always saying "maybe there's a problem, but we need more statistics" (the cheapest out, but still an out). This is taking far less time - maybe a year - and I just don't buy it.

    As for the semantics argument, that's my personal preference, because repetition is what makes things true in people's heads, not truth - and even scientists fall prey to this. You hear something over and over, and it becomes true. If you hear "there is now significant evidence for a cosmological constant", you begin to believe there's a cosmological constant. If you hear "there is now significant evidence suggesting that our understanding of the expansion of the universe is incorrect" you begin to believe that there's a problem in our current understanding.
  • Again, I'm not saying that the result isn't real. I'm saying that a good experimentalist can always come up with reasons that the experiment might not have worked.

    You're using "invalidate" a little too strongly - I didn't say he would be able to invalidate it - I said he would be able to come up with reasons that would invalidate it. Whether or not any of those reasons pan out to be true is another question.

    As for whether or not the presence of a cosmological constant is bizarre, it is bizarre. It's not what we've seen on a smaller scale, though granted our evidence on a smaller scale was much weaker. It's not what was expected - it implies significantly new physics.

    As for the final comment, that's just plain wrong - flat out. The flaws in an experiment don't widen error bars - error bars come mainly from statistical considerations and uncertainties in known quantities. They provide a measure of precision, not a measure of accuracy. Going back to the cosmic ray example, for instance, those experiments were way off - but they had great precision. Their error bars were extremely tiny - it just happened that their experiments weren't measuring the right thing, though they didn't know it right at the time (they guessed it afterwards). Depending on the flaw in the experiment, it could be fatal - there are plenty, honestly plenty of those.

    Considering the astro data, I know one group was using SN 1a's, which, when you look at the data, are not wonderfully consistent. In fact, there are several astronomers who are beginning to say we don't really know what SN 1a's are (conventional knowledge says that they're white dwarves that exceeded the Chandra limit). Several possibilities jump to mind, including evolutionary concerns and not understanding the physics quite right. These can all be checked, and in the few papers I've read, I haven't seen enough checking to convince me. Again, that could be just me - I'm notoriously hard to convince.

    So maybe what I am suggesting is that the teams actually look and see what would have to be true in order for lambda=0 to be within error bounds. Is this bad science, since you're shooting for a specific value? Not really - it's a sanity check. You're just making sure that what you're saying is *guaranteedly* true, and if you have a detractor - someone who insists lambda=0, for instance - you can tell them "well, if lambda=0, then such and such would have to be true."

    Weber's measurement of gravitational waves wasn't within two sigma of zero either. I personally don't think that the mass of a few thousand stars is being turned into gravitational waves at the center of the galaxy, though.
  • Argh. I replied to this before, but Slashdot ate it. What a pain.

    I don't agree with your first argument - it's very weak, considering that GR is not a QFT. There's no reason to believe that the vacuum has anything but zero energy, and Mach's principle makes you want to believe that it is zero (Einstein was quite distressed to find out that an empty (Friedmann) universe was a solvable solution of the equations) since in this case you don't have a global matter field to define any of the physical parameters such as mass, etc, and you're essentially defining them in this case via an external field, which is exactly what Mach's principle tries to avoid.

    In some sense, you expect the GR limit to have a zero vacuum, since GR should be a 'smoothed over' limit of whatever a QFT of gravity is, if one exists - in some sense, you expect quantum fluctuations to not strongly affect the GR limit (although it very well might). This argument is weak, granted, but GR deals with stress-energy density, not with the gravity of spacetime itself, which is a distinctly quantum process. My gut reaction is still that using vacuum energy to justify a cosmological constant isn't proper, as you're stretching the bounds of where GR is valid.

    The second argument is perfectly valid - kindof. The whole idea of "it's going through several phase transitions, so it should be absolutely huge!" is weak, especially with the whole idea of renormalizability. I have little doubt that a final QFT of gravity (again: if there is one) will have an infinite bare cosmological constant.

