Saturday, January 26, 2008

the origin and evolution thereafter

i have always wondered what the origin of the universe was like. Actually i was even more perplexed about why there is a universe at all. Later on, i realized this might be akin to imposing a human trait of looking for meaning and purpose on a inanimate entity.

that said, the process as we claim to know it today is itself highly fascinating. The details aside, the common theme i find of great interest to me is the specifi-cation. The process of becoming from being. Change from constancy. Evolving from uniformity to lumpiness. whatever might have been the theoretical observations about specific details of first three minutes of the universe's life; i always thought of it as something very highly uniform giving way to something lot less uniform. In essence, the formation of energy and mass and localized concepts. I picture in my limited imagination the universe before time as a vast pool of being - unperturbed by any wrinkle. Then for some unknown reason or no reason at all, the wrinkles form. Interesting, neither space nor time are relevant in a universe made of uniformity. Because time is relevant only when change in some frame of reference or other is observable. Likewise, space is relevant only when distinct lumps are separated from each other and "location" has a meaning.

The evolution thereafter can thus be looked at as more and more specification. Energy came together to form mass and then smaller particles came together to form larger ones - later on atoms of small elements and then heavier elements - albeit lot more sparsely populated across the universe.
As of now, we could still be moving to heavier and more localized universe. To be precise earth in itself is a fairly dense object by universal standards of hydrogen and helium dominated stars. On earth again, much of the minerals are some of the heaviest elements in existence.

The universe seems to be already moving from hydrogen to helium. As fas as i know of star physics, i think the red giants, neutron stars and such later stages in stars' lives are necessarily of a heavier variety.

Leaving that line of thought aside, there is an interesting discussion elsewhere. Another direction in which the universe seems to be evolving is the complexity of its constituents. Of course it ties in well with the moving from uniformity to the specificity. however, over and above that, the universe is also seeing highly localized phenomena of self conscious beings like humans. Now i would not have had a very significant opinion of the species had it not been for the considerable change in their habitat that they have brought about. Earth has been altered a lot by human beings and i believe so will be the solar system in next 100 years or so.

on the optimistic side i can say this is beginning of the new age for the universe. it is the age of conscious beings altering the face of the universe over time. While obeying the laws of nature, going towards lower entropy in specific pockets. What i mean is that entropy as a whole is going to increase and that is a given. However, in our limited lifetimes, what we end up doing is altering the impact of entropy increase from what it would have been in its natural uniterrupted course of action to what it is because of human intervention. Simplest thing is our cities. The houses and streets and other things with it are not likely to be the result of any natural phenomena. Definitely not at the scale at which we have them. Of course while building the order in the cities, we do create a lot of disorder in the energy spent of building them and maintaining them. The entropy as a whole does go up. However, the path is altered. There is a pocket of system we have managed to create in the middle of disorder.

All the history of human civilization has been this creation of order amidst diffusion and disorder. The disorder is in some sense the natural way of the universe - it indicates uniformity at its own level. The next stage of universe's evolution seems aided by conscious being through their efforts to create a better surrounding for themselves.