Category Archives: Universe

First Law of Planetary Building

First Law of Planetary Building: no two planets will ever be alike.

Corollary #1: if two planets are almost identical, then at least one of them will have at least one outrageously peculiar feature.

Corollary #2: Universes made of perfectly identical planets are not allowed.

The First Law is manifest in the fact that each planet in the Solar System and elsewhere appears to be a unique, very specific experiment with peculiar conditions that are never repeated elsewhere. Even single satellites are all very different from one another. And if you want to top strangeness, how about Corot-7b with its clouds of minerals?

Mineral clouds
Mineral clouds

One objection could be raised about Venus and Earth, or Uranus and Neptune, as both couples look like made of identical twins. However, Venus’s hellish atmosphere and very slow, retrograde rotation are truly outrageously peculiar features; and Uranus basically lies to one side (hence corollary #1).

Corollary #2 is necessary otherwise the First Law is invalidated. It seems plausible, since the number of universes is large but not infinite.

The Mind That Is Catholic

A truly extraordinary interview to Jesuit Father James Schall on the Vatican’s Zenit, about his book “The Mind That Is Catholic: Philosophical and Political Essays“, that “explores the habits of being that allow one to use the tools of faith and reason to explore all things seen and unseen“.

Somehow, there’s lots of me in that interview. A few extracts follow:

ZENIT: What does it mean to have a mind that is Catholic? What are its key elements?
Father Schall: The mind that is Catholic is open to all sources of information, including what comes from Revelation […] It is characteristic of the Catholic mind to insist that all that is knowable is available and considered by us in our reflections on reality.

[…] We think, in the end, that what is peculiar in Catholicism is not opposed to reason but rather constitutes a completion of it. It was Aristotle who warned us that the reason we do not accept the truth even when it is presented to us is because we do not really want to know it. Knowing it would force us to change our ways. If we do not want to change our ways, we will invent a “theory” whereby we can live without the truth. The “primary” source of the Catholic mind is reality itself, including the reality of revelation.

[…] Why do these and many other thinkers “embody a mind that is Catholic?” I think it is because they take everything into account. What is peculiar to Catholicism, I have always thought, is its refusal to leave anything out. In my short book, “The Regensburg Lecture,” I was constantly astonished at the enormous range of the mind of the present Holy Father. There is simply no mind in any university or public office that can match his. He is a humble man, in fact. It is embarrassing to the world, and often to Catholic “intellectuals,” to find that its most intelligent mind is on the Chair of Peter. I have always considered this papal intellectual profundity to be God’s little joke to the modern mind.

[…] Catholicism knows that all sorts and sources of knowledge flow into its mind, one of which — the primary one that makes it unique — is revelation. But it is a revelation, in its own terms, addressed to active reason. That too is the mind that is Catholic.

The End of Atheism

From Scientific American, quoted in full on the Integral Options Cafe:

A mathematical theory places limits on how much a physical entity can know about the past, present or future…

David H. Wolpert, a physics-trained computer scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center, has chimed in with his version of a knowledge limit. Because of it, he concludes, the universe lies beyond the grasp of any intellect, no matter how powerful, that could exist within the universe. Specifically, during the past two years, he has been refining a proof that no matter what laws of physics govern a universe, there are inevitably facts about the universe that its inhabitants cannot learn by experiment or predict with a computation…

As Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, puts it: “That your predictions about the universe are fundamentally constrained by you yourself being part of the universe you’re predicting, always seemed pretty obvious to me…”

What is therefore the point to atheism? Even if there is nothing else but the physical universe, there is no way for any part of it to “learn it all by experiment” or “predict with a computation“. In other words, the physical universe is the only thing that can fully know the physical universe.

How far is that from the definition of Divinity? And what does that leave to the atheist? Absurdities like believing in the non-existence of the physical universe?

If Wolpert is right, there is no logic left in atheism. And Dawkins’ “Ultimate 747″ proof of the non-existence of God appears quaint: the Divinity cannot be any part of the physical universe.

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One of course can and will always be able to reasonably state agnosticism. But post-Wolpert agnosticism becomes simply the belief that the Divinity cannot be communicated with or experienced as such).

There is one thing we can be certain of, in any case: that there’s more out there than a collection of physical entities.

Why We Are Here

The Total Perspective Vortex […] shows its victim the entire
unimaginable infinity of the universe […] in an infinite
universe the one thing sentient life cannot afford to
have is a sense of proportion.

Just as a painter with a canvas, colors, brushes and inspiration is ipso facto bound to paint: so the Creator, having the capabilities and tools created the cosmos. And with no configuration preferred over another, the Creator painted all possible canvasses, and everything that could exist came into existence.

And so here we are, existing because we could.

And many, ever more different copies of ourselves exist in this Cosmos, but in other Universes, covering all the possibilities even beyond our imagination. Each one of them, existing only if but also every time it could.

In the big scheme of things, the existence of each one of us is thus even more irrelevant that anybody has ever dreamed of. But from each one of us’ point of view, it’s all we have: and so in a paradox, it is extremely important, just because such an existence is so singularly precious only to itself, and to a handful of otherwise just as irrelevant people.

and you know that these are the days of our lives
remember

The Perfect Cosmological Principle, or The Cosmology of the Ecclesiastes

While analyzing the consequences of modelling the Cosmos as a collection of a huge number of Parallel Universes, I wrote some 18 months ago:

[…] We have learned that our planet is not the Center of the Universe. Apart from being able to harbor life, Earth is a run-of-the-mill planet in an average star in a not-so-special galaxy, belonging to an ordinary Local Group gravitationally linked to a Supergroup like many others, in a corner of the Universe that is not extraordinary at all

Let’s call that the “Banality Principle”, with us since at least since the times of Copernicus […]

As it happens, it is called the Copernican Principle indeed.

