Quantum gravity physics based on facts, giving checkable predictions

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sir Roger Penrose on events before the big bang:


Stephen Sackur talks to Sir Roger Penrose about his latest theory on what may have existed before the Big Bang

Penrose says that because thermodynamics says the universe becomes more disorganised with time, as you look backwards in time the amount of order increases towards infinity. The BBC news reported suggests God is the reason for the initial high degree of order of the big bang, but Penrose defends science.

Penrose's new idea is very simple, one of the 10 components of the spacetime metric is special, and when the universe has eventually decayed entirely into radiation (assuming that even protons decay, albeit with an undetectably long radioactive half-life, as per Standard Model predictions), it loses any meaningful measure of 'time' (I've pointed out in Electronics World and on my site for years that time is entirely linked to organised motion, and when you lose any organised motion, time is meaningless). Therefore, because of the link between space and time (spacetime), space disappears and the state is effectively a singularity.

Hence at the very moment that the last proton or muon decays, the whole universe is then a fresh singularity, and the big bang occurs all over again. (This is entirely different from the old 'oscillating' universe prediction from general relativity.) I'd like to see a complete proof please! Personally, I think Penrose is right, as the idea is factually defendable and yet radically crazy enough to explain everything, and he says it makes testable predictions which astronomy can check.


At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Mohamed said...

Hi Nigel,

I am writing a book on Islam and it contains two chapters on science. One of the chapter is called the Big Bang! and the other one is called Evolution with the Big E.

By profession I am an account, not an scientist. Recently, I saw the February 2006 interview of Penrose on BBC, which lead me to your blog.

I don't know how busy you are but could you help me with these two chapters of mine?

It would be nice if we can reconcile the religion with science, I believe the world might be a lot better because of it.



At 2:36 PM, Blogger nige said...

{I have exchanged some emails with Mohamed. Here are some of my comments on the problem of making the world better by reconciling religion and science. First up, the two WERE reconciled until the particular brand of science used became obsolete in the light of new knowledge produced from observations and experiments by Kepler and Galileo, et al. Second, WHICH religion? Islam? Suppose you do reconcile some theory with religion, what happens when new facts overthrow it, and a new theory comes along? Does everyone ignore the scientist with the radical result or theory, calling her/him names like quack, heretic, crackpot, egotist, evil, etc?}

Thank you for your comment! I'm actually very fond of the Koran and the Prophet Mohammed, although I was confirmed Roman Catholic. The Islamic religion paved the way for most of modern mathematics at a time when the Catholic faith was burning scientists at the stake.

I hope you also include the Islamic contributions to mathematics in your book: Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc) replaced useless Roman numbers (I, II, III, IV) and of course the Greek idea to use letters also for numbers prevented the Greeks from inventing algebra (the Greeks used alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc., as both letters and numbers, so any attempt at algebra would cause hopeless confusion with their system).

Islamic mathematicians preserved Greek scientific texts like Euclid and developed maths much further. They invented things like algebra (Arabic: al-jabr, "restoration"), with computational algorithms, being named after Arabic mathematician al-Khwarizmi. The greatest Islamic invention is a symbol for the number 0, which comes from the empty space on the Arab abacus (counting frame). Cipher, a name for a numeral, is derived from the Arabic word sifr (zero).

In addition, Islamic scientists developed alchemy which led to modern chemistry. They also made many astronomical observations which led them to develop some trignometry and so on.

Now for the difficult part; you say

"It would be nice if we can reconcile the religion with science, I believe the world might be a lot better because of it."

Which religion do you choose to reconcile with science? Islam? Then how are you sure that it will make the world a lot better?

Put it like this: science is something I do not "believe" in like a religion, because it is a matter of facts, any statement "in science" which is not based on facts is religious speculation.

I can believe in God very easily, because belief in a religion does not require facts.

Ten years ago, the Professor of physics at the Open University was Russell Stannard, author of a book you might want to read called "Science and the Renewal of Belief".

Professor Stannard refused to even answer any of my letters explaining my results. Instead he got Dr Bob Lambourne to write back to me claiming that string theory explains gravity, so I am wrong.

Then he would not respond when I pointed out errors in his course.

Religion makes science weak, and I am not sure that religion even makes morality strong. In some people, there is no problem. But in other people, they can just use any book - the Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or even the Koran - in order to abuse others.

A world run on religious principles has been tried and tested for thousands of years. It has created an enormous number of wars.

The nuclear bomb, deplored universally, has put a stop to one world war, and has deterred another successfully.

However, I'm not suggesting that science is a perfect replacement for religion.

I think the entire universe, as we see it, can be understood using objective science, and there is no ESP, no supernatural, and no devine influence in this model.

On the other hand, the incredible complexity causes the emergence of some kind of order which can be interpreted by some people as beautiful and God like. But that depends on how you see it.

If you look at evolution and see how much suffering goes on in the natural world, with everything killing and eating everything else endlessly for over a thousand million years, then it is not really beautiful.

The only reasons why some creatures have nice colours is to attract mates or to warn off predators because they have poison or something as a weapon.

My feeling is that the natural world, created 15,000,000,000 years ago, is not the most beautiful thing you can imagine.

