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I had a thought and felt compelled to jot it down before I forget it. It’s not yet very well thought out so I’m going to write things down as they occur to me. Apologies in advance if this post becomes a bit messy.
The topic is the universe, its origin, the possibility of other universes and their relation to quantum mechanics. As some of you might know, I’m a big fan of the zero-energy universe. The idea that something cannot come from nothing is an idea that has become outdated due to quantum mechanics. As Lawrence Krauss said “If you observe nothing for long enough, something will appear”. What he is refer to is known as quantum fluctuations.
Quantum fluctuations are a phenomena where if you have a vacuum with absolutely zero particles and energy in it and you observe/measure it over a period of time, you’ll find that something does in fact appear out of this nothingness. These are known as virtual particles and without getting technical, basically they appear and disappear in the nothingness leaving real energy signatures that affect their surroundings. Essentially, we are getting energy out of nothing. Now I’ve heard people argue “oh, well that’s not nothing then”. A debate on Q&A comes to mind and as usual, it was a theist trying to cast doubt on science (rather hypocritically). I’ll save that rant for another time, but suffice to say if you have a vacuum with nothing in it – that’s nothing. You can’t say it’s not nothing because the nothing you’re trying to describe doesn’t exist. When you find evidence of such a nothing existing, you can come back and say something. Old habits die hard – these people love claiming things exist without any evidence.
So how does this tie in to the universe? Well quantum mechanics still hasn’t been unified with general relativity, but it does provide an explanation for the origins of the universe. The zero-energy universe is one such idea, but the gist of it is that a singularity (from which the big bang and universe occurred) is so tiny that it falls within the realms of quantum mechanics. As a result, it doesn’t violate any laws by appearing out of nothing. Quite simply, the universe could have created itself out of nothing.
That got me thinking – why did the singularity keep expanding rather than dissipating and leaving an energy signal like most other virtual particle? The go-to answer for expansion is dark energy, but drawing from the Poplawski universe model and the torsion-rebound theory, I thought of another possibility.
What if all virtual particles contain universes? What if quantum fluctuations are a universe birthing mechanism?
Well, obviously the next question is, how does this work? I’m not going to sit here and claim things without providing proof – that would make me an idiot.
Let’s go through it step by step. At first, we have a singularity. Where did it come from? For this concept (I say concept because a scientific theory has been tested mathematically and experimentally, which I cannot do) we are considering the possibility that the singularity, as a subatomic particle, appeared via a quantum fluctuation as a virtual particle. Now from what we already know, this singularity exploded, known as the Big Bang, releasing large amounts of energy and expanding well beyond the speed of light. Here’s where my idea reaches a fork and would require further research.
First, we consider that virtual particles do release energy. The argument would then be made that these energy levels are tiny compared to the big bang. However, one must also consider perspective. From our universe’s perspective, the energy released by the virtual particle is small, but if that virtual particle contained another universe, relative to them, that amount of energy would be the absolute maximum they could ever attain. This gives rise to the idea of a staggered multiverse, where there are greater universes with more energy and vice versa.
Second, (consider this a different option unrelated to the one above) the effects of travel beyond light speed is unknown. However, if one considers the virtual particle contains a similar universe to ours (i.e. of similar energy levels, and thus similar mass, and thus similar gravity), then the moment that virtual particle experiences a “Big Bang” it has reached levels of gravity many times that of a black hole and is inflated beyond the speed of light. From the outside nobody knows what that would look like. But we can take a good guess. Black holes are known to distort time. We can never peer into a black hole because the gravitational tides distort both light and time. As a result, we can never travel out of one if we get caught in its event horizon. In essence, the inside of the black hole is almost like a separate universe to ours – we cannot see inside, journey inside or journey out of (if we ever got in), and time freezes as we approach its singularity. Additionally, time slows as we approach light speed. Theoretically, at light speed time would stop so an external observer could stare at you for an eternity and never see anything. Again, this has the effect of isolating something from the rest of the universe – you become unobservable because time has stopped.
