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Author Topic:   universe- why is it here?
Morte
Member (Idle past 5338 days)
Posts: 140
From: Texas
Joined: 05-03-2004


Message 76 of 144 (135540)
08-20-2004 3:00 AM
Reply to: Message 74 by General Nazort
08-20-2004 12:42 AM


quote:
If the universe had a beginning, as the big bang suggests, then it is an effect, because something had to cause it to come into being.

(Ignoring the cause and effect for now, I can't seem to organize my thoughts well on it in a simple way... Instead...)

What makes you think that the universe had a beginning just because of the Big Bang? It could have existed before that, as has been suggested by some, as something that expands and eventually (or quickly, depending on initial conditions) "collapses" into itself, only to repeat the cycle over and over - this just happened to be the time that the conditions were right for humans to come about. I think it was Alan Guth (correct if wrong) who said, "Although the creation of a universe might be very unlikely, [name I can't remember] emphasized that no one had counted the failed attempts." Or perhaps they had come about before, but when the universe collapsed no evidence would have been left.

I don't actively believe the above (that is to say, I haven't really done enough research into the possibility of multiple Big Bangs to conclude anything personally. As far as I know it is still a possibility, though not a scientific one by nature - that is, it hasn't been disproven, just that there's no evidence for it), but just putting the idea out there to say that the Big Bang does not necessarily equal the beginning of the universe and time, just the beginning of the universe as we know it.


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Beercules
Inactive Member


Message 77 of 144 (135630)
08-20-2004 11:00 AM
Reply to: Message 69 by General Nazort
08-19-2004 3:01 PM


quote:
Either the universe has existed eternally or something else that has existed eternally created the universe.

False dilemma. A universe of finite duration, yet uncaused is a possibility.

quote:
The big bang, which has been proven, suggests that the universe had a beginning. If it had a beginning, it could not have existed eternally.

First of all, scientific theories are never proven. See this introduction to the scientific method. While the statement you posted above is false, I doubt any scientists in the relevant fields would claim the standard big bang model can provide an accurate description of the universe prior to a certain point.

quote:
There are numerous theories that seek to combine the big bang and an eternal universe, but none have been proven as of yet. So to the best of our current scientific knowldege, the universe began in the big bang. So the question is, who/what started the big bang? I believe that God did.

Maybe it was Lucky the leprechaun?

quote:
Some people in this thread have misused the idea of cause and effect. The law of cause and effect states, "every effect must have a cause."
It does not say "everything must have a cause, just every effect must a have a cause.

AND

quote:
Cause and effect is true by definition

If something did not have a cause, then it is not an effect.



You're playing word games here. The big bang is an event. There is no reason there must necessarily be any prior events to that. If that's the case, then by your definitions this event was not an effect at all. If the primordial event is not an effect, you have no argument.

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lfen
Member (Idle past 3913 days)
Posts: 2189
From: Oregon
Joined: 06-24-2004


Message 78 of 144 (135691)
08-20-2004 2:04 PM
Reply to: Message 72 by General Nazort
08-19-2004 6:33 PM


What is the human image of God?
Just sayin what the Bible says, Ifen
If we were created in the image of God, then one human is more important than the whole universe. Makes me feel special.

"For the LORD delights in you, And to Him your land will be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, So your sons will marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you."

What about a human is the image of God?

I don't see how your conclusions follows from your premise.

lfen


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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 702 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 79 of 144 (135775)
08-20-2004 7:20 PM
Reply to: Message 74 by General Nazort
08-20-2004 12:42 AM


Examples of things that seem to happen for no reason at all, things acribed to "chance," are just where we do not have a full understanding of everything involved.

Says you. On the other hand, chance and randomness have so far been the most accurate explanations of certain phenomena in the universe. Deterministic explanations have largely failed at the quantum level.

God, it seems, plays dice with the universe. Classical theories can't explain quantum events. Only theories that take into account randomness are accurate, so far.

I don't see how something can "just decay." The laws of physics contradict this.

As you understand them, perhaps.

But it doesn't work like that. You don't get to tell the universe how to operate according to your view of the laws of physics.

