Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Why, Lord, you're wasting a lot of money on this universe ?

Hello, here's a little story and some inspiring thoughts quoted from an interview to John A. Wheeler .  The Big (economic) Crunch knocking at heaven's door...

(...) You can say there's an efficiency expert who's come to look over the Lord's shoulder. He says,

"Why, Lord, you're wasting a lot of money on this universe. See, you've put one hundred billion (10^11) stars in the Milky Way, and you've put one hundred billion (10^11) Milky Ways in the universe -- that's ten billion trillion (10^11) stars -- that's a mighty extravagant way to get one planet (the Earth) with life on it so there'll be somebody around to be aware of this universe. Now, Lord, we efficiency people want to cut you down, but we won't cut you down to one star. Instead of 10 billion trillion stars, we'll cut you down to one hundred billion stars -- that's enough to make one galaxy. This will be a great economy move."

[The Complete Story of the Universe]
"The universe starts with a Big Bang, expands to a maximum dimension, then recontracts and collapses (to the Big Crunch); no more awe-inspiring prediction was ever made." Quotation from Charles W. Misner, Kip S. Thorne and John A. Wheeler in "Gravitation", W. H. Freeman, San Francisco, 1973, page 1196.

The only problem is, according to general relativity, when you cut the amount of mass down by a factor of 100 billion, you also cut the size of the universe down by the same amount, just enough universe for one galaxy. You also cut down the time from the Big Bang to the Big Crunch from 100 billion years to just one year which isn't time enough to evolve even one star, let alone evolve life.

Put it another way. There's no obvious extravagance of scale in the construction of the universe. The efficiency expert would have a right to complain if life had been created on several planets, in several parts of the universe, because then he could say that's more than you really need in order for somebody to be around to be aware of the universe. But, if you have life on one planet only (the Earth), then, it's not obvious that you're being extravagant.

The anthropic principle provides a new perspective on the question of life elsewhere in space. It puts in question the common view that the universe is a big machine; that man is unimportant in the scheme of things; that we're an accidental bit of dust that doesn't have anything to do with it all. From that point of view, it is not very important whether you're going to have life on a billion planets or on just one planet -- or no life at all. Life or no life still wouldn't matter in the scheme of the universe.

But, if we adopt this other perspective that Dicke suggests -- the anthropic principle -- then it's quite a different assessment that we make. Then the universe has to be such as to permit awareness of that universe; otherwise the universe has no meaning.

We are now nearer the Big Bang than the Big Crunch since the universe, as we observe it, is still expanding.

The anthropic principle looks at this universe, that universe and the other universe and rules out as mere meaningless machines all those in which awareness does not develop somewhere at some time. Stronger than the anthropic principle is what I might call the participatory principle. According to it we could not even imagine a universe that did not somewhere and for some stretch of time contain observers because the very building materials of the universe are these acts of observer-participancy. You wouldn't have the stuff out of which to build the universe otherwise. This participatory principle takes for its foundation the absolutely central point of the quantum:

No elementary phenomenon is a phenomenon until it is an observed (or registered) phenomenon.

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