    To be honest, I don't know. My instinct re: the cosmological constant is the same as it is re: dark matter. I don't think we understand gravity at these scales - I really don't. Galaxies look like they have too much mass, galaxy clusters look like they have even more excess mass, all makes me wonder whether or not it's a scaling effect rather than a 'missing mass' effect. With the cosmological constant, it could be the same sort of thing. Again, I could be wrong, but I've always tended towards "the universe is simple" rather than "the universe is bizarre".
  • by barawn ( 25691 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @10:08AM (#315827) Homepage
    It's not silly to explain it away - if the explanation is testable, then it's a valid concern. If you're a good experimentalist, you can *always* come up with a better explanation than "bad physics" - especially because you know the portions of your research that were hacks - and there are *ALWAYS* hacks. :) So if you can't find a problem with your experiment that might explain something, honestly, you're fooling yourself. It might be that all of the explanations you can come up with are crap - I'm not suggesting that any experimental effect can be explained away - I'm just saying any good experimentalist can come up with problems with their own experiment, even if they're not real.

    Anyway, take something from my field: in the 80s and 90s, a bunch of experiments all seemed to confirm that the positron fraction in cosmic rays increased at high energies. This made no sense - and fundamentally you don't want to believe it at all. But they all confirmed it, until the next class of experiments came along and showed "oh, wait, you didn't have good enough rejection."

    The fact is that in a good experiment, they should've immediately guessed "um, we might not have good enough rejection" and in fact, some of them did suggest that, and that's what led to the better experiments. It might've been that what they saw was real, and their concerns were baseless, but they came up with the concerns, which is the important part.

    I agree that the fact that several groups got consistent answers is suggestive, but far space astrophysics relies on far too many assumptions to suggest redefining physics on a small scale until you get a huge swath of data to back it up. Everyone nowadays seems to be hinting in every talk and paper that I read that "evidence is mounting for a cosmological constant": no. Evidence is mounting for a systematic problem in our data regarding the expansion of the universe. The fact that it MAY be explained by a cosmological constant is unimportant. The cosmological constant is a 'fudge factor' in these cases: you can't disprove it because you can fit it to the data. The fact that you can fit it to all the data just says that the experiments are all measuring the same thing precisely - not necessarily accurately.
  • by barawn ( 25691 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @09:09AM (#315828) Homepage
    It was a psuedo-mistake. It was thrown in because it *can* exist.

    Historically it was set to zero because it doesn't look pretty in the equations, but there's no reason it should be zero, and in fact, current astronomical observations say that it's probably not zero.

    Of course, I'll state my opinion flat out and say that I think the astronomical observations are flawed in the first place, for many fundamental reasons (especially the supernova observations. Trust me. Supernovae are anything *but* reliable observations). I've seen too much duplicity in reporting of astronomical data (see also the Hubble Constant war) to believe anything 'surprising' like this.

    It's possible, but the researchers IMHO are trusting their own data too much to suggest something like this. Start from the assumption that the cosmological constant is zero, then try to see if there's anything in your data that would explain the problem OTHER than a cosmological constant. If you can't find anything, you're a bad scientist - talk to some other ones and get some ideas. Check those ideas, check your instruments, run the experiment again. Repeat. Only when you've exhausted everything you can think of can you say "well... we might want to consider a cosmological constant."

    The "bad scientist" comment up there implied that a good scientist can always come up with a problem in his/her experiment that will cause a systematic error, not that a cosmological constant is inherently bad.

    I don't know. IMHO they haven't done enough checking yet to convince me. Supernova data doesn't convince me - they're way too variable, and they are NOT standard candles, regardless of what anyone tells you.
  • Open is _not_ Free!~
  • How complex do things have to get before "God did it" becomes the best explanation?

    Infinitely complex, for no explanation to be the best explanation.
  • by Mignon ( 34109 ) <satan@programmer.net> on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @07:48AM (#315831)
    It's been ported to Lisp and is an Emacs package. Just type M-x big-! and start your own universe.
  • by Betelgeuse ( 35904 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:30AM (#315832) Homepage
    First of all, these data do _not_ suggest that the universe is open, but rather that it is flat. This is a key cosmological difference.

