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It has been reported Hawking no longer believes in a discovery of an underlying theory providing anwers to all of our understanding. I thought it timely to review his book "The Universe in a Nutshell" which prompted his thoughts in this way of thinking.
The Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen Hawking
Reality is revealed to us as stranger than fiction by Hawing who takes us on a roller coaster discovery of the latest developments in cosmological physics that we can (with some hard work) understand.
I hope my review generates both a passionate interest in reading the book and discussions on the latest theories from Hawking that help us better understand the universe in which we live. My understanding is in overview summary form for each chapter and I conclude with an explanation of some of the impact of these theories on religious and secular philosophy.
1-History of Relativity (E=mc)
A refresher of Einstein’s theory of relativity and later enlarged to include space-time warping when it was renamed the general theory of relativity. Warping in space-time has been observed during an eclipse when light from a passing star near the sun was deflected by the way the mass of the sun curves space-time.
To day the idea of a universal quality called time that all clocks can measure has been abandoned in favour of the concept of personal time. Extremely accurate clocks were placed in aircraft flying in opposite directions around the world and the experiment verified the fact less time was recorded in the aircraft clock traveling from west to east (assisted by the earths spin) than the clock that was in the plane flying in the opposite direction.
Hawking was the first person in the world to show how time would come to an end inside a singularity (popularly named a black hole that is a star with infinite density to which light cannot escape) both for the star and any astronaut who happened to fall in.
2 Shape of Time
What is time? You cannot say what it is, but you can find a good mathematical model for it and its predictions. Einstein showed time and space to be linked but what shape is it?
The benefit of hindsight if available would be keenly sought after but we can view the galaxies as they appeared almost at the beginning of time (at the time of the big bang singularity) as light has a finite speed. Looking back in time when matter was at a higher density over a period of roughly 15 billion years the universe can be imagined as looks something like an inverted is techical cone as light is warped by gravity and energy from its big bang singularity tip beginning.
The theory of general relativity ran into troubled waters following discoveries in the quantum area (very small particles) that indicated there was enough gravitational attraction in the universe to curl up space-time into a single point, which obviously hasn't happened. As the book progresses a lot of time is taken up with the possible solutions to this seemingly contradictory fact.
You may need to conjure -up all of your persuasive powers of imagination to understand Hawking's quantum theory to M-theory possible solutions as he unravels before us the secrets of the universe.
3 The Universe in a Nutshell
If we were able to view the entirety of the universe reduced in size to a nutshell what would it look like? Would it shaped like the earth and have no boundaries?
Here on earth at this point of time inflation seems to be coming under some control with only small increases evident for most countries but in the universe it would seem inflation is speeding up with expansion likely to keep on forever in all directions.
What are the histories of the Universe and will one day stars be no longer visible to the naked eye (assuming we do not blow ourselves up beforehand) as matter and energy are distributed less densely within its colder ever expanding state.
What happens to the previous history or knowledge contained within in a black hole when time ceases to exist? Is it somehow re-energies back into space like the sound waves of a gramophone that represent music to our ears.
4 Predicting the future
It would seem if we know the laws of science and the outcomes are verifiable by experiment then why should we not be able to one day predict the future.
Hawking reveals to us there are a number of obstacles and the first being the uncertainty principle where accurate measurement of the direction of extremely small particles is always at the expense of accurately knowing their velocity and vica versa. You cannot accurately measure both at the same time.
Improvements in predisposition were provided with the application of quantum mechanics but their still remained a high degree of uncertainty.
Another obstacle lies within the creation of black holes where time comes to an end and all knowledge is lost.
5 Protecting the Past
Chapter 1 indicates the effects of space-time warping that means (if we can find a wormhole to climb through to another space-time period) we should be able to go back and protect the past. There are some obstacles to overcome along the way such as being zapped by a bolt of radiation when crossing the time travel horizon but theoretically it seems possible. Hawking uses some of the work he undertook in discovering and defining singularities (back holes) to convince us this is true.
One example he gives is of light waves (within a finite horizon) trapped in area of space-time that keep coming back to the same point over and over again.
An interesting point to traveling back to the past is the question of whether we will be able to change it when we arrive. Perhaps we will one day also discover a cosmological constant that prevents us from killing our grandfather before he was born. In other words our free will is restricted to space time regions where time moves forward.
6-Our Future starters or not
If we continue to expand at our current rate of knots it may be necessary in the near future to spread out firstly to planets in the solar system and then to the nearby stars.
7-Brane New World
We have only added some fancy bells and whistles to Einstein general theory of relativity but in other areas our understanding has expanded at a prodigious rate.
We on the verge of discovering we live in a Brane New World comprising a 4 dimensional surface (or Brane) in a higher dimensional space-time.
Reality may outclass our wildest imagination as we grapple with such complicated concepts. Reality is definitely stranger than fiction.
8-Impact of the theories on secular and religious philosophy,
Einstein theory of relativity had unsettling effect in the community during the 1920's and 1930's with many people asking if it inferred that everything was relative. Were there no longer any absolute moral standards they asked.
His contribution has enabled a more enlightened view of the world and to polarise views between people who have faith or not but away from a fundamentalist or creationism view in the interpretation of religion.
Previously under the influence only of Newtonian theory it was strongly believed time existed independent of anything else. It was the equivalent of a single line or railway track that existed and would exist forever.
This worried German philosophers such as Kant who concluded if the universe had been created, why had there been an infinite wait before creation. Einstein theory showed there was a beginning to time with the big bang singularity but he was never happy with the conclusion as he was ensconced with the prevailing view at the time of the total independence of time to space and matter.
However with the work undertaken by Hawking he was able to show time did indeed have a beginning with the big bang and an end with the creation of a singularity or black hole. This neatly sidetracked Kant's concerns over time by showing time simply cannot exist before the advent of the big bang and is inextricably linked to space (resulting in warped space -time) rather than being independent.
Today his theory of is now completely accepted and its predictions have been verified by any number of applications. Time no longer exists before the big bang and ends with the forming of a singularity (black Hole).
Interestingly St Augustine, the 5th Century thinker, stated before God made heaven and earth, he did not make anything at all. In fact, this is very close to modern ideas. The Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre was the first to investigate the origin of the universe that we call the big bang. and named it the primeval atom.
The Universe in a Nutshell is essential reading for all those who want to understand the universe in which we live.
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