Reblogged from way back in time, when I was someone else, to take up some space and make me look busy. Written in response to a particularly aggravating Discovery channel program.
So it seems we’ve figured it out. All of it. The Theologians can pull their dog collars off and Philosophers can shave their beards and get real jobs.
We haven’t sussed out bumble-bees, hiccups, or homing pigeons yet, but that whole universe thing? That’s been sorted. A memo has been circulated and everything.
It was dark matter, you see.
All this time we’ve been debating the how and what and the when – when the answer was right under our noses. Of course it’s understandable we missed it. It’s invisible. And intangible. To actually find it would be to prove that what you found wasn’t even it. But it definitely exists. It has to. The remainder in the Big Bang long division.
I’m not a physicist, or indeed weighing in with a religious counter-argument. It just seems to me the whole thing has lost its way.
Let’s retrace our steps…
Two physicists, Hank and Bob, working in a room. They have coffee and a white board.
Hank: How about this…the universe started with a bang.
Bob: I can handle that. It would have to be very big.
Bob: Infinitely big, and infinitely fast. It must have been to create an infinite universe.
While they pause to work the numbers, let us consider some early questions. When and where and how did this happen? An explosion needs stuff to be there to blow up…so what was it? If it created time how could it happen outside of time? If it didn’t create time, how long had time been going on before it happened?
We re-join Bob and Hank. Tired, white board covered in writing.
Bob: So what…about…13.3-13.9 billion years ago there was massive explosion that created the universe. So massive that the universe is still spreading out. Right. Ok. Got that?
Hank: Sounds good to me.
And that’s how it all started…
Now…If the universe is infinite, how can it be expanding? When exactly will the universe be infinity-plus-one big? Is it simply that when we say “infinite” we just mean very, very big? And what, exactly, is it expanding into? If it’s contracting, when is it nearly-infinite big? What is where the universe used to be?
Think on, we’ll get back to Hank and Bob now. Several weeks later.
Hank: Bad news Bob, recent findings suggest the uniform nature of the energy in the universe means that something as chaotic as an explosion couldn’t have shaped it.
Bob: Shit! Okay…we need a New Theory.
Hank: How about this…an initial explosion and then something else.
Bob: I get it! Initial explosion…but then a subsequent inflation. Our universe was blown up like a balloon. Highly controlled, totally uniform.
Hank: The numbers make sense again!
They high five.
Author’s note: It seems to me that a massive explosion in a vacuum (or whatever it was that existed before anything existed) would create a perfectly uniform outcome. But that’s just my lay opinion. Feel free to ignore/counterargue/lambast.
But the numbers make sense again, and that is very important. Phew.
Everything in the universe orbits something else. The Moon orbits us, we orbit the Sun, the Sun orbits the centre of the Milky Way. (We’re not sure what the Milky Way orbits…but its probably very big. And almost certainly not invisible. Probably.)
If the Big Bang numbers are right, then gravity is too weak to make orbit possible. At the speed the stars are moving they should break the gravitational pull of their respective galaxies and hurtle off into space inconveniencing passers by. But they don’t.
Let’s return to our physicists:
We find Hank and Bob still in their study. A little tired, a little twitchy. Covered in stubble.
Bob: This gravity thing…it’s a bit of a puzzler isn’t it?
Hank snaps is fingers in a moment of inspiration
Hank: I think I’ve sorted it. Everything, everything – wait for it – actually weighs more than it actually weighs. That means more gravity. More gravity means not having to change the numbers that make sense. And the numbers making sense is very important.
Bob: But it doesn’t.
Bob: The only problem with stuff weighing more than it actually weighs is that it…doesn’t. No matter how much you tell something it should be heavier, it stubbornly refuses to see sense. It’s like all the gases and rocks and coffee tables in the universe have no appreciation of numbers that make sense.
Hank: Ah-hah…but what if there’s stuff out there, really heavy stuff, that you just can’t see? It’s all over the place. Adding an intangible weight to everything. But you can’t see it or feel it or detect it in anyway.
Bob: A sort of “dark matter”. Very heavy but with no density, mass, or reflective capabilities?
Hank: Exactly, there’s no question it exists. The only question is where.
Bob: Well…surely if the universe is uniform it exists everywhere
Hank: Good point. Write that down.
Bob: Great We finally got that sorted. Circulate the memo.
Hank: Now… is there anyway we could apply this to hiccups and bumble-bees?
This is where we came in.