** Center of the Universe **One of the greatest shocks to humanity was the discovery that our earth is not the center of the universe. For millenia it was believed that the sun, stars, etc. all revolved around the earth and that we were at the center of this magnificent realm. Human beings were the crown and purpose of creation. But Modern science had shattered this belief after discovering that we are a mere puff of dust lost in the Milky Way galaxy which itself is a mere grain of sand in this vast universe.
But as our understanding increased, woe and behold, it is becoming increasingly evident that planet earth is indeed the center of the universe, at least from a plan and purpose perspective.
(Furthermore, recent discoveries in the "cosmic background radiation" (CBR) have revealed that the universe displays symmetry. Even weirder, the axis of symmetry is along the earth's equinox, i.e. the earth's plane of rotation around the sun. Scientists blamed this on the instruments and conducted a follow up study with better technology but the symmetry persisted. It seems the universe is symmetrical in dipole, quadrupole and octopoles, which means if you divide the sky into 2 halves or 4 quadrants or 8 quadrants, they are symmetrical around our earth's plane of rotation. Baffled scientists don't know what to make of this. They have termed it: "the axis of evil". see here for more.)
Thus, as our knowledge of astronomy, physics, chemistry, biology, geology, information technology, etc. etc. increases it is all pointing more and more that the only kind of intelligent being the Universe can sustain is none other than a human-like creature on a planet like Earth!
Let us explain a tiny bit. Fasten your seat belts and prepare for perhaps the most spectacular display of divine power and wisdom in the entire history of the Cosmos.
As scientists' understanding of the cosmos increased, it was found that all galaxies appeared to be receding from each other. Indeed space itself was found to be expanding carrying the galaxies along with it. This and other discoveries eventually led to the inference that as we went back in time everything including space shrinked closer and closer together, eventually reaching point of singularity where space, time, etc. all expanded out from a single point (Big Bang).
Let us trace scientifically the chronology of this unfolding of events.
(Note that as torah-faithful Jews, we believe the universe was created in 6 "days" (whatever that means). No question this is true, but G-d left room for a scientific inquiry. This is even more spectacular than a 6-days from nothing creation as we will see. For He is beating the scientists at their own game. Everywhere they look, they see spectacular displays of genius and design. Let us begin.)
The predictive power of science depends on knowing the initial conditions and the laws of physics. So for instance, if we see the trajectory of an arrow, we can infer from this the tension of the bow string used to launch it and the angle it was shot at (initial conditions). From this we can also predict where it will land given the gravitational force and wind speed.
Well, scientists did the same thing with the universe as a whole. Applying the known laws of physics and the initial conditions of mass and energy based on what we can observe today. The result was surprising beyond belief.
Birth of the Atom
At Time Zero: Whatever scientists say here is pure speculation which cannot be tested. The Big Bang was not an explosion, dispersing matter in all directions as many people believe. Rather, it was the creation of space and its subsequent expansion. This also included time and the very laws of physics. Hence, we really cannot say anything meaningful here. It is beyond the realm of scientific inquiry.
The events that may be talked about by physics start at 10^-43 seconds, which is the smallest unit of time. This kernel or initial seed of the universe consisted of extremely precise conditions and quantities.
At this point, the temperature of the universe was about 10^32 degrees Kelvin. Little is understood about physics at this temperature. The four fundamental forces of physics had not yet formed.
The next milestone is 10^-36 seconds. As the temperature of the universe cooled, the fundamental forces of physics began to form and separate. The force of gravity forms and separates and the earliest elementary particles and antiparticles begin to take shape.
As the strong nuclear force separates from the other two (weak nuclear and electromagnetic), large numbers of exotic particles including W and Z bosons and Higgs bosons forms. The Higgs field slows particles down and confers mass on them allowing a universe made entirely of radiation to support things that have mass.
Around 10^-12-10^-6 seconds, the universe cools to below 10 quadrillion degrees. The forces of gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces assume their present form. Quarks, electrons, neutrinos (and their anti-particles) form in large numbers but the temperature is still too high to allow them to bind together (to form protons and neutrons).
