Incomprehension and doubt
Where do we come from and where are we going? These are questions we humans have asked in all times. Personally I can not see that I am here for a specific purpose and accept that my existence has arisen by coincidence. If a meteorite had not fallen unto earth 65 million years ago the dinosaurs might still have been here and no humans could have existed. And if my great grandfather had made just a little different path of life he would not have married my great grandmother, which would have lead to somebody else than me. My existence thus is based on the result from multitudes of diversion points. If the universe had not existed, we would not be here and nobody would have asked any questions. Still, the questions above are fundamental and for me have created a huge interest in cosmology.
Cosmology is, however, a very complex part of science and despite my Natural Sciences background (Chemical Engineering) I have difficulties in understanding and consequently accepting the now dominating theories of how the universe arose. Therefore, in addition to trying to learn more through reading books and articles I have been writing to scientists within the area to get a more direct answer to my questions. Some of them have not answered at all (possibly because they are pestered all the time by an overload of questions), but some have really been kind and used their valuable time in answering, but generally, I am sorry to say, in vain.
Most often their explanations have been too complex for me to understand and in the end there has been a hint that I, as a person who donÂ´t possess the necessary knowledge, should just accept the expertsÂ´ opinions. Which I am too stubborn to do! I canÂ´t see why I, as a reasonably intelligent and educated person, should not be able to understand any complicated issue, if just it were explained in a pedagogical way.
I have no doubt in accepting that the universe once was much denser, the scientistsÂ´ descriptions of the properties of that extremely dense universe and their descriptions of the transformations leading to the universe we have today. My problem lies in understanding how the universe arose at all, in how Big Bang could be so fast, and in how measurement of microwave radiation can tell us anything at all about the structure of the universe. These objections are described in more detail below.
Albert Einstein was the 20th century scientific giant who formulated the special and general theories of relativity. A consequence of his theories is that time is influenced by velocity and by gravity, meaning that times goes slower at very high velocities and where there are large gravitational fields, such as in black holes. Now, if the present universe once was compressed, it might have had an immense gravitational field and, consequently, time would have passed extremely slowly.
In connection with a correspondence concerning Big Bang and how a huge gravitational field might influence the duration of this, I felt the necessity to consult Einstein himself. I therefore borrowed his little book â€œRelativity: The Special and General Theoryâ€ in the library and was so thrilled that I immediately had to buy an own copy. Although the scientific area is difficult, it was like Einstein himself spoke to me and tried to explain everything. As I canÂ´t do it better, I will cite a review of this book from Amazon:
â€œSo, the difference between this book and all other introductory books on relativity is proportional to the difference between Einstein himself and the other authors. You don’t have to believe me: just read the excerpts! You’ll not remain indifferent to the majesty of his ideas. Put yourself in the right mood: Einstein was a very simple man who was, in writing this book, sincerely interested in explaining his creation to you. Follow his path, read attentively, and, above all, think!
The reward will be great.â€
I hope that the questions I ask at the end of this post will be answered like Einstein answered me when I wanted him to explain the theories of relativity. So that not only I, but also the readers of this blog, can understand. We have got the capability to understand even complex contexts if only you have the capability to explain.
The origin of the universe
There is a theory that the universe arose from nothing. As I understand this is based on observations of sudden formation of particles that earlier did not exist. But even if we make such observations, can we really be sure that the suddenly arising particles did not exist somewhere else before?
In my youth I studied some quantum physics and learned that very small particles behave differently from the major objects we observe in daily life. We were making calculations of the classic particle in box, where it of course was most likely to find the particle inside the impenetrable walls of the box, but, strangely enough, also a small probability that it could be outside.
This effect of how something can pass through impenetrable barriers is called quantum tunnelling and is utilized in the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM), an instrument for imaging surfaces at the atomic level. Its development earned its inventors the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.
An alternate possibility therefore to the above mentioned theory of a universe from nothing is that the universe arose from something. Namely that energy/matter disappeared from another place just to reappear through a tunnelling effect and initiate our universe. If the universe is existing now, why should the energy/matter it consists of not have existed always?
The dominant theory of how our universe was formed is the Big Bang theory. An extremely dense ball suddenly exploded. One physicist I contacted wrote the following to me: â€œHow big was the part of the universe that we can observe today before the inflationary epoch started? Maybe the size of a grapefruit.â€ The inflationary epoch lasted from 10âˆ’36 seconds after the Big Bang to sometime between 10âˆ’33 and 10âˆ’32 seconds after. During that short period the size is estimated to have increased approximately 1028 times. (The stated velocity of that expansion is in contradiction to Einsteins rule that nothing can move faster than light, but is usually explained that it was space that expanded, not what was inside). Following the inflationary epoch, the universe continued to expand, but at a less accelerated rate and after several transformation phases we got the universe where we now are living. For those who want a more detailed description I recommend Wikipedia.
What is worrying me with this theory is the space/time scale. Einsteinâ€™s theories of relativity state that space and time are compressed at high velocities and in high gravitational fields. The question is then, which physical conditions ruled inside the â€œgrapefruit sizedâ€ proto universe before inflation started? If we take our existing universe and compress it to the size of a grapefruit maintaining the same laws, we would get a universe with extreme gravitational fields. Then comes the question, what is really the size of this compressed universe, which for us looks like a grapefruit? And how about time on the inside?
