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III. Ecosmos: A 21st Century Fertile, Habitable, Solar-Bioplanet Lifescape

1. Quantum Cosmology Theoretic Unity

Weinberg, Steven. Cosmology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. At age 75, the Nobel physicist once again contributes with this latest grand tour of space and time. Its ten parts cover the technical aspects of the Early Universe, Inflation, Fluctuations, Expansions, Gravitational Lenses, the Growth of Structure, and other topics. Yet Weinberg holds to his stance that although human beings might be able to gain such comprehension, the cosmos remains devoid of any purpose. As a comment, it amazes that while a vocal advocate of science, along with Richard Dawkins and others, vs. archaic fundamentalisms, they cannot see what is wrong with this dire conclusion, how corrosive it is, which only serves to drive people to seek the meaning we must avail into these extremes.

Wetterich, Christof. Fundamental Scale Invariance. arXiv:2007.08805. This entry reviews current papers by the University of Heidelberg theoretical physicist (search) as his mathematical and geometric studies of the whole dynamic universe continue apace. See also The Probabilistic World (2011.02867) and Cosmology from Pregeometry (2104.14013, quote below) and more on this site. By a philoSophia take, how curious it is that a member of a scientific collective on a minute bioworld can achieve such vast and deep quantifications. Might we consider such endeavors, the two million arXiv eprints, as the phenomenal way that an autodidactic genesis ecosmos proceeds to textually describe itself?

We propose fundamental scale invariance as a new theoretical principle beyond renormalizability. Quantum field theories with fundamental scale invariance admit a scale-free formulation of the functional integral and effective action in terms of scale invariant fields. They correspond to exact scaling solutions of functional renormalization flow equations. Such theories are highly predictive since all relevant parameters for deviations from the exact scaling solution vanish. Realistic particle physics and quantum gravity are compatible with this setting. The non-linear restrictions for scaling solutions can explain properties as an asymptotically vanishing cosmological constant or dynamical dark energy that would seem to need fine tuning of parameters from a perturbative viewpoint. (Abstract excerpt, 2007.08805)

Fundamental scale invariance is a new theoretical construction principle beyond renormalizability. The existence of a continuum limit at fixed microscopic couplings is a very natural setting for a fundamental theory. The required existence of scaling solutions could be sufficiently restrictive to qualify theories with fundamental scale invariance as candidates for the quest of a unified fundamental theory of physics. (11, 2007.08805)

In summary, the evolution of the universe undergoes several crossovers between different approximate scaling solutions that are each valid for long cosmological epochs. The driving agents for these crossovers are slowly evolving expectation values of fields, in particular the scalar field. This evolution is dictated by the properties of solutions of the field equations which are derived from a rather simple quantum effective action for our model of pregeometry. Many ingredients for realistic cosmology, that are often ”put in by hand”, arise naturally from pregeometry. (51, 2104.14013)

Wilczek, Frank. Physics in 100 Years. arXiv:1503.07735. This posting by the MIT Nobel laureate physicist of his talk at Brown University’s 250th anniversary occurs between his 2013 Multiversality paper (search) and a latest July 2015 book A Beautiful Question. Into this 2115 vista, the past and future of science is seen most of all as a grand unification project. Prior endeavors are mechanics and optics, space and time, wave and particle. Over the next century, new syntheses might involve Forces, Forces and Substance, Space-Time and Matter, Evolution and Origin, Action and Information, Quantum and Symmetry, and Mind and Matter. As a result, the promise of a technical co-creation is illumed over micro, meso and macro scales. The beautiful essay alludes to a consequent wisdom, as does the book, which might be most guided by an appreciative fulfillment of a natural, yin-yang like complementarity. See also a shorter version in Physics Today for April 2016.

Unification V: Action and Information: Information is another dimensionless quantity that plays a large and increasing role in our description of the world. Many of the terms that arise naturally in discussions of information have a distinctly physical character. For example we commonly speak of density of information and flow of information. Going deeper, we find far-reaching analogies between information and (negative) entropy, as noted already in Shannon's original work. Nowadays many discussions of the microphysical origin of entropy, and of foundations of statistical mechanics in general, start from discussions of information and ignorance. I think it is fair to say that there has been a unification fusing the physical quantity (negative) entropy and the conceptual quantity information. Fundamental action principles, and thus the laws of physics, will be reinterpreted as statements about information and its transformations. (17)