It is already quite important as it is, since it means we can investigate physics in our own vicinity and assume that the laws we observe are the same throughout the Universe.

There is another step usually missed though: if we just expand the Copernican Principle to include time, then the hypothesis is that then the same things will keep happening.

This is the so-called Perfect Cosmological Principle, rejected in the past because undermined by the overwhelming evidence for the Big Bang, a”Beginning” and therefore a “special Time” in the Universe.

However, this argument fails in in a Multiverse Cosmos, where the Big Bang is just one of many. If that is the case then, the Ecclesiastes may very well be right:

1,9: The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun

Is your SUV Destroying the Universe?

Is your SUV destroying the Universe?

Supernovae data from the 1950’s to 2007 show trends very worrying for the fate of the whole cosmos.

The Magnitude (brightness) of observed explosions, after hovering for several decades around the 20 mark, has recently dropped to 15 (i.e. towards brighter supernovae).

Furthermore, the number of observed supernovae has been increasing at an exponential rate, again after many decades below 50 per year, to 95 in 1996 and a little less than 600 in 2007.

The fact that this is happening exactly as anthropogenic greenhouse-gases emissions are on the increase, cannot be just a coincidence. If this will not convince Governments about the importance of stopping CO2 emissions, nothing will!

Ptolemy’s Revenge

2154 years after being written, and 464 years after being rendered obsolete by Copernicus, the Ptolemaic System is coming back with a vengeance, masquerading as Garrett Lisi’s Theory of Everything

Crowds, Echoes and Communication with Parallel Universes

The existence of a Multiverse has many philosophical consequences (and it just makes so much more physical sense than having us living in a Goldilocks Universe). And as the Multiverse has been postulated from actual observations, we can almost say we can test its existence.

Of course it would be all much more interesting if we could talk to a parallel universe.

Or would it? Communication between Universes may actually be made rather difficult by a “crowding echo effect“.

Imagine I were to try send a message via a quantum interference pattern, for example.

Obviously, all my quasi-identical copies from “nearby” parallel universes quasi-identical to my own Universe, would be trying to send quasi-identical information via quasi-identical ways at quasi-identical times: so we could all be creating so much noise as to make the reception of any message next-to-impossible.

Even more paradoxically, we could actually be reading each other’s message: but since those messages would all be quasi-identical to each other, we could mistakenly convince ourselves that we were listening each one only to his own echo.

After all what meaningful information could anybody exchange with a quasi-identical copy?

It may take a very very long time to figure out the minute differences between the two and those may as well be undetectable or absolutely irrelevant.

Pretty Awful Astronomy on Astronomy Magazine

Astronomy Magazine’s latest Collector’s Edition issue “50 Greatest Mysteries in the Universe” (ed: David J Eicher) is even more special than usual, unintentionally so given the width and breadth of its errors.

With mistakes ranging from excessive simplifications to incredible blunders, it is just too tempting to wonder about Mystery #51, namely “Does anybody do any proofreading at Astronomy Magazine?

Here’s a list of what I have spotted so far, starting from the biggest howlers:

Question 36: “Could a distant, dark body end life on Earth?”: (page 73):
“Among them are the Sun-like star Alpha Centauri”
Egregiously wrong. Alpha Centauri is not a single star. In this case, the text does not show the most elementary grasp of astronomical knowledge.

Question 31: “Does inflation theory govern the universe?”: (page 62):
Under caption titled “Minuscule Time”
“…compare 1 second to the 13.7-billion-year-age of the universe. Next, divide that 1 second into an equivalent number (13.7 billion) of parts…”
Egregiously wrong. The text mistakes “years” for “seconds”. This is quite worrying as it is trivial to understand that the correct “equivalent number of parts” is 31 million times larger: that is, 13.7 billion years times 365 days a year times 24 hours a day times 3600 seconds per hour.
The result is 4.32*1017, definitely not 13.7 billion.

Question 19: Can light escape from black holes?”: (page 41):
“1067 years, or more than one million times longer than the whole history of the universe to date”
Egregiously wrong. If the Universe has been around for 13.7 billion years, that’s 7.3*1056 times less than 1067. That number is 730 billion quadrillion quadrillion, not just “one million”.
Looks like whoever did the computations, misread 1056 into 106. Or worse.

Question 6 “How common are black holes?”: (page 18):
“Encountering a black hole of any type, your body […] would be pulled into a very long line of protons”
Wrong. If one were shielded against radiation, falling into a sufficiently large black hole would entail experiencing relatively weak gravity gradients.

Question 8 “Are we alone?”: (page 21):
“Viruses…’life’ – which for them amounts to cannibalizing cells”
Wrong. Only some viruses kill the host cells: many of them are more like non-lethal parasites (I am leaving aside the fact that cannibals eat their own species, and that’s not what viruses do).

Question 42: “What will happen to the Sun?”: (page 82):
“As the swollen Sun incinerates the solar system’s inner planets, its outer, icy worlds will melt and transform into oases of water…”
Mostly wrong. That is, true only under extraordinary conditions. Liquid water can exist only at pressures above Water’s Triple Point’s (661 Pa). And so it will only appear on those satellites and asteroids capable to maintain at least that much atmosphere.
How many will? Not many, perhaps just a handful or none at all.

Question 13 “Will asteroids threaten life on Earth?”: (page 30):
“The destructive power a rock carries to Earth is directly proportional to its size”
Oversimplistic. Roughly, the consequences of an asteroidal impact are directly proportional to its mass. But this leaves out other considerations, including the asteroid’s chemical make-up, density, shape, atmospheric entry angle, and more.

Question 6 “How common are black holes?”: (page 16):
“If you could throw a baseball at a velocity of 7miles per second, you could hurl it into space”
Oversimplistic. As the baseball would have to go through lots of air at first, the initial speed must be considerably larger, for a simple throw (even leave aside all considerations about heating by friction). This may look trivial, but considering the other errors in the magazine, one is left with the lingering doubt that the 7mi/s figure may have been not just a simplification.

