Sunday, May 31, 2009
Recently, I stumbled across a post to a public online science discussion group. But, it wasn't the subject of the post that interested me. The subject was speculation about the existence of anti-matter galaxies "at the fringes of the universe". What makes this person's post worth commenting upon is the almost immeasurable difference between scientific thinking and non-scientific thinking. So… it's worth an short examination.
First what we think we know about anti-matter:
Every empirically derived model of the universe (standard model included) shows almost no remaining antimatter after just a short percentage of its current age. The same models show an almost 50/50 split at the first moment… and then a quick period of mater-antimatter annihilation resulting in the current matter domination (with a whole mess of residual dark matter and dark energy). Remember, antimatter isn't nether-worldly, it's just matter that is in some fundamental way, symmetrically inverted. An antimatter electron would, for instance, have a positive charge. Thats all. No magic, no otherworldliness, anti-matter is still matter… is every bit "material".
Now the question of rhetoric:
What fascinates me when discussions like this erupt is the "why" that drives the original post. Contrarianism is a cornerstone of Scientific thought. But when the motives driving contrarian ideas are not scientific, you can expect scientists to assign the standard "crackpot" label. Every time I investigate such a claim, every time I ask and get an answer to the question "What drives your interest in making this contrarian claim?", I get an anti-scientific answer. I get an answer that reveals a spiritual world view that necessitates some fundamental strangeness at the base of a "theoretical" framework or "cosmology". The strangeness is necessary to support a "physical" explanation for the meta-physical emotional experiences and needs the contrarian finds personally satisfying. It is endlessly fascinating to me that anti-scientific thinkers seek constantly to justify their emotional-experiential world view atop some sort of awkward and illogical re-imagining of science derived knowledge. In contrast, you will never see a scientist go to spirituality in support of his theory or experimentally derived data set. No scientist has ever or will ever work a verse from the Bible, or a witticism attributed to Buddha, Mohammad, Krishna, Confucius, or L. Ron Hubbard into a proof or theory. The anti-symmetry of these two behaviors is worth a well intentioned pause for thought.
The inward apologetic focus of spirituality is the opposite the outward focus and motivations of science. Science (scientists) are motivated by a desire to understand the universe… as it is… for what it is. A scientist tries all day long to disregard what it feels like to think or want or need, expects that their own personal emotional gestalt is forever slanted by evolutionary selection towards culture, gender, species, and bio-centric mechanisms that are physically embedded and unavoidable. A scientist is motivated to see beyond personal experience to the fabric from which it is derived and of which, perspective is just a tailing, a side effect. It is important here to specify the scientific classification of the self and self-experience. Science is frequently accused of being anti-self. This is the farthest from the truth. To science, the self and subjective experience is every bit as existent as any thing else in this universe. But in the same way that Copernicus re-figured the ontology of the Solar system, placing the Sun in the center and demoting Earth to the less central and less exclusive role of Planet, science views the self and experience as non-special, as one of, as a physical manifestation of order and causality specific to place and time and circumstance. The self, to a scientist is effect. It is weather, not atmosphere. It is concerto not violin. It is road trip, not station wagon.
A scientist says "My mind is flawed. My mind tells me things that it wants to hear. How can I construct methods and means to see the difference between what is and what I experience?" A scientist doesn't seek physical justification for flawed thinking. A scientist just plain expects it, deals with it, looks beyond it. A scientist posits causality at base. Builds an inverted pyramid of causality. At the lowest point in this pyramid, this hierarchy of influence, are the most basic of physical processes. We humans and our thoughts appear high up at the top of this ever expanding pyramid of influence and causality… meaning, what we do and think is much more effect than cause. Scientists expect and accept this. We don't seek means of rearranging the structure that built us to fit our emotional experiential needs. We just look for what is.
So, I have asked the author of the originating post; "What motivates your interest in the existence of anti-matter galaxies?"
Note: A whole slew of fringe (mathematically consistent?) theoretical models have been introduced by legitimate scientists that allow for the existence of contemporary pockets of anti-matter in a matter dominated universe such as ours. These alternative models (and far crazier ones as well) are introduced to test the validity of more dominant models, as a means of falsifying. But this process of constantly looking for error is motivated by an interest in discovery of the truth about what is. Again, this search for "What Is" is fundamentally different than a search for an explanation or justification for "What I Feel".