What if the same were true for virtual particles? If it contains a universe, its gravity and speed of inflation would separate it from our universe. The small energy signature could be residual or leakage from the contained universe. A black hole releases radiation (Hawking Radiation) so that is a detectable verification of this idea, but one would say a black hole’s radiation is much higher than that of a virtual particle. Well, a black hole isn’t expanding faster than light – it’s shrinking. Combining the gravity and the inflation could potentially have the effect of not only isolating the interior from the rest of our universe (as a black hole does) but displacing the entity itself from our dimension. Essentially, the moment the virtual particle disappears (leaving behind a weak residual energy signature) it has experienced its Big Bang and as a result, has separated itself into its own dimension, creating a universe with it. Alternatively, it could be in the same dimension, but due to the isolating effect of gravity and super-light-speed travel, we cannot observe it, nor can it affect us.
It’s not new to say that the universe created itself out of a quantum fluctuation, but it should be new (unless somebody thought of this before me again – just like with the Poplawski theory) to say that quantum fluctuations are in fact creating universes and we are in fact seeing that happen when virtual particles appear and disappear. Not only does this build on an existing theory – the zero-energy universe model (and thus all the evidence, research and experimentation that has gone with it), but it bridges the gap where one could ask how this universe continued to expand when most virtual particles disappear and leave energy behind.
The exciting thing is this is testable to some degree. Many string theory supporters have been hoping the LHC will launch a particle at sufficient energy levels to send it into another dimension. Basically, the particle would “disappear” and we’d have a missing energy signal. If we do achieve this, that would potentially be evidence of further dimensions and be a whole new platform for us to work science on.
I think I should also mention at this point that Dr. Tyson mentioned something somewhat related to this topic. He asked that if it was possible that someone was launching particles from another dimension (like we would at the LHC) and they are appearing in our dimension as quantum fluctuations. This was during the 2011 Isaac Asimov Memorial Debate for those interested – entertaining to watch, just YouTube it.
Well, I would like to rephrase his point because it was sort of laughed off as a joke. What if it wasn’t “someone”? It’s entirely likely that higher dimensions have higher states of energy. For example, their universal constants might have a higher value and their speed of light could be greater or it could be possible to exceed light speed. In that case, it’s entirely likely that such an occurrence could happen naturally. No, not someone launching particles into our dimension – just a natural occurrence at higher energy states. This would provide an interesting approach for string theory scientists, as well as address the mystery of quantum fluctuations.
Anyway, that’s my random shower-time theory. It’s been a while since I’ve had one of these but it always gets me excited when my brain starts trying to connect separate pieces of knowledge that I’ve acquired.
The internet has a much more convoluted history than you might think. The internet is often seen and used as something that has “always existed”, but understanding the history of it will easily punch holes in that false idea (which is often used in literature and film, for some reason; refer to link above). There’s way too much for me to go through, so I’m just going to highlight a few key points.
Preceding the internet was the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), which was born from necessity as there were only a limited number of powerful research computers at the time. ARPANET was the world’s first operational packet switching network, allowing researchers access to the aforementioned computers even if they were geographically separated from them. In the 1980s, Al Gore promoted legislation that funded an expansion of the ARPANET, eventually allowing greater public access and thus enabling the creation of the internet. This alone is enough for me to put Al Gore in the Hall of Fame (which I will do later).
In 1971, the first ARPANET email was sent (yes, the email predates the internet) and by 1973, the ARPANET made its first trans-Atlantic connection with the University College of London. By now, email accounted for 75% of ARPANET activity. In 1974, there was a proposal to link networks similar to ARPANET together into an “inter-network” with no central control, operating around a transmission control protocol (eventually becoming TCP/IP). In 1983, ARPANET computers met the deadline for switching over to TCP/IP protocols (which is what modern internet functions on) and in 1984, Domain Name System (DNS) was created. By 1987, there were nearly 30,000 hosts on the internet (as the TCP/IP switch allowed for a much larger number of hosts). 1989 saw the proposal for a World Wide Web (originally called “Mesh”), written by Tim Berners-Lee. He finished the protocols for the World Wide Web in 1990, along with standards for HTML, HTTP and URLs. I’ll stop our journey in 1991 when the first web page was created; the page explained what the World Wide Web was.
As mentioned, the internet was born of the need for a greater communications network for researchers. There is a theory floating around that the internet began with some military computers in the Pentagon that were designed to survive a nuclear attack, but Bob Taylor (the Pentagon official in charge of ARPANET) insists the purpose was not military but scientific. The term “internet” was a social influence on the term “inter-network”, though no one is quite sure when the word became standard.