Question 2 “How big is the universe?”: (page 10):
“…we live in a Universe that is at least 150 billion trillion miles across…”
Antiquated. The galaxies we observe as 10 billion light years away have obviously had 10 billion years to move away much further by now, and that is not all. By considering additional effects such as post-Big Bang inflation, and the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe, the actual value for the size of the Universe may be in the region of 160 billion light years

And finally…
Question 2 “How big is the universe?”: (page 10)
“Other universes might exist beyond our ability to detect them. Science begs off this question…”
Question 3 “How did the Big Bang happen?”: (page 12):
The often-asked question ‘What came before the Big Bang?’ is outside the realm of science”
Antiquated. For a more up-to-date view, check http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4974134.stm and Science magazine

All in all: plus 50 points for the magazine’s idea, but minus several million for being so careless with the stuff they are supposed to know more about…

Drawback In The Sad “Dwarf Planet” Saga

Size does matter for NASA, ESA and the likes. That’s the drawback.

This summer, 49 years after being established, NASA will launch its first major space probe dedicated to the study of main-belt asteroids Ceres and Vesta.

In the meanwhile, in 46 years of interplanetary travels there have been only a couple of Russian attempts at studying Phobos, the satellite of Mars that is likely to be a captured asteroid.

And none at all about Deimos, the other satellite of Mars, despite the fact that it is the easiest and cheapest place to reach in the Solar System from the Low Earth Orbit (such as the Space Station’s). It’s easier and cheaper than the surface of our own Moon.

Can’t anybody else see a pattern emerging? Yes there have been peculiar missions like the one to asteroid Eros, but those are by far the exception.

Let’s face it: Big Space Agencies don’t like to bother with small components of the Solar System. It is not “cool” enough to say “Well guys and gals we are going to see a space rock smaller than Rhode Island” (despite the surprises those space rocks may be hiding for us to discover).

There is a mission en-route to Pluto now. It was cancelled before lift-off at least once, and I am sure it would have never been approved had Pluto been demoted to “dwarf planet” in that silly astronomical congress a few months back.

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And all of that, just to make sure schoolchildren could keep a mnemonic of 8 planets?

There are more than 9 stars and more than 9 galaxies…

The more time passes, the more unbelievable the whole thing is. Now Eris has been discovered to be larger than Pluto.

So what?

Anyway, I think 99.99% of people will agree that there is no way to scientifically define a planet. Here’s a definition for the “Average Joe and Jane” then:

A Planet is a round-ish object that orbits around a star and does not orbit around another round-ish object” (c) Maurizio Morabito 2007.

Who can get simpler than that?

And what would be soooooooooooooo wrong with it?

The Physics of Miracles And Of Free-Will

A scientific finding published a few months ago on Physical Review Letters and reported on The Economist may soon send religious types of all sorts and shapes to salivate back to their Physics books.

5% of a proton’s magnetism is contributed not by the host quarks but by visiting strange quarks that have popped out of nowhere“.

It is a perfectly reasonable discovery. Current quantum physics in fact

predicts that so-called virtual quarks, together with their anti-matter partners, are continuously emerging from the vacuum of space and then disappearing again as a result of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. So, while a proton has three resident quarks, it also plays host to a lot of short-term visitors

Nevertheless, such a discovery may herald fascinating consequences.

First of all, 5% is not exactly a negligible quantity.

Second, the measurement is obviously an average, so one proton will get a little nudge in one direction, another proton a slightly larger or smaller nudge in another direction, and so on and so forth. There is no macroscopic effect…but only insofar as the virtual particles pop up randomly in the protons.

Third, if this happens for one kind of particle, it is extremely likely it will happen for all kinds of particles, not just protons

Fourth, if this happens for one kind of force, it is highly likely it will happen for all kinds of forces, not just magnetism

—————–

The end result is that when we will be able to control where, when and how virtual particles pop-up within real particles, we will be capable to do all sort of currently deemend impossible actions. Imagine being able to “focus” the properties of a magnet so that it will attract a particular metallic object, instead of all the objects within a certain distance range….suddenly, one could move specific objects from a distance. That’s telekinesis for you.

Or look forward to the time gravitational fields will be strengthened, weakened, focused at will. That’s levitation for you. And spaceflight and levitating cars will become a child’s play to build and pilot.

—————–

Those are just dreams at the moment, impossibilities, what we could call Miracles if we were to witness them (as per A.C. Clarke’s famous saying: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic).In fact, what is there to prevent God from using those same virtual quarks exactly to perform…Miracles? (God of course could be prevented by being non-existant 8-) ; but let’s assume for now that’s not the case…).

Levitation does indeed allow one to walk on water or fly from Mecca to Jerusalem, or telekinesis the parting of the Red Sea. Some good control of the strong force and quark mechanics simplifies transforming water into wine or anything else.

Etc etc. So virtual particles popping all over the place may be God’s Backroom Control: invisible and intangible but still very much of consequence. Sort of a Miracle Physics (MP) Model.

—————–

For the Theist, it all makes sense.The Deity would have created a Universe that can take of itself but still not completely impervious to on-the-fly modificationsAlso the main objection against miracles would lose ground, as in the MP model the Divinity can intervene without foregoing the natural laws inscribed in the Universe

Just as light is a wave AND a particle, and an electron is a wave and a particle, we could say that the Universe is at the same time deterministic AND random. Not to mention that Evolution can then be a random walk AND the guided unveiling of some underlying plan.

—————–

So do we (well, IF we exist) have free will or are we in the hands of an omnipotent figure (if He/She exists) that decides things for us? Both.

The Power and Relevance of the Multiverse

How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted over
In states unborn and accents yet unknown!
(Julius Caesar – III, 1)

Here a brief list on the power, and relevance to our lives of the Multiverse, a model in which the Cosmos is composed of an enormous number of extremely diverse Parallel Universes.

