BLACK HOLES as REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS
by Cadell Last / May 13th, 2013
“If you regularly read this blog, you already know that I believe adaptive evolutionary processes explain system order in the universe. There does appear to be a unity between how systems evolve (whether they be chemical, biological, cultural, technological, etc.). In this sense, selection-like processes generate order in the natural world that many cultural groups assumed was intelligently designed. But can selection be extended to explain the universe itself? Before humans knew that there were other planets in the universe, many people believed that Earth could only be explained by intelligent design (e.g., God). However, we now know that the Earth’s existence can be explained by probability. There are likely way more than sextillion planets in the observable universe, so it is not necessarily surprising that one suitable for complex life exists. In fact, it would not be surprising if billions of planets suitable for complex life existed just within our own galaxy.
But people who make the God-of-the-gaps argument never really go away. Now that it is intellectually bankrupt to argue Earth (or life, or our star, or our solar system, or our galaxy) was intelligently designed, many turn to the universe itself. As physicists have pointed out, our universe is well-designed for the emergence of intelligent life (although not that well-designed). Therefore, it is the job of 21st century science to uncover the mysteries as to why our universe appears to have the physical constants it does. At the moment, the theory is far ahead of the empirical evidence (unlike the situation in evolutionary biology). A dominant theory proposed to explain our universe’s physical constants is Cosmic Natural Selection (CNS). This theory, first explored by physicist Lee Smolin suggests that:
black holes may be mechanisms of universe reproduction within the multiverse, an extended cosmological environment in which universes grow, die, and reproduce. Rather than a “dead” singularity at the centre of blackholes, a point where energy and space go to extremely high densities, what occurs in Smolin’s theory is a “bounce” that produces a new universe with parameters stochastically different from the parent universe. Smolin theorizes that these descendant universes will be likely to have similar fundamental physical parameters to the parent universe (such as the fine structure constant, the proton to electron mass ratio, and others) but that these parameters, and perhaps to some degree the laws that derive from them, will be slightly altered in some stochastic fashion during the replication process. Each universe therefore potentially gives rise to as many new universes as it has black holes.
The analogy with how selection operates in biological systems is impossible to miss. Given that this is how complexity is generated by other natural systems, it seems logical that this could be the case of our universe (within the multiverse). In fact, a study published this month in the journal Complexityposits that Smolin’s CNS theory would mathematically be in concordance with the production of universe’s increasingly likely to produce black holes (and therefore universe’s conducive to complex life).
Let that sink in. If Smolin’s theory is true, our universe exists the way it does because of a cosmic natural selection between universe’s within a multiverse of universes with different physical laws. But all theories need empirical evidence. There is currently no evidence for the existence of either a multiverse or successive generations of universes that transmit their fundamental constants. And it’s possible we won’t have that evidence in the near future (or ever). Either way, I’m optimistic. Advances in physics theory are likely to further support the idea of a multiverse and the CNS. And I wouldn’t bet against CNS being lifted from theoretical obscurity. The idea has a certain Copernican principle to it. Just as scientific inquiry revealed that our planet, solar system, and galaxy were not particularly special, it seems increasingly likely that scientific inquiry will do the same for our universe as well.”
Did the universe evolve to make black holes? / May 06, 2013
The maths underpinning Darwin’s theory of natural selection could explain how the universe may be ‘designed’ to make black holes. New Oxford University research builds on the ‘cosmological natural selection hypothesis’ – an idea first put forward in the 1990s to explain the apparent ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe’s basic parameters to allow for the existence of atoms, galaxies, and life itself. Cosmological natural selection proposes that, if new universes are born inside black holes, a ‘multiverse’ of many possible universes could be shaped by a process similar to natural selection so that successive generations of universes evolve to become better at making black holes. The Oxford team of evolutionary theorist Andy Gardner and theoretical physicist Joseph Conlon found that a basic equation from evolutionary genetics – called Price’s theorem – can capture the process of cosmological natural selection and explain how the universe seems designed for the purpose of making black holes rather like a fish can seem ‘designed’ to swim underwater or a bird can appear ‘designed’ to fly. A report of the research is published in the journal Complexity online. ‘This idea of cosmological natural selection is controversial, and physicists have pointed out all sorts of problems with it. But we were interested in seeing if its basic evolutionary logic actually works,’ said Dr Andy Gardner of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, lead author of the paper. ‘We found that a general equation from evolutionary genetics, Price’s theorem, can help us to model how selection can work not only at the scale of genes and organisms but also at that of something as unimaginably vast as multiple universes,’ said Dr Gardner. ‘Our model uses maths similar to the mathematical theory underlying Darwinian adaptation in biology, which explains how the dynamics of natural selection leads to organisms appearing designed to maximize their fitness.’ The researchers point out that the evolution of universes is in many ways very different from the evolution of animals. For a start, in a multiverse of many possible universes there is no real concept of change over time. However, their models of evolving universes are quite similar to models of bacterial evolution – where generations evolve out of the asexual budding of cells.