Rather, you must derive the laws through observation of the universe, and in this universe, atoms decay randomly. Given a certain amount of time and a certain isotope, it's possible to predict roughly how many atoms should have decayed (this is the basis of radiometric dating, for instance) but not which ones have decayed.

If the universe had a beginning, as the big bang suggests, then it is an effect, because something had to cause it to come into being.

As Ned said, that's circular reasoning. Whether the universe had a cause or not is the very thing under question. You can't simply assert it to be true.

I say that the Big Bang happened, but was not caused because it's not an effect. If you propose a cause, then you must first establish that the universe is an effect.


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sidelined
Member (Idle past 5144 days)
Posts: 3435
From: Edmonton Alberta Canada
Joined: 08-30-2003


Message 80 of 144 (135888)
08-21-2004 3:57 AM
Reply to: Message 74 by General Nazort
08-20-2004 12:42 AM


General Nazort

Examples of things that seem to happen for no reason at all, things acribed to "chance," are just where we do not have a full understanding of everything involved

An atom decays in a certain, predictable way, we are just not able to predict it yet.

I don't see how something can "just decay." The laws of physics contradict this

Sorry to let you know this but the last physicist was Einstein who believed the universe was ultimately decipherable and he was never able to break the success of quantum mechanics down to a level where we could determine a underlying reality.It has never been done and as it stands the laws of nature prohibit knowledge beyond a certain level by her very structure.This website does a great job of condensing the history of the foundation for quantum mechanics.

http://books.nap.edu/books/0309076412/html/1.html#pagetop

Uncertainty is woven into the fabric of the world.


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happy_atheist
Member (Idle past 4149 days)
Posts: 326
Joined: 08-21-2004


Message 81 of 144 (136081)
08-22-2004 10:26 AM
Reply to: Message 80 by sidelined
08-21-2004 3:57 AM


Belles Inequality
I might be wrong on this, but doesn't Belles Inequality (or at least the experiments testing it) show that there are no hidden variables in quantum mechanics and therefore no possibility of there being an "underlying theory" that would make quantum mechanics deterministic?

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NosyNed
Member
Posts: 8968
From: Canada
Joined: 04-04-2003


Message 82 of 144 (136082)
08-22-2004 10:36 AM
Reply to: Message 81 by happy_atheist
08-22-2004 10:26 AM


Re: Belles Inequality
I'm not sure but this grew out of one of the thought experiments of Einstein that he felt showed a problem with QM. It was then felt to be impossible to perform the experiment. However, it was possible and Einstein was wrong.

I'm not sure what that says for the underlying ideas beyond this particular issue. We need a real physicist for this one.


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happy_atheist
Member (Idle past 4149 days)
Posts: 326
Joined: 08-21-2004


Message 83 of 144 (136113)
08-22-2004 1:13 PM
Reply to: Message 82 by NosyNed
08-22-2004 10:36 AM


EPR paradox
Yes, Einstein and some others. It's entitled the Einstein, Podolsky, Rosenburg Paradox (sorry if I didn't spell those right). I'm sure he meant it to show a problem with quantum mechanics, but actually the exact same principle is used in teleportation.

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Darwin Storm
Inactive Member


Message 84 of 144 (136128)
08-22-2004 2:49 PM
Reply to: Message 81 by happy_atheist
08-22-2004 10:26 AM


Re: Belles Inequality
I had this discussion with my college physics proffessor last sememster. According to him, (who has his PHD in particle physics), the basis of QM, the wavefunction, represents all we can know about a given defined system. That simply means that while there may or may not be something below that level, it is physically impossible (as far as we know, but most likely true) to determine anything beyond this level. So, while there may be underlying mechanics beneath this level, it is impossible to test, and therefore outside teh reach of science. In fact, there are several ideas out there to explain the mechanics, but none are testable, and therefore none are truly scientific explanantions.

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sidelined
Member (Idle past 5144 days)
Posts: 3435
From: Edmonton Alberta Canada
Joined: 08-30-2003


Message 85 of 144 (136137)
08-22-2004 5:09 PM
Reply to: Message 84 by Darwin Storm
08-22-2004 2:49 PM


Re: Belles Inequality
Darwin Storm

If you think that is the end of the story check this out.