From solid scientific bases, such a Model may be able to:

  • Move Science itself beyond the “Realm of the Whats” and into the “Region of the Whys
  • Explain why our Universe is so very well “tuned” for life, and especially for intelligent life to exist (Goldilocks and all that)
  • Explain why Mathematics is such a powerful tool in our scientific investigations (”The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” in the words of Nobel Prize winner E. P. Wigner)
  • Explain why against a microscopic world driven by probabilistic quantum mechanics, there is the macroscopic deterministic-like tangible reality of our day-to-day experience
  • Offer an alternative model for Time
  • Neatly expand to our whole Universe the Banality Principle, according to which we live on an anonymous planet orbiting an anonymous star in an anonymous galaxy
  • Explain the entire Cosmos very simply, and using a very limited number of words
  • Answer the age-old question of why would a benevolent God, or gods, or any Creator let bad things happen
  • Provide new insights on Free Will, on the mind-body relationship, and on the reality of our thoughts

By the way: to provide more detail, I will soon “serialize” two previous, rather long pieces:

  1. God’s Many Dices (I) – The Science of Parallel Universes
  2. God’s Many Dices (II) – The Philosophy of Parallel Universes

Multiverse: the Logical Choice for Atheists and Agnostics

What constitutes “All There Is“, i.e. the Cosmos?

For awowed Atheists or less committal Agnostics not believing in the existence of one or more Divinities, the logical choice is a Multiverse made of an enormous number of Parallel Universes

(Here introductions to the Science and the Philosophy of Parallel Universes)

The reasoning is straightforward. Let’s say the Cosmos contains a number N of Universes. N is an integer and can be:

  1. one;
  2. a “relavitely small number
  3. a “very large number” (for example, a googolplex, too big to be stored, or even Graham’s Number, too large to be written)

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Now, if N were one or a relatively small number, that would be a strong indication that there is a God after all.

In fact, assuming there is no God or no way of knowing if there is one (or many):

(1) If there were only the Universe we live in (a widespread belief, nowadays) there would really be little or nothing left to justify its incredible circumstances;

We know for a fact that our Universe has all its basic constants and rules incredibly fine-tuned to allow our existence to happen; it even contains some “miracles”. (!)

By that I mean phenomena such as the “Miracle of Mathematics“, described by Nobel Prize E. P. Wigner in the 1960’s paper “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” as the peculiar occurrence where

the mathematical formulation of the physicist’s often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena

Finally, in a single Universe Atheist/Agnostic scientists would (and do!) find themselves uncomfortably close to the Theist position, as indicated by George Johnson in a book review on Scientific American in October 2006

You can be a theist, believing that behind the veil of randomness lurks an active, loving, manipulative God, or you can be a materialist, for whom everything is matter and energy interacting within space and time. Whichever metaphysical club you belong to, the science comes out the same

(2) If there were instead a relatively small number of Universes, problems would be even worse;

We would still have to ponder the extraordinary stroke of luck that allowed our Universe to exist with all of the above plus try to understand the significance of yet another fundamental cosmological number, N.

(3) The issues above disappear when we consider a very large number of Universes;

Our whole set of “incredible circumstances” become just one possibility out of many: bound to happen however unlikely its chances,  like the perfect hand at a game of cards if the deck is shuffled enough times.

There is no more case for the necessity of some “Intelligent Being(s)” putting everything together in the right ways.

That is even more so if N, the number of Universes in the Cosmos is really, really big (e.g. when it so big it cannot be stored or even written). There is no meaning then in discussions on the significance of its precise value, as the situation wouldn’t change if that were, say, a billion billion times bigger or smaller.

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Everything considered then, it is only when N is enormous, i.e. in a Cosmos made of a huge number of Parallel Universes, that the Atheist/Agnostic option is viable

God’s Many Dices (II) – The Philosophy of Parallel Universes

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
(Hamlet, I, v, 166-167)

In a Reality of many and much varied Parallel Universes, as modeled from contemporary Cosmology, it is possible not just to revisit and better understand scientific puzzles like the nature of Mathematics and Time, the Goldilocks Enigma, and the Many-Worlds interpretation of Quantum Physics

The Science of Parallel Universes has also significant consequences outside science itself, and can be used to provide answers to age-old questions in the fields of philosophy, morality and theology, such as:

  1. Why would a benevolent God, or gods, or any Creator let bad things happen?
  2. Do we have Free Will and what exactly is that?
  3. Are we the combination of a physical entity called body and ethereal ones called mind and/or soul? And what is the reality of our thoughts?

Surprisingly, the one and only assumption really necessary for that to happen, is for cosmos to be unimaginably big, containing an untold number of different versions of everything we see, some of them stranger to us than others

(I know: the below is far from complete, far from perfect, and under development: but elegantly simple)

———-

A branch of contemporary Cosmology predicts that “All There Is” (let’s call it the Cosmos) is made of many “Parallel Universes”

Not of the creepy, nearby kind favored in sci-fi movies: as explained by Max Tegmark of MIT in a recent SciAm article, those Universes all reside in the same hugely gargantuan volume of space but at very big and growing larger distances from one another

Those Parallel Universes can be grouped in Multiverses at Level I (same physics, only initial conditions differ); Level II (different physical constants and particles); and Level IV (different physical laws, different mathematical structures)

More: there is equivalence between the Level I//II set of those Universes and the multiple-outcome probabilistic world of Quantum Mechanics (the Level III Multiverse)

This suggests that the quantity of Parallel Universes is truly huge, and their diversity enormously great: because their combination will cover everything that is possible

A detailed overview on the topic can be found at this link

———-

But if “All There Is” coincides with “All That Is Possible”, then any thing that can happen, does, did and will do, in some Parallel Universes (or just one)

