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)
Time Reborn: From the Crisis of Physics to the Future of the Universe.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
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.
(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)
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)
Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality.
New York: Knopf,
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.
* 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)
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)
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)