The idea that the quantum world is disrupted by those who observe it has frustrated researchers for almost 80 years. Goodbye to all that, says Michael Brooks

WE HAVE always been aware that quantum stuff moves in mysterious ways. A quantum particle such as an electron can spin clockwise and anticlockwise at the same time, for example, or exist simultaneously in two places. We've also known that these strange "superpositions" are extremely fragile. Indeed, it is a tenet of quantum theory that as soon as anyone tries to observe a superposition, it collapses back to some kind of normality. Make a measurement of, say, an electron spinning both ways at once and the electron appears to have just one spin.

That is why Schrödinger's famous cat can only be both alive and dead at the same time in its box so long as no one looks inside. Lifting the lid forces the cat to either live or die. And so this mysterious quantum world has remained impossible to explore. Until now, that is.

Yakir Aharonov, an influential physicist at Tel Aviv University and the University of South Carolina, believes he has discovered a way to observe the quantum world without destroying superpositions. This is a stunning claim and flies in the face of 80 years of teaching about quantum theory. But Aharonov says a technique he has invented, called "weak measurement", shows that looking at something doesn't have to change it. "Weak measurement finds what is there without disturbing it," he says.

Although Aharonov has been working on weak measurement for 15 years, his confidence has recently grown enormously. Last year he published a paper showing that weak measurement can give us new insight into a previously inexplicable paradox in quantum mechanics ( Physics Letters A , vol 301, p 130). The result of this work is "strange and surprising", Aharonov says, but shows quantum theory to be logical and self-consistent. Weak measurement, he believes, will be the tool that finally opens up the weirdness of quantum theory for inspection.

The paradox in question is a thought experiment described in 1992 by Lucien Hardy, then at the University of Oxford, which shows how quantum theory makes a nonsense of the interaction between matter and anti-matter. First Hardy considered a Mach-Zender interferometer, an instrument in which a quantum particle hits a half-silvered mirror. This sends it into a superposition of states, in that it travels down two separate arms at once.

The interferometer later reunites the two paths, although what happens then depends on what happened en route. The arms of the interferometer meet at another half-silvered mirror, which is arranged so that if the particle has had an undisturbed journey - that is, it doesn't encounter any other particles or fields - it is collected in a detector "C". But if something disturbs the particle while it is on its way through the interferometer, it may arrive at a second detector, "D".

Hardy imagined two such interferometers positioned so that one arm of the first overlaps with one arm of the second (see Diagram) . Then he imagined sending a positron - the antiparticle of an electron - through one interferometer, and an electron through the other at the same time. If the two particles travel along the overlapping arms they should meet in an "annihilation region" and destroy one another.

Hardy showed that something much stranger happens: in rare cases, quantum theory predicts that both D detectors could click simultaneously. Somehow both particle and antiparticle could disturb, yet fail to annihilate, each other in the overlapping arms.

The situation arises because quantum theory deals with probabilities amassed from the multiple existences of particles. Since the particles can simultaneously be in and not in the overlapping arms, the probabilistic nature of quantum theory allows an improbable - yet possible - outcome that makes no sense. This is Hardy's paradox.

In the decade since Hardy described it, people have "resolved" the paradox by saying that the thought experiment doesn't correspond to any possible real experiment, and is therefore meaningless. The only way to find out what really happens to the particles in the experiment would be to measure their routes, rather than simply inferring them from the final result. But as soon as a particle detector is placed in any of the paths, standard quantum theory says the particles will be disturbed, guaranteeing that the D detectors will fire. So you can no longer infer the particles' positions: the paradox is lost.

"The general attitude is 'since the paradox disappears when measurements are performed, the whole paradox is a red herring and doesn't deserve much attention'," says Sandu Popescu of the University of Bristol and Hewlett-Packard Labs, Bristol. But Popescu and Aharonov think otherwise. Working with Tel Aviv Unversity's Benni Rezni, Alonso Botero of Texas A&M University, and Jeff Tollaksen of Boston University, they have devised a modified version of Hardy's thought experiment that could be performed in a lab. By their calculations, the paradox will still exist, but because the experiment can actually be done, it means the paradox cannot be dismissed as abstract reasoning: it must be an objective truth of quantum theory.

