Creative Arts with Patrick Moore

The Threat of Dark Energy, Embraced
September 23, 2014, 2:00 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

How do you get Outside Spacetime to Measure It?

New Scientist magazine reports this week,
that they have more hope they have detected Dark Energy. If not this time, they have hope they will soon detect it using mirrors. I find this ironic because when a magician creates an illusion, like making an elephant disappear from a stage, critics say it is “done with mirrors.” When they now say they will detect dark energy and it will be “done with mirrors,” are they (subconsciously) communicating to us that this is an illusion? I think so.

First I will explain why I think dark-energy-detection is an illusion. Then I will ask a philosophical question or two.

Dark Energy Detection is an Illusion

The proposed mirror experiment hopes to show that dark energy is not really a kind of matter, but a property of spacetime:

An experiment in a shed in the suburbs of Chicago could show that dark energy is simply an emergent property of space-time, much as fluid dynamics emerges from how water molecules interact.

I agree dark energy is a property of spacetime, rather than a kind of matter. The experiment suggests that if two mirrors detect a subtle jiggling between them, that this will show the waves of dark energy’s influence:

“The theory is that space is made of waves instead of points, that everything is a little jittery, and never sits still,” says Craig Hogan at the University of Chicago, who runs the experiment. The Holometer is designed to measure this “jitter”.

It directs two powerful laser beams through tubes 40 metres long. The lasers measure the positions of mirrors along their paths at two points in time. If space-time is smooth and shows no quantum behaviour, then the mirrors should remain perfectly still. But if both lasers measure an identical, small difference in the mirrors’ position over time, after all other effects are ruled out, that could mean the mirrors are being jiggled by fluctuations in the fabric of space.

This hope/expectation makes no sense to me. If the expansion of space is occurring within the very fabric of space, then the mirrors would also bend with the waves, and no waves would be detected.

Here is an analogy. If you want to measure the height of ocean waves, it is very useful to be firmly mounted to land, which is out of water. For example, in shallow water you could pound a pile, like a telephone pole, into the land beneath the shore. The pile is now uninfluenced by the waves–as waves go up and down, the pile does not go up and down because it is attached to land which is uninfluenced by the water. Now using floats ringing the pile, you could measure how high the floats come, and how low they go, and you could measure the amplitude and frequency of the ocean waves. Neat! For this to work, the instrument has to be outside the effect of the waves! The pile is attached to something that is outside the water’s surface, but the pile dangles into the water’s surface. From this unique position, half-in, and half-out of the water, it can measure the wave crests and troughs “with respect to” the stable land.

In the case of mirrors to detect gravity waves or dark energy waves, the situation is different. Where can you go, that is outside spacetime? What are the mirrors attached to, that is outside spacetime’s influence? There is no such thing, in our current models of the universe. Everything that exists, exists in spacetime. This means that the waves move along space, along time, and along all the solid things too. The earth flexes and extends with these waves, as do all solid objects. We do not notice this bending because it occurs within our very fabric. For us to notice or detect these waves, there would have to be some part of us that can set a foot outside of spacetime, some stable land that never changes, so that we would have a reference to see the difference. Unless we are going to suddenly adopt Plato’s model of unchanging eternal essences, I don’t see how science can do this. As the waves come along from dark energy or gravity waves, these waves will wave within the mirrors just as much as they wave with the space between the mirrors. Space is not just what is between solid objects, space is also what the solid objects exist in. If the mirrors could reference their readings “with respect to” some stable land that is outside of time and space, then they could measure waves within the fabric of spacetime. Outside of Plato’s essences, where is this stable land? And even if you accept Plato’s eternal essences, how do you zero your measuring instruments to it? I predict these mirrors will not detect any waves. Or if they claim to, others will doubt anything was seen because the signals will be explainable by other phenomenon or within the margin or error.

A picky point

What we know is that supernovae that are further from us, look redder than they ought to. From this evidence they say space is expanding. In this article, they say “spacetime is expanding,” but that is a mistake. What they really mean is, space is expanding “with respect to time.” That is, if you assume time cannot flex but moves on at a steady beat, then space appears to expand. But how can we know if time goes faster or slower? We are “in” time. All our bodily senses are “in” time. All the measuring devices we have, including clocks, are made of matter that is “in” time. If time itself were to speed up or slow down, all things in time would speed up and slow down. No clock also has a foot planted firmly in the eternal, unchanging, untimed location so that it can measure whether time is speeding up or slowing down “with respect to” this place outside of time. What this means is, we are incapable of sensing with our bodies, or measuring with our instruments made of matter, whether it is space that is expanding, or time that is shrinking. The apparent redshift from here tells us that, from our location it appears that all of space is expanding, or that all of time is shrinking. There could be other explanations as well which I will go into another time. For today I just wanted to be picky about one sentence in the article, and point out that spacetime is neither shrinking nor expanding. What they mean is that space appears to expand if time is assumed to be constant.