The Quarks and antiquarks annihilate each other producing energy. But a slight surplus of 1 extra quark per 1 billion pairs quark-antiquark pair allows just enough quarks to survive which will ultimately combine to form protons and neutrons.
Around 10^-6 second, the quark plasma cools until they can begin to bind together. At this point the temperature has cooled to about 10^13 degrees.
Around 10^-1 second, The binding of quarks and other particles allows particles like protons and neutrons which will form the nucleus of the atom to begin to form. Electrons colliding with protons in these extreme conditions begin to fuse to form neutrons.
Not even one second has passed so far from time=0. By now, the particles composing the nucleus of the atom, the protons and neutrons (Hadrons), have started to form along with their anti-particles. Fortunately there is a surplus of particles over anti-particles.
All these particles were formed through an extremely precise sequence of events, every detail of which rests on highly delicate balances, and all spanning a time span of less than a second!
1 Second to 3 minutes, after the majority (but not all) of the particle/anti-particle pairs (of protons, neutrons) annihilate each other, leptons (ex. electrons) and antileptons (ex. anti-electron, i.e. positrons) collide and annihilate each other releasing energy in the form of photons. Colliding photons in turn create more electron-positron pairs.
From 3 minutes to 20 minutes, the temperature of the universe is about a billion degrees. Atomic nuclei begin to form as protons and neutrons combine through nuclear fusion. Free neutrons combine with protons to form hydrogen (Deuterium). Deuterium rapidly fuses into helium. This process lasts only for about 17 minutes since the temperature and density of the universe has fallen to the point where nuclear fusion cannot continue further. This brief fusion period of 17 minutes will be useful later. By this time, all neutrons have been incorporated into helium nuclei. This leaves about three times more hydrogen than helium and only trace quantities of Lithium.
From 3 minutes to 240,000 years. During this long period of gradual cooling, the universe is filled with plasma, a hot soup of atomic nuclei end electrons. After most particle/antiparticle pairs annihilated each other, the energy of the universe is dominated by photons which continue to interact frequently with the charged protons, electrons, and nuclei.
240,000 to 300,000 years - as the universe continues to expand, its temperature and density continues to fall. As the temperate of the universe falls to around 3,000 degrees (about the same as the surface of the sun), ionized hydrogen and helium atoms capture electrons (recombination) thus neutralizing their electric charge.
With the electrons now bound to atoms, the photons' average free path becomes effectively infinite and the photons can now travel freely. The universe has become transparent. At this point, the universe consists of a fog of about 75% hydrogen and 25% helium with small traces of lithium.
300,000 to 150 million years, at this time, the universe is dark with no stars having formed to give off light.
150 million to 1 billion years - the first stars and quasars form from gravitational attraction. As the star accumulates mass, the gravitational force crushes hydrogen atoms through the process of thermonuclear fusion them to form helium. Fortunately, the process does not end there.
Two helium atoms combine to form Berylium which combine further with another helium atom to form Carbon, the backbone element for all life. This process is known as the triple-alpha process. One of a long and impressive list of "coincidences" since the Big Bang. The Berylium ground state has almost exactly the energy of two alpha particles. This creates a special resonance to make it possible for beryllium and helium to form Carbon.
The nuclear process continues in stars to produce elements all the way up to the element of Iron (#26) along the periodic table. The star is essentially a atomic element factory.
Due to energy limitations the stellar nucleosynthesis can only go up to the element of Iron.
Now, scientists have identified 19 elements absolutely essential for life . For example, iron is needed for blood transport, copper is needed for certain essential enzymes to catalyze a number of body functions, zinc is a component of digestive enzymes, iodine is needed for regulatory body functions and metabolism, etc.
So where do these other elements beyond iron come from? Where does the high energy to go beyond iron come from? Well, as the super massive star burns itself out, eventually it leaves a core of iron. The star then begins to collapse under its own gravity under tremendously powerful gravitational force. The outer elements of the star crash into the iron core in an extremely violent super-explosion called a Supernova. The massive explosion shines with the power of about 10 Billion suns!  (fortunately, such an explosion has not occurred near us, for then our solar system would be bathed with lethal radiation).
This special stellar explosion flickers just the right amount and intensity to seed the universe with the higher elements needed for life.
