Monday, September 27, 2010

Passion Party #278 - Our Spontaneous Universe

New books written by Stephen Hawking

and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss

are turning much of what was once metaphysics into physics. The more we study the universe, the more we discover that it is a mysterious place filled not just with energy and matter, but with dark energy, dark matter and possible alternative universes, things that exist but our eyes cannot see.

One of my favorite parlor games is to guess how the universe will end. Albert Einstein explained that space is curved, and therefore our universe can exist in one of three geometries: open, closed or flat.

A closed universe whose energy density is dominated by matter will one day re-collapse (like a big rubber band that stretches until taut and then contracts into the opposite of the "big bang").
An open universe will continue to expand forever at a finite rate.
A flat universe is just at the boundary - slowing down but never quite stopping.

Krauss says that recent observations of the cosmic microwave background from the Big Bang have confirmed that we live in a flat universe. In addition, the discovery of dark energy, energy that actually fills the empty space of the universe, is leading cosmologists to believe that the sum of "positive" and "negative" energy in the universe is zero, once again supporting the "flat universe" concept. Could it actually be that our universe is "in balance" on a cosmic level?

The belief that our universe will not end with a bang, or a whimper; and that it perhaps began from spontaneous creation is not bad. To me it does not make the Earth any less miraculous.
It helps me put into perspective this little dot of a rock we live on
in this solar system
in this galaxy
in this universe.

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