Cosmogony 101, Lab Assignment: Create A Physical Universe

Suppose you are a student taking a laboratory course in Cosmogony 101 at some faraway university and you have been assigned to create an interesting, physical universe. How would you go about doing it?

1 Like

Proposal. Draft A:

(1) You must first create space and time, since motion consists of being located somewhere in space at some time and somewhere else in space at other times.

(2) Both space and time must be metric spaces, so that you can speak of distances between parts of space and distances between parts of time and divide one by the other and compute speeds for your moving objects.

(3) A metric space is a set the elements of which are “points” in the case of space and “instants” in the case of time and in either case have a size of zero and have no parts.

(4) Your moving objects, in order to occupy space, must occupy either single points of space or sets containing many points (two or more, maybe infinitely many, maybe more than merely infinitely many). In the latter case, however, they have parts, and, in particular, they have smallest and indivisible parts that occupy single points. Thus your moving objects must either be particles, objects that occupy exactly one point of space at each instant of time at which they exist, or else sets of many such particles (two or more). Thus when you get around to making your moving objects, all you will make will be moving particles. Whatever other moving objects there are will be sets of particles.

(5) Now suppose that your particles move at different speeds. There will then be no way to say what the speed of any one of them is. Since you cannot see space and can see only the particles, the best that you will be able to do will be to say that this particle has a relative speed of such-and-such with respect to that particle, but there will be no definite and non-arbitrary way to break this relative motion down into so much motion of particle A and so much motion of particle B. The notion that any one particle even has any such property as a speed that is just its own speed would, however, under such circumstances, be incoherent, as, then, would the notion that the speed of one particle is different from the speed of some other particle. The hypothesis that the particles have different speeds thus implies its own senselessness and cannot be true. The alternative is that all the particles have the same speed.

(6) Suppose now that the speed of all particles varies with the passage of time. Again there would be no way to say what this speed is. There would be no way to distinguish between a process that happened at a constant rate and one that did not. There would be no way to distinguish between a clock that ticked off time at a constant rate and one that did not. But without a clock that ticks at a rate that is guaranteed to be constant, the notion of time needed for computing a speed is lacking and again there is no sense in saying that the particles have one speed rather than some other speed. The notion that there is some quantity which is the speed of the particles is, under such circumstances, incoherent, and with it the notion that this speed varies. The hypothesis that the particles have a variable speed thus implies its own senselessness and cannot be true. The alternative is that the speed of the particles is constant.

(7) Thus you must create nothing but particles and these must all have the same constant speed. Otherwise, your notion of a universe of moving objects is incoherent.

(8) It is clear now that the particles must be particles not only in the sense of being appropriately small (occupying one point at a time), but also in the sense of being separated each from any other by empty space, for a geometrically solid object has no freedom to move in such a way that each point-occupying part of it moves at the same constant speed (other than that the entire object move at that speed, in a constant direction, forever – but there are no such objects).

(9) There must be no more than countably many particles, for more than that many could get together to form an impossible geometrically solid object. On the other hand, since the universe is infinitely large (assuming that space is Euclidean), there must be infinitely many particles, since fewer would either clump together in a finite region of space or disperse until there were no combinations of them. Since there are dispersive as well as aggregative processes going on, we can assume that any region of space of finite volume contains only finitely many particles (possibly none if the region is sufficiently small).

(10) The velocity of a finite set of particles is v = (v1 + … + vn)/n, or perhaps v = (m1v1 + … + mnvn)/(m1 + … + mn), where n is the number of particles, the vi are their velocities and the mi are their masses. Since vectors partially cancel each other when they add unless they are parallel, this velocity can have any magnitude from and including 0 up to and including c, though it has the speed c only in case each of the added vectors is parallel to each of the others, and this speed can change as the directions in which the constituent particles move change.

1 Like

Proposal. Draft B:

