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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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III. Ecosmos: A Revolutionary Fertile, Habitable, Solar-Bioplanet, Incubator Lifescape

1. Quantum Cosmology Theoretic Unity

Smolin, Lee. The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, The Fall of a Science, and What Comes Next. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. The philosophical physicist worries that things are not well, out of kilter, with quantum mechanics and its cosmology paradigm. Now gone astray into arcane landscapes of multi-dimensional strings and mega-universes, it takes leave of natural reality along the way. Smolin goes on to chart pathways toward a better approach and agenda, which includes perceptive considerations of how science should conduct itself.

Smolin, Lee. Three Roads to Quantum Gravity. New York: Basic Books, 2001. A report on efforts to unify quantum and relativity physics by means of loop quantum gravity, string theory, and black hole thermodynamics. Smolin goes on to offer glimpses of a fractal and hologram-like cosmos, a duality of particles and relations, self-similar networks, and an inherently self-organizing development.

The world must be a network of holograms, each of which contains coded within it information about the relationships between the others. In short, the holographic principle is the ultimate realization of the notion that the world is a network of relationships. (178) It may seem fantastic to think of the universe as analogous to a biological or ecological system, but these are the best examples we have of the power of the processes of self-organization to form a world of tremendous beauty and complexity. (201)

Smolin, Lee. Time Reborn: From the Crisis of Physics to the Future of the Universe. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. The author, a philosophical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, of which he was a founder, is a leading reality checker, course corrector, and frontier thinker for physical cosmology. His 1999 The Life of the Cosmos introduced cosmological natural selection, while in 2007 The Trouble with Physics took issue with string theory, multiverse, and other entanglements. Please search Smolin and arXiv for many postings. This latest work, six years on, proceeds to scope out an historic conceptual reimagination. An old Newtonian school fixed upon timeless truth, eternal laws, predetermined fate, isolate particles, the reductive litany, is set aside for a 21st century horizon of a dynamically non-equilibrium, self-organizing, complexifying, emergence. Restrictive formulas and parameters become malleable and evolve as time ticks and meters, opening upon unpredictable futures.

Might one say, as pages 248 and 249 contrast (first quote) a Ptolemaic to Copernican revolution is in our midst. Smolin is to be credited for this innovative foray, not without lapses and contradiction as he is immersed in his field and its vernacular. If a static creation is no more, does the new vista imply, as bruited about today, that no contextual source or guide exists at all. While Smolin rejects a postmodern “relativism” that bans intrinsic values, does such openness exclude an independent guidance? But a deep message may be gleaned, for the second half is a lucid endorsement, in translation, of an essential genesis universe. In addition to just “things,” another interconnective, “relational” realm forms nature’s viable nest of networks. So again, from whatever school, perceptive insights seem to arrive at archetypal complements. By these views, energy and information flows impel life’s ascendant scales of self-organization, contra to entropy. This forceful agency is at work prior to selection as it impresses and embodies itself from galaxies to civilizations. Might it then be broached that what Lee Smolin, and an increasing chorus, is trying to express is in actuality a true cosmic genetic code.

(Old Newton, Boltzman version) Time is an illusion. Truth and reality are timeless. Equilibrium is the natural state and inevitable fate of the universe. The observed complexity and order of the universe is a random accident due to a rare statistical fluctuation. Quantum mechanics is the final theory and the right interpretation is that there are an infinity of actually existing alternative histories. (New Leibniz, Smolin revolution) Time is the most real aspect of our perception of the world. Space is emergent and approximate. The universe naturally self-organizes to increasing levels of complexity, driven by gravitation. Quantum mechanics is an approximation of an unknown cosmological theory. (248-249)

Laws, then, are not imposed on the universe from outside it. No external entity, whether divine or mathematical, specifies in advance what the laws of nature are to be. Nor do the laws of nature wait, mute, outside of time for the universe to begin. Rather the laws of nature emerge from inside the universe and evolve in time with the universe they describe. (xxvi-xxvii) In a relational world, where relationships precede space, there are no spaces without things. Newton’s concept of space was the opposite, for he understood space to be absolute. This means atoms are defined by where they are in space but space is in no way affected by the motion of atoms. In a relational world, there are no such asymmetries. Things are defined by their relationships. Individuals exist, and they may be partly autonomous, but their possibilities are determined by the network of relationships. Individuals encounter and perceive one another through the links that connect them within the network, and the networks are dynamic and ever evolving. (xxviii)

