Creative Arts with Patrick Moore

Edgar Allan Poe’s Eureka Vindicated by BICEP2 Telescope Findings Last Week
October 11, 2014, 6:30 pm
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A new kind of telescope in Antarctica proved the universe did not “inflate” in the first second after the big bang. Without Inflation, the next-best hypothesis of how our universe works is “the bouncing universe:” a big bang is followed by a big crunch, followed by big bang, ongoing.

[See the article in New Scientist: ]

Edgar Allan Poe predicted this 166 years ago, during his 6-hour poem, Eureka.

[Read Eureka By Edgar Allan Poe at the Baltimore Poe Society:
Or download the free kindle version at:
Or listen to a narrator read the poem: ]

When I opened the latest issue of Science News this week, and saw the article, my heart beat faster. Poe is vindicated! I emailed my friend Stephen who is also a Poe fan, to ask if he had read the news, and he had the same thought I did.

This blog post gives a brief overview of Cosmic Expansion mixed with Poe’s contribution. How did Poe predict, 166 years before the sensors could detect, that ours is not a universe with one big bang, but one that expands and contracts? Since he was right about the details, should we at least consider his deeper point, that universe expands and contracts like the heartbeat of a huge, living being? Should we listen when he explains the meaning and purpose of life, the universe, and everything?

What is Inflation?

The universe began with an event of tremendous expansion. It is still expanding today, perhaps the momentum from that initial event.

Inflation is the idea, that during the first second after the big bang, the universe was given a boost of super-expanding power, that lasted less than a second. This pushed all the matter outward much faster than the big bang alone had been pushing it.

Why do we need this idea? In the 1980s telescopes became good enough to notice a cosmic radiation, behind all the stars. This radiation has a pattern. This pattern is so old that it shows us what the universe was like before there were stars, before there was matter, before space was transparent. When they looked at the radiation pattern, is is smooth. The distribution of waves is very nice:

There was no simple way to explain this nice smoothness, until Alan Guth suggested Inflation. If there were just a second of super-expansion, that would have smoothed everything out. As an explanation it seemed the simplest explanation. The idea was accepted and trusted until a couple weeks ago.

Scientists today want to see this background radiation better. So they designed, funded and built a cool machine called BICEP2, and set it up near the south pole, to measure gravitational waves that are still there behind all the stars. The radiation is in any direction you point a detector. The south pole points perpendicular to the sun so it provides the darkest view available from earth, which gives the best readings of this radiation. They built a dish the right size to see the actual wavelengths of the background radiation.

BICEP2 at South Pole from Wikimedia Commons

BICEP2 at South Pole

BICEP2 is the dish on the Right. The photo is given freely from at: , though I tampered with the color of the sky and cropped the image.

A few theorists from Australia–Marina Cortês, Andrew R. Liddle and David Parkinson–began analyzing the observations from the BICEP2 dish from earlier this year. They noticed that, if Inflation had really occurred, BICEP2 would be seeing big waves in the background radiation. But BICEP2 was seeing small waves. They concluded that Inflation could not have occurred in the first second, at least not in the way the model of Inflation has been presented so far. Their paper is here:

Alan Guth was asked to comment for the New Scientist article. He admitted the data rule out some versions of Inflation, but not all versions, he said.

Now that BICEP2 has measured the waves, to keep believing in the one-second burst of Inflation you would have to do “really tricky” things to the mathematics, said Katherine Mack, a theoretical astrophysicist at the University of Melbourne in Australia. These tricky things would make the theory much more complicated. They would break the relation between amplitude of the primordial gravitational waves and the distribution of matter in the universe.

With Guth, Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University also developed the model of Inflation. But he later changed his mind. Inflation has a consequence: if you accept inflation, then you must accept we live in the Multiverse. The multiverse is an infinite number of universes, all existing simultaneously. Some scientists love this idea because it explains everything. But not Steinhardt. If we live in one of infinite multiverses, then everything that could happen, does happen, he said. This makes it pointless to ask How? and Why? questions about the universe. If we live in one of the infinite multiverses, the answer to all questions about our universe, is always the same answer: “it was possible, so it had to happen in one universe, and this is the one it happened to happen in.” Yes, this answer “explains” everything, but the explanation has no meaning. This answer seems like cheating to some (like me).

Steinhardt said the point of suggesting the model of inflation back in the 80s, was to explain how our universe happened to be so remarkably simple. “So the last thing in the world you should be doing is introducing a multiverse of possibilities to explain such a simple thing,” he said. The multiverse could be considered a last resort theory, if there were no better explanations. Are there better, simpler explanations? Steinhardt and Poe think so.

