Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Particle God

It was announced today that physicists had found almost certain evidence confirming the discovery of the Higgs boson, aka the "God particle". It might not seem like that big a deal to us plebians, but to describe it as a massive, momentous achievement in the realm of quantum physics is a major understatement.

Events of this magnitude present a great opportunity to step back from the day-to-day grind and think big, fundamental thoughts about What It All Means. Let's think big here. I mean really big. Pull the lens wayyyyy back. Let's not even think about religion or science. Think past Jesus or Mohamed or Buddha or evolution. Let's think about the universe itself. The physical universe of stars and galaxies, interstellar gas, quasars, black holes and the like. Let's just ponder the mere fact that it is. That it exists.

And let's think about the fact that this universe we live in is finite. From our vantage point it is incomprehensibly vast...but it does not go on forever.

The universe has boundaries, has ending points. There is an actual point at which the Universe stops. Which of course begs the question....what lies on the other side of the Universe?

What would the signpost read? Now entering......what?

It can't be more universe. No stars, no dust, no matter at all. But it also can't, as far as I know, be empty vacuum either, because empty vacuum is still something. It's just more space that hasn't been filled up by anything. But there can't be any more space beyond space. Otherwise it's just....more space.

We also know that the universe had a beginning. It hasn't been around forever. A specific event occurred at one point in time¹ in which the entire universe of atoms and asteroids exploded furiously into existence.

And here's the bigger question. The Big Question, in fact. The one that I'm sure (I hope) every one of you has spent some serious and weighty time contemplating.

Why is there Something instead of Nothing?

Where did it come from?

I don't mean "it came from an inconceivably dense point of matter and energy which exploded and became our Universe." I'm thinking past that. The Prime Origin. The ultimate starting point. Where did that "point of matter and energy" come from? I'm not even talking about God or any specific religious belief yet. This question comes before you get there. And there's only two answers to it: either a) something or b) nothing².

If you're an atheist, or leaning that way, do you really truly believe at the end of the day that the answer to that question is "nothing at all"? That a mind-bogglingly dense singularity of matter just spontaneously happened? Like.....pop, there it is! That all of us, this entire universe so intricately woven and delicately balanced came:
From Nothing
By Nothing
For Nothing?
I applaud anyone for being able to believe that to the very end, for it takes far more faith than I can muster.

On to Part Two!

Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
likewise Falsehood aptly defended loses not its falsity.

¹ I am aware that before the universe began there was no such thing as time, and so this phrase is not really accurate. Trying to describe that, however, completely broke up the flow of the post and only detracted from the clarity of my main point so I decided not to belabor the issue.

²In modern times it's become vogue (at least, according to some of the scientific layman's magazines I read) to try to have it both ways by theorizing about "the multiverse". Basically, the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, which all exist in different dimensions, and we just happen to live in this one which has at least one planet that can support life.

This is just kicking the can down the interstellar road, however. It actually makes it even harder to believe in nothing, because now you've got to account for the existence of not one, but billions and trillions of universes. And it eventually boils down to the exact same question anyway: where did the multiverse come from? Believing in a multiverse is blind faith in its purest essence--believing in something with absolutely no evidence at all.

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