Tag Archives: Physics

A String Theory Vision: Chapter 2


String Theory

The Spirituality of String Theory

 

String Theory or its close cousin M-theory, with their ten or eleven dimensions, is a universe beyond our comprehension.  Cosmologists are still struggling with its workings and what it means for our existence.  The origin of String Theory was in trying to describe what happened before the Big Bang. Cosmology and theology are drawing ever closer together as both sides seek to answer such basic theological-cosmological questions as:

  • Where did we come from?
  • Where are we going?
  • Are there other worlds like ours?
  • Why is there something rather than nothing?

Perhaps the most theological question raised by cosmology today is:

Is there a design for the universe, or is it simply the result of random chances raised to the billion-billion-billion-billionth power in some cosmic roll of the dice?

There are scientists of all stripes on both sides of this divide.  Both sides can make elegant and impassioned arguments to support their positions.

The old paradigm of science vs. religion basically required that you had to choose one side or the other.  Either you could check the weather forecast or pray for rain.  Either you could believe that everything happens by the uncaring forces of random chance.  Or, you could believe in divine providence.

In the old “normal-space” view of the universe, we were bound by the three dimensions of space plus one of time.  We lived in a series of boxes divided by walls, floors and ceilings representing height, width and depth.  Anything that did not fit into such three-dimensional boxes was simply not part of the normal-space universe and could be ignored.

But the three dimensions of normal-space could never capture all that was happening. For example, Chinese acupuncture seems to have no medical connection to our physiology.  Perhaps a better way of stating that is that western medicine cannot make that connection.  And yet acupuncture seems to be providing health, strength and vitality to its adherents.  The skeptic could say that any benefit derived from acupuncture could be purely delusional, caused by wishful thinking or caused by the placebo effect.  But let’s not be hasty.

Acupuncture involves the flow of a special energy called “qi “, which travels along meridians of the body. But these supposed meridians appear on any western anatomy charts.  The literal translation of qi is wind, breath or gas but is often translated as life force.  The equivalent word in New Testament Greek is pneuma, which means air or breath but is usually translated as spirit.

Visualizing String Theory requires the ability to think in paradox, where two seemingly contradictory ideas can be held together with a sense of deeper harmony.  Paradoxical thinking requires a more expansive view of the universe than does our ordinary normal-space existence with its notion of certainty.  Perhaps there is some efficacy to acupuncture, even if western medicine cannot understand it.  This is neither to support nor deny acupuncture, but only to suggest that there is more going on in the universe than we can comprehend with our limited, normal-space thinking.

Perhaps the extra dimensions in String Theory give us the space to allow for dimensions of existence that we have previously thought of as magical, mystical, spiritual or religious.  And, here is a radical thought.  Perhaps String Theory not only allows for the mystical, but perhaps even requires it.

Energy conduits enter our homes to provide radio signals, electricity, clean water, natural gas, telephone service, Internet access, and a host of other connections to the outside world.  These special conduits or channels enormously affect the normal-space boxes in which we live, and provide a host of special powers that would have been seen as miraculous even a few hundred years ago.  This analogy may help us to explore the extra dimensions of String Theory.  Perhaps one of the String Theory extra dimensions is a channel for qi, a force that we cannot access until we understand it.

As a Christian, and more specifically a Calvinist, I have always found the universe to be a sacred place filled with divine logos.  “Logo” is Greek for “word” in standard New Testament usage.  But it means more than just the spoken word.  It also means order, pattern, or design. When we speak of divine logos, we are speaking about the divine order that pervades all things. It covers the birth of the universe, the mating habits of tsetse flies, the DNA molecule, the Van Allen radiation belts, the formation of the planets, and the life cycles of stars.

To perceive the divine logos in all things is to live in a spiritual dimension.  And now, String Theory may allow such a metaphysical statement to be incorporated into an expanded view of the universe. Perhaps there is actually in the physical universe a place beyond normal-space where spirit dwells.

Cosmological Mysteries Needing Answers


The more we learn about cosmology and theoretical physics the more questions seem to arise.  Here are some of the most urgent questions of this age:

Is there extraterrestrial life?

This is almost a certainty.  There is most likely extraterrestrial life in our own solar system.  We need to look at places such as Europa and Enceladus. And, if we find a second venue for life in our own solar system we may well conclude that life is ubiquitous throughout the galaxy.