    Secondly, dark energy does _not_ have mass (you're probably thinking of dark matter). Dark Energy is thought to be (by some) the vaccuum energy density of the universe. At the current time, it appears that dark energy is accelerating the outward motion of the universe. This, in fact, is what the supernova observations are showing: given our expansion rate now, we would expect the supernova to be moving away from us more quickly than the actual motion we observe. This suggests that the universe was expanding more slowly in the past than it is now; that is, the universe is accelerating in its expansion.

    Because it adds to the overall energy density of the universe, however, it is thought to suggest that it makes the universe flat, cosmologically speaking.
  • Sol is far too small to become a supernova. A type II supernova would have to be at least 8 times the mass of Sol. A type Ib or Ic is at least 20 times, and a Type Ia requires a binary system.
  • God loves you and longs for relationship with you

    Well if that was him leaving those whiny messages on my machine grovelling about getting back together again, tell him to knock it off!

    You don't have to put up with that kind of harassment. Tell the deity firmly and clearly that you are not interested in a relationship and to cease the unwanted contact.

    If She/He/They/It still does not stop the harassment, a court injunction may be the next step....



  • ...hundreds of hundreds of billions of stars out there in space, and the fact that most (if not all) do not have life.

    Well, there is at least one that has life. Although possibly not intelligent life.

  • "Great ! Does that mean I can change its source and recompile it ?"
    No because the universe isn't code

    Well, we'll just have to reverse engineer it then.

  • by alexjohns ( 53323 ) <almuric@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @08:09AM (#315842) Journal
    http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ [nasa.gov]
    Today's Astronomy Picture of the day is all about this, too. It's got a bunch of links at the bottom for people wanting to read more.
  • An "open" universe is not one that will expand forever. "Open" refers to the geometry of the universe.

    Here is a link to a good website about it. [colorado.edu] It is a bit technical, but just look at the first graph. It's well labeled.


    The best research I have seen on using supernovae to determine structure of the universe, suggested a "flat" universe that expanded forever due to the cosmoligical constant.
  • The cosmological constant was a mistake in an equation by Einstein. His equation predicted an expanding universe, and he threw this constant in because he believed that the universe was static and needed a force to compensate.

    Info about it here. [colorado.edu]

  • by The Queen ( 56621 )
    This leaves you with a singularity that exploded for no apparent reason and existed for no apparent reason. Where did it come from? Why did it explode?

    After skimming through The Elegant Universe I became a subscriber to the theory that there are multiple 'universes', so I don't see ours as a singularity, but rather an offspring of any one of millions of other 'universes'...
    While that may answer you on one level, you could then ask where the MegaMultiverse came from. Can't help you there. But if God had anything to do with it, I think s/he was on some good blotter at the time. ;-)

    "Smear'd with gumms of glutenous heat, I touch..." - Comus, John Milton
  • > Time can only be measured by events. When there are no events, there can be no time. Simple as that.

    I don't buy that. Time is meta-physical. It's existance doesn't depend on the physical.
  • Too late, SGI already has a trademark [slashdot.org].
  • Michael wrote:

    "(Update: 04/04 11:03 AM by michael: A couple of people have pointed out that this write-up is inaccurate; I'm not going to try to correct it, but read the comments for more information"

    Apparently the only thing really expanding forever is Slashdot's ambivalence toward accuracy.
  • If we can't move to a new solar system in a few million years, we deserve to get wiped out by a supernova.
  • by fiziko ( 97143 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:41AM (#315872) Homepage
    Why do you need a purpose? The "purposes" you list for other discoveries seem like they were concocted after the fact to justify it for people who prefer to believe in a supreme being guiding the Universe.

    If you really need a purpose, here's one: to provide us with a challenge. If the Universe continues to expand indefinitely, there will be a time when the average density of the Universe is low enough that the formation of news stars becomes unlikely, and the fuel for those stars will begin to be burned up. Survival of the human race will be almost impossible in those conditions. The fight to survive will be the last remaining challenge for a race that will have had more than enough time to uncover a set of physical laws that describe the Universe. We'll need something to do.