Until now Steinhardt opposed Inflation because of his distaste for the consequences of the multiverse model. But now the BICEP2 findings offer evidence for doubting Inflation ever happened. “I think it’s telling us in the clearest possible terms that we should be able to understand this and when we understand it it’s going to come in a model that is extremely simple and compelling. And we thought inflation was it – but it isn’t.”

What would be an extremely simple and compelling model?

Poe’s Simple Explanation of Our Universe Expanding

Performed in 1848, Poe’s 6-hour poem, Eureka, begins with the idea that:

“… what God originally created—that that Matter which, by dint of his Volition, he first made from his Spirit, or from Nihility, could have been nothing but Matter in its utmost conceivable state of——what?—of Simplicity? This will be found the sole absolute assumption of my Discourse.”

The universe makes most sense when it is viewed with the utmost simplicity, Poe is saying. In his day telescopes were seeing galaxies outside the Milky Way. Astronomers, Philosophers and Theologians were drawing conclusions about these findings. Poe’s simple, compelling model was, that the big bang is God’s wish to separate matter into its utmost division.

” …the expulsion of the separative ether, whose province and whose capacity are limited to keeping the atoms apart until that great day … “

The big bang is God’s big push. This “separative” force, matches what scientists call “cosmic expansion” or “dark energy”. I just get tingles thinking that Poe predicted dark energy, more than a hundred years before science came up with the idea. Still, they have no idea what dark energy is, they have not measured it, nor do they have a clue as to its meaning or purpose. the idea of dark energy is really like saying, “it’s magic.” Now I ask, is Poe’s suggestion that God had a good reason for causing this “separative force,” more farfetched than the idea, “dark energy”?

Poe’s explanation is very simple. You might even say, it is simplistic or child-like. Poe sees this simplicity and child-like quality as support for its truth. That is why he asked for Eureka to be viewed not as an essay in science, but as a poem.

Poe tells the Meaning and Purpose of Life, the Universe and Everything

If all Eureka did was suggest the big bang was God’s will, it wouldn’t be very compelling for me. What I find compelling is that Poe tells us God’s reason for separating all the matter in a big push. What was God’s reason and was it really such a good reason?

Poe tells us. God pushed the matter apart and separated it in order to maximize its opportunity to recombine as new interesting things and beings. And it has! Stars and planets are very interesting. The living beings that have occurred, against all odds, are very interesting. By having the maximum variety in things and diversity in beings that exist, this maximizes differences of perspective.

Thank you, Mr. Poe. And why is this a good thing? Why would God be pleased by maximizing diversity of beings and differences of perspective? (And does this please us, or only God?)

God knew that after separating matter to extremes, a natural force (gravity) will naturally pull it all back to Unity. During the phase of coming back to Unity, the diverse beings and differing perspectives will naturally unify. Each separate perspective will gain from embracing all the other different perspectives. Relations that were separated will embrace. The house divided will be reunited. This pleases God far more than simply sitting in peaceful contemplation where nothing ever happens.

Think about it from God’s perspective. He’s seen a lot of things. He needs for the universe to expand a little more, a little more, for the more unique molecules to have time to form, for the complex forms of life to form, so there will be unique challenges he has not embraced before. He created and supports a universe where challenge occurs, where perspectives clash, where traumas occur and where disappointed expectations are the norm. And then he supports the resolution of these traumas, the solution of challenges and the integration of divergent perspectives. These goods, are worth all the struggle, to God. (How about to us?)

Change is good, literally. Clashing is good, challenge is good, debate is good and different perspectives are good. Because in the end, all these differences come together again, making them better for having happened. The purpose of the universe is the meaning that is gained when the new challenges are transcended.

Steinhardt’s Bouncing Universe

Back here in 2014, Steinhardt seeks the simplest theories to explain smooth distribution of our universe. Instead of relying on Inflation, now Steinhardt suggests the universe might have existed before the big bang, and slowly collapsed in a big crunch, before bouncing back and expanding anew. He thinks that could explain the smoothness of the universe, without invoking multiverses. If we do not find any gravitational waves in the years to come, this will support this theory, he says.

Poe’s Heartbeat of the Universe

If you make it through the 6-hour CD audio, or read the hundred pages of Poe’s Eureka, you will be rewarded with his conclusions:

“…where there is absolute Unity—where the tendency to oneness is satisfied—there can be no Attraction…”

Poe says that gravity disappears as soon as the matter has come back to its original unity.

