No, this is not a goodbye post though I’m certain to look back at such a post title with a chuckle. I was going to write about the original conditions of the universe and demonstrate that our laws of physics could have been quite different and still work. The reasoning was that our universe has evolved with the laws that we have and obeying to such laws in its expansion, clustering of matter and energy and even the emergence of life. If we change these laws from the outset, the universe would have evolved differently and physicists would have discovered a different set of laws. Perhaps I will still write that post with examples of fractals that are the same but evolve under different conditions.
But as I was pondering these universes, I asked the ‘why’ question. Why did our our universe have the laws of physics that it has that has allowed for an expanding universe where at least on one planet life has emerged? And the related question: why did we emerge at all?
If the laws of physics had been different then the universe might have been a massive fog of random energy. Or it might have imploded after its initial emergence. Or it might have crystallized into a massive steady lattice of matter. But in none of these scenarios, life would have emerged.
But it has.
Of all the possible scenarios, our universe seems to be at least one of the configurations where life has emerged. Why? I don’t believe in intelligent design and as far as I can tell, there is a very good answer that does involve design but it isn’t intelligent.
A mere two centuries ago, Darwin worked out why life has evolved as it has. Each species evolves randomly but only those evolutions that are best adapted to its environment will survive. This tells a convincing story that you can take as far back as you like, from the first complex molecule as far as I’m concerned.
But natural selection doesn’t quite work for the universe because there is only one and it appears to survive quite well without the need to compete with other universes.
Blogging friend John has pointed me to Adrian Bejan with his Constructal Law on several occasions and I have to admit that I didn’t get it at first. The law states that “For a finite-size system to persist in time (to live), it must evolve in such a way that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.”
Adrian Bejan is a professor of mechanical engineering and naturally he focuses on thermodynamics. Hence the reference to currents and flows. What this law is saying is that natural systems, whether they are rivers, snowflakes or bridges, there ‘design’ will evolve to maximize their usefulness and optimal use of their resources. In a sense this is also a survival of the fittest law of nature. But it isn’t limited to natural species.
I have watched a few videos by Adrian Bejan and although he is onto something, he is not a great communicator. You need to read between the lines to get it. What I think he is saying is that there is a natural force of design that leads natural systems to evolve to a state where they survive. Intuitively this is obvious. If a system doesn’t evolve towards its own survival than it must evolve to its own demise. If something exists, it clearly has not met its demise, ergo a force a design can be traced back. To use genetic fractals language: “an evolved system has by definition successful design at its roots”.
The universe is an evolved system, as is life. Ergo the universe and life have successful design at their core. I hasten to point out that this doesn’t imply intelligent design but design as a natural force
But how is this possible? If the Big Bang model holds – which is not certain – then our universe literally only got one shot at the design of its laws of physics and its initial parameters.
(what is before this line below, is the results of pure reasoning. What follows below is pure speculation. But I like it so I will share it.
It is said that the Big Bang was triggered by a fluctuation in a quantum field. Regardless of your creed, you should raise a big question about this. I mean, how can a quantum field exist before anything else? I won’t go into that now but if following my last post, you want to substitute quantum field for mind or existence or any other term, I’m OK with that. But here I will use quantum field.
Quantum fields are strange concepts. They are fields in a physics sense. They are all pervasive and are fundamentally all that there is. An electron or proton are a quantum field vibration. This field is also a statistical thing, it represents the possibility of something. Whether that something happens, depends on whether it is being observed.
Yes, this is bizarre. To quote Niels Bohr: “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. This sounds eerily like “the Tao that can be named is not the Tao”, but I am not the first to notice that. In fact Fritjof Capra wrote a book about this.
In a strange way, quantum fields ‘know’ when it is observed and create that which which is most probably expected. Take a quantum computer for example. If you give a complex question to a quantum computer, it will ‘consider’ all the possible answers but only retain the right answer. It does this all at the same time. It doesn’t try one answer and then the next, instead it checks all potential answers against the question that is asked by the observer and then kindly provides the right answer.
What if that first fluctuation in the quantum field that gave rise to the Big Bang, did the same thing as a quantum computer. ‘It’ ‘considered’ all the possible options for the universe and retained the one that “would evolve into a successful system with the most chance of survival”?
This would explain why one Big Bang was enough to create a successful universe that obeys the Constructal Law among all the other successful laws of physics.
This doesn’t explain why there is a quantum field in the first place nor “what observed the initial quantum field fluctuation with the expectation to create a successful universe”. Since intelligent design can’t be the answer, I favor the idea of the Constructal Law catching its own tail and spinning around until it gets it right.
But to be honest, this is beyond speculation, even for me. I guess I still haven’t figured it out. There will have to be a sequel.