There is life on Earth everywhere we look.  There is life in the cooling tanks of nuclear power plants.  There is life living on chemosynthesis in rocks miles underground.  There is life in the boiling paint pots full of caustic chemicals in Yellowstone Park.  There is live in the deepest volcanic vents under the Earth’s oceans, surviving in boiling temperatures, extreme pressures, in total darkness, and it feeds off of the toxic sulfur fumes being vented by undersea volcanoes.

Given the tenacity of life on Earth there simply must be other life in the Universe.

Is there intelligent, technological life on other planets with radio telescopes?

This is a hard one.  Perhaps, but the vastness of space and time may mean that even if they might exist (have existed or will exist), we may never be able to connect with them.

Did life transfer to Earth by means of panspermia?

Perhaps there could be some local spreading of life by panspermia.  For example, rocks blasted of the surface of Mars carrying primitive organisms could perhaps have landed on Earth and seeded life here.  But the distance would need to be very small.  The Star Trek notion of panspermia on a galactic level seems beyond ridiculous.  And even if we embrace panspermia, what does it actually accomplish for us?  What would it matter if life arose on Mars and was transferred to the Earth?  We still need to answer the question of how life arose, and panspermia seems only to delay and complicate the answer.  Instead of answering how life arose on Earth, we would then have to answer how life arose on Mars, how it transferred to Earth, and how it came to flourish on Earth.

Can we find a Higgs particle, and will it be what we have conjectured?                    DONE! 07/04/2012

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is looking for this now.  If CERN fails to find it does it mean that the Higgs particle (AKA Higgs boson) does not exist, or does it mean that we will need a much higher energy level to find it?

The Higgs particle is hypothesized as a particle that produces mass.  It is required by the Standard Model. If this concept is incorrect then it is back to the drawing boards.

Can we find the graviton particle?

A graviton particle is required by quantum mechanics.  If we fail to find one it will be problematic.  A graviton particle is most likely the messenger particle of gravity, similar to a photon which is the messenger particle of light.

What is dark matter?

Is this some non-luminous form of baryonic matter?  Or is it black holes or composed of exotic particles such as WIMPS (weakly interactive massive particles) or neutrinos?

Can we find gravity waves?

Gravity waves are required by general relativity.  There are gravity “telescopes” in use.

Note: These last several questions show how little that we know about gravity, even after the breakthroughs by Sir Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler and Albert Einstein.

What is the Relationship between super-massive black holes and their respective galaxies?

We know that galaxies form with black holes in their centers, and that the mass of the black hole is directly proportional to the mass of the galaxy.  But we do not understand this relationship or how the black holes and galaxies form.

Will we be able to travel faster than the speed of light?

If so, it will be through the process of warping space.  This is a Star Trek concept that actually jives with general relativity.  So it may be possible.

Without warp drive or similar process, any interstellar voyages would be impossible.  It would take us 80,000 years at space shuttle speed to reach the nearest star.  And even if we could increase the speed by a factor of ten, it would still take us 8,000 years.  Civilization on Earth as measured by the birth of agriculture and walled cities in only 10,000 years old.  So, the notion of making voyages requiring thousands of years is not likely to occur.

Are there other universes?

We use to believe that the Universe was all that there is.  Now it is not so clear.  Some have said that there may be a “Multiverse” made up of a vast number of discreet universes, each one like a soap-bubble in a bath tub.  String theory and the related membrane theory allows for such a concept. 

What is dark energy?

This is truly one of the great mysteries of the cosmos, and perhaps the most disturbing question.  Just as we are starting to make sense of the four fundamental forces and how they can work together, we are now faced with this new mystery that totally disrupts our existing models.  It is a force that we know little about.  But what we do know is that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating, and the name we give to this phenomenon is dark energy.  The questions here are endless.  Is it a repulsive form of gravity?  If not, how does it relate to the other fundamental forces?

One recent hypothesis is that our universe is simply one of many, and that it has an edge. This new hypothesis is that galaxies in our universe are streaming to the edges, drawn by gravitational attraction of masses in adjoining universes.

String theory

So far, string theory is nothing more than an elegant thought experiment, sort of like believing in leprechauns.  String theory is almost too beautiful  NOT to be true.  But then again, so is a belief in leprechauns.  Will there ever be an experiment that can give some substance to this vision?

Can we unify quantum mechanics and relativity?

We have two rival and dissimilar theories of the Universe.  Quantum mechanics describes the world of the very small, and the forces of electromagnetism, strong nuclear and weak nuclear forces.  Relativity deals with the very large, and the force of gravity.  Where things break down is in objects such as black holes, where the subject is both hyper-massive and exceedingly small.  This is where physics breaks down and our view of the Universe becomes schizophrenic.