  • by fiziko ( 97143 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @07:26AM (#315873) Homepage
    > This leaves you with a singularity that exploded
    > for no apparent reason and existed for no
    > apparent reason.

    I can't tell you if it had a reason for existance, but it may be possible to explain why a singluarity exploded. (That whole "where did it come from" question cannot be answered by science: a singularity destroys almost all information about what it was made of. All you can possibly know about what a black hole as absorbed are the total mass, and net charge and angular momentum of what it swallowed. You need the "God did it" method if you demand an answer to that question.)

    Stephen Hawking has shown that the particle-antiparticle pairs that are perpetually being created in all of space (according to the current models) can provide a mechanism for a black hole to lose mass and energy. To explain how, we first must relax the conservation of energy by incorporating the results of quantum mechanics.

    In high school, you were taught that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. Well, this is mostly true. Conservation of energy can be violated, provided that violation can never be observed. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of quantum mechanics puts limits on our observations. (Our uncertainty in the energy of a particle, multiplied by our uncertainty in the time we spend measuring it must be no smaller than an amazingly small number, Plank's constant h divided by 4pi.) The Universe can violate energy conservation, provided that excess energy is gone so fast it cannot be observed.

    The Universe, therefore, is able to conjure up a particle and its antiparticle anytime, anywhere. The creation of these particles is referred to as vaccum fluctuations. Anyway, these particles can be produced near a black hole.

    What happens if one of these particles falls into the black hole, while the other has enough energy to escape? Well, if you do the math, you find that in some cases, the particle that escaped can survive indefinitely; it can behave exactly as if it were a real particle.

    What effect does this have on the black hole? The net effect is a loss of energy. Because of mass energy equivalence, this corresponds to a loss of mass. In effect, the particle that escaped is behaving as though it had escpaed the black hole. If this happens often enough, a black hole can reach a point where it no longer meets the requirements of mass and density to be a black hole.

    What happens then? Well, nobody really knows. There are a lot of theories, including a Big-Bang type explosion. The one point I feel I should note is that, if this were a Big Bang sort of situation, then there would be matter in the Universe outside the singularity before it exploded. I'm still not sure how much matter this would be. I also don't know what kind of timescales it requires; if it's fast enough, it may appear as though it were a single explosion.

    This may not be the answer you're looking for, but I hope I convinced you that answers are possible when you're asking what triggered the Big Bang.
  • This isn't an argument, simply a point of confusion for me. As I understand it, the spontaneous creation/destruction of virtual particle pairs exists in the margin that Heisenberg uncertainty allows--that is, as you stated, the creation of energy/mass is allowed as long as it's immeasurable. Fine. After all, if something is immeasurable, then it doesn't matter (no pun intended)...however: in both the case of the black hole, as well as the Casimir effect, and (possibly) "dark energy" (although the SF article, at least, does indicate that vacuum energy fluctuations aren't the source of dark energy, since there would be far more than observed if they were), it seems to me that we're measuring the effect of virtual particle creation. Isn't this a contradiction?

    Note that I'm not claiming to have just invalidated an entire branch of modern physics, I'd just like someone to explain to me how I'm wrong...preferably in terms someone with only one semester of college physics can understand. ;)

  • Well, technically, you're right, dark energy doesn't have mass. However, it should have negative mass (considering that regular energy does have mass). This is what makes dark enery (which is a misleading term I think)and dark matter quite opposite. If the universe if full of dark matter (which emits an attractive force), then that means that if there is enough, the universe may be closed because there is enough matter to slow down the expansion of the universe, reverse it, and cause collapse (due to the gravitational attraction between all of the matter of the universe to each other).