Science does tell us quite a bit about the "logic" and "humanity" behind God:

(1) Extravagant - making billions of stars, etc.

(2) Inhumane - making billions of creatures suffer by eating each over alive.

However, maybe I can't see the big picture, and you can.

Maybe it is all dependent upon the observer's reference frame. If you are rich, happily married, and secure with a good career and prospects, perhaps you can more easily fall prey to religious faith.

To make my reply balanced, here is a list of all the properties of Allah which I respect:

(1) Moral laws which are universal - without discrimination (unlike political type law where rich people are treated better and allowed expensive lawyers),

(2) Strength - deterring and punishing offenders (infidels).

However, as you see, I'm probably going to say things which would be me into the infidel category.

I don't believe there is anything more than one "God" (one is just the right number), so I don't disbelieve in God. I just don't see anything factual in a definition of "God": it is very speculative.

From the evidence already available, God is not very humane: He does not intervene as far as can be ascertained.

So the role of God is in creating the universe, the energy and matter, and the Dirac sea/spacetime fabric, long in the past.

Another way of thinking of it, as Penrose suggests, is that there is not a definite beginning, but is instead a cycle where one big bang eventually loses energy and then a fresh universe arises.

I'm not satisfied with Penrose's physics, which is extremely defective in technical detail from my point of view (and my factual evidence on gravity mechanism). But the basic concept Penrose has here is interesting.

It is possible that science will eventually (as Hawking hopes) tell us the "mind of God".

But that is not my concern. I don't particularly want to know, because the hints I already have is that God - considered to have some kind of personality - would be a very heartless, cold, disinterested person.

On the other hand, perhaps that is the wrong way to look at God altogether, and the correct way is to imagine that in the universe "what you see is what you get" (to use programming idiom).

If what we can see (including fundamental particles and some type of mass causing field, with the Dirac sea/spacetime fabric), then you are forced to consider the universe as Professor Lee Smolin does in "Life of the Cosmos".

That book says the universe evolves like a city, and if you omit fairies/ghosts/unseen entities, then the only scientific idea you can have about God is that it is an emergent property of the universe.

In Christianity, God is supposed to create everything, so if you believe that view then God is behind the chemistry etc of the universe which physically builds things.

I went to Catholic schools in England, and saw a lot of hypocrisy. Evolution was taught by Catholic teachers, Brothers (monks), and so on, who did not mention Biblical creationism once!

From my experience as a confirmed Catholic, people believe in the functional sides of religion: the praying, meditation, helping those in need, caring for people, etc. The very few loud people in religion - a few Priests I have known for example - who have loudly proclaimed mythology (or anti-scientific sentiments generally), have all been irritating and unhelpful in other ways. They are the ones with personality defects.


I believe in the great Prophets as sources of wisdom and inspiration, but I don't think that spending a lot of time on organised religion will make the world a better place. If everyone is forced to spend all their spare time praying, then crime rates will fall simply because they won't have time for it. But you will get a build up of resentment in many people who are being forced into a worship which they truly don't believe in.

I will help you with these two chapters of yours, but you may have to give your name and contact details.

Maybe you can help me decide on the question as to whether science should be tolerant or religion, or whether science should try to kick religion into 11-dimensional metaspace?

... Voodoo Witchcraft ... "religion". All religion does is to separate humankind, create divisions, taboos. For example, Hitler used religion as cover for much evil.

Worship ... expect me to tolerate your brand of religion over any other brand. If you live in a free country, you are free to do what you wish in your own home.

Islam at one time tried to spread its word politically just as Christianity did, by violence - and that is the trouble with religion - politics.

Organized religion by definition is POLITICAL.

Clausewitz: "War is the extension of politics by other means."

This is the root of religious problems. I don't want to comment on Mohammed who as I have already said I admire. But I will comment on Jesus as a person, because I spent a long time having to study Jesus in depth.

Jesus was an angry, emotional, sometimes violent person:

(1) The Temple money-changers revolt, where Jesus threw over the tables of the money-changers and drove the animals out of the temple using a whip.

(2) Jesus used propaganda: his advice to "turn the other cheek" when slapped is - taken in the correct Biblical context - being cheeky! If someone hits you, he advised turning the other cheek to be sarcastic to them, to show them up as being heavy-handed in front of the other people watching.

Jesus was not endorsing organised religion, he hated the idea of making money from religion. The horrors of Catholic Inquisitions and the Pope's burning or Bruno alive for heresy over the nature of stars in February 1600 at the Vatican, shows how corrupt organised religion must be.

Think about Communism next. Communism tried to get rid of God, and failed. People wanted to worship God when they were prevented from doing so. So the answer should be that the political (money-making scam) element should be taken out of religion. People should be free to worship in their own homes.

Religions should cease to be political, warlike forces, brainwashing children with mythology, wasting their time, and being behind bigotry and violence. The reduction of the offensiveness of religions would help people more than the alloying of religion with science, I feel, by making religion a private matter and not a social or communal indoctrination.

If you want evidence of how seriously religion can damage people's ability to judge scientific matters, take a look at Professor Susskind's promotion of string theory. He looks a nice man ... but he is not helping science.

Your friend,


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