My Philosophical Questions about this Article

“…dark energy is simply an emergent property of space-time…”

I agree dark energy is an emergent property of space-time. The word that bugs me is “simply.” This word implies that no further explanation is needed. When people ask, why are distant supernovae redder than they ought to be? How could our universe be expanding? The answer this article proposes is, “It is simply an emergent property of spacetime.” As if we don’t need to ask any more questions. That’s the answer. End of discussion.

But saying expansion is an emergent property of spacetime, actually brings up more questions than it answers. In particular, how does expansion know to accelerate really quick for one second, then more slowly accelerate for thousands of years, then again slowly increase acceleration over billions of years? These three changes in expansion’s acceleration imply something more is going on. To say it is “simply” an emergent property of spacetime, simply shifts the questions off of expansion onto spacetime. Now the question remains, How does spacetime know to increase its acceleration of spatial expansion three times? Or, How does spacetime know to shrink time three times? The puzzle is not explained at all!

In particular, those who think these kind of explanations rule out intelligent design, or (my vote) influence by organisms larger and more complex than ourselves, are only making the situation appear to be more influenced, not less.

Gaia to the Rescue

If our universe were a living organism, this shift, three times, of the properties of spacetime, would make more sense. Organisms often accelerate or decelerate their growth, size and metabolism, through self-regulation. If our universe is an organism, this would imply its interior (us) is intelligently–well, not designed, but influenced. When it gets too big too fast, and threatens to tear itself apart, it slows down. If our universe were a giant organism this would explain why its interior, the balance of its four forces, our solar system, and our Earth just happen to be “just right for life.” An organism naturally makes its interior just right for its own cells to be created, to survive and thrive.

Even a “Creator God” is more likely than Random Chance, to have caused this highly unlikely “Emergent Property of Spacetime”

Still the idea of God can’t be ruled out either. God could be responsible and could have pre-designed this emergent property in spacetime, that it can self-regulate to expand space more, less, and more as history progresses, and that these adjustments have made our universe “just right for life.”

My preferred theory as that these properties were not designed in advance, but were improvised by living processes as time goes on, in response and adaptation to how the environment is always shifting. I see the universe as organically adaptive rather than perfect. But a perfect architect is still more likely than random chance, in my opinion.

What is less and less believable, is that these kinds of changes occur completely randomly. Who could believe that these three amazing shifts in the universe’s expansion rate, just randomly happened to make our universe just right for life?

Can Math Alone, Explain Life, the Universe and Everything? No!

“Our best current theories describe space-time in terms of geometry, and matter in terms of quantum fields, but struggle to unite the two. If the Holometer sees something, Hogan says, it could point to a way of unifying them. At the tiny scales at which the two properties are connected, the geometry of space-time alone should force the universe to expand.”

These are interesting ideas. The words that bug me, are “alone,” and “should.” Mathematics alone should explain how the universe comes to expand. What do the authors mean to imply by this “should?” It sounds like they are saying, “since we take for granted there is no creator, and no organic influences on the universe, and that everything that happens is random, therefore math alone should explain how everything has come to be the way it is.” If this is what they are implying, then can we really trust these people to design experiments? They are assuming what they want to be true, before they even do the experiments! Is it really “scientific” to assume in advance, what it is you set out to prove?

Who is Outside Spacetime?

An irony of this article, and a certain scientific perspective that goes with it, is that the scientists who suggested the mirror trick, must believe they can get outside spacetime to measure it. But the same perspective of science tells us that nothing can exist outside spacetime. They say this in particular to discourage anyone from thinking there might be a creator being who lives outside of the universe, who can both create a universe from wherever he is outside it, and can also tamper with the universe from outside it, using his own rules that do not necessarily follow the rules inside the universe. Science hates this idea and almost seeks to destroy it, as if on a witch hunt. But in this article we see scientist trying to use the very idea they hate. They are trying to be outside of spacetime to detect it from some objective, uninfluenced position. If there were such a position, a place, where one could stand in order to have an objective view of the universe, uninfluenced by its processes and laws, then wouldn’t you be god? Only God, or something like it, can be outside the influence and processes of our universe. That means any scientist writing an article, or a grant for an experiment, who assumes he can be outside spacetime to observe it from this privileged position, is trying to be god, or something like it. If he succeeds then would he become the witch that he was trying to drown? This inconsistency creeps into science writing in many science articles I read. We should coin a name for this fallacy. What would you call it?