    However, if there is enough negative ("dark") energy in the universe, which emits a repulsive force (that INCREASES, or accelerates over distance, which is opposite of the gravitational force, which decreases over distance - I believe that's what Einstein was getting at with the cosmological constant), than the universe 's expansion is accelerating, which in my mind would imply an open universe. I'm not sure how one could have a universe that has accelerating expansion, yet remain closed or flat. I apologize if any of the above is incorrect, I haven't taken a physics class in a long time :-)
  • Take a good look at the Universe... Its too perfect. Galaxies, with nice little stars orbiting the centers and planets orbiting the stars... and then life, and chances are we will eventually find life on numerous other planets. What does this suggest? Obviously, with our current understanding of Physics and the laws of thermodynamics, namely the principle of "Entropy" we can see that it doesn't make any more sense for our galaxy to naturally come together and form such a complex system of stars and planets anymore than it makes sense for copper ore to come together and form a new penny.

    My conclusion, is that some (many) supreme beings, with knowledge far in advance of ours and power far in advance of ours are responsible for everything we see. They created or at least organized our planet, and seeded it with life. Call them Gods or are creators if you like, but in my opinion our universe and especially our world is to "perfect" to be the result of some random explosion of a singularity.

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    Domain Names for $13
  • Any reader of Poul Anderson's Gateway series knows about the Heechee investigating black holes and the cosmological constant, not to mention the unmentionables hiding out in the Kugelblitz at the edge of the galaxy. Now THEY know that energy can be massive.
  • Darn. I knew it was one of those names kinda like Paul, but not really.
  • Maybe the negative energy that forces space apart is a mechanism that makes room for big bangs.

  • Yesterday the universe was going to end in a ball of fire ...

    Today it's going to end as freezing desolation of dead stars ...

    I never seem to get the right clothes for the ocasion!

  • It's not really strange at all if you understand how science works.

    Scientific hypotheses are based upon the evidence available at the time. Sometimes there will be different interpretations of the same evidence (competing theories) and it is then up to scientists to devise experiments to try to figure out which interpretation is correct.

    As new evidence comes along the theories evolve to reflect this. But that doesn't mean all the old theories were wrong, maybe they just described a particular subset of something, and they needed to be expanded for a more general case.

    A good example of this is Newton's Laws of motion, which were superceeded by Einstein's theories of relativity. It doesn't mean that Newton was wrong, just that his theories were a very very good approximation for objects travelling at 'everyday' speeds. In Newton's time they didn't have any way of observing objects travelling at relativistic speeds, as the fastest things around were cannon balls !

    Of course you could argue that since Newton and Einstein are in 'disagreement', they are obviously both wrong, and of course God moves everything around by hand.

  • by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:22AM (#315899) Homepage
    Great ! Does that mean I can change its source and recompile it ?
  • There was a pretty big multipage read on quintessance in the January issue of Scientific American.
  • While the evidence does suggest that the universe is flat, when you plug in all the numbers, omega (a nifty number involving lots of fun constants and the total mass/energy of the univers), which should be exactly, precisely, not even a teeny weeny bit off of 1 if the universe is, in fact flat, comes out to .3. Well, if the universe isn't flat, calculation of omega becomes a function of time, so by now (assuming we know the age of the universe reasonably well) omega would be dramatically different than it was at the time of the big bang. (Thus the need for not even a teeny weeny bit of being off of 1). if it was just a teeny weeny bit larger than one at the big bang, it would be huge by now, a teeny weeny bit smaller, and omega would be almost 0. the problem is, this is an energy/time calculation, which brings Heisenburg uncertainty into the picture. so, given the lower end of what "1" means taking uncertainty into account, you get .3 for the current value.

    So, according to astronomers, .3 = 1.

  • The way I've always understood it (and the way my astrophysics professors told me as well) was that, with the current known information and such, we live in a flat universe. This is due to the current known value of the density of the universe. If the overall density is greater than something like 8 * 10^-33 g/cm^3(?), than the universe is closed, if it is less than that density, the universe is open, and if it is equal to that density, the universe is flat. Right now we estimate the density to be very close to that number, which suggests flat.

