Wild Science – Pushing the boundaries of understanding

Here is a science article from MIT Technology Review that is not just reporting a discovery, but instead is exploring beyond what we know and understand. I’ve a few things to say, but first the article …

Time Likely To End Within Earth’s Lifespan

There is a 50 per cent chance that time will end within the next 3.7 billion years, according to a new model of the universe

Look out into space and the signs are plain to see. The universe began in a Big Bang event some 13 billion years ago and has been expanding ever since. And the best evidence from the distance reaches of the cosmos is that this expansion is accelerating.

That has an important but unavoidable consequence: it means the universe will expand forever. And a universe that expands forever is infinite and eternal.

Today, a group of physicists rebel against this idea. They say an infinitely expanding universe cannot be so because the laws of physics do not work in an infinite cosmos. For these laws to make any sense, the universe must end, say Raphael Bousso at the University of California, Berkeley and few pals. And they have calculated when that is most likely to happen.

Their argument is deceptively simple and surprisingly powerful. Here’s how it goes. If the universe lasts forever, then any event that can happen, will happen, no matter how unlikely. In fact, this event will happen an infinite number of times.

This leads to a problem. When there are an infinite number of instances of every possible observation, it becomes impossible to determine the probabilities of any of these events occurring. And when that happens, the laws of physics simply don’t apply. They just break down. “This is known as the “measure problem” of eternal inflation,” say Bousso and buddies.

In effect, these guys are saying that the laws of physics abhor an eternal universe.

The only way out of this conundrum is to hypothesise some kind of catastrophe that brings an end to the universe. Then all the probabilities make sense again and the laws of physics regain their power.

When might his be? Bousso and co have crunched the numbers. “Time is unlikely to end in our lifetime, but there is a 50% chance that time will end within the next 3.7 billion years,” they say.

That’s not so long! It means that the end of the time is likely to happen within the lifetime of the Earth and the Sun.

But Buosso and co have some comforting news too. They don’t know what kind of catastrophe will cause the end of time but they do say that we won’t see it coming. They point out that if we were to observe the end of time in any other part of the universe we would have to be causally ahead of it, which is unlikely.

In other words we’ll run headlong into this catastrophe before we can observe its effects on anything else.

MIT Technology Review: Continue reading …

Its not only a wild idea but is also outrageously fascinating. Here we have a great example of the manner in which science does not stand still, but instead ambitious thinkers will attempt to push the boundary and probe the unknown. Its all about gathering data, speculating about what it might imply by forming a hypothesis, then testing to see if it stands or falls. From that we get more data, and so our understanding grows. Is the above article correct? I simply don’t know, but its an interesting idea. If others come along and pull it apart with a detailed explanation, will the author be offended, or discard the newer evidence and cling to the above as an act of faith? Of course not, they will instead discard the dis-proven hypothesis, embrace newer thinking and proceed to run with that instead. Science is not about being right or wrong, but is instead a joint effort to explore.

In stark contrast, belief generally stands still and does not change very much. Challenge a belief with facts that contradict it and you quickly meet resistance, many believers will not accept reality but prefer to embrace the fairy tale.

OK, thats a bit black and white, its never that simple. there are of course scientists who are also believers and manage to compartmentalize both to handle the double-think, or go for a “God-of-the-gaps” approach and slot belief into the bits we don’t yet know. On the other side you also have scientists who do get upset if their pet hypothesis is proven wrong, because they start to treat it as a belief. So how should we view both of these, do we live in a “science + belief” world or a “science vs belief” world, which is the truth?

We live in a “science vs belief” world, but not in the sense that they are at war with each other, instead its about science being a newer better alternative to belief. Historically belief was our means of getting to grips with the world around us, a sort of primitive form of trying to grasp an understanding of it all. However, we have evolved and found a better alternative, the scientific method. It allows us to rapidly refine and increase our understanding using an evidence-based approach to advance and push the boundaries of what is known.

Its time to put belief away and embrace science as the better alternative for understanding everything. Its a hard step to take, and so many will mix both. Is that wrong? No, not at all, its a step in the right direction, they just need to keep going and start to be more skeptical, look at the evidence and think it all through.

1 thought on “Wild Science – Pushing the boundaries of understanding”

  1. I agree that rigorous science is the best way to advance knowledge, but it is worth remembering that innovation does not take place in a vacuum. The best ideas often emerge through relationships between people. Sometimes the best ideas are sparked in a 4×4 in the middle of nowhere, over a glass of wine or through years of emails and conversations between passionate colleagues. http://www.explorebioedge.com/bio-edge-blog/item/26-behind-the-bio-edge.html


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