The relational revolution is already in full swing in the rest of science. Darwin’s revolution in biology is one front, manifested both in the notion of a species being defined by its relation to all the other organisms in its environment and in the concept that a gene’s action is defined only in the context of the network of genes regulation its action. As we are quickly coming to realize, biology is about information, and there is no more relational concept than information, relying as it does on a relationship between the sender and receiver at each end of a communications channel. (xxviii-xxix) In the social sphere, the liberal concept of a world of autonomous individuals is being challenged by a view of society as composed of interdependent individuals, only partly autonomous, whose lives are meaningful only within a skein of relationships. The new informational halo within which we are so recently enmeshed expresses the relational idea through the metaphor of the network. As social beings, we see ourselves as the nodes in a network whose connections define us. (xxix)

A star can be characterized as a system driven far from equilibrium by a steady flow of energy through it. The energy comes from both nuclear and gravitational potential energy. The starlight then illuminates the surfaces of planets, like ours, driving them into far-from-equilibrium states of their own. This is an example of a general principle: Flows of energy through open systems tend to drive them to states of higher organization. We call this the principle of “driven self-organization.” (217-218) …the principle of driven self-organization is the good angel who does the detailed work in myriads of stars and galaxies to ensure a diverse, complex universe. (218)

Indeed, natural selection is a mechanism of self-organization that may spontaneously arise as a consequence of the tendency of externally driven systems to organize themselves. (219) So our present universe is characterized by structure and complexity on a wide range of scales, from the organization of molecules in living cells to the organization of galaxies into clusters. There is a hierarchy of self-organizing systems, driven by energy flows and stabilized and shaped by feedback processes. (220)

So the fact that our universe is interesting has a threefold explanation: The principle of driven self-organization acts over a myriad of subsystems and scales, from the molecular to the galactic, evolving them to states of ever increasing complexity. The engines driving that process are the stars, which exist because of a combination of the fine tuning of the fundamental laws and the anti-thermodynamic nature of gravity. But these forces can produce a universe filled with stars and galaxies only if the initial conditions of the universe are strongly time-asymmetric. (226)

Stamatescu, Ion-Olimpiu and Erhard Seiler, eds. Approaches to Fundamental Physics. Berlin: Springer, 2007. Each select chapter is meant to cover prime topics extant today such as Particles, Quantum Fields, General Relativity, Quantum (mostly Loop) Gravity, Strings and Dark Energy Cosmology. But the entries, set as they are in theoretical reaches, seem strained since their premises are locked in a Ptolemaic model that loses and excludes life and the very human intellect able to accomplish such inquiries.

Susskind, Leonard. String Theory. Foundations of Physics. Online December, 2012. The Stanford University physicist, author, initiator and vocal advocate of “string theory,” offers a synopsis of its history and status for a forthcoming issue of this journal “Forty Years of String Theory: Reflecting on the Foundations.” But per the quotes, and this paper alludes, four decades later there is little to show for it. It appears, as Susskind suspects, to be without foundation, is ever being propped up, epicycles upon epicycles, and is largely unprovable. See Smolin 2012 above for further qualms.

Just to be precise about what constitutes string theory, let me give a narrow definition. But it has the virtue that we know that it mathematically exists. By string theory I will mean the theory of supersymmetric string backgrounds including 11-dimensional M-theory and compactifications that preserve some degree of super symmetry. With that definition of string theory, there is no doubt: string theory is not the theory of nature – the world is not supersymmetric, and it has positive cosmological constant. Exactly how the definition has to be expanded in order to describe the observed universe is not known. (2)

Some people are horrified by this complexity (of string theory), and even more so by the idea of a multiverse populated by bubble-universes that fill the (string) landscape. Others find the idea exciting because it fits nicely with cosmologists’ speculations about eternal inflation (Guth, Linde, et al), and environmental selection (Smolin). At the moment it is too soon to say who will be right. But what we can say is that if the multiverse concept proves correct, it will be an enormous success for string theory. If it proves wrong then it’s back to the drawing board. (8)