    The point in all this is that the density could be anything it could be 300 g/cm^3 or 10^-100 g/cm^3, but it happens to fall very close to the value needed for a flat universe. And with all the possibilities out there, having a flat universe would be like balancing a pencil on its tip. Since, when we check the numbers, it seems like the pencil wobbles a bit(doesn't perfectly stand on its tip, but doesn't fall into open or closed territory very much), it suggests that we do live in a very finely tuned universe.

    I can deal with flat though. Its unique. Its got character. If we ever got into a fight with another universe, flat would kick ass!

  • Well, if that depresses you just sit back and think about the hundreds of hundreds of billions of stars out there in space, and the fact that most (if not all) do not have life. Have you ever seen a picture or heard about the Great Wall of galaxies? I suggest you check it out [nmsu.edu], since it does a good job of making you feel quite insignificant in the grander scheme of things.

    I like the fact that we're not special, it doesn't give us any pressure to get something accomplished here.

  • What happens then? Well, nobody really knows. There are a lot of theories, including a Big-Bang type explosion.

    I was under the impression that, if a black hole were to shrink below the size necessary to call it such, then it would explode merely in a large outpouring of gamma rays, not necessarily another Big Bang. This gamma ray explosion would be, in an open universe, the only energy source at the far ends of time, due to the evaporation of (for the most part) all matter.

  • by krlynch ( 158571 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @10:52AM (#315911) Homepage

    It was a psuedo-mistake. It was thrown in because it *can* exist.

    It was not a mistake to include it, not even a pseudo-mistake. At least in hindsight :-) And I don't mean from an observational viewpoint; from a fundamental theoretical viewpoint, you EXPECT there to be a cosmological constant term. Here are just two reasons:

    • The Einstein equations (with the cosmological constant term) are the most general (torsion free) equations you can write down using the metric and its first derivatives, that is invariant under general coordinate transformations. If you DON'T include the cosmological constant term, you have to come up with a new symmetry that appears in nature and that explains why there is zero vaccum energy. Explaining how you can leave it out is a more vexing problem than putting it in in the first place.
    • From fundamental particle physics, we expect the cosmological constant to be non-zero; every time you pass through a symmetry breaking phase transition (such as the electroweak phase transition, or a GUT scale transition, or breaking supersymmetry, or any of innumerable other phase transitions), the vacuum energy density is increased...i.e. there are positive contributions to the cosmological constant. (Now, those contributions from known phase transitions are naively sixty or seventy orders of magnitude larger than the observations, but that is another problem :-) So again, without some other unknown mechanism, you expect it to be nonzero.

    The problem since the seventies has not been to explain why the cosmological constant is not zero (since you wouldn't naively expect it to be), but why it is so CLOSE to zero; that is, why does the universe have some approximate symmetry that keeps the cosmological constant so small, despite what would otherwise be its natural inclination to be large.

  • The word "Flat" is not the better word, as a flat universe expands itself, but slows down as it losts energy. It hasn't any boundaries, simply it decreases velocity when it grows.
    We, in this universe don't see any difference, as our velocity decreases in synchronicity with this universe.
    This is the same paradox as event horizon in black holes : you fall in for eternity, here we grow up slowly, for eternity.

  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:26AM (#315919) Homepage Journal
    Observations made by the Hubble telescope have produced evidence that the universe is full of "dark energy", stuff that has mass but does not emit nor block light,

    Your dark energy explaination is actually the definition of "Dark Matter". Dark energy is the repulsive force in space that accelerates the already spreading galaxies.
    Another theory that supports this "Dark Energy" is the theory of a second sun Nemesis [space.com]
  • > Update: 04/04 11:03 AM by michael: A couple
    > of people have pointed out that this
    > write-up is inaccurate; I'm not going to
    > try to correct it, but read the comments
    > for more information.)

    That's what I love about Slashdot journalism. No time is wasted correcting innacuracies. "We're on internet time -- we can't bother." The truth is, there is no immediate benefit from checking the facts before doing a writeup, so *why* bother? The hoardes of people will still come, and the advertisers will still shell out the bucks.

