MUSING ABOUT SCIENCE
Note: Using Microsoft Word, I typed the original using superscripts to write exponents, powers of 10. Pasting such on Word Press, my blog mechanism, I find such superscripts do not convert and are shown as normal script. Thus 10 to the exponent of 22 is shown only as 1022, or something like that. Bear with that difficulty and just remember when you see a 10 with numbers after it, it is intended to be 10 to that exponent or “power of 10”. I can do the math but not the word engineering!!!
Having recently read “The Cosmic Landscape” by Leonard Susskind, one of the founders of String Theory, my mind has wandered as far “out” as it can go as well as far “down”, as well. I have wondered about our human limits, thus far, to understand both the Cosmos and the very small things making up that Cosmos. Thus this blog of idle dabbling and thinking about the “world” of science as described at least in that book.
Just how far can we see today? That answer seems to be about 1.3 x 1022 kilometers, “out”. That is simply the distance that light travels in 14 Billion years. Simple algebra is all the math needed to reach that conclusion. But what is beyond that distance becomes the question.
Susskind offers the hypothesis that pure energy, the plasma supposedly created at the instant and of the “big bang” is just beyond that horizon. In other words we are in a universe some 1022 kilometers in, well what, is the next question. Are we contained within a spherical universe with a diameter (or would it be a radius) of that many kilometers? Well maybe not suggests the author.
Maybe the universe is flat, not spherical. We can see the horizon on the X and Y plane of a flat surface. Einstein always proposed a spherical universe such that if a bullet was shot, at the speed of light, eventually it would come back and hit the shooter in the head. String Theory at least suggests that might not be the case. Instead the indestructible bullet would just keep going beyond our horizon, into the plasma of our creation, come out the other side of that field of energy and just keep going to ……….?
How ridiculous one might suggest, a “forever traveling” bullet. Well it would not be surprising to the bullet, as long as it travelled at the speed of light. Einstein figured that one out. When something travels at the speed of light, Time, remains unchanging. As far as all that energy beyond our horizon can tell it was just “born”. Its age is zero as it continues to fly around in space at the speed of light.
That of course raises the question of what, exactly, is time, the fourth dimension according to Einstein, along with X,Y AND Z (to make a sphere moving somewhere in time). I wonder if a year is something different on another planet within our own universe, one that circles its own sun (star) once every ???? Would “things” on such a planet think a year was different from the one we use to measure time? Probably. Or instead is there some universal clock that keeps time in something other than years, minutes, seconds or very larger (or smaller) units of time?
But so what you say, as no bullet will ever be able to travel at the speed of light. When any mass moves that fast the mass itself become infinite, according to Einstein and his equations, accepted by just about all scientists today. Only photons, units of energy containing no mass at all, can move at the speed of light, and not beyond that speed, as determined so far by science, at least in our universe.
So much for moving “out” into space. What about moving “down” into the very small segments of space. So far we have developed “microscopes” that can now see “down” to somewhere in the range of 10-22 meters. That is a decimal point with 22 zeros before the unit of 1 appears.
But Susskind suggests if we just built a better, more powerful, microscope we could see farther “down” into elementary space. Maybe the same is true with a bigger, more powerful, telescope as well to expand our horizon of observation in the Cosmos. But so far we can only see “down” about as far as we can see “out”, for now, at least in terms of positive or negative powers of 10.
How do we thus far find a way to see “down” to a very small segment of space? We do so by building very large accelerators, moving very small particles, like protons and neutrons and electrons, at very high speeds. The higher the speeds attained the more energy required to move small particles at such speeds, ones approaching but never reaching the speed of light. Those small particles then hit “things” and we see, yep, smaller things, like quarks, bosons, and some 20 or so other “things”.
Now for a really big leap. Susskind suggests that if we could build a big enough accelerator we might well find the smallest of the small, the actual “building blocks” of mass. But to do so he estimates the accelerator would have to be the size of our own galaxy and it would burn 3 Trillion barrels of oil per second to create the needed energy to move very small particles very fast indeed.
Susskind further explains that Plank, the man determining the Plank Constant, a very important number in quantum mechanics, thought there was a limit to “small”. He proposed something on the order of
10-33 centimeters (or was it meters?). But again, according to Susskind, we would have to have a galaxy size accelerator using a star (fusion energy) to power it to see that far “down”.
Then of course there becomes the issue of “space vacuum”. Take a small segment of space and see what is in it, if anything. Susskind believes there is all sorts of “stuff” within a space vacuum, but we can’t see it, yet, except maybe for very short periods of time in a very large, earth bound accelerator. He believes as well that is where a Higgs Boson is to be found.
OK, so what does a Higgs boson do? We know, or think, that a field of energy, like an electromagnetic field contains photons of energy. A field of gravity contains gravitons. It would lead one to believe that a Higgs field would contain, yep, Higgs bosons. And within String Theory mathematics, but certainly no direct observations, yet, those Higgs fields COULD define the nature of other physical laws in a particular Higgs field.
String Theory goes on, mathematically, to suggest a huge number of various Higgs fields, all at varying levels of intensity of Higgs bosons, all “over the place”, place being defined now as “space containing multiverses”, other universes. That number happens to be about 10500.
That is what Susskind, and others, describe as a Cosmic “Landscape”. It is a vast amount of space with energy fields, Higgs Fields as thus far best determined, of high, low and in between levels of Higgs bosons. Think of such a landscape as one on earth with high, low and in between altitudes; thus a landscape containing mountains, valleys and plains, of energy in space, or mass on earth.
One last question that comes to me after reading the “book” by Susskind. It involves the equation
Even I understand, well sort of, how that equation moves in the direction to the “left”. I spent a career with the conversation of mass to energy, by splitting large atoms into small ones to create energy. But I am unaware of how to move the equation to the “right”, convert energy to mass. What makes that happen, I wonder? How does one take several photons of energy and convert them to mass? I can calculate what happens (algebra again) when mass goes to energy or energy turns to mass. I know how to make it happen to convert mass to energy. But I don’t know how to convert energy into mass, which obviously happened shortly after the “big bang” occurred and might still be happening “out there in the plasma” surrounding, maybe, our own universe. It may well be happening in our own sun right now as well, “making” more mass to send out into space. Who knows for sure, yet.
Is that, maybe, why we still believe our universe is expanding, plasma being converted to mass “out there” well beyond our horizon today? As well, recall all those photons in the plasma have been moving around at the speed of light. If or when such photons change to mass, that mass must slow down. But how slow must it become. Is that, maybe, why we see outer galaxies moving away from us much faster than the ones close by? Hubble discovered that phenomena and “science” stills thinks such is true today. Maybe after light speed energy turns to mass, the recently created mass still moves very fast and slows down later on due to the force of gravity “behind it”.
Final thought. Just how much energy is in that plasma surrounding our own universe? Use Einstein’s equation and one can determine (using algebra) how much total mass our own universe might ultimately achieve. At that point the plasma is exhausted, we run out of universal gas, and the universe then begins to collapse upon itself due to gravity. Over time, all that mass further contracts, like in a black hole. And as that “funnel” gets smaller, with mass ever becoming more dense, a singularity occurs and the black hole vanishes. Poof, there goes the universe.
Or instead does “this universe” simple show up elsewhere as a singularity of intense energy and the big bang happens all over again. Could that be where we “came from”, I wonder?