Let’s call this the “EP:H Model of Reality“: somewhere, sometime everything possible happens

(That should obviously read Almost Everything and almost any thing: it depends on the number and variety of Parallel Universes. The qualifying adverb is implied in the rest of the text)

The implications beyond a strictly scientific arena are almost unimaginable

———-

1. Why would God, or the gods, or any Creator let bad things happen?

In the EP:H Cosmos, because the possibilities of existence appear to be more important than a pre-ordained good and evil

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The question about the apparent inaction of the Divinity in the face of iniquity or calamity is the topic of the branch of philosophy and theology called Theodicy: from the Greek: theos, “god” and dike (pr. dee-kay), “justice”

“The justice of God” (or lack thereof) has kept philosophers busy for millennia

Why for example doesn’t any God just intervene to rescue a little child on top of whom a house has collapsed after an earthquake? Or to eliminate a little-know Austrian painter called Adolf instead of letting him butcher people in the millions?

In ancient Greece, philosopher Epicure elaborated the Epicurean Paradox, arguing that a benevolent, omnipotent God indeed does not exist: “God either wants to eliminate bad things and cannot, or can but does not want to, or neither wishes to nor can, or both wants to and can. […] If he can but does not want to, then he is spiteful […] If he wants to and can, which is the only thing fitting for a god, where then do bad things come from? Or why does he not eliminate them?” (from “The Epicurus Reader”, translated and edited by Brad Inwood and L.P. Gerson, Hackett Publishing, 1994, p. 97)

Interestingly, whilst Epicurus still believed in a different kind of Gods, his argument has been repeated by countless people since, as way to deny tout-court the existence of a God.

Pick a tragedy, any tragedy, and you will find your proof that there is no God

German polymath Leibniz coined the term Theodicy in a 1710 essay, and he is remembered as arguing that in spite of much evil within it, the world is the best of all possible worlds. He went further, saying that God as “infinite being” will create as a matter of course an infinitely rich universe (perfect in the sense of being complete)

In reaction to that, after the Lisbon quake of on All Saints’ Day, 1755, French philosopher Voltaire wrote the novel “Candide, or Optimism” (1759). In there, Leibniz himself (or possibly, French savant Pierre de Maupertuis (1698-1759)) is satirized as the character Pangloss, convinced against all kinds of odds and runs of bad luck that “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds

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The centuries -old Epicurean argument against the existence of God loses validity in the EP:H Cosmos: the God(s) (if existing) is/are simply letting everything happen.

Everything means everything: everything good, and everything bad. It will include all things evil, and all disasters (and not-so-incidentally, all joys and all luck)

This is known as the Plenitude Principle. It can be traced back to Aristotle, and has been reasoned by many including St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Kant.

Paraphrasing then Albert Einstein (once scorning Quantum Mechanics by saying that “God does not play dice with the Universe”): God (if one exists) does indeed play with the Universe(s), throwing a very large lot of dices, making sure that all possible results do happen

This is another way of saying that there is no “morality” in “Nature”

Reality coincides with the Realm of The Possible, not the Empire of the Good: therefore, for a benevolent (or otherwise) God (if one exists indeed) there may be no meaning in “preventing evil”

———-

Three (obvious?) points about EP:H and the Divinity:

(a) EP:H is no proof of the existence of God(s)
(b) If there is no God the Theodicea question becomes a moot point
(c) A Divinity may as well choose to intervene, in particular circumstances in particular Universes…that’s compatible with EP:H as long as the action is physically possible)

———-

2. Do we have free will and what exactly is that?

With EP:H, on the whole Free Will is an overall illusion, and a particular reality

+++

The issue of Free Will is about a conscious being’s ability of choose and/or control their decisions

In the EP:H Cosmos something somewhere is going to happen, as long as it is possible. At first glance then, the question of Free Will may appear as having no meaning

In one sense, anything possible is compelled to happen

If there is, say, a one-in-a-million chance of you buying the winning lottery ticket, and 999,999 copies of yours have failed to do so in as many Universes, well, really there will be no escape…

Still, each individual’s life experiences are evidently a limited subset of the whole range of possibilities. Therefore the fact that everything is happening can only be statistically reflected at the level of the person, who may as well retain Free Will for all intents and purposes

Thus, each of us is practically free as individual to choose one’s next action. The only constraint is on the set of all our “copies”. They (we) will commit all possible acts wherever they exist somewhere in the Cosmos, but only when considered together

On the other hand, in a gas that is moving in one direction as a whole, a particular molecule can yet move at a particular instant in the opposite direction. Likewise, each of us can still be free to choose which way to go at every particular step in our lives

Paradoxically (but only up to a point), the EP:H Cosmos is made of items that are individually free, but constrained as a group

———-

3. Are we the combination of a physical entity called body and ethereal ones called mind and/or soul? And what is the reality of our thoughts?

Everything is physical: there is no need for any “external metaphysics” located somewhere outside of the EP:H Cosmos

+++

The belief in a soul may have accompanied our species for at least 30,000 years (although our concept of it is of strictly ancient Greek origin). It has sometimes crossed or collided with the other belief, that of a mind just as well separated from lowly physical body, a major point in the philosophy of great rationalist Descartes himself.

Current Christian theology speaks of a soul-body singular union that will be reinstated by God at the End of Times. But a fundamental question remains: how can a non-physical entity act in the physical world? Where is the ultimate interface between the body and the soul?