One of the physicists I contacted (not the same as the one above) wrote: â€œIf we go back in the history of the universe until we come very close to the Big Bang, about 10-43seconds, at the so-called Planck time, gravity becomes important. Today the gravity is weak compared to e.g. the strong force that holds together nuclei. But shortly after the Big Bang, gravity was so strong that it affects the time so it shows a lot. In combination with the laws of quantum physics, the consequence is that it is difficult to say to in which direction time goes. Future and past becoming inseparable. It is as if the time arises and gets a definite direction from a fog.â€
However, the same person writes to me at another instant: â€œAnd as I said gravitational time dilation implies that there is a gradient in the potential field. If the potential is different in two different places, there is a time dilation. But not in a universe that is homogeneous.â€
When I read that I acquired the aforementioned book by Einstein. Concerning the special theory of relativity, Einstein generally writes about gravitational fields and never specifies that any directed gravitational force nor acceleration is necessary to affect space and time.
If there was an essential gravitational impact on space and time, the â€œgrapefruitâ€ was not as tiny as it appears from our horizon, but a huge, though extremely dense, universe. Concerning the infinitesimal time we observe for the â€œgrapefruitâ€ to expand during the inflation period, this should then have taken place during a far longer period of time.
Cosmic microwave background radiation and the shape of the universe
Microwave radiation was generated when matter recombined approximately 300 000 years after Big Bang. Since then it has been flowing around in the universe during 13.8 billion years and can be registered all around in the sky by sensitive instruments.
After having measured the pattern of microwave radiation in the sky the scientists have drawn the conclusion that the universe is â€œflatâ€, and thus neither â€œclosedâ€ nor â€œopenâ€. Whatever the implications of either, I found it strange that the geometry of the universe can be determined by this kind of measurement, and therefore wrote the following to a renowned cosmologist:
â€œWhat I miss is a discussion about possible sources of error and the probability whether the conclusions are correct or not.
I accept that the background is correct, namely that the microwave background radiation originates from an extremely dense Universe in expansion, but is sceptical about how you can be so sure about what has happened with this radiation during such a long time as 13.8 billion years.
When observing radiation from specific objects as stars or galaxies you will of course be able to directly register how these frequencies have been undergoing changes during their journey through space, but have you got a similar way of observing just the microwave frequencies involved in the background radiation? These frequencies are different from the frequencies you observe from specific objects and how can you then be sure that also these travel relatively undisturbed through space?
I presume that laboratory observations of similar radiation is of little value as the accuracy of data observed will be too low to foresee what will happen specifically concerning almost infinitely repeated interferences between meeting wave fronts during a 13.8 billion year long journey through space. Even if you have got a computer model to simulate changes that the radiation undergoes, how can you be sure that this model is correct?”
The answer I got was as following:
â€œwe can measure a tremendous amount regarding the cmb.. interactions will change the thermal nature of the background.. Â there are many many tests.. I suggest Â you look at the wmap and planck papers.â€
I accept that this renowned scientist had limited time and in fact it was nice of him to answer me at all, but I am still calling for an explanation of my questions.
Understanding â€“ or just accepting?
Myths and religions have tales of how the world was created. Now scientists are presenting their ever improving picture of what they mean happened, but the question is how much of their tales everybody else, who are no specialists in the area, understand. Are we doomed to, as former superstitious believers, just accept what the High Priests are preaching?
The publications of new findings in scientific magazines is only understandable by initiated specialists and when they are presented to us in the general public, it is the results that are described with very little or nothing about how they were achieved or which reliability they have. In popular science books it is more or less a rule that only data supporting the thesisÂ´ of the author(s) are presented and nothing that might talk against.
I have, as described above, taken contacts with scientists in cosmology and astrophysics and questioned the prevailing views on essential elements of cosmology; namely the formation of the universe, the description of itÂ´s expansion during the inflation phase, and itÂ´s shape (based on microwave pattern in the sky). Now I have concentrated my efforts to the following four concrete questions below:
There is a theory that the universe suddenly arose from nothing. Against that I put the possibility that it just reappeared from another place through a tunnelling effect. What experimental evidence supports each theory and which theory is judged today as the most likely?
What is known (experimentally and theoretically) about gravitational fields inside the proto universe before Big Bang.
If there were strong gravitational fields inside the universe before Big Bang, wouldn’t those fields then influence time and space? Is there any experimental evidence proving that a gravitational field is not enough, but that a directed gravitational force is required to create time dilation? Please provide body of experimental data.
Cosmic microwave background radiation (cmb) has been flowing through space for 13.8 billion years. How is it possible to draw conclusions from itÂ´s pattern in the sky to the shape of the universe, that it is flat? The cmb pattern might have been formed much more recently by interaction with distributed matter and through interference and would thus only give information about the space in our vicinity. How can we be sure that this is not the case? Please provide body of experimental data.
Please help me to get my four questions answered. Maybe you possess the knowledge necessary to answer them or you may know somebody who can. In either case I thank you beforehand.