As I didn’t get to include as many idioms as I would have liked in the last post, this is a continuation on the last one.
In other news, getting Freshly Pressed in under 4 weeks of starting this blog was pretty exciting, so I did a bit of re-organising. As you can see on the left, it’s now easier to navigate to the category you’re interested in reading. I’ve made etymology its own category as I plan to go into not just expressions, but weird words and names in the future.
Without further ado, here are a few more idioms (some of these were mentioned in the comments of the previous post, to which I give my thanks and recognition; I have added a bit of research to flesh these out):
Cold Shoulder: To distance oneself from by displaying coldness or indifference.
There is some dispute over the etymology of this expression, with a commonly held belief being that visitors who overstayed their welcome at one’s house were served only a “cold shoulder of mutton”. Whilst appearing in many etymology texts, there is a noticeable lack of supporting evidence for this theory and it is thus considered “folk etymology”. The first example of this term can be found in The Antiquary (Sir Walter Scott, 1816):
The Countess’s dislike didna gang farther at first than just showing o’ the cauld shouther.
In his text, Scott uses the term “shouther” (Scottish dialect for shoulder if you were wondering) to refer to exactly that – the shoulder. There is no reference to food anywhere, though plenty of references to shoulders:
… they stood shouther to shouther.
A more compelling evidence for the common day usage of this term can be found in his later work St. Ronan’s Well (1824):
I must tip him the cold shoulder, or he will be pestering me eternally.
It is assumed that he coined this term himself and the phrase began appearing frequently after the 1820s.
Raining Cats and Dogs: Raining very heavily.
This one has no definitive origin, though a lot of folk etymology surrounds the phrase. Since I can’t really tell you where this expression came from, I can only speculate based on evidence.
One claim is that in the 16th century, the family pet would crawl into the thatched roof of a house to hide from the rain and would fall through the roof when the rain was heavy enough.
Another claim is that, due to the primitive drainage systems of the 17th century, sewers would spew out their contents during heavy rain, including the corpses of animals that had accumulated in them. Whilst it is unsure that the phrase came from this origin, the phenomenon itself is documented and appears in the poem Description of a City Shower (Jonathan Swift, 1710):
Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud,/Dead cats and turnip-tops come tumbling down the flood
Another possibility is the corruption of the Greek word Katadoupoi, referring to waterfalls of the Nile and reflected through the old French word catadoupe, meaning waterfall. It is suggested that there is no logical explanation, and the term simply became popular due to humour, such as other similar phrases like “raining pitchforks”.
As for me, I go by the earliest evidence we can find, found in the comedy The City Wit or the Woman Wears the Breeches (Richard Brome, 1653) where it is said:
It shall raine … Dogs and Polecats
While a polecat is not biologically a cat (feline species), it’s not hard to imagine this fact being overlooked over time. The term itself first appeared word for word in A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation (Jonathan Swift, 1738):
I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs.
Based on the fact that Swift mentioned dead animals during heavy rain in his earlier poem, I’m inclined to believe that the phrase originated from this phenomena.
Sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite: Sleep well
Many of you may recognise this from the old nursery rhyme (you can Google this rhyme yourself if you want it), but the meaning of the term is twofold.
First, sleep tight referred to the old beds before mattresses existed. Beds were elevated rectangular frames with ropes tied across in a weave for the sleeper to lie on. Obviously, knowing this, sleep tight refers to not having these ropes sag and drop the occupant to the floor (tight meaning the ropes were tight, in case you missed the nuance). According to historian Dr. Jerry Lee Cross, the “sleep tight” is common knowledge amongst historians as the modern bed is little over a hundred years old.
As for the bed bugs; well they exist. The scientific name for the blood sucking insect is Cimex lectularius. There were some folk practices for sleeping in a way that avoided these bed bugs from feasting on you. As the bugs are wingless, it was common practice to put cans on the bedposts with kerosene (like a moat) so that the bugs wouldn’t climb across. They also had to avoid letting their sheets touch the floor, lest the bugs climb up that way. Curiously enough, this may have programmed the sheet-floor response into us. I’m not sure how many others experience this but as soon as my blankets touch the floor I yank them back up. It’s not that I think my floor is dirty, I just don’t like my blankets on them.
Well this post got longer than I expected and it’s only three idioms but I’ll cut it short here. Tune in later for another instalment!