WHITE HOLES, WORMHOLES
by Ker Than / April 9, 2010
Like part of a cosmic Russian doll, our universe may be nested inside a black hole that is itself part of a larger universe. In turn, all the black holes found so far in our universe—from the microscopic to the supermassive—may be doorways into alternate realities. According to a mind-bending new theory, a black hole is actually a tunnel between universes—a type of wormhole. The matter the black hole attracts doesn’t collapse into a single point, as has been predicted, but rather gushes out a “white hole” at the other end of the black one, the theory goes. In a recent paper published in the journal Physics Letters B, Indiana University physicist Nikodem Poplawski presents new mathematical models of the spiraling motion of matter falling into a black hole. His equations suggest such wormholes are viable alternatives to the “space-time singularities” that Albert Einstein predicted to be at the centers of black holes. According to Einstein’s equations for general relativity, singularities are created whenever matter in a given region gets too dense, as would happen at the ultradense heart of a black hole. Einstein’s theory suggests singularities take up no space, are infinitely dense, and are infinitely hot—a concept supported by numerous lines of indirect evidence but still so outlandish that many scientists find it hard to accept. If Poplawski is correct, they may no longer have to. According to the new equations, the matter black holes absorb and seemingly destroy is actually expelled and becomes the building blocks for galaxies, stars, and planets in another reality.
Wormholes Solve Big Bang Mystery?
The notion of black holes as wormholes could explain certain mysteries in modern cosmology, Poplawski said. For example, the big bang theory says the universe started as a singularity. But scientists have no satisfying explanation for how such a singularity might have formed in the first place. If our universe was birthed by a white hole instead of a singularity, Poplawski said, “it would solve this problem of black hole singularities and also the big bang singularity.” Wormholes might also explain gamma ray bursts, the second most powerful explosions in the universe after the big bang. Gamma ray bursts occur at the fringes of the known universe. They appear to be associated with supernovae, or star explosions, in faraway galaxies, but their exact sources are a mystery. Poplawski proposes that the bursts may be discharges of matter from alternate universes. The matter, he says, might be escaping into our universe through supermassive black holes—wormholes—at the hearts of those galaxies, though it’s not clear how that would be possible. There is at least one way to test Poplawski’s theory: Some of our universe’s black holes rotate, and if our universe was born inside a similarly revolving black hole, then our universe should have inherited the parent object’s rotation. If future experiments reveal that our universe appears to rotate in a preferred direction, it would be indirect evidence supporting his wormhole theory, Poplawski said.
Wormholes Are “Exotic Matter” Makers?
The wormhole theory may also help explain why certain features of our universe deviate from what theory predicts, according to physicists. Based on the standard model of physics, after the big bang the curvature of the universe should have increased over time so that now—13.7 billion years later—we should seem to be sitting on the surface of a closed, spherical universe. But observations show the universe appears flat in all directions. What’s more, data on light from the very early universe show that everything just after the big bang was a fairly uniform temperature. That would mean that the farthest objects we see on opposite horizons of the universe were once close enough to interact and come to equilibrium, like molecules of gas in a sealed chamber. Again, observations don’t match predictions, because the objects farthest from each other in the known universe are so far apart that the time it would take to travel between them at the speed of light exceeds the age of the universe. To explain the discrepancies, astronomers devised the concept of inflation. Inflation states that shortly after the universe was created, it experienced a rapid growth spurt during which space itself expanded at faster-than-light speeds. The expansion stretched the universe from a size smaller than an atom to astronomical proportions in a fraction of a second. The universe therefore appears flat, because the sphere we’re sitting on is extremely large from our viewpoint—just as the sphere of Earth seems flat to someone standing in a field. Inflation also explains how objects so far away from each other might have once been close enough to interact. But—assuming inflation is real—astronomers have always been at pains to explain what caused it. That’s where the new wormhole theory comes in. According to Poplawski, some theories of inflation say the event was caused by “exotic matter,” a theoretical substance that differs from normal matter, in part because it is repelled rather than attracted by gravity. Based on his equations, Poplawski thinks such exotic matter might have been created when some of the first massive stars collapsed and became wormholes. “There may be some relationship between the exotic matter that forms wormholes and the exotic matter that triggered inflation,” he said.
Wormhole Equations an “Actual Solution”
The new model isn’t the first to propose that other universes exist inside black holes. Damien Easson, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, has made the speculation in previous studies. “What is new here is an actual wormhole solution in general relativity that acts as the passage from the exterior black hole to the new interior universe,” said Easson, who was not involved in the new study. “In our paper, we just speculated that such a solution could exist, but Poplawski has found an actual solution,” said Easson, referring to Poplawski’s equations. Nevertheless, the idea is still very speculative, Easson said in an email. “Is the idea possible? Yes. Is the scenario likely? I have no idea. But it is certainly an interesting possibility.” Future work in quantum gravity —the study of gravity at the subatomic level— could refine the equations and potentially support or disprove Poplawski’s theory, Easson said.
