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Life and the Universe
Engelsk tekst om alt fra starten, og frem til livet.
“Humans have great trouble with the term becoming.”- Terry Pratchett.
The man might have a point. We do have problems with it. We will come to the point of this text in a short moment, but first I must explain this, to be able to explain why I can’t explain the big bang. We think to become means to take thing 1, apply a process, and get thing 2. It probably relates back to primal man (or woman, for that matter). It is, after all, the evidence of our eyes. You take a full glass (thing 1), you empty or drink it (the process), and you get an empty glass. You take a live insect, you squish it, and you get a dead bug. Another way of saying it is: when we say create, we mean change. The beginning of the universe is not like that, that’s the thing that makes it hard for us to think about it. There is no “thing one”, however much our brain wants there to be one. If there was, you’d hit an obvious paradox. Here’s the thing if you think in normal human lines. You have the universe (thing 2). It started with the big bang (the process). There must be something to start the process (thing 1). What caused thing one to be there? Now we hit the first problem. If we attempt to solve it, one might say: “It was around forever.” Well, what caused it to be around forever? This is the other problem. It all goes to show, normal human thinking does not always work when applied to science. The working theory is: there was no thing one. Then what caused the big bang? Human have great problems with the term become.
However it worked out, it created space, time, and all matter now in existence. Well, ok, that’s a lie. What it DID create was time, space, hydrogen, helium, and various isotopes and ions of that two, most of which did not last a long time. A theory is that space had to cool down a bit to create most of the heavy stuff, and quite a few more were made in dying stars. Right, that explains the elements. How did this lead to life, fish, lizards, and later intelligent life?
What’s next? That’s right, the sun and the planets. The most popular theory runs like this: First, make a GIANT ball of gases and dust. Much bigger than the sun we have today. Leave it to physics for a while. As the ball condenses to a point roughly at the centre, it spins faster (this is due to a law of motion called angular momentum, which is summed up as this: If a spinning body contracts, the rate of the spin increases.), making gas at a central plain expand into a lumpy disc around the central ball, due to centrifugal forces. The reason why it is “lumpy” is because matter collects into points, which then grow as they pick up gas, dust, and smaller points (If you want to know more about attraction of bodies of matter, read Einstein’s books for more details). As the points grow, they either become denser or giant gas balls. The debris (leftover dust and gas) forms into rings, which either stay rings, or become lumpy and form moons, in the end. This theory explains a lot of things about the solar system. It explains the relative size and spin or the planets and the sun. It also explains the density and build up of the planets (heavy materials close to the sun, small amounts, lighter gases further out, in BIG amounts, and tiny amounts of gas and dust at the outer edge.)
Now, it’s time to take a closer look at the Earth, shall we? At this point, it’s still only a molten ball of iron. Well, mostly iron, anyway. This fact is the cause of the earth’s magnetic field. Here’s what happens (well, maybe not, but at least the theory is more advanced than what we’ve learned up until now). Closer to the middle of the ball, the pressures are higher. Under high pressures, two things happen. 1: The temperatures rise, making solid elements fluid. 2: High pressures cause fluid elements to become solid. This gives us a molten iron ball with a solid centre. Now, we all know temperature is caused by atoms moving due to added energy. So what happens to that energy when the ball at the centre can’t become fluid? It can’t just disappear into empty space, there isn’t any for miles. So it has to go somewhere. It has to go into all that other iron around it. Now, as the iron around the centre gets heated up, it becomes lighter than the iron around it, and starts to float away from the centre, giving space for colder iron to fill in, and get heated up. As the metal starts to get a far way away from the centre, it chills down, and begins to sink again. This means that the iron, (and magma in the higher levels,) is always in motion, making a natural dynamo. Another nice thing about iron, is that it can crystallize, meaning it can lead electricity in fluid form (in solid form as well, but that’s not important at this point, since most of it IS molten). When you push a lot of electricity around a central point, what you get is a, in this case giant, electromagnet. Of course, there is more to it, like ionized gases in the earth’s atmosphere, but what happens around the centre is the most important bit.
Now it’s the seas turn. The early atmosphere was mostly nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and compounds like carbon dioxide, and water vapour. Hydrogen and helium last very long, they were to light, and were pushed out into space, and probably picked up by some other planet. Now, due to early volcanism, the earth was too hot for the water to form liquid. However, the earth and its atmosphere started to slowly cool. Sunlight also split some of the water into oxygen and hydrogen. The hydrogen promptly disappeared into space. This caused changes in the atmosphere’s pressure, with the effect that the boiling point of water increased. As the temperature of the atmosphere goes down it meets the boiling point of water going up, the water vapour becomes liquid, and it begins to rain. As the water hits the still warm rocks, it turns back into vapour, which in turn again becomes rain. The cycle goes on for thousands of years, with constant rain. After a few millenniums, the crust cools down to the boiling point of water, and the rain calms down, and you get the huge bodies of water that are today called oceans.
