Sunday, January 14, 2007

Time and Time Again

Time is a problem and one that continues to plague scientists and Quantum Physicists in particular. The pesky problem is the question has the universe always existed or was there a beginning? The Universe is expanding and further out we peer, we are not only looking across billions of years but we are observing that the rate of expansion increases with distance (time). That only becomes a problem if you look at this situation in reverse, that is the expanding universe implies that at some point it was all squished together into what is called a “singularity” and the “Big Bang.” But, quite obviously this poses some very difficult questions, such as; where did this energy come from initially? what was there before the big bang?, will there be a “big crunch as the universe contracts? Of course these questions – even unanswered – lead to the additional questions of; is there a beginning of time? Is there and end of time? Is there a God? If the universe is pure energy then why does some of this energy manifest itself as mass? And of course that really fundamental question that remains unanswered – how did life begin and why?

To accept God as a creator goes against the basis of science so cosmologists are determined to find the answers to these questions based on science – in effect demonstrating that God does not exist. This struggle is becoming increasingly difficult as each scientific discover brings more questions and drives the convergence of philosophy and science ever closer. The universe is expanding at an inflationary rate – meaning the galaxies are moving away from each other at an increasing rate. Of course this poses some problems with the Einstein’s equations which limit speeds to the speed of light. Therefore, the speed of expansion is bounded and what happens when that boundary is reached – in fact as it takes ever more energy as the speed increases the expansion would slow and stop – meaning that the universe would begin to contract – much like a rubber band that has been stretched to its limit and snaps back to its original shape – the “Big Crunch” and that brings us back to the singularity of the beginning known as the big bang.

However, if our universe was indeed expanding at an equal speed in all directions it would lead to a spherical shape and the speed of expansion would not allow for the creation of galaxies (matter) so the universe must be irregular (The Universe in a Nutshell by Hawking). But in order to establish this view, physicists have postulated “Imaginary Time”, which is really not imaginary but simply another – and very bizarre – way of viewing our universe and reality. If we view our
real time reality as a line with our “now” as a center point on that line, then our past would be to the left and our future would be to the right or in front of us. But imaginary time runs perpendicular to that now point and it represents our movement away from the singularity. We can then move into the future which will cause the Singularity to move upward in order to keep the symmetry of the model. Or in an alternate view as we move away from the singularity our future expands.

This model also introduces the concept of multiple dimensions and histories. Unfortunately the number of dimensions continued to grow as efforts to support string theory expanded but more recently the number of dimensions has declined to a possible eleven. By introducing imaginary time the problems associated with singularities in real time disappear, so it allows for a smoother view of the universe. While all of this effort and scientific struggle are interesting they really don’t address some of the fundamental questions. St Thomas Aquinas stated that asking what God was doing before the creation was a nonsensical question that seems to be the position of current scientific thought as well. What was there before the Big Bang? Did space exist? Where did this primordial burst of energy come from? How was it created or was it spontaneous? If it was spontaneous then what were the conditions that allowed it and of course that implies that space – empty space -- existed prior to the Big Bang but that in itself is nonsensical.

Logically it seems that there was a beginning of time and there will be an ending of time and science seems to agree on this point. But the creation of space and time seems to still be elusive unless – of course – we accept God.

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