Wild Ideas


Big Bang or Big Bust?

What is the Big Bang? The Big Bang Theory is that there was a time when all matter in the universe was initiated from an infinitely dense point that initially expanded at a rate that dwarfed the square of the velocity of light. The main body of evidence for this comes from mathematical extrapolation of the Hubble constant, that the further a star is from the Earth, the larger its red shift, that is, the further away the star, the faster it appears to be moving away from the Earth. That is taken to indicate that the universe is expanding from a central point, the origin of the Big Bang.

More evidence for the Big Bang is said to come from the work in radio astronomy begun by Penzias and Wilson. By the distribution of heat energy around the universe, it is claimed to be an indication that there was a high temperature, high energy event in the far distant past.

There are a number of people for whom the idea of the Big Bang seems just not likely. Fred Hoyle, the British scientist, popularizer of science, and science fiction writer, actually named the Big Bang theory of the birth of the universe as a jeering epithet. Fred didn't believe it. He was a proponent of something he called the Steady State Theory. The Steady State Theory states that the universe was here always and always will be. There is plenty of evidence that energy is produced from the dissolution of matter. Fusion, the production of energy from uranium or polonium nuclei splitting, or fission, energy made in hydrogen bombs or in the sun, are now known examples of E=mc2. But there is only scant evidence that energy produces mass.

Some bits of evidence against the Big Band Theory are that: (1) If the initiating "egg" of the universe was so massive, how did it keep from becoming a black hole? (2) Einstein predicted that light from a distant star would be bent by the gravity from the sun. Black holes prohibit the emission of electromagnetic radiation by gravity. So wouldn't star light travelling for enormous distances be slowed by astronomical bodies as they pass the incredibly large distances? But Einstein started with the assumption that the velocity of light was a constant, so perhaps the "slowing" of light might be seen as a red shift, giving the appearance that the further away a star was, the more the light is shifted to the red. (3) Scientists now are considering how to investigate the presence of "dark matter." It seems that the amount of observable matter in the universe is much smaller than the amount predicted by the math. Is there an appearance and disappearance of matter? (4) Einstein's equation, E = mc2, showing that energy and mass are two manifestations of the same thing, and Lise Meitner's observation that mass is lost in exothermic nuclear reactions, both call for some tradeoff between mass and energy. The use of nuclear energy in weapons and the production of electricity are proofs of the energy - mass relationship. If energy can be made from mass, isn't it likely that there is some way to make mass from energy? And, also, what is energy? We only know energy by electromagnetic radiation or its effect on mass. Are there other types of energy? Are there other types of matter? Are there ways to change one to another?

The Onion - Skin Arrangement of Forces

The quick - and - dirty definition of a force is a push or a pull. Another way to express it is that a force is one of the effects of energy upon matter. We see some forces around us every day. The forces we see most in our environment are the forces that come from one bit of matter pushing on another piece of matter, such as billiard balls hitting, or a muscle working. Just like muscles, forces have to come in pairs. There is always a balance between forces, an IN force and an OUT force, a forward force and a backward force. We might not think of it, but it is necessary for the "surface" of an atom to push outward against the other forces pushing it inward. If that were not so, an atom would collapse when pushed upon. You might say that the outside electrons of an atom provide a "hard surface" that pushes back in a support force when other forces are put upon them to distort the outside shape of the atom. There are electromagnetic forces. Something that has a positive charge (whatever that is) exerts a repulsive (repelling) force on another positive charge, but an attractive force on a negative charge. We can see this in everyday things such as the actions of magnets, the making and use of electricity to make motion (electric motors), or the action of lightning.

Gravity is not really a force. Albert Einstein showed us by his "man in a falling elevator" thought experiment that gravity is an acceleration, so weight must be the force. Yes, on a planet, weight is a downward force due to the mass of an object and the acceleration of gravity. So what opposes gravity or weight? Again, that force of an atom to push outward from its outer shell of electrons to keep the shape of the atom is the opposing force. If gravity becomes too great, as in a very large star, the atoms collapse and becomes neutrons. The star is then a neutron star. What keeps a neutron star from collapsing further?

The Strong Force

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