Now it’s time for something interesting, that is, at least interesting to us. Let’s go back to the first recorded form of life, cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, which is a misleading name. Modern cyanobacteria are brown, not blue-green like the primal ones, and beside, it’s not even an algae. The colour comes from something like chlorophyll, but the early bacteria, and ones before cyanobacteria which we don’t know of, didn’t do photosynthesis in the way we use the term today; they used other sources of energy. We have problems defining what these sources were, since most of the evidence has been destroyed by later creatures, but that’s not important. There are tens, maybe hundreds of ways for life to arise; if it didn’t take one route to become life, it could have taken any other. One possible way is starting life as a random reaction in an underwater volcanic vent, and let it get the energy needed from pyrite, a compound of iron and sulphur. The problem here, however, is the fact the sometimes vents close, and others open elsewhere. There is no way for the bacteria to cross the cold water between… or is there? In 1988 Kevin Speer found out that the rotation of the earth causes the hot water rising from volcanic vents form into underwater tornados or vortexes of warm water, on which the bacteria could ride. They wouldn’t all make it, but that’s not important, as long as some of them did.
That’s it for now. What happens later comes down to evolution, which we’ll take a closer look at some other time.
Well, let’s start the discussions. I’ll start at the top, or more accurately, the beginning. There is of course, more than one theory about the beginning of the universe, the most popular being: God created it. I am not a follower of this theory for many reasons. 1. I’m an atheist. 2. It does not solve the problem; you can still ask “what did God make it from”, or even better; “where did this God chap come from, then?”, and you would still get the same problem. 3. I think God was a way of thinking invented by primal man to explain things we didn’t understand. It’s a sort of “basic theory of everything”, if you will. Now that we have better ways of explaining things around us, believing in God would be just stupid. (He might still hang around in our ways of thinking though, even if we stop believing in him. It has something to do with culture, or extelligence. (Which I will also explain in full some other time.)) The reason I think, other than culture, that so many people today still follows this theory, is that it’s easy. No hard, long, boring explanations, you just say God’s behind it all, and that’s that. But if you think about it for a while using modern logic, several problems will arise.
Now, how about some other ways for the universe to start? Well, there might have been another universe before this one, which could have ended with a big crunch, and the point of matter caused by this would explode and create this universe. This is also rather silly, although it might have some point. There are some problems: 1. again, this does not solve the main problem; “where did that universe come from? What about the one before that one?” etc… unless there is only a limited number of universes that started like this, and the first one started with the big bang. We may not live in the first one, after all. 2. The other problem is that some theorist say there is only a limited amount of energy in existence (This makes no sense, since the universe may not be limited, which also makes no sense to our thinking. Then again, neither does the possibility that it does not go on forever, since then we ask “what’s beyond there, then?”). This would mean that the cycle of universes goes on and on, getting dimmer and dimmer, until it stops, ending with the ultimate singularity; a point containing everything in existence. Thinking like this really gives you a headache.
I’ll take a closer look on our solar system now. There are some other theories of the formation of solar systems, the most easy to grasp being this one: First you make the star. Then, you fling a few giant rocks at it, and hope some go into orbit. This is a stupid theory, due to some basic facts of chance. The chance that one of the balls are going to go into orbit is like throwing a golf ball at a hole, and make it spin around the edge, not fall in or go past. Imagine the chances of nine balls making it. That’s not going to happen. Besides, there are solar systems other places in the universe, and this theory does not take into account the relative sizes, speeds, and order of the planets. The only positive thing I can say about this theory is: It’s simple to grasp.
The third way is to have two stars pass close by each other, and pull out of each other a long cigar shaped body of gas. This theory explains the relative size of the planets, but that’s about it. Unless it’s a sphere, the sun won’t be able to hold onto most of the gas, and it would disappear into space, like a single drop of water in a thunderstorm. As for the remaining gas, well… why should it remain a cigar? It’d most likely spread out, and become some sort of atmosphere for the sun, or just become a part of it again. And what are the chances of two stars getting that close, anyway?
I’ll skip the chapters about magnetism and about the sea, since I have no other theories, and the only thing I could think of mentioning regarding the magnetism chapter is lies-to-children (also known as education), which is a human term, and therefore won’t be that interesting in THIS text.
About life; like I’ve said, there are tens, maybe hundreds of ways for life to arise. Another one is clay. Clay forms tiny, complex, structures, which it can copy by adding another layer of clay, which can then fall of, and become the base for the building of new structures. Carbon can stick to clay surfaces, and use this to form complex molecules, proteins, maybe even DNA. There is however, one major problem with this theory, since it does not tell of any new source of energy for the new bacteria colonies. Looking past that, this theory has just a valid point as the one I put in the main text, and I might as well have put up this one.
There is, in my opinion, no reason to mark life as “special matter”. It’s just a carbon based compound. This sentence was written by an atheist, and if you want to argue, you might as well try to convert me. (Read line 2-14 on page 3 for my point of view on God.). “Meaning”, I think, is an abstract term defined by humans to reduce existential anxiety.
And another point about the universe I would like to make is: It is a chaotic place. When we look up at the night sky, it looks stable, calm, and everlasting… on our timescales. If you look at the universe in the term of deep time, space is a place full of action, drama, near-accidents, and things we will refuse to believe if we are told about them today. On the other hand, what does belief have to do with science? A better word would be accept.
And it might all end with a big crunch. The ultimate singularity… and beyond.
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