Unification VII: Mind and Matter: Although many details remain to be elucidated, it seems fair to say that metabolism and reproduction, two of the most characteristic features of life, are now broadly understood at the molecular level, as physical processes. Francis Crick's Astonishing Hypothesis is that it will be possible to bring understanding of basic psychology, including biological cognitive processing, memory, motivation, and emotion to a comparable level. But mind is what it is, and what it is will not be diminished for being physically understood. To me it seems both prettier and more sensible to regard the Astonishing Hypothesis anticipating the richness of behavior matter can exhibit, given what physics has told us matter is. Biological memory, cognitive processing, motivation, and emotion will be understood at the molecular level. And if physics evolves to describe matter in terms of information, as we discussed earlier, a circle of ideas will have closed. Mind will have become more matter-like, and matter will have become more mind-like. (19)

Wilczek, Frank. The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces. New York: Basic Books, 2010. An accessible, well written entry to these frontiers by MIT physicist. In 2004, FW received the Nobel physics prize, along with David Gross and David Politzer for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction. The first quote is the book synopsis, while the second explains the title. Milan Kundera’s latest novel is The Festival of Insignificance, (2015) which is even more anguished. While a perceptive scientist is able to sense a deeply innate design, a minority view, the second humanities culture continues to descend into terminal despair. So these contrasting works could well delineate our urgent contest and struggle between desolation and discovery.

Our understanding of nature’s deepest reality has changed radically, but almost without our noticing, over the past twenty-five years. Transcending the clash of older ideas about matter and space, acclaimed physicist Frank Wilczek explains a remarkable new discovery: matter is built from almost weightless units, and pure energy is the ultimate source of mass. Space is no mere container, empty and passive. It is a dynamic Grid; a modern ether; and its spontaneous activity creates and destroys particles. This new understanding of mass explains the puzzling feebleness of gravity, and a gorgeous unification of all the forces comes sharply into focus. The Lightness of Being is the first book to explore the implications of these revolutionary ideas about mass, energy, and the nature of empty space. In it, Wilczek masterfully presents new perspectives on our incredible universe and envisions a new golden age of fundamental physics. (Publisher)

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the title of a famous novel by Milan Kundra. It is about many things, but perhaps above all the struggle to find pattern and meaning in the seemingly random, strange, and sometimes cruel world we live in. Of course, Kundera’s approach to these problems, through story and art, looks very different from the one I’ve taken through science and philosophy. For me at least, coming to understand the deep structure of reality has helped make Being seem not merely bearable, but enchanted. Hence The Lightness of Being.

Matter is not what it appears to be. Its most obvious property – variously called resistance to motion, inertia, or mass – can be understood more deeply in completely different terms. The mass of ordinary matter is the embodied energy of more basic building blocks, themselves lacking mass. Nor is space what it appears to be. What appears to our eves as empty space is revealed to our minds as a complex medium full of spontaneous activity. (1)

But Nature’s data set seems far from arbitrary. We’ve been able to make short codes that describe large parts of reality fully and accurately. More than this: in the past, as we’ve made our codes shorter and more abstract, we’ve discovered that unfolding the new codes gives expanded messages, which turn out to correspond to new aspects of reality. (141) Even more compressed, profoundly simple equations to start, ever more complex calculations to unfold them, ever richer output that the world turns out to match, This, I think, is a down-to-earth interpretation of what Einstein meant in saying “Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.” (142)

Wolchover, Natalie. Scientists Unveil a New Inventory of the Universe’s Dark Contents. Quanta Magazine. August, 2017. A report on the Dark Energy Survey’s first year results of 26 million galaxies in the southern sky. (How fantastic is it that an infinitesimal Earthwise collaborative species, me + We peoples altogether, are yet able to study and quantify such breadth and depths of cosmic creation.) Surely there must be some awesome reason, purpose and destiny for humankinder’s presence, courage and perceptive brilliance.

A report on the Dark Energy Survey’s first year results results, via a link, of 26 million galaxies in the southern sky. And how fantastic is it that an infinitesimal Earthwise collaborative species, me + We peoples altogether, are yet able to study and quantify such breadth and depths of cosmic creation. Surely there should be some awesome reason, purpose and destiny for humankinder’s presence, courage and perceptive brilliance.

Zwierlein, Martin. Shock Cooling a Universe. Nature Physics. 9/10, 2013. The director of the MIT Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms describes how the cosmos kick started itself. The author’s work has also been a segment for the May 2014 Nova TV program Making Stuff Colder which features new ways to get within nano-Kelvin degrees of absolute zero. This laboratory state was said to be colder than outer space. Who then are we phenomenal peoples that can do things the universe can’t?

Rapid cooling across a phase transition leaves behind defects; from domain walls in magnets to cosmic strings. The Kibble–Zurek mechanism that describes this formation of defects is seen at work in the spontaneous creation of solitons in an atomic Bose–Einstein condensate.

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