“When, on fulfilment of its purposes, then, Matter shall have returned into its original condition of One– … Unity,—it will then (to speak paradoxically for the moment) be Matter without Attraction and without Repulsion—in other words, Matter without Matter—in other words, again, Matter no more. In sinking into Unity, it will sink at once into that Nothingness … the final globe of globes will instantaneously disappear, and that God will remain all in all.”

In the beginning, God separated all the matter in a Big Push. His purpose, according to Poe, is for the resulting natural response: the Big Reunion that will inevitably come. But is that the end? One Big Push, followed by One Big Crunch? No…

“But are we here to pause? Not so. On the Universal agglomeration and dissolution, we can readily conceive that a new and perhaps totally different series of conditions may ensue—another creation and irradiation, returning into itself—another action and rëaction of the Divine Will. … are we not, indeed, more than justified in entertaining a belief—let us say, rather, in indulging a hope—that the processes we have here ventured to contemplate will be renewed forever, and forever, and forever; a novel Universe swelling into existence, and then subsiding into nothingness, at every throb of the Heart Divine? “

Poe outlined, in 1848, the same model that Steinhardt said in his 2014 quote above. (One wonders if physicists are aware that Poe predicted all this 166 years ago? I read Michio Kaku give credit to H. G. Wells for being the first to publish the idea that Time is the fourth dimension. I read Stephen Hawking give credit to Giordano Bruno for his view of multiple worlds. But I have not yet read any scientist giving Poe credit for the Big Bang, the Big Crunch, Dark Energy or for the Bouncing Universe.)

Is It Alive?

Near his conclusion Poe says that every thing in the universe is alive, has capacity for pleasure and pain and has consciousness.

In describing the Universe, he says it beats like a heart. Poe’s universe is a living being, whose pulse rate is about one beat every 30 billion years. Perhaps he was being poetic.

“And now—this Heart Divine—what is it?”

I won’t give away the climax of Eureka in case you wish to read or listen to it yourself.

What I Learned

Humans are tricky. We use advantage on everything. Rather than say humans are the most evolved, I will say of all the terra-firmians, humans take advantage far more than any other earthlings. We will take advantage of our own loved ones, just to see if we can get away with it. We will take advantage of any kind of animal or plant we can get our tools around. We will take advantage of any kind of molecules, atoms, bonds, forces, genes, or germs, to see what we can gain.

Until today, I would simply shake my head and shrug my shoulders. What could humans be thinking? Ever since Nagasaki and Hiroshima, people have been wondering at the “evils” of tampering with the atom. More recently I have shaken my head about designing killer viruses to put into mosquitoes so the males would be sterile and not pass on malaria. What could scientists be thinking? Won’t that lead to weird mutant animals and humans, when they get bit by these monster mosquitoes? Genes travel! What about the antibiotics they use in hospitals, that are now found in wild birds and fish? What will happen to bacteria in the wild that is already pre-resistant to antibiotics? Where will bacteria go next, as a result of our tampering that has made the species far stronger? What about the radium being brought up with fracking gas, that is giving people new diseases? What odd mutations, situations and beings will evolve from all these strange unnatural combinations? Why do people who claim to be religious, kill each other? Why do Americans fight to raise minimum wages for Americans, while fighting for lower prices, that make wages lower in other countries? We are a house divided, and we continue to divide ourselves more and more. Until today I would have said, “certainly no good can come of all this tampering and dividing.”

But ours is a universe designed for the utmost difference. Perhaps tampering is something that was foreseen. Could tampering actually create new beings, the universe has never seen before? With new relationships between us and them, them and them, or us and us as we become them? This furthers the universe’s purpose to have more new perspectives and relationships.

At least, all this tampering furthers the universe’s purpose, when these things come to be reunited. When will that be? Can we continue to tamper without responsibility, leaving it for future generations or more evolved beings to embrace the tampering we have done? No. I see this is the spiritual purpose of humanity:–to embrace, resolve, and make-better-for-having-happened, the tampering we humans have done and continue to do.. to continue tampering and to learn how to tamper more responsibly… to continue exploring and also to begin to reunify, embrace and integrate.

It is the right time for this. This week’s news about Cosmic Expansion marks a shift in history. The universe has expanded, and now is returning toward Unity. This is our alert that it is time to begin integrating that which we have divided.


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