Wolfgang Pauli answered with the consideration that in quantum physics, it is not possible to precisely measure all variables, and thus they may be considered even not to “physically” exist: in a sense, “hiding” metaphysics in the uncertainties of quantum mechanics

In the EP:H Cosmos things are much simpler. There is no need for anything “beyond physics” to exist: either it is possible, and therefore is indeed “happening” in one or many Parallel Universes: or it isn’t possible, and therefore it does not exist

Thus there is no need for the concept of a soul. But that does not mean that the soul does not exist: it means that it is a physical entity

Or starting from a slightly different point of view: in the EP:H model, anything we can think of is indeed “happening” in some other Parallel Universe

But if thoughts inside us are as real as anything we experience outside ourselves, then there is no necessity for a “spiritual” or “metaphysical” world beyond the physical universe

———-

EP:H is a strange Cosmos indeed

It is a freer world: God (if one exists) prefers to make everything (possible) happen rather than constraining us in a particular setting. Even if our life will overall resemble some of our copies’, still we can choose to do whatever particular action we want

Our whole being is a single entity, not a split creature with an untraceable soul. The world in our heads is just as real as the one in our hands

It is at the same time a terrible and an uplifting thought

Somewhere out there in the EP:H universe, I am (i.e. my equivalent being is) winning loads in Las Vegas. Somewhere else my whole family is being gunned down and/or persecuted. In a place I am the Emperor of the Galaxy, in another I wasn’t born, or my infant body has been discarded in some garbage dump

Somewhere, I am a refugee holding on to dear life to reach some kind of Promised Land. Somewhere else I am the policeman charged of sending the refugee back home, or the people-smuggler profiting from the refugee’s awful situation

What sense can we make of all of this? Obviously, the best way to understand all that is through probability

In fact, even if “everything happens” it doesn’t mean that it has the same chances to happen. It only means that somebody able to oversee all the various “equivalent Earths” out there would see some kind of a pattern.

For example, with my body size and shape the likelihood that any of my equivalents is the topmost dancer at the local Russian Bolshoi theatre in any Universe is, say, 1/100,000. In an EP:H Cosmos big enough to contain one hundred thousand of my equivalents, just a lonely one of them will manage that miraculous feat (in the Universe of the Very Plump People, no doubt)

If the Cosmos is instead full of 100 million of my copies, there will be a whole thousand of them proudly working as “primo ballerino” at the Bolshoi (in the 1,000 Universes of the Very Plump People, no doubt)

But if on the contrary the Cosmos contains just 10 Maurizio’s, well, so much for my Barishnikov impersonation

———-

Is the inherently ethics-less EP:H Cosmos a licence to do as one pleases?

Can we justify any action we do by saying that everything is happening, anyway? Can one make it out with the intern whilst his copy is becoming the US president?

(Well, we all know something managed to do both at the same time. Is there an unfortunate William C of Little Rock, Arkansas, living a life with no lust and no power in another Universe, just to even out the overall chances?)

On the other hand, even if there are countless other people out there, similar or even identical “copies” of us, in EP:H each individual is still substantially free to will as he or she wants to

And just like there are many copies of us in the Cosmos, there are many houses like ours in our streets. Some homes are tidy, some dirty, some are well maintained and some are left to run down

Still, the state of any other house has no bearing on our individual “duty” to keep our own house as clean and in as good conditions as possible (if we want to)

And so for our own good, for everybody’s good, because of our nature, to happily live next to one another: or for whatever personal reason driving us to act in one way or another, still there is a meaning to have, develop and follow our own specific brand of ethics (if we want to). All that, whatever the number and diversity of Parallel Universes

———-

The journey through the implications of a EP:H Cosmos of many and much varied Parallel Universes has just begun

Consider the concept of “Humanity”: just as every “copy of me” is another Maurizio with slightly (or a lot) changed initial conditions, so every person could be seen as the copy of somebody else, from the same Universe, with changed initial conditions

Not only then we belong to the same species, we may as well consider each other as variations on the same theme

In EP:H we are all brothers indeed: twin brothers

———-

Perhaps there are as many questions as universes, still left to explore. Is the EP:H model too simple? Does it explain too many things at once? Can it be partially or wholly confuted?

What’s next step in discussing Cosmological Theodicea? Is it compatible to the beliefs of any mainstream religion?

One thing we can be sure of: things much weirder still are out there to discover

There is a theory which states that if ever
anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for
and why it is here, it will instantly disappear
and be replaced by something even more
bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory
which states that this has already happened
(Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe)

God’s Many Dices (I) – The Science of Parallel Universes

Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is
(Douglas Adams, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”)

By considering the implications of contemporary Science and in particular of the Cosmology of Parallel Universes, it is now possible to build an all-encompassing Model of Reality

From solid scientific bases, such a Model may be able to move Science itself beyond the “Realm of the Whats” and into the “Region of the Whys”: providing clues not only for what is out there, but also for the reasons why things are the way they are

Not only can we say that All-There-Is (let’s call it the Cosmos) is far larger and more diverse than we have ever fathomed. We can even work out elegant explanations on scientific conundrums like:

  1. Why our Universe is so very well “tuned” for life, and especially for intelligent life to exist
  2. Why is Mathematics such a powerful tool in our scientific investigations
  3. And why against a microscopic world driven by probabilistic quantum mechanics, there is the macroscopic deterministic-like tangible reality of our day-to-day experience

———-

Parallel Universes” is the title of a thought-provoking Scientific American article (now a Special Report) written by Max Tegmark, currently working at the Dept. of Physics at the MIT in Cambridge, MATegmark’s Parallel Universes are not meant to be fifth-dimensional ghosts lying next to us, metaphysical threats that can be visited by opening the wrong door as in overdone horror sci-fi movies

In fact, Tegmark writes that the most logical deduction from all known cosmological observations is that Parallel Universes are just “out there”, albeit exceptionally far

In this respect, the Cosmos becomes the set of all Parallel Universes, plus the empty space in-between

Some of those “Parallel Universes” are identical copies of ours. Some are more or less similar to what we experience. Others are barely alike our Universe, others still less and less so

Present-day theories and observations “predict” 3 or 4 types of mutually compatible “Multiverses” (i.e., collections of “Parallel Universes”):

