Nobel Prize-winning physicist Stephen Hawking is back in the press, this time to explain evolution without God – a daunting task, and one on which some feel Hawking fell short. Physicists can be dreadfully hard to follow.
Since I am a language guy, I feel uniquely qualified to translate some of Hawking’s more difficult musings. For example, Hawking says before the universe there was no universe. This can be represented in one complex equation: nothing ≠ something. Do I need to repeat that?
Good. We are on the same page. Now, although there was nothing, there was also something – a small particle. I am not making this up (nothing ~ something).
Now, although this small particle was nothing in nothing, it exploded 13.5 billion years ago (nothing = something + 13,500,000,000 years).
OK. I can see I have lost you. Here is an analogy. This little particle that was nowhere farted, and it was a wet fart, and it spattered across the void through space and time, to boldly go where no man had ever gone before.
There is disagreement as to the size of the particle. Some say it was subatomic, but Hawking asserts it was approximately 2.387321974 mm. It was also ellipsoid, smelled like fennel and was light mauve.
How do we know this? Easy. In 2001, NASA launched the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) mission to study the conditions as they existed in the early universe. Caution! That is Anisotropy, with an i.
Here is a touchy part. We already know that all human knowledge was in that particle. Every speck of human intelligence, from Lutheranism to Wiki, from thermonuclear implosion to whole-food biscuits, was in that speck. As I said, we all know that. However, the particle, while containing all knowledge and intelligence inside it, had neither. This is an Article of Faith so sanguine that to deny it is to deny everything. It was just a dumb, hot, mauve particle floating specifically nowhere in no time forever, until it farted. Any scientist saying otherwise is banished to the wilderness. Science has evolved. Once science challenged consensus; today science enforces it. Thou Shalt Not Mock Science.
Back to the particle. Here, Hawking waxes eloquent. Hawking says there is not one universe, but multiple universes created out of one big bang. (God knows what must have caused that.) Clearly, then, all of time began at a “moment of singularity,” which, Hawking says, likely occurred only once. That would be why he calls it singular. For the uneducated, we can call that moment Bean Soup. (Nothing > Everything)
At this point, Hawking also reveals that Life was so unlikely an outcome of the spattering, and intelligent life so much more unlikely than that, that he is “grateful” that he had a chance to be alive in this particular spot. Hawking further commented that unless mankind gets off this planet within 1,000 years, there is little hope of his survival.
Now, you may say it seems there was little hope in the first place. However, once we landed here, hope was already here and we found it. Don’t argue. (Hope = ∞) (The little ∞ thingie is scientific nomenclature for infinity.)
To me, the interesting thing is not about life, but about death. If you look at it, the particle contained all life, but was not alive, it farted and created life. According to Hawking, the chances of that happening are mega-miniscule3 x infinitesimal12. Look at it this way, even if you assume the particle had to fart (and we don’t know the probabilities of that, despite the efforts of Anisotropy (with an i)), whatever was inside that particle had to separate into different states for life to occur. Just for the heck of it, let’s say some of the spatters split into organic matter and inorganic matter, combined. What are the chances?
Now, the organic matter had to separate a few hundred billion billion times to get just the right mix of accidents for Michelangelo to happen. Everybody knows that. But, given the accidents and the billions, what are the chances that death would occur concurrently with life? Seriously. Was that necessary? The answer is yes, as Hawking assumes it en passant (means in passing: a death joke from the game of chess, as it evolved).
That’s it. Life, death, time, religion and physics in less than 1,000 words, and Hawking and I left sex right out of it. Thank Goodness male and female finally happened at the same instant. Where would we be without ‘em?
Disclaimer: My brother is a charged-particle physicist. I love him and his family dearly, and would do nothing to discomfort them. Not only is he a physicist, but he is a professor of physics at the University of Calgary, got his Ph.D. at Cornell and did his post-doc work at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. No joke. He studies stuff like Alfven waves, a type of magnetohydrodynamic disturbance, in space where there should be nothing. Instead of nothing, there is the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. What are the chances?
I did not accuracy-check even one particle of this sermon with my brother. It contains so much history that even physicists don’t know, it would likely cause a sensation at work so I left the educators’ unions right out of it. After all, many of them could advance their careers by taking down Hawking, and this would be a treasure trove.
Finally, I wrote this because physicists need a translator because most people can’t understand them. To be helpful, you need to look at physicists in much the same manner as you would a friend that drinks too much. In most social occasions, other people can’t understand him. He usually ends up in a corner by himself.
Normally, that might be viewed as a language deficiency. However, here is the test. Let another physicist show up at the party, and the two can understand each other perfectly.
Now, what happens if five or six physicists show up at the same party? In a flash, they are all in the same corner, speaking the same language. The host and other guests suddenly appear incapable of understanding such simple questions as, “where is the toilet?” However, the physicists have slipped into a recounting of why it is important to recognize particle size sub-populations in the final slurry of the ceramic, since such bimodal distributions might result from agglomeration of primary particles caused by non-optimum dispersant addition, or from an intentional addition of a second size fraction that does not recognize particle size sub-populations in the final ceramic slurry.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand. It has to do with spatter.
Here’s the gist of Hawking. Everything he and other physicists claim is based on backward-searching theories based on current observations and knowledge. Current knowledge is, to Hawking, a product of expanding gas. Knowledge, like gas, is not settled. It expands to fill the space allotted to it until it blows, sometimes in one big boom, and sometimes in a series of random explosions. Therefore, it is not possible for the knowledge of the past to be current, and the knowledge of Hawking and the rest will be antique long before the 1,000-year death sentence they have passed on those of us lacking immortality and rocket planes.
According to NBC News, Hawking has been spending a month or so at Caltech, as he does each year, sequestered with colleagues, to discuss many great mysteries of the cosmos. I hope they don’t miss an important one. Can somebody pass the claret?
On a personal note: last month I accepted the nomination to the International Business Development Committee for the Wood Machinery Manufacturers of America, and am on the Canada Task Force. If any readers of Wood Industry have suggestions, ideas or requests of that committee, specifically, or the WMMA in general, please send me a note or give me a call at the contact points listed on our website.