The "weak measurement" technique they propose exploits quantum uncertainty - the fact that in any quantum system there is always an intrinsic uncertainty about properties such as a particle's position and energy. Aharonov's quantum detector is so weakly linked to the experiment that any measurement moves the detector's "pointer" by less than the level of uncertainty. In return, the detector has an imperceptible impact on the experiment. Astonishingly, this means any superpositions are preserved.

There is a price to pay for these delicate readings, however: they are extraordinarily inaccurate. But while this might appear to make the whole process pointless, Aharonov has calculated that when repeated many times, the average of these measurements approximates to the true value of the thing being measured.

Imagine a set of scales designed to measure the weight of an electron. In a weak measurement, quantum uncertainty means that the position of the scales' pointer will always be uncertain by a small amount, and the size of that discrepancy will be larger than the weight of the electron. This makes it impossible to say for certain what an electron weighs. But if billions of electrons land one at a time on the scales, the average of all the measurements will reveal the weight.

Of course, if it is not clear that an electron is on the scales or not, taking an average of all the readings won't give a true indication of its weight. The average will be skewed to a lower value by the occasions when no electron was present. But Aharonov and Popescu get round this problem: they know which runs of the experiment make both D detectors click and so can choose which measurements to throw into their average, and which to ignore.

In their thought experiment, Aharonov and Popescu "post-select" the results: they focus on just the paradoxical incidents when both D detectors click. The weak measurements then build up a picture of what is going on, all without disturbing the system. The reward is a result that presents the paradox in a fully logical, self-consistent way.

The apparatus in their thought experiment includes an array of detectors that make one of two different types of weak measurement. One type counts the number of electrons or positrons that pass along each arm. This could be a gravitational field detector fixed strongly in place so the particle's presence transfers almost no momentum. The second weak measurement comes from "pair detectors" that can record an electron and a positron passing simultaneously past two separate points. These "pairs" might be measured by two boxes connected by a rigid spring - the attraction between a pair would slightly compress it. The exact methods are not as important as the fact that they could be physically performed in the lab. All these weak, inaccurate results are recorded only when both D detectors click, and the results are then averaged over many runs of the experiment.

With the mental apparatus assembled, the physicists "run" the experiment. The results are predictable - at least in quantum terms. First they calculate the number of electrons passing through the annihilation region every time both D detectors click. The average is 1. The number of positrons passing through the region is also 1. The same measurements made for the non-overlapping arms of the interferometer give 0. This is exactly what would be expected with both D detectors clicking: both particles must have been in the annihilation region for them to disturb each other. So why didn't they annihilate? Another calculation reveals a rather puzzling answer to this question. The pair detectors show that the number of electron-positron pairs in the annihilation region is 0.

Other pair detectors reveal even stranger results. One indicates the presence of an electron in the annihilation region at the same time as a positron travels down the non-overlapping arm. Another shows a positron in the annihilation region while an electron is in the non-overlapping arm.

So with weak measurements, the paradox remains: we have an electron and a positron disturbing each other in the annihilation zone, yet pair measurements tell us they were not there together, so could not have disturbed each other. But there's now an additional difficulty: the results imply that there are two pairs of particles in the apparatus at the same time. And we know that's not true. It seemed like a fundamental flaw - until, that is, Aharonov and Popescu looked at a final pair-measuring device in the non-overlapping arms of the interferometer. The reading there was -1. Somehow, there was a "negative presence".

Aharonov says that when he first saw the negative number come out of the pair measurement, he was rather taken aback. Nobody had seen anything like it before. "It looks impossible. But then I realised it was the only way to see it. It's beautiful."

What exactly a -1 result means is still up for grabs, but Aharonov and Popescu believe they have shown that there is a way to carry out experiments on the counter-intuitive predictions of quantum theory without destroying all the interesting results. A single quantum particle could have measurable effects on physical systems in two places at once, for instance. Indeed, Aharonov and Popescu say, when you get a look inside, quantum theory is even more bizarre than we thought. Quantum particles can assume far more complex identities than simply being in two places at once: pairs of particles are fundamentally different from single particles and they can assume a negative presence.