    From now on, my news comes from moreover.com -- or (tongue-in-cheek) better yet, the slashdot story generator: http://bbspot.com/toys/slashtitle/
  • by edp ( 171151 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @07:51AM (#315921) Homepage

    "... existed for no apparent reason .... 'God did it' becomes the best explanation?

    Sigh, I should know pointing out the obvious will accomplish little, but "God did it" does not solve the problem you pose. "God did it" does not explain why something exists for no apparent reason, since then you have God existing for no apparent reason.

    Science is finding out the reasons. Be patient.

  • by gerddie ( 173963 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:33AM (#315922)
    can be found here:
    Blast from the Past: Farthest Supernova Ever Seen Sheds Light on Dark Universe [stsci.edu]
    ... and some more information, why this should tell us, that the universe is expanding faster.
  • by Fervent ( 178271 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @08:48AM (#315923)
    I don't know about anybody else, but did anyone else say "whew" when you read this? I was always worried that if, by some miracle, cryogenics was ever perfected and we could live forever, we would be stilted by a crunching universe (not a terribly fun way to die). At least now we have some extra time.
  • we can stop now. My head hurts.


    While this is important in terms of the field, as far as day to day life goes, it is not very important. After all, we have billions and billions of years before the wrap party.

    Other areas of research, like the search for planets are slightly more relevant. I want to know if we have neighbors, and if we have to worry about them

    The rest is somewhat abstract for my taste.

    Check out the Vinny the Vampire [eplugz.com] comic strip

  • by the Atomic Rabbit ( 200041 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @07:51AM (#315945)

    ...a disregarded theory first postulated by Einstein about "negative gravity" is actually valid.

    The cosmological constant, which provides a repulsion on the cosmological scale, was famously declared by Einstein to be the biggest mistake of his life. However, it has been known for many decades now that the it is a very valid part of the theory - it's not so much a fudge factor as a constant of integration.

  • Great. And I thought my last relationship was the only thing with no closure...

  • YES! About time we had a creation-vs-big-bang flame war in here!
  • How complex do things have to get before "God did it" becomes the best explanation?

    How exactly is that an explanation? Because the next logical question is, What created God?
  • Uhhh... Ok, if that were the next logical question, the answer might be God(2), and God(3), and so on.

    Next time, skip the course in mathematics, and take a course in pure logic instead... might be better off.

    your "+2 Insightful" question is revealed as the typical, tired, pseudophilosophic

    Ummm, it wasn't +2 Insightful, it was just +2. That's because my karma's at 50. So sorry!
  • Some people don't like dark matter. But every Thanksgiving, I say "Bring on the dark matter!"

    You know what they say: Once you go dark matter, you'll never go back. [ridiculopathy.com]

  • This is nothing new. Science changes its tune every time they find "new evidence" that shows that their old theories are nothing but bunk.

    Isn't this precisely the point of science and it's everlasting quest to prove educated guesses wrong? And a theory is just that, an educated guess, or a hypothesis. Science would be pretty pathetic is we didn't practice this way, the world would still be flat, the earth the center of the universe, ......

  • by rknop ( 240417 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:23AM (#315964) Homepage

    A common misconception, left over from decades of cosmology textbooks which implicitly assumed a zero cosmological constant (equivalently, no dark energy). These textbooks all make the equation that closed geometry = universe recollapses, open geometry = universe expands forever, flat geometry = borderline case.

    In fact, if you have a cosmological constant (or dark energy), you can have a closed univere which expands at an accelerating rate.

    The best evidence about the geometry of the universe currently comes from cosmic microwave background observations, which suggests that the geometry is *flat*. The supernova evidence suggests that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

    It is a mistake to state that an eternal expansion, or an accelerating expansion, is an "open" universe.


  • "God Did It" does not qualify as an answer. Because then the first question after that is "Where did God come from?". It doesn't make things clearer, and it only serves to stop those who accept authoritative arguments from asking any further questions -- curious and insightful though they may be. "God" is not a premise that can be tested or disproven.