  • Level I – Universes with different initial conditions
  • Level II – Universes with different physical constants and particles
  • Level III – The Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum physics
  • Level IV – Universes with different physical laws

In some Universe, a copy of me has never completed writing this article (for great joy of the readers, no doubt). In other Parallel Universes, neither I nor you exist, and there are completely different subatomic particles, physical laws, even mathematical structures

Tegmark defines “Level I Multiverse” as the collection of “Hubble Volumes” similar to the one we inhabit, composed of the same stuff and following the same laws of physics

Only, as the initial conditions were different, the history of each Universe differs. Still, the “simplest and most popular cosmological model predicts that you have a twin in a galaxy about (10 to the power of 28, or 10^28) meters away”

Such a number, the result of a straightforward computation based on the size and composition of the known Universe, means that there is a massive 10 billions of billions of billions of meters between each of us and a doppelganger sharing the same history (at least so far)

On the other hand, that’s “just” 25 times as far as the radius of our own Universe (the so-called “Hubble Volume”)

Much farther away: another solar system and, say, a 100-light-year radius of space completely identical to ours (10^92 meters); and an entire Universe practically indistinguishable from ours, with all the galaxies and stars and planets and people, all in the same position (10^118 meters)

Remarkably, the “currently popular theory of chaotic eternal inflation” predicts also the existence of a “Level II Multiverse”, a collection of Level I’s (like “gas pockets in a rising loaf of bread”) each with its own set of “nature fundamentals

Within Level II, some Level I Multiverses will have extra spacetime dimensions, some will be made of different elementary particles, some will be built around different physics constants

Perhaps somewhere out there, there really is the Liquid Space of Species 8472, from the TV series Star Trek Voyager. But that’s still not all in this fascinatingly game towards increasingly weirder levels of Multiverses

Tegmark describes as out there, on the edge of anybody’s wildest imagination, “all mathematical structures exist as well

This is the “Level IV Multiverse“: and its existence may help us clarify the so-called Miracle of Mathematics

In the 1960’s paper “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences” Nobel Prize E. P. Wigner has extensively written about such a “miracle”, describing the unease of the scientist when realizing how “the mathematical formulation of the physicist’s often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena

A clear example is in the theory of gravitation, extremely simple in its formulae and yet capable to account for the behavior of an enormous number and variety of planets, stars and galaxies

In a large Level IV Multiverse, if there are enough Level II Multiverses each with its own mathematics, then one or more of them will be bound to possess a coincidence between mathematics and physics as strong as the one we experience

At the same time, in some place far, far away, there is a completely different mathematics at play. And so if our Earth’s orbit is an graceful, regular ellipse, the path followed by another Earth in another Universe will resemble the work of a madman

———-

The Level III Multiverse deserves particular attention

Prof. Tegmark describes Level III as the standard “Many-Worlds” interpretation of Quantum Physics

“Many-Worlds” is an attempt at reconciling the probabilistic behavior predicted by Quantum Physics for microscopic particles with the deterministic working of the day-to-day macroscopic environment

In the famous example of Schroedinger’s Cat, a (macroscopic) feline is locked in an opaque box next to a weapon triggered by the nuclear decay of a (microscopic) atom

(Disclaimer: No animal has been harmed during the writing of this article)

In the box, the cat is somehow alive and dead. The atom’s decay is described statistically as a quantum phenomenon. The so-called “wave function” of the cat-weapon-atom system, provides a measure of the probability for either event (“cat alive” and “cat dead”), will have to “collapse” to a single outcome when the box is opened, and the cat can be seen alive or dead, not a collection of probabilities

In the Many-Worlds interpretation, that is explained by postulating that our Universe is “branching” into a Universe (A) where the cat is alive, and another (B) where the cat is dead. By hearing the meowing, we observe that we have somehow landed in A (an identical copy of us will of course mourn the unfortunate mammal in B)

Now, this is ridicule even more than most Models of the Cosmos. With a “branching” for anything happening to each atom and subatomic particle, the number of copies will have to increase exponentially trillions of trillions times a second (perhaps made by some Humongous Celestial Photocopier forever replicating Universes?)

———-

Thankfully, we can get out of that physical cul-de-sac by considering that all possible Universes already exist at Levels I and II Level, rather than having them perpetually xeroxed at Level III

Tegmark reports indeed equivalence between the Level III Multiverse (the probabilistic cosmos of quantum physics) and the Level I/II Multiverse (Parallel Universes with different initial conditions, physical constants and particles)

Tegmark goes on to say that Level III “adds nothing new

That is not strictly true: it adds a lot:. It means that the number of Parallel Universes is gargantuan: because for the Level I/II-Level III equivalence to work, all the possible “wave function collapses” of every particle of our Universe have to be happening somewhere, sometime in the Level I/II Multiverse

And so the Multiverse is extraordinarily big and contains a huge number and a very large variety of Universes. And the Cosmos is not deterministic: it only appears as such to our limited experience, lacking the ability to “see” what happens in other Universes.

