“With such wisdom has Nature ordered things.” ~ Scottish geologist James Hutton
In the black of night, countless constellations of stars compose a wondrous sight. The impression the heavens made seared deep into the psyche of our ancestors, engendering myths about when and where existence began. There have been many conceptions.
3,800 years ago, in the cradle of Western civilization, the Babylonians conceived a plurality of heavens and earths. A little over a millennium later, in the cradle of eastern civilization, legendary Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu had the universe originate from nothingness.
“The reason why the universe is eternal is that it does not live for itself: it gives life to others as it transforms.” ~ Lao Tzu
The ancient Greeks thought existence eternal, extending over an infinity of space. Ancient Hindu teachings described cyclical space and time, a concept that appealed to Einstein. In the 6th century BCE, Turkish-Greek philosopher Anaximander of Miletus conceived a perpetual cycle of incarnation, powered by apeiron: an eternal coherence. Less than a century later, another Turkish-Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, agreed with Anaximander.
“This world, which is the same for all, not one gods nor men has made. It always was and will be: an ever-living fire, with measures of it kindling, and measures going out.” ~ Heraclitus
The coherence that Heraclitus conceived was of restless creation: Nature as a fecundity, change as the only constant.
“Everything changes and nothing remains still.” ~ Heraclitus
Heraclitus used the term logos for the Tao which Lao Tzu had described: an intelligent coherence from which Nature emerges.
“All things are one. Everything comes to be in accordance with logos. Logos holds always, but humans always prove unable to understand it.” ~ Heraclitus
Aristotle failed to understand logos: depreciating it into a measly word for rhetorical logic.
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The works of Aristotle were lost during the Dark Ages. Their rediscovery in the mid-12th century inspired many Catholic clerics, who were the keepers of scholarly knowledge in Europe at the time.
One was Robert Grosseteste, an English theologian. Contemplating God’s miraculous creation, Grosseteste proposed in 1225 that the cosmos expanded from a pinpoint of light. Envisioning multiplicity evolving from an energetic singularity, Grosseteste correctly assumed that light and matter were entangled.
In the 1920s, astronomers discovered that distant galaxies are moving away from us. Astrophysicists interpreted that to mean that space itself is expanding.
With thermodynamics in mind, an expanding universe implied that the early cosmos had been a hot, dense, primordial fomentation. Cosmogony became the key issue: how and when the universe came to be.
If the world has begun with a single quantum, the notions of space and time would altogether fail to have any meaning at the beginning; they would only begin to have a sensible meaning when the original quantum had been divided into a sufficient number of quanta. If this suggestion is correct, the beginning of the world happened a little before the beginning of space and time. ~ Georges Lemaître
In 1931, Roman Catholic priest Monsignor Georges Lemaître agreed with Lao Tzu and Robert Grosseteste, setting off a storm of controversy among contemporaneous cosmologists. Lemaître’s radical proposal of cosmic origination upset astronomers’ religion.
A middle-aged Albert Einstein was disturbed by the prospect of the universe starting with an explosive singularity. By 1931 he had a model of a stable cosmos, but it held a fatal flaw: the universe had to be at least 10 billion years old. Einstein found that “unacceptable,” as the cosmos could not possibly be that old.
Einstein abandoned his belief of cosmic stability as new astronomical observations indicated the universe was not as static as he had hoped. Unconvinced, English astronomer Fred Hoyle and others took up the cause of steady-state.
The term Big Bang was coined as a pejorative by Hoyle in a 1949 radio broadcast. Hoyle favored the ancient Greek paradigm: a steady-state cosmos, where the universe eternally existed, but continuously accreted new matter as it expanded. That there was no evidence of this worried Hoyle not a whit.
“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.” ~ English novelist Terry Pratchett
The bruited Big Bang was actually a quiet affair. No sonorous sound was made. But the misnomer does make for a catchy cosmological slogan.
Based solely upon the earliest observed light from a telescope, mainstream cosmologists surmised that the universe is 13.82 billion years old. Light only hides the darkness. We have no way to know how or when the cosmos emerged. No evidence of its origination exists, but surely our universe is much older. From our perch in the cosmos, the farthest we can detect is 46.5 billion light years away. As light-speed delimits cosmological distance, the universe must be at least 46.5 billion years old. Earth is unlikely to be the center of the cosmos, which doubtlessly extends farther than we can detect. The universe is likely hundreds of billions years old. And existence did not begin with the coming of our cosmos.
The early universe was nearly pitch black, filled with a miasma of light elements: hydrogen, helium, and lithium, until stars formed and baked heavier elements, creating a faintly luminous byproduct. Not until stars formed were there loci of light.
Sophistication in considering the cosmos suggests that existence is eternal and comprises a multitude of universes. Surprisingly, this ancient conception of cyclic cosmology is now unconventional. Instead, the prevailing cosmological model – ΛCDM – has our universe as a one-off. Beyond the failure to address how everything might come from nothing, ΛCDM is a bogus account in many ways.
“Cosmologists are often wrong but never in doubt.” ~ Azerbaijanian physicist Lev Landau
To support its late origination date (when the first discernible light appeared), ΛCDM incorporates a dynamic called cosmic inflation, in which the cosmos mushroomed from next-to-nothing to the size of a dime faster than the speed of light; and then the physics-defying explosion abruptly, miraculously stopped.
One simplifying assumption that ΛCDM makes is large-scale uniformity of matter in the universe, which is known as the cosmological principle. Astronomers know the cosmos to be lumpy at scales far beyond the threshold that invalidates the cosmological principle.
ΛCDM fails to explain observed galactic dynamics. ΛCDM can’t even get the lights right. The brilliance of the heavens is inexplicable under ΛCDM. Our galactic neighborhood is 5 times brighter than it should be.
Astrophysicists use ΛCDM because its equations are easy to work with. Algorithms which better parameterize cosmic dynamics are fiendishly difficult. Theorists prefer workable fiction to messy actuality.
Our inventory of stuff that makes up our universe amounts to a humbling 5%. ~ American astrophysicist Paul Hamilton et al, in the context of ΛCDM, the standard cosmological model
One implicit axiom in ΛCDM casts most of materiality as a mirage: a cosmos crafted by dark matter. Dark matter has been supposed to form from an exotic quantum particle, but extensive search for such a nugget has turned up nothing. Beyond the fact of no discoverable dark matter, such existential waste belies Nature’s fondness for economy.
In 2016, Swiss astrophysicist André Maeder published a series of papers with a simple proposition: that empty space is, well, empty.
“Empty space at large scales is scale-invariant, since by definition there is nothing to define a scale.” ~ André Maeder
Maeder’s obvious proposal affords a cosmological model that dispenses with dark matter, and its incongruous companion, dark energy. ΛCDM is just flat-Earth wrong.
“It appears as one of the fundamental principles of Nature that the equations expressing basic laws should be invariant under the widest possible group of transformations.” ~ English physicist Paul Dirac