THURSDAY 14 Jan ~ A Theory of the Universe

Today i was reading an article about Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist. Some of his most important work was done on the nature of black holes. Reading about his work led me to some interesting speculation.

Firstly, let us consider black holes. They are not quite what the name implies, though partly. They are a product of gravity. Gravity is a property of mass. Gravity can be understood in two ways, either as a force that attracts bodies having mass to one another or as a property of space, a kind of “curvature” which also has the effect of making massive moving bodies tend to move together. Either way, the more massive the body the greater the attraction. Thus, if a comet flies too close to the Earth, it falls to the ground. It is captured. If it passes by further away then it may fly past, but its course may be bent by the passage past. Now, we can readily understand that the bodies that fall to earth do not fly away again. Therefore the body that attracts other bodies has a natural tendency to become heavier and heavier as it attracts more other bodies. On a cosmic scale the Earth is a very small body. The sun is a bigger body. We know, however, that there are other bodies much bigger still. When a concentration of mass reaches a certain size we start to call it a black hole because anything passing by is sucked in and cannot get out again. At this stage not even light can get out. Consequently it is impossible to get any information about what the inside of a black hole is like.

This means that, in certain ways, a black hole seems unlike anything else in the universe and so scientists call black holes, singularities. A singularity has an event horizon which is the point beyond which information is irretrievable, or, beyond which even light cannot get out. Although singularities are strange in these ways, really they are simply super massive rotating bodies in space and it is the excessive mass that creates these odd effects. Outside of the event horizon, there will still be a gravitational field or space curvature just as for any other massive body. This may hold many other bodies in orbit. Thus, for instance, our own Milky Way galaxy rotates around a black hole that exists some vast distance away beyond the constellation of Sagittarius.

Now it is a natural question why black holes do not gobble up the whole of space. In the early theory of singularities it seemed that they could only get bigger and bigger, more and more massive. However, subsequent work has revealed that at a certain stage of development a new trend sets in. The enormous forces around the rotating event horizon have the effect of bringing new matter into being. How does one produce something out of nothing? By producing matter and anti-matter at the same time. Generally, when matter and antimatter exist in proximity they merge and destroy each other. Thus much new matter comes into being but then soon disappears again. However, at a certain stage the centrifugal effect tends to send the matter outward leaving the antimatter to fall into the singularity. This antimatter reduces the mass of the singularity. The overall effect is that the black hole now starts to shrink and shed wave upon wave of matter outward as it does so.

So we can say that singularities are a bit like whirlpools that persist for a time and then peter out. While they persist they hold matter and information out of circulation.

These whirlpools probably have something to do with the flow of matter in the universe as a whole which is now generally reckoned to be the result of the so-called Big Bang. The universe is expanding and if we track backwards and project a bit further than we can track we arrive at the conclusion that all the matter in the universe must once have been in one spot. We then envisage that it exploded outward and that is how the universe began.

So far here I have reviewed established theory. I find it very interesting to get these ideas straight in my head. One of the things that caught my interest is the fact that in many ways the Big Bang seems to function like a black hole in reverse. Another interesting point is the creation of something out of nothing by the generation of matter and anti-matter simultaneously.

What if, fundamentally, nothing exists? What I mean is that it seems a not unlikely speculation that for every bit of matter in existence there is, somewhere, equivalent anti-matter, such that were it all to come together it would all be self-neutralising. This seems more likely than that there is an imbalance between matter and anti-matter. If the universe is a zero sum game then it is a bit like yin and yang. For every yin there has to be a yang, somewhere.

But where? The universe as we know it is made of matter. Antimatter shows up very rarely and does not last long. However, if my zero sum idea were right then there has to be an awful lot of antimatter hiding somewhere. How could such a lot of it go out of circulation?

My speculation, therefore, is that the so-called Big Bang may, in fact, not be an event at all, but rather be an antimatter singularity. It would have to be a rather big one - as massive, in fact, as the whole universe, except that it would be antimass. It would not necessarily have to be very big because it might be intensely dense. If this were true then what we call the Big Bang would not be an event that occurred long ago and is now past. It would have to still exist. The antimatter would have to still exist for the matter to exist. This would mean that the universe has, at its centre, an antisingularity as massive as itself. Whether such an idea is testable, I do not know. Such an antisingularity would bottle up not only all the huge amount of antimatter necessary to keep the matter that we are made of in being, it would also bottle up a huge amount of information. This might also mean that the universe is ultimately not totally understandable, not simply for lack of expertise or experiment, but because more than half the information is, literally, not available.

Of course, non-specialists such as myself are not supposed to venture speculations on topics of this kind and it is probable that any properly qualified physicist could destroy my hypothesis in a few lines of his pen, but I had an interesting time arriving at it and it led me to a variety of other lesser speculations and ideas.

The whole idea that the universe may, in a sense, cancel itself out, is an interesting one in its own right. It suggests, notwithstanding the term “singularity,” that there is really nothing singular in the universe. Either there is nothing - the void - as the ultimate reality, or, wherever there is one thing there is an equal and opposite other. Everything exists in pairs or multiplicities thereof. This kind of idea has applications well beyond physics and certainly has some resonance in Buddhist philosophy.

Another aspect is that the antisingularity would probably be subject to the same kind of life cycle as smaller black holes which would mean that at some time way in the future it will decay, radiating antimatter in waves that will be the complete nemesis of the universe. All the stars would not just go out, they would cease to exist. Of course, it is unlikely that this would happen in a pure or smooth way. Probably the perturbations would be sufficient to set going another whole cycle. All of which sounds very like some of the ancient Indian models of pulsating universes coming into existence and going out of existence.

Above all, however, these speculations gave me some sense of liberation, a sense that comes with the idea that things might not be as one has been told, but might turn out to be entirely different. In a certain way, in our culture, we have got into a position where nobody can challenge the received ideas and so even spending a few hours really thinking outside the box can be very refreshing.

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