And the fact that weak measurements transform the paradox from a mere technicality into an unavoidable truth suggests that they could provide a springboard for new understanding in quantum mechanics. "It shows there are extraordinary things within ordinary quantum mechanics," Popescu says. The negative presence result might be just the tip of the iceberg: every paradox in quantum theory may simply be a manifestation of other strange behaviours of quantum objects that we have not yet detected - or even thought of. "Many of the well-known paradoxes of quantum mechanics have properties like this," Popescu says.

From thought to reality

Klaus Mølmer of Aarhus University in Denmark was initially sceptical about weak measurement, but his own examination of Aharonov and Popescu's work has convinced him it has to be taken seriously. He even thinks he knows how to demonstrate it in a real experiment. It could even be done now, since it exploits the same techniques that quantum computing researchers use (see "Paradox lost") .

Hardy, now at Ontario's Perimeter Institute, is also impressed by Aharonov and Popescu's work, but questions its meaning. "In spite of the consistency with which the apparatus gives these negative readings, it is quite a jump to infer that there really are a negative number of particles," he says. Instead, Hardy suggests, it might just be a form of error. But, he concedes, there is definitely a case to answer because the apparatus consistently gives the same error - a negative number of particles whenever both D detectors click. "This error is consistent with what might otherwise be regarded as some kind of naive reasoning about otherwise paradoxical situations."

While Hardy remains noncommittal about weak measurements, Popescu insists that there's nothing unusual about them. They are not a magic trick, and not even a convenient "interpretation" of quantum mechanics. "They are a particular type of measurement, and their results are just ordinary experimental results," he says. "Unusual experimental results, to be sure, but not fiction."

Aharonov admits that his ideas about weak measurements remain "widely unaccepted", but he's not cowed by that. Everyone will talk in terms of weak measurements in the future, he says; some are already learning the language.

Raymond Chiao of the University of California at Berkeley and Aephraim Steinberg of the University of Toronto, for example, are looking at weak measurement as a way to explain photon tunnelling. It is widely accepted that quantum objects such as atoms and photons can "tunnel" through barriers that they don't strictly have enough energy to get over. Experiments show that photons really can do this - and at speeds greater than the speed of light. Chiao and Steinberg, who performed the first experiments to demonstrate photon tunnelling, are exploring the idea that, since the photon's chances of accomplishing this feat are tiny for a wide barrier, their experiment might have been a post-selected weak measurement, allowing them to observe a strange quantum event that defies ordinary logic. It may involve negative energies or even negative time. They are exploring these possibilities in further experiments that use weak measurements.

Howard Wiseman of Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, also believes weak measurements can help shed light on strange quantum phenomena. In a forthcoming paper in Physics Letters A , Wiseman shows how weak measurement and negative presence can interpret double-slit interferometer experiments. Fire an electron at a pair of parallel slits and, if left undisturbed, the electron produces a pattern on a screen behind the slits that is created by interference between two electron states in superposition.

Some have suggested it might be possible to determine which slit the electron went through to find out what is really going on with the electron's simultaneous wave and particle existence. But this has generally been deemed impossible because any attempt to look at the electron gives it extra momentum, which affects the outcome and washes away the interference pattern. But Wiseman has shown that weak measurement reveals that such momenta can take on a negative value, giving a net momentum of 0 to the electron and letting researchers determine which slit the electron went through. It is, he says, possible to do this with existing technology.

Mølmer's experience with translating weak measurements into a real lab experiment makes him think that most of what has been done to date with quantum systems employs weak measurement - physicists just haven't realised it. He now believes weak measurements might even have practical repercussions. They could, for example, expose flaws in quantum cryptography, in which disturbance caused by measurement is supposed to prevent eavesdroppers decoding messages. "A weak measurement used by an eavesdropper could be an interesting strategy," Mølmer says.

Whatever the implications - and Popescu and Aharonov are sure they've only begun to scratch the surface - a new door has opened. Weak measurement should give us a view inside the processes of quantum mechanics that we once thought impossible. It has already uncovered a negative presence that we never knew existed, and there could be plenty more surprises waiting to be found.

Eventually, Aharonov believes, weak measurement may dispel all our present notions of the weirdness of the quantum world. Aharonov claims that when the Nobel laureate Richard Feynman famously pronounced that we can never truly comprehend quantum mechanics, he was "too hasty". "I think people will remove the mystery that Feynman said could never be removed," he says. "You should never say never."