The English language is full of strange idioms, many of them that we use without understanding how that phrase came to being. I only have time for a few but I might add more later. Let’s take a look at them shall we?
Train of thought: The process and direction of one’s thoughts
From the early 14th century, the word “train” meant a “drawing out or delay” of something. In the mid-15th century, the word evolved to include a “retinue or procession”. The first example of the term “train of thought” was attested in the 1650s whereas the first use of the word “train” in the sense of a locomotive. As a result, the idiom “train of thought” has nothing to do with trains (the transport) and is more likely to derive from a “delay” of a “procession” of “thought” (hence losing your train of thought).
Cup of Joe: Coffee
There are a few theories on this one. I’ll talk about the two most popular ones here.
The first is attributed to Secretary of the US Navy, Josephus Daniels (1862-1948), for banning all US Navy ships from serving alcoholic beverages. As a result, sailors resorted to the next strongest drink: coffee.
The second is a reference to a “cup of jamoke” as coffee is a compound of Java and Mocha. The term jamoke has been used in popular culture before, hence a “cup of joe” being derived from a “cup of jamoke”.
Beat About/Around the Bush: To avoid getting to the point
The earliest example of this term was recorded around 1440 in the poem Generydes – A Romance in Seven-line Stanzas.
Butt as it hath be sayde full long agoo,
Some bete the bussh and some the byrdes take.
This anonymous poem exists only as a single handwritten manuscript in the library of the Trinity College and Cambridge. The implication of this was that it was worse to “bete the bussh” than to “take the byrdes”. The next earliest example of the modern day phrasing of the term can be found in George Gascoigne’s Works, 1572.
He bet about the bush, whyles other caught the birds.
Technically, the correct phrase, if you stick to the origins of the word, would be “beat about the bush” but the incorrect US version took over in around 1980 so now most people say “beat around the bush”.
Gung Ho: Over-enthusiastic attitude towards doing something
This word was adapted from the Chinese military motto meaning “work together” (the word being kung ho). Lt. Col. Evans Carlson used this term frequently during World War II, where he would hold gung-ho meetings for his troops. They would discuss their problems and orders at these meetings. The expression became even more popular after the movie Gung Ho! in 1943 depicting a marine who did everything it took to get the job done.
Take the cake: Taking a prize symbolising victory or success
While it is widely believed that the phrase originated from the strutting competition known as the “cake-walk” in which the winner would have been said to have “taken the cake”, where cake was often the prize. This was popular within the black community of Southern USA in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
However, this expression has existed since the early 5th century BC where the Greeks used “take the cake” as a symbol for taking the prize. In 420 BC Aristophanes wrote “The Knights” (a criticism of the powerful Athenian politician Cleon).
If you surpass him in impudence the cake is ours.
The term “take the biscuit” is used the same way.
Early bird (takes the worm): Opportunity goes to those that are prepared
This is a tough one; the first recorded example can be found in John Ray’s A collection of English proverbs 1670, 1678.
The early bird catcheth the worm.
However, this suggests that the word was already in popular usage.
EDIT: I’ve added a part 2 with another three idioms.
So since the Higgs Boson thing, I haven’t really written much about science. I thought I’d do a quick one on panspermia to amend this little problem.
Of all the theories on how life on Earth originated (or to be more specific, how it accelerate at such a rate), panspermia stands out as the most likely (in my opinion).
We all know life evolved over billions of years (it’s estimated that the earliest forms of life existed on earth around 3 billion years ago, if I remember my astronomy course correctly), but there was a period of time where evolution was sped up beyond predicted levels, allowing multicellular lifeforms to evolve in a much shorter time than they would normally have needed. I feel lazy tonight so I’m going to do most of this off the top of my head. If there’s anything I’m a bit hazy on, I’ll say so. I’m pretty solid on my facts of panspermia itself, I’ve just forgotten the exact timing and order of bacterial evolution on Earth. Feel free to research this yourself.
Anyhow, let’s not get into an argument over whether evolution is real or not. That would be stupid and unscientific, both of which automatically disqualify your opinion. I’m not here to say god doesn’t exist, you’re welcome to believe that he/she/it designed evolution, but the fact that evolution exists is a scientific truth on par with saying that atoms exist.