  • You will want things to move about, since a static universe is boring. So you will first create space and time, so that your moving things, when you get around to them, will have some place to move about in and some time during which to move about. This space will be a set of points, each some distance from each, and your time will be a set of instants, also each some (temporal) distance from each. That way you can divide the distance in space that something has moved by the length of time that it took it to move that far and compute a speed, without which there will hardly be any sense to your notion of motion. So now you are ready to create some moving things. Can you create things that are larger than points? Not really, since any such thing will actually be a set of many things each of which occupies just one point, since your space and any part of it is a set of points. So you will create only particles, things that occupy just one point at a time, and you will make larger things merely by putting many of the small things close to each other. Now, then, how fast should your particles travel? They have to move, or else the things that are many of them will not move. Can you make them travel at all different speeds? No, you cannot. If they traveled at different speeds, then there would be no way to distinguish a co-ordinate system for space from an inertial system, and hence no way to say meaningfully which of the particles was moving and how fast, and hence no sense in the proposition that they move at different speeds. So “moving at different speeds” implies its own senselessness and hence is not logically possible. The alternative is to make all the particles have the same speed. Can this speed vary? Again, no. If the speed varied then there would be no way to distinguish a uniform clock from a non-uniform clock and hence there would again be no way to say how fast the particles were moving and hence no sense in the proposition that they move at a variable speed. So"moving at a variable speed" implies its own senselessness and hence is not logically possible. The alternative is to make all the particles have a constant speed. So, combining, they must all have the same constant speed. Choose a speed. Create your particles. Wow! Look at tnem go! But, lo!, they are all moving on straight lines. Borrrrring! Hey, here’s a good idea. Make them interact with each other, so that their paths curve when they get close to each other. Ah! That’s much better! You have created an interesting universe. It consists of nothing but particles all moving at the constant speed c, but, since their paths curve when they are close to each other, they go into orbit around each other and form various stable orbital systems. These too interact with each other (since they are made of particles that do) and combine to form even larger things. Look! Some of those larger things are figuring out how it all works!

Proposal. Draft C:

  • First, you will create a space for them to move about in. Next, you will create a time that passes so things have some time during which to move.
  • So that some things can move fast and others slow, you need a metric concept of speed. Your space, then, is a metric space, consisting of points each some spatial distance from each, each such distance being r meters for some nonnegative real number r. Similarly, your time is a metric space, consisting of instants each some temporal distance from each, each such distance being t seconds for some nonnegative real number r. That way you can compute speeds as (s meters)/(t seconds) = s/t meters per second.
  • Having laid in the space and time needed for things that move, you are now ready to create the moving things. These will, at each instant of time, occupy some part of space. You cannot create any large things without creating their small parts, and, indeed, once you have created all the parts there is nothing left to do to create the thing itself. So you will necessarily create only moving things that occupy exactly one point of space at any given instant of time, for anything that occupies two or more points at once will have parts that do not and will consist entirely of these parts.
  • Can you create your particles in such a way that they move at variable or at different speeds? No, you cannot. If the particles moved at different speeds, then there would be no way to say which of them was moving or how fast. The best that you could do would be to say that this one is moving at such and such a relative speed with respect to that one, but there would be no way to split this relative motion up and say how much of it was the motion of one particle and how much of it was the motion of the other and how much of the motion not thus accounted for was a motion that the two particles had in common. But if there is no way to assign specific speeds to each particle, then it does not make sense to say that any one particle even has any such property as a speed that is the speed of that particle, and then it makes no sense to say that two particles have different speeds. The proposition that the particles have different speeds thus implies its own senselessness, so no such universe is logically possible. The alternative is to give all particles the same speed.
  • Similarly, if the particles had variable speeds then there would be no way to tell a uniform clock from a non-uniform clock, no way even to make such a distinction, and again no sense in the proposition that particles have a speed or have a variable speed. The proposition that the particles have variable speeds thus implies its own senselessness, so no such universe is logically possible. The alternative is to give all particles a constant speed.
  • Putting the two arguments together, you are forced to give all particles the same constant speed. No other kind of universe consisting of moving things makes any sense.
  • Our universe is such a universe. The particles that go more or less in straight lines thus propagate through space at a certain speed, a constant speed, and a speed that is the same for all of them. These are the particles that collectively constitute the material substance known as ‘light’. The other material substances are composed of the same particles, all moving at the same constant speed, but in paths that resemble circles more than straight lines, so that collections of them are typically either at rest or meandering about rather slowly rather than propagating through space at the speed of light.

Proposal. Draft D:

  • Suppose you are a supernatural entity and you are determined to create a physical universe. You want something interesting, so you determine to make a bunch of things that are moving about. If they do not already exist (in which case where are you and when are you thinking about this?), create a space for the things to move about in and a time that will pass while they move about. Now you are ready to make the moving objects. You can’t make a universe the elements of which are larger than points, since anything that is located at a set of two or more points has parts and is therefore a subset but not an element of the universe. So what you will make is a set of physical objects each of which occupies exactly one point, though, since they are moving (the particles will have to move or else nothing will), a different point at different instants of time. Can the particles move at different speeds? Obviously not, since then it will be impossible to assign any specific speed to any of them, and the proposition that their speeds are different will no longer make any sense. Thus this proposition, which implies its own senselessness, cannot be true. So make the particles all move at the same speed. Can the particles move at a variable speed? Obviously not, since then it will be impossible to assign any specific speed to them at any given time, and the proposition that their speeds are variable will no longer make any sense. Thus this proposition, which implies its own senselessness, cannot be true. So make the particles all move at the same constant speed. Does it matter what speed? No, the question doesn’t even make any sense, since there is nothing that exists yet that can distinguish one speed from any other. Say “Let there be light” now and there will be light and it will be good. Well, pretty boring actually. It’s all going in straight lines. Nothing interesting ever happens. Why don’t you make up some sort of rule that causes the particles to have non-zero forces that are strong when they come close to each other? There! That’s better. Now the little buggers are going into orbit about each other and forming all kinds of complicated things that move at arbitrary and variable speeds that are any speed less than the speed at which their constituent particles move. This could be interesting to watch for the rest of eternity. Do you wonder if these particles will ever form a machine that will figure out how the whole gizmo works?