A nearby cloud of gas and dust was disturbed by the explosion. The explosion made collisions and waves in space which squeezed the cloud of gas and dust. This squeezing made the cloud start to collapse, as gravity pulled the gas and dust together.
Eventually, the cloud grew hotter and denser in the center, with a disk of gas and dust surrounding it that was hot in the center but cool at the edges. As the disk got thinner and thinner, particles began to stick together and form clumps. Some clumps got bigger, as particles and small clumps stuck to them, eventually forming planets or moons. Near the center of the cloud, where planets like Earth formed, only rocky material could stand the great heat. Icy matter settled in the outer regions of the disk along with rocky material, where the giant planets like Jupiter formed. As the cloud continued to fall in, the center eventually got so hot that it triggered thermonuclear fusion and became a star, the Sun, and blew most of the gas and dust of the new solar system with a strong stellar wind.
A massive collision with the early Earth hurls debris into space. This debri forms the Moon.
(The Moon will later provide a night light and a way to measure months of the year to humans. Interestingly, the moon also appears the same size as the sun. For although the moon is 400 times closer than the sun, it is also about 400 times smaller. So it appears the same size. This equality will also help to discourage worship of the sun, since the moon is equal to the sun in some sense and can even dim the sun on occasion during solar eclipses.)
The collision also knocks the earth into a circular orbit around the sun and gives it a 23 degree tilt. If the earth's orbit were elliptical it would all freeze in winter and fry in summer. Instead, the earth's circular orbit creates little variation in the overall climate of the Earth. The earth's 23 degree tilt is just right for the seasonal cycle. The seasonal cycle is significant to humans for many reasons such as agricultural and for granting a sense of renewal every year. If the earth's tilt were greater, huge parts of earth would have a day/night cycle of 1 year instead of 24 hours.
While all this is going on, other planets in the solar system form. The huge planet Jupiter forms at just the right distance from earth. Jupiter is the solar system's vacuum cleaner. Without a planet of this size near Earth, we would have been pelted continuously with large meteorites and according to many, life on earth would have been impossible. The solar system also forms just far enough away from other stars that their gravitational fields do no destabilize the planets' orbits.
The solar system's position at the outer part of the Milky Way galaxy allows us to gaze out at distant galaxies and obtain knowledge of the overall structure of the Cosmos. Were we near the center of the galaxy instead of the outer part, we would have had absolutely no idea of anything beyond our galaxy. If we were too far out on the rim, our eyes would see stars only part of the year (for stars beyond our galaxy are only visible with telescopes).
The early earth appears like a vision of hell, all scalding rock and choking fumes. Volcanoes are everywhere spewing out noxious fumes along with water vapors. As the temperature cooled, the water vapors would rain down and form the oceans.
The hydrogen, helium and other hydrogen-containing gases from early Earth are too light to remain in the earth's gravity. They all escape the earth's atmosphere and into outer space. As soon as the conditions are right, photosynthetic organisms suddenly appear and begin to break down the noxious fumes to produce oxygen. They feed off atmospheric carbon dioxide and convert much of it into marine sediments which would comprise the shells of sea creatures.
Once oxygen had been produced, ultraviolet light split the molecules, producing the ozone UV shield as a by-product. At this point, terrestrial creatures appear and life outside the oceans flourishes. Giant dinosaurs literally explode onto the scene. After some period they disappear and mammalian life suddenly comes onto the scene...
Let us briefly look at some of the delicate balances that occurred till now. Here are a few points, some are from a lecture by Dr. Harold Gans.
Consider the Big Bang at the beginning of this story.
It turns out that if the Big Bang were weaker, you wouldn't have an explosion but a yo-yo effect because the explosion wasn't strong enough to overcome gravity and the whole thing would have collapsed back into itself.
What about if the Big Bang were stronger? Then, everything would fly apart so fast that it would all just disperse and never have time to form stars and planet. You'd just have a stream of energy and particles thinning out into space.
How much can we change the power of the Big Bang so that the universe can form stars and planets? Well it turns out, if it is changed by a factor of 10^-120 in either direction, then there's no universe capable of forming stars and planets. In other words if the expansion rate were off by a factor of:
in either direction then we wouldn't have a universe capable of supporting life of any kind.