    While I find current cosmological theories extremely fascinating, I think making sweeping generalizations at this juncture is really premature. We can only observe a tiny corner of the Universe, and we have only observed a tiny slice of time, though that slice does expand backwards into time through distance. I am of the opinion that our current theories on how the universe works, as brilliant and revealing as they are, will only be the cornerstone for a further generation of theories which we cannot even imagine at this point. What we define as the observable universe may change in one hundred years, in ways that we cannot imagine at this point. That by itself would void almost all current cosmology.
  • Why does something have to begin and end, both in terms of time and space? Why can't something just be? This is one of the problems with some of science - it doesn't deal well with that concept.

  • by deran9ed ( 300694 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:26AM (#315977) Homepage
    Ok so my postings so far for the day will come to a halt, but I figured this should be included in the topic, or... You could just read it anyways...

    Two British astronomers have counted up to 20 "free floating" planets, drifting in the constellation of Orion. They told the National Astronomy Meeting in Cambridge yesterday that they had identified the "signature" of water vapour in the infrared spectrum of faint points of light in the Orion nebula. This is a vast cloud of gas and dust 1,300 light years from Earth, but visible as the middle "star" in the sword of the constellation of Orion.

    Read on [guardianunlimited.co.uk]
  • by Urban Existentialist ( 307726 ) on Wednesday April 04, 2001 @06:29AM (#315994) Homepage
    I had always hoped that the universe would collapse in a big crunch, so that there could be a point to life. Now it looks as though the universe will just keep on getting bigger and bigger and colder and colder. What kind of destiny can we have as a species in this sort of environment?

    In fact, this really means that I doubt what the scientists say on this matter very much. Everything else in nature has a greater purpose and direction, a manifest destiny if you will, whether it be evolution or consciousness or even life itself. Scientists have always prided them on showing the point of life since the days of Euclid, through Newton (who was a very spiritual man) and onwards.

    The entire body of science points towards there being a directional purpose to life. This discovery flies in the face of everything we have learned, and I for one am sceptical. Not until they show the higher purpose (multiuniverses?) will I be convinced of this.

    You know exactly what to do-
    Your kiss, your fingers on my thigh-

  • Yes, the term "open" is overloaded... I think the consensus is that the Universe is "geometrically closed" -- that is, it is like the surface of a 4-sphere: a straight line extended in any one direction will return to its starting point.

    This would seem to jibe especially well with string theory, where the compact dimensions are "circular" in the same fashion. I would be very surprised if the extended dimensions were not also circular.

    The argument seems to be whether the Universe is "open" from a temporal perspective: that is, a 4-sphere can continue expanding forever ("open"), or can collapse on itself ("closed").

    Personally, I'm rooting for "closed", for two main reasons:

    • Aesthetically, I want all dimensions to be bounded, and that includes time.
    • I don't believe in Steady State, so I don't like the idea of an open Universe since we'd ultimately end up with "heat death": a big, cold, empty cosmos where nothing can happen.

    However, there's a theory that in regions of very empty space, new Universes could "bud" off of our own, so maybe heat death isn't death after all...

  • Saying "god did it" is a pretty poor way to explain away the complexity of the world. In order for god to have created a complex object, such as the infant universe, god would have to be pretty darn complex himself -- so all you've really done is replace one unexplainable complexity with another one that you like better. If "god did it" is the best explanation for complex things, and if god is also a complex thing/being, what's the best explanation for god? If you can accept "god was just always there, and nothing was before god," why can't you accept "the universe came from nothing, and nothing was before the universe?" Either way your cosmology has to deal with at least one unexplainable and complex thing/being/force...
  • And in a related story, SGI systems has filed legal proceedings for copyright infringment against the entire fucking universe.

    Thier copyright must be protected.

    The One,
    The Only,
    --The Kid
  • that isn't really the point, though is it. the point is that any theory which leads us towards a `mysterious unknown force' should be treated sceptically, as it reeks of a lack of data.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"