Proposal. Draft E:

  1. In order to define the motion of physical objects, there must be a space and there must be a time and this space and this time must be metric spaces, so that we can divide a distance in space by a distance in time and compute a speed.
  2. It follows that the physical universe is a set of particles each of which occupies exactly one point of space at any instant of time. This is because any physical object that occupied two or more points at any instant of time would have parts at each of those points and hence would be a subset but not an element of the physical universe.
  3. If the particles of which the universe necessarily consists moved at different speeds, then there would be no way to say how fast any one of them was moving. The best that we could do would be to say that this one had a relative speed of thus and so with respect to that one. There would be no way to distinguish a co-ordinate system for space from a moving spatial reference frame. There would be no standard of absolute rest or of absolute motion. However, if there is no way to assign some specific speed to each particle, then the hypotheses that the particles move at different speeds is not a coherent proposition. Thus this proposition implies its own senselessness and therefore could not possibly be a true proposition. The only alternative is that all the particles move at the same speed.
  4. If the particles of which the universe consists moved at a variable speed, then there would be no way to say how fast they were moving at any time. There would be no way to distinguish a uniform clock from a non-uniform clock. However, if there is no way to assign some specific speed to the particles, then the hypotheses that the particles move at a variable speed is not a coherent proposition. Thus this proposition implies its own senselessness and therefore could not possibly be a true proposition. The only alternative is that all the particles move at a constant speed.
  5. Summarizing, either the physical universe is a set of particles all of which move at the same constant speed or there is no possibility of explaining what is meant by the term “a moving object.”
  6. But the physical universe contains moving objects. Therefore, either the universe does not make any sense or else it is a set of particles all of which move at the same constant speed. I now propose that we reject the first alternative and adopt the second as a working hypothesis.
  7. It now follows that there is empty space, for the alternative, that each point of space contains a particle at each instant of time, would not allow the particles to move all at the same constant speed. Linear continua, strings, are not impossible, but a model that is simpler and thus worthy of being investigated first is that each particle is always completely surrounded by empty space.
  8. It now follows also that there is action at a distance. For if the particles did not interact with each other then each particle would move along a straight line, all at some one speed. But the universe is not like that. So the particles interact with each other. However, since there is nothing but empty space between each particles and its nearest neighbors, they interact with each other in spite of their being separated from each other by empty space.
  9. It is not necessary to any of the above reasoning that space and time be Euclidean metric spaces, but that would be the simplest assumption to make and hence the one to investigate first. There is at present no evidence to the contrary. Similarly, we may as well assume that space is three-dimensional and time is linear.

I can see how an activity like this could keep your grey matter sharp. But somehow I can’t picture a hypothetical being capable of creation from scratch putting together a sequential to do list which included “start the clock on time” (to say nothing of where such a list is supposed to hang out until She checks off “create space”). Sorry but this is too tough to wrap my head around. I think I’ll just leave it to those elephants on top of that stack of turtles to sort out. :wink:

2 Likes

There is an alternative: That the Cosmos has always existed, exists, and will always exist, consisting of point-sized parts–all of which move through space at the same constant speed.

1 Like

You seem very certain about that. This all seems very speculative to me.

Certain about what?

  • You said: “But somehow I can’t picture a hypothetical being capable of creation from scratch putting together a sequential to do list”
  • I offered an alternative:
    1. “That the Cosmos has always existed, exists, and will always exist”;
    2. “That the Cosmos consists of point-sized parts”; and
    3. “That all of those parts move through space at the same constant speed.”
  • You think I seem very certain about “that” and follow up your observation with: “This all seem very speculative to me.”
  • I’m going to assume that the “that” which you think I am certain about are items 1, 2, and 3, and that you think all three items are very speculative.

My certainty is moot. I’m nobody important and have nothing to lose if I’m wrong. That said, my “alternative” certainly seems less speculative to me and a tad bit more reasonable than elephants on a stack of turtles and, IMO, than a “creation” of something out of nothing, whether by a hypothetical being or a “Big Bang”.

My confidence in the draft proposals which I listed initially and the conclusions which I stated–which are reasoned out in the proposals–is based on my confidence in the original agnostic atheist who authored the proposals which I plagiarized. He was the most rational and reasonable guy with whom I have ever had the pleasure to be acquainted.