Wormhole Theory No Breakthrough
Overall, the wormhole theory is interesting, but not a breakthrough in explaining the origins of our universe, said Andreas Albrecht, a physicist at the University of California, Davis, who was also not involved in the new study. By saying our universe was created by a gush of matter from a parent universe, the theory simply shifts the original creation event into an alternate reality. In other words, it doesn’t explain how the parent universe came to be or why it has the properties it has—properties our universe presumably inherited. “There’re really some pressing problems we’re trying to solve, and it’s not clear that any of this is offering a way forward with that,” he said. Still, Albrecht doesn’t find the idea of universe-bridging wormholes any stranger than the idea of black hole singularities, and he cautions against dismissing the new theory just because it sounds a little out there. “Everything people ask in this business is pretty weird,” he said. “You can’t say the less weird [idea] is going to win, because that’s not the way it’s been, by any means.”
PS – TIME is REAL?
Q: What does it mean for time to be real or not real? Isn’t time obviously real?
Smolin: In the physicist’s conception of nature, as developed from Newton to Einstein, time becomes a secondary concept. It becomes replaced by a notion of computation, so that a process carrying out in time and causing things to happen becomes modeled by a logical computation. Logic and mathematics are outside of time, and therefore if that modeling is completely accurate, time is unreal. For example, Einstein is famously quoted as saying that people who understand physics know that the distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
Q: When you say time is real, in contradiction to these ideas by Einstein and others, then what does that mean?
Smolin: First of all that the experience that we have of being in the present moment, which is one of a flow of moments succeeding each other, is not an illusion as Einstein and others asserted — it’s the deepest clue we have as to the nature of reality. Reality is structured to a series of moments so that anything that is real is real in a moment of time, and if something appears to persist in time, that’s because it’s continually renewing in time, in the moments of time, which are the reality of existence. Any truth about the world is a truth about the world within time — there are no timeless truths. And most importantly, there are no laws of nature that are outside of time. Everything changes, including the laws.
Q: So how does this concept help us understand the laws of nature?
Smolin: The main reason why I advocate this new view of time is because it may make the laws of nature explicable. And by that, I mean the scientific answer to the question of why the laws of nature as we observe them have been selected to be what they are. If the laws are timeless and eternal then there’s no way to explain the choice of laws. As far as we understand it, the laws might easily have been different in many different ways. The masses of the elementary particles might have been different, the strength of the forces might have been different, or there might have been altogether different elementary particles and forces. I believe, and this is the result of an argument which is carried out in the book, that the only way within science of explaining the laws of nature is if the laws of nature are the result of dynamical evolution in time.
Q: How does your theory of the dynamical evolution of the universe work?
Smolin: The idea is that the universe evolved in a way which is very analogous to natural selection in a population, say, of bacteria. To do this the universe needs to reproduce itself, and I took over an older idea by John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt, who were pioneers of quantum gravity. Their idea was that black holes become the seeds of the birth of new universes. John Wheeler had already speculated that when this happens, the laws of nature are reborn again, in the new baby universe; he called it reprocessing the universe. What I had to add to this to make it work like a model of natural selection, was that the changes passed form parent to child universe are very slight so there can be an accumulation of fitness. This hypothesis leads to the conclusion that assuming our universe is a typical member of this population of universes as it develops after many, many generations, that the universe is going to be finely tuned to produce many black holes. That leads to the next hypotheses that if you change the laws, and the numbers that specify the laws, then typically you’re going to make a universe that makes less black holes, and that’s something that leads to predictions that can be tested. That’s the theory that I call cosmological natural selection.
Q: How would these universes pass on their traits to daughter universes?
Smolin: At the level in which I propose this theory I didn’t answer that question, just like Darwin had no idea how inherited traits were inherited, because he didn’t know anything about the molecular basis of genetics, which was only discovered with DNA. So I was able to make those predictions without specifying the microscopic basis of inheritance in cosmology.
Q: Just how are new universes born inside black holes?
Smolin: A star that collapses into a black hole very quickly squeezes down to infinite density and time stops — that’s according to general relativity. And basically that moment when time stops is deferred by quantum mechanics, by quantum uncertainty, and rather than collapsing to infinite density, the star collapses to a certain extreme density, and then bounces back and begins to expand again. And that expanding star becomes the birth of a new universe. The point where time ends inside a black hole becomes joined to the point where time begins in a Big Bang in a new universe.
Q: Does this idea have testable predictions?
Smolin: I did make two predictions which were eminently checkable by astrophysical and cosmological observations, and both of them could easily have been falsified by observations over the last 20 years, and both have been confirmed by observations so far. One of them concerns the masses of neutron stars and the prediction is there can’t be a neutron star heavier than about twice the mass of the sun. This continues to be confirmed by the best measurements of the masses of neutron stars. The other prediction has to do with the cosmic microwave background radiation and the hypothesis of cosmological inflation. The observations of the Planck satellite are completely consistent with the version of inflation that cosmological natural selection supports.