Paraphrasing Albert Einstein (once scorning Quantum Mechanics by saying that “God does not play dice with the Universe”): God (if one exists) does indeed play with the Universe(s), but with a very large lot of dices, making sure that all possible results do happen

———-

In this respect my only negative comment about Prof. Tegmark’s text’s is the cavalier usage of the term “infinite”The number of Level I/II Parallel Universe is giant, enormous, hard-to-describe, colossal, etc. etc. But needs not be “infinite

Tegmark himself acknowledges as much, when he writes “The estimate [that we have twins in galaxies on average 10^28) meters away] merely [assumes] that space is infinite (or at least sufficiently large)” (my emphasis)

For example, to us puny human beings, measuring in the region of 2 meters / 6 feet a finite space with a radius of, say, 10^(one million) meters would behave as infinite for all intents and purposes without possessing any of the logical impossibilities of the “infinite

Infinite” carries a baggage of apparent impossibilities: for example, “infinite” is as large as “two infinites” and “half a infinite”. An infinite space cannot expand as it always occupies by definition its own maximum volume. Etc etc

French authors Luminet and Lachieze-Rey appear to make a big fuss about precisely the same point in “L’Univers Chiffonné” (Fayard, 2001)

As “infinite” has historically been a dangerous word for discussions, and arguments about its nature risk overshadowing the actual gist of an article or book, we should refrain from using that word at all cost apart from the exceptional circumstances when it is strictly necessary

———-

The existence of a very large number of Parallel Universe has several interesting upshots

As Tegmark writes, when seen through the Quantum Physics’s lenses of “Many-Worlds” the Levels I Multiverse may explain Time, as “a never ending slide from one already-existing state to another”: like an unending jumping from one Universe to another, and so on and so forth

In other words, if there are enough Universes out there, there will be a Universe “T+1” with a copy of you, one second in your future: so instead of imagining yourself traveling forward in time one second per second, “the passage of Time” could just mean yourself “in Universe T+1

Tegmark explains also how a very large number of Parallel Universes can help us confine the (in)famous Anthropic Principle to the annals of irrelevant philosophy

Our Universe is “fine tuned”: even tiny changes to one physical constant or another would make our very existence next to impossible

This is called the “Goldilocks Enigma”, after the fairy tale about a girl entering the house of the three bears. Why are the Universe’s characteristics not too warm, not too cold, and just about right?

Past answers included the self-referential “Anthropic Principle”, stating more or less that the Universe is like it is because otherwise we wouldn’t have been here to talk about it: a bit like analyzing a defeat by stating “you’re a loser

Tegmark elegantly prefers taking a different route

Within a Level II Multiverse, inside our particular Level I Multiverse our particular Hubble Volume does harbour life because there’s lots (really lots) of other Hubble Volumes out there, in many Level I Multiverses: and one (or more) of them is bound to be just about right for life as we know it

This is a bit like analyzing a defeat by stating that “not all participants to a competition can be winners

Goldilocks may have just had to taste three soups before finding one not too warm, and not too cold. In our case, the Cosmos may need to have 3 trillion Universes, or many more, before getting it “right” for humans to exist: but the underlying principle is the same

———-

What is there to prevent all that from happening? Is all of the above just too large, too complex, too un-necessary, or even not elegant enough?(a) Are all those Parallel Universes an ugly waste of space and time?Years ago people argued against there being a galaxy of stars, as the absolutely vast majority of them do not provide heat or illumination to any human whatsoever

Tegmark also asks, “What precisely would nature be wasting?

In fact, if there are huge quantities of Hubble Volumes (“Universes”) at Level I and II, there is no reason why there would not be huge quantities of universes at Level IV

Furthermore, the Level IV Multiverse is truly an esthetically pleasing Cosmos, even from a strictly philosophical point of view

We have learned that our planet is not the Center of the Universe. Apart from being able to harbor life, Earth is a run-of-the-mill planet in an average star in a not-so-special galaxy, belonging to an ordinary Local Group gravitationally linked to a Supergroup like many others, in a corner of the Universe that is not extraordinary at all

Let’s call that the “Banality Principle”, with us since at least since the times of Copernicus (banality “with life”, obviously)

And in the Cosmos of the Levels I, II and IV, isn’t our own very Universe just one of many, sporting one of many possible sets of initial conditions, elementary particles, physical laws, mathematical structures, in a virtually unbound escalation of the very same “Banality (with life) Principle”?

(Is there anything then beyond Level IV? I bet there is. But our imagination is silent about it, at least for now)

(b) Would a Cosmos made of all those Parallel Universes be just too complex to comprehend?

Tegmark replies that more often than not there is far less complexity in defining a set with a general overarching rule, rather than a particular item of that set with a precise description: “complexity increases when we restrict our attention to one particular element in an ensemble

Consider in fact a description of the Cosmos, “All-There-Is” as the Level IV Multiverse: there are many sets of physical laws and mathematics, each at work in its own Level II Multiverse, all expressed following a large variety of different initial conditions in a large number of Hubble Volumes (Level I Multiverse)

That’s 38 words

A description of our own Hubble Volume, with all its physical constants having particular values, and all the galaxies and stars and human beings placed in a particular position, etc etc would be definitely much, much longer than 38 words

And a Cosmos made up of a single Hubble Volume is complicated indeed

The simplest and arguably the most elegant theory involves Parallel Universes by default” – writes Tegmark. “To deny the existence of those universes, one needs to complicate the theory by adding experimentally unsupported processes and ad hoc postulates” (like finite space)

And finally, “Our judgement therefore comes down to which we find more wasteful and inelegant: many worlds or many words” (my emphasis)

(c) Is all the above just too weird?

Illuminatingly, Tegmark responds “[…] what did we expect? When we ask a profound question about the nature of reality, do we not expect an answer that sounds strange?

(d) Are all those Universes just too far away to care?

I am not sure that remains a relevant question against a Model that provides new insights into the nature of Mathematics and Time, the Goldilocks Enigma, the Many-Worlds interpretation of Quantum Physics and Einstein’s dice-playing Divinity

Anyway, it is true that spatial distances even to the nearest Parallel Universe are too large to comprehend, let alone traverse or even use to communicate anything.

Or are they? There is a phenomenon called “Quantum Entanglement” or (by Einstein) “action at a distance”. If you get two particles A and B to share the same quantum state, by observing A it is possible to know the state of B: actually, the state of B is “instantaneously” determined by the observation of the state of A, no matter how far separated they are

Now, if we only could demonstrate entanglement between two or more Parallel Universes…

———-

Anyway, we need now not limit ourselves to pure science…what are the philosophical consequences of a Cosmos made of a humongous number of Parallel Universes?