Let's look at something else. The initial entropy of the universe. This was calculated by Mathematical Physicist Dr. Roger Penrose to have odds of 1/10^10^123 to be random (i.e. not 1 followed by 123 zeros but 1 followed by 10^123 zeros. Cute number don't you think? Note the 10+10+1+2+3=26 = Yud-Heh-Vuv-Heh).
This kind of mathematical acrobatics is so ridiculously mind boggling! Think for a moment all of our supercomputers together processing for trillions and trillions of years could still not get anywhere near to computing these sorts of mathematical precisions. Indeed Penrose points out that we cannot even write down this number.
In his book, he writes (Emperor's New Mind, Penrose, pp 344): "This is an extraordinary figure. One could not possibly even write the number down in full, in the ordinary denary notation: it would be '1' followed by 10^123 successive '0's! Even if we were to write a '0' on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe-and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure-we should fall far short of writing down the figure needed.".
The initial entropy just means why isn't everything just black holes? Considering the universe were so closely packed together, there had to be an extremely precise arrangement so that all matter did not simply collapse into black holes.
On the other hand, if everything were perfectly uniform, so that the force of gravity is exactly the same everywhere, then you will never have any gravity in any one place to begin collecting atoms into one place to form a star.
So you would just have a completely uniform haze of electrons, protons, neutrons, etc. dispersing and thinning out. You may have atoms but you wouldn't have any stars because the force of gravity would be exactly the same in all directions.
Hence, it cannot be perfectly uniform and must contain some ripples. How big can the ripples be? It turns out they can't be very big. Because if the ripple is too big, there's too much mass in some places, what happens is the gravity is so powerful (in the early super-dense universe) it attracts everything there and it collapses into a black hole. So you end up with a universe of black holes. No suns, no carbon, nothing.
So the ripples have to be very finely adjusted. It turns out the wrinkles have to be adjusted so finely, they're so small, that if you were to put them on the size of an orange, it would look perfectly smooth to you. You'd need an extremely powerful microscope before you'd even begin to discern that there were wrinkles there. That's how small they have to be.
To quote Dr. Penrose: "the second law of thermodynamics says that entropy can only increase, so if the early universe had been in a state of maximum entropy, then the cosmos would have experienced its heat death immediately after being born. This contradicts the observation that the present universe contains burning stars, heat engines, and life. These observations imply that the early universe was in a very low-entropy state, which shows that its initial conditions were extremely finely tuned. The reasons for this fine-tuning are not explained by general relativity or the standard model. Adding Inflation to the model does not cure this fine-tuning problem.
ROTATION OF THE COSMOS
Another example of mysterious order is in the rotation of the cosmos. French cosmologist Hubert Reeves writes in his book "Latest News from the Cosmos":
Does the universe rotate? Observation of the galaxies give no indication of any rotation of the cosmos. Study of the cosmic background radiation emitted by particles some 15 billion light years away allow us to see very far. A rotation of the Cosmos would be manifested in variation of its intensity along the axis of rotation. Measurements by the COBE satellite confirm absence of any measurable rotation of the Cosmos.. Why does the Universe rotate so little (if any)? Nothing in the Big Bang theory specifies what should be the state of rotation of the Universe in its distant past. Another ancient enigma.MASS OF THE UNIVERSE
Why is the universe so vast? Why the need for so many galaxies, stars and matter, if the fruit of this vast tree is man on earth?
Here is some interesting findings brought by Dr. Michael Denton in his book Nature's Destiny (pg.255):
Inertia is the name we give to the property of things to resist a change in velocity. An undisturbed body remains at rest and requires the exertion of a force to impart motion to it. A moving car requires force to slow it down or to make it change direction. Like gravity inertial forces are related to mass. It requires more force to make a large object move or change the direction of its motion that for a small object. The wind may set a feather in motion but not a boulder. If inertia had been less, then the wind could well have set a boulder in motion. In such a world we would be subjected to a continual bombardment by all types of objects in our environment.Hence even the total mass of the Universe was finely tuned. (note that there are other theories for the origin of inertia. The matter is largely a mystery).
