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article imageOp-Ed: Cosmological mouthwash: When in doubt, spout probabilities

By Paul Wallis     Jan 15, 2008 in Science
You’ll be delighted to know that you don’t exist. Well, probably don't. Yes, the great multitude of massive intellects which have given us such monuments to practical logic as string theory, has struck again. May I say, “Aw, Diddums?”
I may have to explain their theories to you, because they obviously can’t. First however, let us set the scene: The New York Times, innocently gathering daisies, and wearing a delightful little banner headline, came up with a story, called "Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs?"
Blessed be the NYT, for the many layers of rich sediment it doth uncover with said article, and the bottomless thinking therein:
The basic problem is that across the eons of time, the standard theories suggest, the universe can recur over and over again in an endless cycle of big bangs, but it’s hard for nature to make a whole universe. It’s much easier to make fragments of one, like planets, yourself maybe in a spacesuit or even — in the most absurd and troubling example — a naked brain floating in space. Nature tends to do what is easiest, from the standpoint of energy and probability. And so these fragments — in particular the brains — would appear far more frequently than real full-fledged universes, or than us. Or they might be us.”
So- take as given an endless Big Bangs, and then say Nature can’t make a universe. Something totally non-viable, like a brain in space, is more easy to make, conceptually, and like any two distinct separate objects, they’re the same thing.
This isn’t advanced thinking, it’s advanced drivel.
As a backing for this excursion into excrement, the Boltzmann Brain Theory (see graphic with NYT article) is cited, like ancient prophecy:
The Boltzmann brain problem arises from a string of logical conclusions that all spring from another deep and old question, namely why time seems to go in only one direction. Why can’t you unscramble an egg? The fundamental laws governing the atoms bouncing off one another in the egg look the same whether time goes forward or backward. In this universe, at least, the future and the past are different and you can’t remember who is going to win the Super Bowl next week.
“When you break an egg and scramble it you are doing cosmology,” said Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology.
More likely, from the logic contained in this lot, you’re doing brain surgery on a cosmologist.
If the floating brain in space and you are the same thing, and Big Bangs, (which cause cosmology, and unfortunately cosmologists), are the source of what happens next, why would an egg unscramble, or next week be last week?
Let’s try this at Lego level. If you add an element to something, that’s what happens. If you add a Big Bang, the results of that Big Bang are what you’re likely to get. If you attempt to scramble an egg, you’re very likely to get a scrambled egg. The individual atoms are just going to have to learn to live with it.
If you operate using a time reference for your observations, which is no more or less than a sequence of events, why, exactly, is that time reference going to allow you to observe anything but that sequence of events?
The theory is that time goes “forward”. It then proceeds to demolish itself in a few timely sentences. Boltzmann again:
Boltzmann ascribed this so-called arrow of time to the tendency of any collection of particles to spread out into the most random and useless configuration, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics (sometimes paraphrased as “things get worse”), which says that entropy, which is a measure of disorder or wasted energy, can never decrease in a closed system like the universe.
If the universe was running down and entropy was increasing now, that was because the universe must have been highly ordered in the past.
None of which follows even its own logic.
1. Evidence of highly ordered universe to date: nil.
2. Evidence of entropy: nil, in fact quite the opposite. See “tadpole” galaxies in recent Hubble data. There was less energy when the current configuration of galaxies began, not more. The exact opposite of entropy.
Stay awake, you guys. Or at least learn to read.
3. Evidence of spread into random or useless configuration: nil. Nothing is configured into any condition or form without application of forces, which are neither random nor devolved from unknown origins.
4. Conservation of energy, duckies. Where do all that "wasted energy" been done an' gone, y'all? You can't just write off energy like that. This is an electromagnetic universe, folks, and it has to have some form of existence.
5. If it's a closed universe, the wasted energy can't even leak out.
The article goes on to explain the theory that the Big Bang created order out of chaos. Which is presumably why we’re now witnessing all those orderly multiple collisions of giant galaxies which are supposed to be expanding away from each other according to the theory. (Which also presumably wouldn’t exist if entropy were removing energy from the universe.)
Fond as I am of wading in extended dribblings, the expansion theory of the universe is now considered to be creating the Multiverse, new universes with different laws of physics, etc. Dark energy, the current Explanation of Everything, like Quantum, String, and Black Holes before it, is now considered to be the driving force of the universe, saving us from the infinitely improbable invasion of floating brains which are so much more likely than human beings.
Dark Matter/Energy is just a current mode of thought, working on a supposed universal mass. Somebody came up with a “blob” version of the universe, called it a dark matter universe, and it just so happens to look exactly like a model of the universe which was constructed in the mid 70s, when nobody had even heard of Dark Matter.
Does that sound a little vague? It's no coincidence.
There’s a problem with probabilities, as well as this load of manure of a theory.
1. The likelihood of the existence of any individual human being currently on Earth, given sexual reproduction and numbers of individuals, is about 3 million (sperm) x 6 billion minus those of non breeding age, say 3 billion (existing gene combinations, both partners) x 2 (individual sperm and specific egg) , to one, against. So if you consider the probabilities, it’s almost impossible that any single member of the human race could exist at all.
This is the “unlikely” part of the theory, which then goes on and uses the odds of reincarnation, in this universe or another, as a basis for its logic.
Sure it does. Why spoil a perfect record of total garbage?
2. No two objects in the universe are the same, even if identical. Nor can they occupy the same space at the same time. Every grain of sand is unique. In terms of the relative masses of the trillions of galaxies, that a few atoms should happen to be in any particular configuration is even less likely than humanity. This isn’t even covered by the theory, which is based on improbabilities.
3. Oddly, unexplained phenomena invariably have explanations. It’s just that the theories derived from those phenomena, while they’re unexplained, are so lousy that they’re invariably wrong.
I don’t normally drop names in op-eds, but I’ll drop a few now:
Lao Tse, Pythagoras, and Newton.
Mark for theory: Fail.
1. Doesn’t address any observed phenomena.
2. Relies on unproven theories to explain unobserved phenomena.
3. Postulates unproven state of universe(s)
4. Doesn’t address dimensional issues.
5. Fails to account for evolution of galactic space.
6. Fails to supply energy derivations of supposed formation of multiple universes, while referring to entropy as a factor.
7. Fails to address factual evidence of existence of human race. Very like health, education, and food policies.
8. Relies on Boltzmann process to produce extrapolation of non-existent information.
9. Postulates destruction of matter of universe, citing unknown and unproven cause.
10. Supposes bubble universes, no evidence provided.
11. Cites the Cosmological Constant. The Cosmological Constant was a theory which predates current observations. It’s out of date. Yes, time does move in a direction, doesn't it?
12. Uses theory of mutual repulsion as basis of expanding universe theory, again not dealing with observed data.
If this were a high school science paper, you’d shoot whoever gave it to you, in case it were contagious.
One final quote from the aviary in the Elephants’ Graveyard:
People have their own favorite measures of probability in the multiverse, said Raphael Buosso of the University of California, Berkeley. “So Boltzmann brains are just one example of how measures can predict nonsense; anytime your measure predicts that something we see has extremely small probability, you can throw it out,” he wrote in an e-mail message.”
Creationism once used probability as a basis for its theories, too.
There's also an old "artistic" party trick, which is very like word association, in which you just add random elements, make a theory or a story, and try to sound like you know what you're talking about. I think it was invented in the 20s or 30s. It's undergraduate stuff these days, and there it should stay.
…And the probability of any particular individual human being on Earth ever existing is currently at about 18 quadrillion to one, against.
Which well known two word expression in the English language would you say roughly sums up my opinion of this theory?
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