No doubt that the weirdness of quantum mechanics has only just begun. We live in interesting times.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 84 by Darwin Storm, posted 08-22-2004 2:49 PM Darwin Storm has replied

Replies to this message:
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Darwin Storm
Inactive Member


Message 86 of 144 (136146)
08-22-2004 5:56 PM
Reply to: Message 85 by sidelined
08-22-2004 5:09 PM


Re: Belles Inequality
That we do, there are still many avenues of physics that have yet to be explored. The article is interesting, but without notation of its source, or any linked experimental data, its nothing more than that. However, it still doesn't claim to explain the underlying reasons or provide a theory of QM. It just allows you to take other form of measurements. The real question, however, is if the experiments result in any more information than can be extracted from the wavefunction. If not, it still only provides a new tool to investigate. Another interesting avenue of research is decoherence, which is the event where the wavefunction collapses. The actual pehnomena occurs so quickly that at first it was though to be undetectable, but modern techniques have been to developed to examine this aspect of qm. In fact, certain moloecules that are normaly to large to exhibit QM effects have produced in a lab which are still bound by QM effect, but on a scale 1000's of times larger than is normally the bound for decoherace. Hopefully, we will be able to learn more about the acutal phenomena of collapsing wavefunction, which would be yet another piece of the puzzle.


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happy_atheist
Member (Idle past 4149 days)
Posts: 326
Joined: 08-21-2004


Message 87 of 144 (136495)
08-24-2004 6:33 AM


Causation and the universe
Sorry to digress, but I just wanted to raise a question I have about the causation of the universe that was being mentioned before.

Is it logical to say that the universe has a cause? How would such a cause be defined? Causation (as I understand it) is a temporal effect. Causes precede and determine the effect. But logically there is no "before" the universe since time is a part of the universe. Saying "before the universe" would be akin to saying "north of the north pole"....it just doesn't exist. When you're at the north pole the only direction possible is south. When you're at t0 the only temporal direction is "after".

To me this illustrates the way that what humans consider true and natural is more often than not very wrong and misleading when applied to situations beyond our normal comprehension.

This message has been edited by happy_atheist, 08-24-2004 05:34 AM


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1.61803
Member (Idle past 740 days)
Posts: 2928
From: Lone Star State USA
Joined: 02-19-2004


Message 88 of 144 (136641)
08-24-2004 10:11 PM
Reply to: Message 87 by happy_atheist
08-24-2004 6:33 AM


Re: Causation and the universe
Saying the universe has no cause would assume you do not exist, and since you are reading this something 'caused' you. If something caused you then would it not be logical to think that something caused the universe as well. Whether that was a random quantum event or A devine creator. I realize there are those who contend the universe is just an extenstion of perpetual universes. Irrespective of human perspective, natural law dictates how reality plays out. Post T=0 is all humans will ever be able to fathom, beyond that is mere speculation and fantasy depending on whether you are atheist or religous. IMO. And by the way great thought provoking post.


"One is punished most for ones virtues" Fredrick Neitzche

This message is a reply to:
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Darwin Storm
Inactive Member


Message 89 of 144 (136642)
08-24-2004 10:18 PM
Reply to: Message 88 by 1.61803
08-24-2004 10:11 PM


Re: Causation and the universe
Well, cause and effect may well be a property inherent in the universe, like gravity and electromagnetism. However, when you talk about a singularity, or other possible events related to the big bang, we can't be sure that the current fine structure of the universe held at that point. Cause and effect, thermodynamics, ect might have had no meaning in the intial event.

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1.61803
Member (Idle past 740 days)
Posts: 2928
From: Lone Star State USA
Joined: 02-19-2004


Message 90 of 144 (136669)
08-24-2004 11:55 PM
Reply to: Message 89 by Darwin Storm
08-24-2004 10:18 PM


Re: Causation and the universe
DarwinsStorm writes:

we can't be sure...


Bingo daddyo.


"One is punished most for ones virtues" Fredrick Neitzche

This message is a reply to:
 Message 89 by Darwin Storm, posted 08-24-2004 10:18 PM Darwin Storm has taken no action

  
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