I note that his proposed drafts assumed two things: (a) that an explanation of the cosmos can, will, and must make sense, otherwise–as he once said–“we should fold up our tents, go home, and get drunk”–and (b) that the cosmos consists of physical things that move in space over time in a rational and reasonable manner, i.e. in a way that makes sense.

IMO, the claim that the cosmos makes sense is, at heart, consistent with the “Intelligent Design” claim that life and the universe could not have their origin in chance. The ID folks argue that the nature of cosmos affirms a “supernatural” origin. The author of the proposed drafts, whom I quoted, likewise was affirming that the cosmos does not have its origin in chance.

Seems to me that we have several alternatives to choose from:

  1. Either the cosmos, when properly explained, makes sense because it has a supernatural origin (cf. Intelligent Design);
  2. Or the cosmos, when properly explained, makes sense because the cosmos never originated (cf. my quoted author) and, therefore, needs no supernatural aid;
  3. Or the cosmos, when properly explained, makes sense because the cosmos originated but without supernatural assistance and needs none (cf. mainstream science).
  4. Or the cosmos, when properly explained, doesn’t make sense because the cosmos originated in chance and is ruled by chance, and humanity is clueless.
1 Like

My impression was you were offering this as the only possible alternative and strongly doubt that.

Yes thie whole idea of how to assemble a cosmos strikes.me as extremely speculative. No harm in it but I do feel any suggestion that it all would have remained uniform and uninteresting without the skills of a cosmic watchmaker to be indefensible.

Or how about accept that any such theory is above our pay grade and look to activities which draw on our own creativity rather using our intellect map a hypothetical creator’s creation.

Whether the observable universe moves in a way that makes sense to our hominid brains is moot. We have enhanced our powers of perception to peer out into space a good deal further than is possible with the naked eye, granted. Yes ID and thinking we are up to the task of judging what sort of cosmos ‘makes sense’ do sort of go together. Like said before, no harm in it if you’re having fun. Maybe I should just stop raining on your parade. I’ll try harder not to be a wet blanket.

Edited to say I have no idea how that url got in there. I suck at writing on my phone.

1 Like

I’ve been retired over 11 years: I don’t have a pay grade. Showing up in biologos.com is not a job, it’s what I do sometimes between naps and meals.

There’s a word missing there somewhere, I think. But I won’t venture to guess what it is or where it should be, because it’s clear to me that you’ve missed the huge amount of creative humor in what I posted. You haven’t “rained on my parade”, you’ve missed the joke.

I’m glad you asked. Hate to toot my own horn, but just look around. I created this one. It wasn’t that hard either.
I said, “Hey Universe! Go!”

1 Like

Eternity is the ultimate fact. There is NOTHING new under the sun, or any other star in any universe since the beginning… of universes. God or no. If God, then He is greater than infinite.

What you say about eternity is what my bones tell me too. But I have to forgive those not convinced by that sort of testimony of course.

But nothing new, ever? Here my bones do not concur.

It’s the testimony of logic @MarkD. If anything is new then everything is, from forever. You’re new. I’m new. We’ve never been before. Like everyone else from eternity. We’re mesoscopic. Between relativity and quanta. We’re not wired for eternity or the evanescent, infinity or the infinitesimal; we’re wired for story born meaning. In a story with no beginning. No end. No story. There is no God story whether He instantiates all other self telling stories or not.

…based on some presuppositions which, while maybe ‘rational’, are not necessarily true.

Well at least in trivial ways there is newness. But perhaps nothing is completely new, devoid of any connection to the past. You and I had parents and the singularity that became a universe owes some debt to something we cannot imagine which pre-existed it. That is just as true if it was God as if it were the unfolding of a multiverse. So I prefer to say it was pre-existing conditions and leave it at that. Nothing ever came from a true nothing because there has never been any such thing IMO.

@Klax cannot get his head around the distinct possibility that time had a true beginning (and that relativistic physics actually demonstrates), and not infinite beginnings from eternity. Sure, the latter is a rational thought (and that’s all it is), but it is not necessarily true.
 

I like the idea that quantum mechanics might be hinting at, that the fundamental reality of the universe is information. The mind of God (and that’s not nothing) fits that bill quite nicely,.

Surfing on “the fundamental reality of the universe is information”, I came up with this quote from someone (a science reporter) who has trouble with the idea:

Part of me would love to believe that consciousness is not an accidental by-product of the physical realm but is in some sense the primary purpose of reality. Without us to ponder it, the universe makes no sense; worse, it’s boring.
 
Scientific American opinion blog

 
Of course, he is not seeing how well that fits into a Christian worldview… mine, anyway. (Recall why God created the universe.)

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.