A few nights ago I finally finished reading Just Six Numbers : The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe by Martin J. Rees. I liked it. It was a good read. The author explains pretty much everything you need to know to understand the science of cosmology as it exists today. It was full of fascinating stuff if you’re interested in black holes, dark matter, superstring theory, and the “Big Bang” concept. In the end, though, it seems like most scientists today are going to a helluva lotta trouble to determine the size /age of the universe. Wouldn’t it be easier to just accept infinity? That’s what I kept asking myself while I was reading this book. If space and time are infinite – and I just don’t understand how they couldn’t be! – wouldn’t almost all of the problems these guys have with particle physics disappear? Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for finding answers and truth and meaning in the universe, but it seems like even if you get to a point where you can say, “Ah-ha! Here is the Big Bang and how it worked!” you are still going to have someone ask, “Well, what was there before that?” (I know I will. Does that make me dense?)
We humans are spending billions of dollars – not millions, billions – on research to determine the size and age of the universe.
I’m not dense. I understand – hell! I’m even in favor of – all the research that’s being done. Understanding the nuclear forces and gravity and knowing what constitutes the “dark matter” and everything else in the universe is wonderful. I’m sure that learning all these things will do wonders for our understanding of our place in the universe and the progress of science. I’m sure that tremendous advancements in medicine and technology will be the result of all this research. I think just once I’d like to read about a cosmologist who says, “Well, y’know, in the end, of course, space and time are infinite.” How could it be any other way? Before the “Big Bang” … What? Was there “nothing”? Isn’t an infinity of “nothing” still “something”? I just don’t get it. There is always going to be a “before”. You can’t just say, “Well, there is no ‘before’ the Big Bang.”
This is one of those places where philosophy and religion and “science” collide. Even Rees admits in his book that at some point the science is going to fail and the “true” questions and answers are for philosophers.
I think it was Douglas Adams who posited somewhere in his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series that as soon as we discover the true meaning of the universe it will instantly be replaced by something even more confusing. (And some say that this has already happened!) And in the DC Comics Crisis on Infinite Earths series all the troubles started – comically – when a scientist finally “saw” the Big Bang. I’m just sayin’ …