Some background information:
The early universe was opaque to light (for about 300 thousand years). The energies released (that still exist) were generally of a much higher frequency then visible light… gamma radiation. Plus, the universe was too hot and dense (millions of times hotter and denser than the first moment of an atomic bomb detonation) for atoms to form, so photons wouldn't stream past atoms as they do today, and instead interacted with the dense soup of nuclei and electrons. When the universe had expanded and cooled to the point necessary for atoms to form, photons (of all energies) were free to fly unimpeded as they do today… the universe was finally transparent. Then it was another 500 million years before stars were formed and ignited before the first location-specific photons began to flood out into the universe (the stuff we can see with our eyes, telescopes, and directional sensors).
Because of the expansion of the Universe the big bang (matter anti-matter) created gamma rays are now huge radio waves (many meters in wavelength). This is the cosmic background radiation… the hiss on your analog radio and TV.
Now, what an event horizon is, and what one can see, are two very different things.
It is important to remind our selves that seeing isn't an active process. Seeing is a passive act. Sure, the photons that hit our retina are active, but the only thing active about our eyes is that they react to photons that hit them. We don't "look" out into the cosmos. We passively receive stray photons that were created or reflected off of stuff at some distance (which always translates to some time in the past)… and only photons, which happen to be streaming along exactly in a path that intersects one of our eyes. Our eyes don't suck information in, they just sit and wait for what ever comes their way. The best we can do is point them in a particular direction.
The event horizon is the theoretical spherical limit to how far anything can go within a given period of time from when it was released. Typically when we are talking about an event horizon we are talking about a boundary dictated by the fastest anything can travel in space-time, which is the speed that light travels in a vacuum. Given the fact that this universe began as a singularity (as one point of zero spacial diameter), we are (as is everything) always at the center of that first primordial point. That is the really great, if somewhat confusing, thing about an expanding universe… where ever you are, if you are within this universe, you are at the the exact epicenter of the big bang that started it all.
This rule is true no matter how fast you are going or when you started going that fast. Distance itself is an attribute of space-time and space-time was created by the big bang. There is nothing remotely detectible, like distance (or time for that matter), that is or ever will be, outside of space-time.
Even stranger, if Einstein was correct (and everything we have ever measured seems to say that he was), energy and matter are directly tied to and dependent upon space and time. Add or subtract from any of these four and you directly effect the quantity of at least one of the other three.
The photons that bring us information about things far away (long ago) left a universe that was less and less like the one we live in today the longer ago they were made. The limits to what we will ever be able to "see" no matter how good our telescopes get, are dictated by when the universe became transparent to light. This is when light became directional. There is radiation all around us that isn't directional… or rather it was created before the universe allowed radiation to stream unimpeded in a strait line. This radiation is considered "noise" as it is incoherent (each photon is unrelated to each other photon). In this sense, it is like temperature, you can know things about the average of all of the photons (average wave length and amplitude) but anything you can measure about any one photon is missing any information that would tell us anything about source location.
That is the bugaboo about knowing anything about the very earliest universe. There was a very long period of time right after creation (scientific semantics) that we can never know much about. We can derive quantities as averages, but we can not know anything about specific spacial events or trends. The moment the universe went transparent is a boundary, before which we can only guess at location-specific layout of the universe. For all practical purposes, in this universe, the moment of transparency (the moment the universe got cool enough to allow the formation of atoms) is the only "event horizon" of any interest. This photon transparency horizon (300 thousand years after the big bang) has nothing at all to do with the theorized matter anti-matter annihilation epoch which occurred between about 10^-32 and 10^-12 seconds after the big bang.
Note: It is calculated that the observable matter dominated universe (photons, neutrons, protons and electrons) is the result of a 1 part in 1 billion majority of matter to anti-matter. The statement made earlier to the effect that "electrons are supposed to be positively charged" is complete hooey. Anti-matter is created everywhere in the universe that energies are high enough for fusion (in stars, supernova, and at black hole horizons). Such newly created anti-matter is annihilated the moment it contacts matter and this produces photons in the x-ray spectrum.