Tegmark, Max. Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality. New York: Knopf, 2014. The MIT physicist and cosmic imagineer writes an opus that stretches what might be conceived as an explanation for where and why we find ourselves. Human, earthly existence becomes valorized into four levels of parallel multiverses, each due to a mathematical occasion. A primer appears in the December 2013 issue of Discover magazine, quote below, see also a review in Nature (505/24, 2014). Earlier versions (search), are on arXiv and in Foundations of Physics (38/2). A brief capsule does not apply, so we quote from “Bottom Line” of the last chapter “Life, Our Universe and Everything,” where, in contrast to most science books , a significance is yet held out for human beings, if we may so choose.

Yes, the author does note that a certain Galileo made a similar surmise some 400 years ago, along with others such as Eugene Wigner. But his main mentor in the 1990s and 2000s was the physicist John Archibald Wheeler, who brought him for a stint at Princeton. The second quote is a luminous note from Wheeler to MT, which conveys an innate sense of an abiding reality and creative source that would reveal august meaning if only we could discern it. In regard, Tegmark carries forth Wheeler’s core conviction that somehow we people, by our fact and act of conscious observation and recognition, can indeed influence the future destiny of the whole cosmos.

* Even though our two intellectual expeditions set off in opposite directions, toward the large and the small, they ended up in the same place: in the realm of mathematical structures. * On the largest and smallest scales, the mathematical fabric of reality becomes evident, while it remains easy to miss on the intermediate scales that we humans are usually aware of. * If the ultimate fabric of reality really is mathematical, then everything is in principle understandable to us, and we’ll be limited only by our own imagination. * Evidence suggests that there’s no other life-form as advanced as us humans in our entire Universe. * From a cosmic perspective, the future potential of life in our Universe is vastly greater than anything we’ve seen so far. * Yet we humans devote only meager attention and resources to existential risks that threaten life as we know it, including accidental nuclear war and unfriendly artificial intelligence. * Although it’s easy to feel insignificant in our vast cosmos, the entire future of life in our Universe will arguably be decided on our planet in our lifetime – by you, me and our fellow passengers on Spaceship Earth. (Bottom Line, 398)

It was a great pleasure and encouragement to talk to you in Copenhagen as I believe you share my belief that under and behind quantum mechanics lies some deep and wonderful principle yet to be discovered, as Einstein’s great geometric idea threw unexpected light on the power and scope of Newton’s supposedly all-embracing theory. The likelihood of such a discovery is surely proportional to our belief that there is something there to be discovered. (J. A. Wheeler’s 1996 note to MT, 214-215)

The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis implies that we live in a relational reality, in the sense that the properties of the world around us stem not from properties of its ultimate buildings blocks, but from the relations among these building blocks. This crazy-sounding belief of mine that our physical world not only is described by mathematics, but that it is mathematics, makes us self-aware parts of a giant mathematical object. (Discover, 47)

Tegmark, Max. Parallel Universes. Scientific American. May, 2003. Imaginative speculations on the implications of the latest quantum and cosmological physics which are opening upon hidden dimensions and an immense variety of universes.

Tegmark, Max. The Mathematical Universe. www.arxiv.org/abs/0704.0646. In this technical paper, first posted online as above, the MIT theoretical cosmologist reports on a decade of work toward an historic reconception that, as noted, would please Galileo. A full published copy is available in Foundations of Physics (38/2, 2008) with a popular summary in the New Scientist for September 15, 2007. Tegmark also directs the Foundational Questions Institute, funded by the Templeton Foundation, which can be accessed at: www.fqxi.org. A recent capsule of his life-friendly cosmology is noted in Current Vistas.