The Threat of Expanding Space

The article finishes with a side box titled, “Phantom Menace.” The idea that space expanding, could eventually tear apart everything we are attached to (pun intended), is now being called “phantom energy.” this wiki on “Phantom Energy” explains better than the article the idea that, if the universe expands too much, then there will come a time when it expands at infinite speed, which will rip apart everything we know, in what is now called “The Big Rip.”

What they don’t seem to realize is, acceleration does not have to reach any high threshold for expansion to become devastating to our current kind of embodied life. Extrapolating from the past, expanding space has already narrowed how much of the universe we can see. The expansion of the universe has already, long ago surpassed the threshold, because it has already begun to limit how far we can see. The speed of light is not infinite, it is finite. The expansion of the universe, though small in any one galaxy, adds up to speeds faster than the speed of light. So any light more than 15 billion light years away from us, will never reach us. As it launches off in our direction from way over there, it begins to overtake space, but because all space is expanding, by the time the light gets close to us, the current of expanding space is flowing faster than the light is paddling toward us. It never reaches us. Phantom energy is already here, because the perspective we can see with our instruments and our bodies, is already decreasing. Our perspective (when we come from a materialistic philosophy, that the only things that exist are matter, and things that can be measured with instruments made of matter) is necessarily narrowed already. Coming from this perspective, we already have limits in how far we can see.

Unless the universe were to stop expanding and begin shrinking again, the distance we can “see” becomes smaller and smaller over time. Assuming the speed of light remains the same over time, if there is simply more “distance” to travel as each eon passes, then clearly, we will be able to see less and less distance in each eon. Expansion does not need to surpass any amount for this to occur. Even if expansion were to slow down, as long as expansion continues to expand space even a little, distances will continue to grow, and we will lose the ability to see light from far distances.

At some point we will no longer be able to see the cosmic background radiation.

At some point, bodies we can now “see” that are 15 billion light years away will “disappear.” The light from them will no longer be able to cross the ever enlarging distance from there to here.

In a later eon, things 14 billion years away will stop showing up in the sky. Then 13, 12, and so forth. See the pattern? From here, distant galaxies will disappear from the night sky. At some point, only stars within the Milky Way will be visible from here.

The sight-bubble is inevitably decreasing. Not much later, the sight of your wife across the room will disappear from your view. But life like ours will begin to feel effects long before this day.

The “phantom menace” is, “what if expansion becomes infinite?” But expansion doesn’t have to be anywhere near infinite to begin menacing us. Sound travels much slower than light. Long before we lose sight of our loved ones, already space will be so expanded that our sound-bubble will decrease. Watching a thunderstorm ten miles away, the crack of lightning will be seen, but never heard. The sound is made, but traveling at seven hundred miles an hour toward me, space will have expanded so much that the sound of its thunder will never reach me. Later, the crack of a bat at a baseball game a mile away will never reach me. Later, sounds a half mile away will be forever silent, then a hundred feet, then ten feet, then one foot. Then, one particular day, all sound will stop. Our universe will simply be too expanded for sounds to travel.

If light waves and sound waves can no longer propagate, what other effects will this have on life like ours? On what day will it be impossible for embodied life like ours, become impossible? Long before the “phantom menace” date. How long do we have? A billion more years?

A Modest Proposal

Plato suggested that the essence of a person can exist without a body. He suggested the essence is eternal. Could it be that our universe expanding, challenges us to rediscover this essence? For if we can figure out how to be our most natural, essential selves, then our essences may also inhabit other structures besides bodies made of matter. Bodies like ours, made of matter, have an expiration date of, say, a billion years from now. By then I trust we will have discovered how to exist as something other than materialists. This may be thought of as the “embracing essence” solution.

A second proposal.

To what degree may we “participate” with the life of the universe-organism? To that degree, we need not worry about what happens to our individual bodies. As long as the higher organism continues to evolve, what importance is the loss of a more primitive kind of cell that is no longer appropriate in the new environment? This may be thought of as a “spiritual” solution.

What are your thoughts?


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