Panspermia is the hypothesis and process by which life is spread throughout the universe. The scientifc theory (let’s get this straight too, there’s a difference between a theory and a scientific theory) states that the universe is full of life (mostly at a very small and unevolved stage, such as bacteria) and these simple life forms travel around on comets, meteors and asteroids. When space rocks collide with a planet, they “seed” the planet with these simple life forms (by which I mean bacteria, carbon and amino acids). In layman’s terms, this means that life on Earth came from outer space, and very likely from Mars (because 7.5% of Mars rocks land on Earth).
Here’s my own little twist to the theory (although I doubt nobody else has thought of it before). The universe, and thus life, was creating in the Big Bang. Originally, the Big Bang created hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of lithium. All the other elements on the periodic table were created in the furnaces of stars and released through supernovae, which scattered these elements throughout the universe (loosely quoted from Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson). As we know, stars are formed in nebulae, which are huge regions of dust and ionised gases, often containing these elements that were spread across the universe by other stars (which were formed by the original three elements of the Big Bang). The star’s gravity then attracts more space dust which orbit around it, eventually clumping together and forming planets. It thus follows that Earth was created in the same way, and either our nebula contained carbon (which is not unreasonable as it is one of the most common elements in the universe), or during its formation, Earth was bombarded by space rocks containing carbon. This is an absolutely necessary process as we (all life as we know it) are a carbon based life form. By that logic, it’s not unreasonable to assume that Earth was formed with existing life forms already on the planet, though sparse.
Predictions for the time that these simple life forms would take to evolve into multi-cellular life forms, given their density and state of evolution, don’t coincide with actual figures. Something boosted them along the way. Considering 7.5% of rocks from Mars reach Earth, it’s very likely that Earth was further fertilised through panspermia, boosting the bacteria numbers and speeding up the process of evolution.
So if you’ve ever wondered where life on Earth came from, the answer is space. Of course, everything was once in space (and still is) so I guess that answer should be obvious. What I mean, though, is the majority of the basic, microscopic life forms that evolved into all life around us came flying here on meteors, so if your heritage was traced back far enough, you could mostly likely claim that you’re a Martian.
Those who want to hear some evidence may look at this list I’ve quickly compiled:
- In 1984, scientists discovered the meteor Allan Hills 84001. This meteorite had been blasted off the surface of Mars around 15 million years ago, and was found in Antarctica. In 1996 ALH84001 was shown to contain structures that may be the remains of terrestrial nanobacteria. Several tests for organic material have been performed on ALH84001 and amino acids and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons have been found. (http://www.panspermia-theory.com/)
- Bacteria can survive the harsh environment of space, and indeed, it is a well-documented fact that organic compounds are commonly found in the tails of comets. Carbon, early bacterial ingredients and amino acids are frequently found protected in meteors.
- Mars is a more protected planet than Earth, and may have developed an inhabitable atmosphere long before Earth did (it was less hot, is more protected from bombardment, and had oxygen before Earth).
- Recently, scientists discovered life in a sample of rock taken from Mars a few years back. Originally, they hadn’t understood what they were looking at. Unfortunately, they destroyed this life during experiments, as they had no idea what they were doing. This was in the news recently.
- Basic life ingredients like carbon (the best building block for complex life, followed by silicone) are abundant throughout the universe. They have also been proven to be able to survive in meteors, and are always shooting around through space at high speeds. Occasionally they land on a planet, and have been proven to be able to survive that impact (prove by many examples on Earth). It follows that life in space is frequently transported around to different planets.
The chilling, mind boggling and awesome extrapolation from this information is that perhaps humans once had a powerful civilisation on Mars, which eventually destroyed the planet through our well-known penchant for unsustainable living. As the planet could no longer support life (remembering that there is evidence of old river beds on Mars), we died out there as a species, leaving traces of our existence in bacteria and amino acid forms. Panspermia then brought us from Mars to Earth, where we reset the cycle and evolved all over again. If so, it’s ironic that we’re committing the same mistake again and destroying Earth. I can’t help but think, in the near future, we’ll drain this planet too, die out again, and then our remnants will be carried off as Earth, stripped of its protective atmosphere, is blasted to pieces, and perhaps we will re-evolve again on some other planet.
Well, if you’ve ever needed something to keep you up at night thinking, there it is. Man, science is awesome.