I explore physics implications of the External Reality Hypothesis (ERH) that there exists an external physical reality completely independent of us humans. I argue that with a sufficiently broad definition of mathematics, it implies the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH) that our physical world is an abstract mathematical structure. I discuss various implications of the ERH and MUH, ranging from standard physics topics like symmetries, irreducible representations, units, free parameters and initial conditions to broader issues like consciousness, parallel universes and Godel incompleteness. I hypothesize that only computable and decidable (in Godel's sense) structures exist, which alleviates the cosmological measure problem and help explain why our physical laws appear so simple. I also comment on the intimate relation between mathematical structures, computations, simulations and physical systems. Abstract 101)

By insisting on a complete description of reality, the MUH (Mathematical Universe Hypothesis) banishes not only the classical notion of initial conditions, but also the classical notion of randomness. The traditional view of randomness (viewed either classically or as in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics) is only meaningful in the context of an external time, so that one can start with one state and then have something random "happen," causing two or more possible outcomes. In contrast, the only intrinsic properties of a mathematical structure are its relations, timeless and unchanging. In a fundamental sense, the MUH thus implies Einstein's dictum "God does not play dice." (118)

Toffoli, Tommaso, ed. Digital Perspectives. International Journal of Theoretical Physics. 42/2, 2003. A special issue devoted to exploring Edward Fredkin’s conception of a quantum universe that can be best understood in terms of discrete qualities similar to a computer program.

Turner, Michael. A Century of Physics: 1950 – 2050. Physics Today. September, 2009. From the University of Chicago, a review of past advances in quantum cosmology and a look ahead to a theory of quantum gravity, a “complete story of the universe,” the physics of complex “living things.” But its Ptolemaic mechanical paradigm and trillion year cosmic timeline does not include, has no place for, the very people able to achieve and articulate such vistas. Future projects will also engage “how biological machines work.” There is the greatest need to address these deep contradictions and to found an organic genesis universe with human creative cognizance as its central point.

Turner, Michael and J. Anthony Tyson. Cosmology at the Millennium. Reviews of Modern Physics. 71/2, 1999. A retrospective on humankinds’ progress in the 20th century to observe and describe in word, number, symbol and equation a vast, still unfolding, galactic cosmos.

Turok, Neil. The Universe Within: From Quantum to Cosmos. Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2012. The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics director has stepped up to make this major contribution about the state of physical cosmology. The text is from his CBC Massey Lectures presented October 2012 in six cities to sold out audiences across Ontario (CBC Canadian Broadcasting Company). A clear survey of the historical endeavors and highlights of physics: “It is a story of fun, yearning, determination, and most of all, humanity and awe before nature.” (49) Yes, all are men, with much technology, the cosmic scenario is mechanically abstract, but as rare today the work is quite optimismic over an on-going promise. With this scene in place, Turok confronts a pervasive pessimism by dismissing string theory, Stephen Weinberg’s “pointless” mantra, and especially Lawrence Krauss’s The Universe from Nothing, along with Richard Dawkins nasty afterword, for malicious claims of an indifferent, accidental, senseless universe. As noted in Alan Lightman above, Freeman Dyson in World Philosophy, and elsewhere, a miasma confounds physics, evolution, and most science and humanities quick to write off, and abandon in despair. Important correctives as this, also Mind and Cosmos by Thomas Nagel, and others, are vital to get reality back on a positive future track.

At every stage in the history of the universe, there was the potential for vastly more than what had been required to reach that stage. Today, this is more true than ever. Our understanding of the universe has grown faster than anyone could have imagined a century ago, way beyond anything that could be explained in terms of past evolutionary advantage. We cannot know what new technologies we will create, but if the past is any guide, they will be extraordinary. Commercial space travel is about to become a reality. Quantum computers are on the horizon, and they may completely transform our experience of the world. Are all these capabilities simply accidental? Or are we actually the door-openers to the future? Might we be the means for the universe to gain a consciousness of itself? (201)

Through a deeper appreciation of the universe and our ability to comprehend it, not just scientists but everyone can gain. At a minimum, the magnificent cosmos provides some perspective on our parochial, human-created problems, be they social or political. Nature is organized in better ways, from which we can learn. The love of nature can bring us together and help us to appreciate that we are part of something far greater than ourselves. This sense of belonging, responsibility, and common cause brings with it humility, compassion, and wisdom. It is time to connect our science to our humanity, and in so doing to raise the sights of both. If we can only link our intelligence to our hearts, the doors are wide open to a brighter future, to a more unified planet with more unified science. What a privilege it is to be alive. Truly, we are faced with the opportunity of all time. (256-257)

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