However if inertia had been much greater, then unless the strength of muscles was much greater, we would have profound difficulty even in starting to move our finger. And once in motion, control of its direction and speed would be next to impossible. It is clear that the inertia of matter must be very close to what it is for an animal of our size to function in an environment similar to the earth's. Extraordinary as it seems, physicists have proposed that the inertial forces experienced by objects on the earth are generated by the total combined gravitational attraction of all matter in the cosmos, including the most distant stars and galaxies. Because most of the matter in the universe is far from the earth, this means that the greatest contribution to the inertia of objects on earth is made by the most distant galaxies. As Dennis Sciama comments in his "Unity of the Universe":The idea that distant matter can sometimes have far more influence than nearby matter may be an unfamiliar one. To make it more concrete, we may give a numerical estimate of the influence of nearby objects in determining the inertia of bodies on the earth: of this inertia, the whole of the Milky Way only contributes one ten-millionth, the sun one hundred-millionth, and the earth itself one thousand-millionth... In fact 80 percent of the inertia of local matter arises from the influence of galaxies too distant to be detected by the 200-inch telescope. ("Unity of the Universe", London Faber, pp.118-119)In a very real sense, then the existence of beings of our size and mass with the ability to stand, to move, and to light a fire is only possible because of the influence of the most distant galaxies, whose collective mass determines the precise strength of the inertial forces on earth. If this view is correct, then it means our existence is critically dependent on both the mass of the earth and the total mass of the universe being very close to what they are. There is a distinct echo in these curious coincidences of the old medieval doctrine of man in the microcosm, which held that the dimensions of the human body reflect in some profound sense the dimensions of the macrocosm.(Nature's Destiny - Michael Denton pg.255)
The size also had to be what it is for as before the expansion of the Big Bang depended on the ratio of gravity to energy density to a tuning of at least 120 decimal places. If the energy density (which would later become matter) were greater, it would have all collapsed back together long ago in a Big Crunch. And, if gravity were weaker, stars could not form or they would not burn hot enough to produce the elements of life as above or the implosion of supernovas would not be strong enough etc, etc.
There are many other interesting "coincidences" such as the Horizon problem, and many others. We find the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe. Similarly the cosmic background-radiation is almost the same in every direction. This is puzzling given that opposite areas of the Universe lost contact with each other in the earliest beginnings of the Big Bang. This is another mysterious sign of Order in the early Universe.
It should be noted that there is evidence against the Big Bang, namely, evidence for the "Steady State" of the Universe. For example, as mentioned, the cosmic background radiation is almost exactly the same in every direction of the sky. Even though different areas of the sky lost all contact with each other within the first second of the Big Bang, nevertheless, they are still uniform in every way. Likewise, the laws of physics are exactly the same everywhere, etc. This puzzle is known as the Horizon problem. Another sign as mentioned is the lack of rotation of the Universe.
There are other indications of Steady State of the Universe. Perhaps this is all part of the system of paradoxes permeating nature. Other examples of paradoxes in nature abound. For example, on the one hand, there is vast bottomless wisdom in everything, even the simplest bacteria or even a mere electron or proton can be studied endlessly by all of humanity combined. On the other hand, we can't see any Intelligence anywhere. Another example, is that there is evidence the earth is billions of years old. At the same time, there is evidence it is much younger.
Many more examples like this. What is the answer to all these myriad paradoxes? Free will. G-d told us the right answer in the Torah. This is what we are supposed to trust.
|Vastness of the Universe (impressive video on the vastness of the universe. ignore speculation at end about multiverse)|
see also: Signature of G-d by Harold Gans
Nature's Destiny by Dr. Michael Denton, for the fine tuning of the laws of biology.
>> Next: the Light is Good
-  http://sciencelearn.org.nz/Contexts/Just-Elemental/Science-Ideas-and-Concepts/The-essential-elements return to text
-  http://helios.gsfc.nasa.gov/nucleo.html return to text
-  http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/Perry_Samson_lectures/evolution_atm/ return to text
-  http://www.ws5.com/Penrose/ return to text
-  Derniere Nouvelle Du Cosmos - Hubert Reeves return to text
-  http://physics.stackexchange.com/a/16899/24873 return to text