Monday, March 7, 2011

Wonders of the Universe - order to chaos

The new Prof. Brian Cox series, Wonders of the Universe, began last night. And it sparked a lot of questions for me and got me thinking. And, since those thoughts aren't really appropriate elsewhere, they're going here! Hello! Sorry for not being around much or being in touch. Life is going in a few different directions.

Anyway, Wonders... the main point of the first episode was that time flows in one direction and that direction is oblivion. Pretty much. Everything tends towards chaos. Order breaks down and things decay. Merging together to form amorphous nothingness.

Low entropy eventually becomes high entropy. Low entropy being ordered, yet fragile.

So the example Prof. Cox used was a sandcastle he built. An ordered form. What will happen to that sandcastle is obvious - it will eventually break down, through winds or any other force. It will tend towards a big ol' pile of sand.

The idea was that the Universe began with low entropy, very ordered (was it really?) and, as we move through time, it moves towards high entropy. Like a sandcastle falling apart.

The big question not asked in the show, however, was this - if everything breaks down and physical laws all point towards that chaos, where did that initial order come from? As Prof. Cox tweeted after the show, "the origin of low entropy in the universe at the big bang is probably THE biggest mystery in cosmology." As far as I know, the current thinking is that the Universe just spontaneously came into being.

Prof. Cox likes to use Earthly examples to illustrate his points, like the sandcastle. Firstly, it makes things easier to understand and, secondly, the same laws often work here and out in the Universe. Or at least versions of those laws. But, man, I can't think of any time I have heard of anything spontaneously coming into being. Physicists may have examples. They're not common, I'm sure.

But Prof. Cox, without bringing it up, presented a very easy answer to the question - where did that low entropy come from? At least in the ordered way he presented it.

You see, while the Universe may well tend towards chaos, order is created every day. Every second. Right now, raw materials are coming together into new ordered shapes. Because we make order out of chaos. Consciousness tends towards order. We build boxy houses, sleek cars, clothes, arcade machines. While the Universe conspires to destroy those things, we strive to make them. We create order.

In building a sandcastle, Prof. Cox presented an Earthly example of just how low entropy situations are created.

A conscious mind takes chaos, and puts order to it.

Is this a God post?! Well, you see, the whole God thing leads the thought off in a whole other direction. The problem with a God is this - the people being vocal about a god, pretty much no matter who they are, seem to present God as an all-knowing, ever-present being. They present the idea of 'intelligent design'. And the atheists and scientists pull this apart - if it's so intelligent, how come we have an appendix? How come the world is a complete shithole? What the hell kind of god allows that?

I come down on the side of the scientists on this. This isn't about some divine being.

But... that doesn't mean there wasn't some creator of sorts. He/she/it could be long gone/dead/uninterested/absent parent. It doesn't mean a conscious mind didn't initially create those original conditions that have eventually led to the clearly imperfect us.

Is the idea that the Universe was actively created unlikely?

Look around you. Most of what you see was actively created. I have spent most of my life creating worlds. Every time you go and see a movie, you're seeing a created world. Every computer game and programme is a created world. What you're reading this on right now has been created. We create. Order from chaos. We tend towards order.

And look at what we can create now compared with what we could create just a few hundred years ago. How does the world of Tron Legacy compare with a play put on in a field? How does Sim City compare with a porcelain doll?

Give us a few thousand years. What then will we be able to create? Whole worlds? Easily. Whole Universes? Given the time, I don't see why not. Whether the Universe was created or not, we're going to be doing it ourselves soon. If we can do it, not only does it not seem a stretch that someone else could do it, it seems pretty arrogant to think otherwise.

Brian Cox made a sandcastle. He showed the answer. It seems so obvious.

I wonder what he'd think if he knew it made me a believer in a creator?