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Friday, April 25, 2014

Creation Myth

Why Are We Here?

"Daddy, why are we here?" my daughter asked me one evening when she was four years old.

"Well, because it's time for bed and we always tuck in and read a bedtime story here at this time," I said, rather hoping she wasn't trying to begin an existential philosophy discussion.

"No daddy, I mean what made us?"

"No one knows for sure, sweety.  Many people believe that there's a thing called God that created everything."  Even though I'm not religious, I decided to take the easy way out.

"Is that what you think too?" she asked.

"No, I don't," I said, not wanting to be dishonest, but definitely dismayed that she just didn't ask more about the deity concept for which there are a lot of standard and easy answers.

"Why do you think we're here?"

"Well, I think it's like if you watch the static on the TV, eventually you'll see your favorite movie."

"What's static?"

Damn, I had forgotten that TVs don't have static anymore. "Umm, well, huh, let me think about how to answer your question a little better and I'll get back to you."

"Okay, daddy."

As a result of this interaction, I decided to formalize my own personal Creation Myth, though I never shared it with either of my daughters.  But, lucky you, I'll share it with you instead!

I Love Lucy

To me, any good Creation Myth has to, at minimum, have both humor and chocolate as part of the narrative, without which, the universe would be a cold and empty place and not worth even thinking about.  And so we'll start with my favorite 3 minute segment of the I Love Lucy show where Lucy and Ethel work on a chocolate factory line.

The purpose of this 3 minute segment is to ask how long would one have to watch random static on an old-style TV before you saw this sequence?  Or, in more modern terms, a close-enough question is on a 1920 by 1024 monitor with 24 bit color at 30 frames per second connected to a random number generator, how many 3 minute segments would you have to watch to have 99% chance of seeing Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate factory?  You'll see why these questions are important a little later.

So I started calculating away but the number of random episodes was so large that my calculator started smoking and then died.  I then downloaded a high-precision package to my computer and it still couldn't do it.  That shows how infrequently people do these sorts of calculations.  Fortunately, I found a wonderful shortcut (especially footnote 6) and was able to help me calculate the answer to be approximately 10700,000,000,000 episodes.

That seems like a really big number, and it is in terms of human experience.  It's a 1 with 700,000,000,000 zeros after it.  If you started writing the number when you were born and were able to write several hundred zeros per second, you might finish writing it by the time you died.

Essentially Zero Relative to Infinity

But even numbers like 10700,000,000,000, huge as they are, are essentially zero relative to infinity. Or its close cousin eternity (which is just infinity along the time axis).  That is to say, no matter what number we can come up with, no matter what number we can calculate (not using infinity or dividing by zero or a couple of other cheats), no matter what number we can represent on paper, that number will always be much, much closer to zero than to infinity.

An informal proof: come up with any humongous number, call it X.  Create a new number, Y, by rounding X up to the nearest integer and then applying the factorial operator to it (i.e. Y =⌈X⌉!).  Now, while X is a humongous number, it's a teeny, tiny, puny little fraction of Y.  In other words, it's much, much, much closer to zero than to Y, or essentially zero compared to Y.  And Y is essentially zero relative to infinity.  How do we know?  It's just some other humongous number, like X above, so we can apply the same logic recursively to it.

Infinity and eternity take things that are essentially impossible and turn them into something that will almost surely happen.  The probability that you could sit down in front of the TV with the random number generator connected to it and see the I Love Lucy segment is pretty much zero.  But an immortal being would almost surely see the I Love Lucy segment on the random TV and almost surely see it many times if he was sufficiently patient.

In The Beginning

In my Creation Myth narrative, there is no beginning or end.  Things like, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and earth...," and " some moment all matter in the universe was contained in a single point, which is considered the beginning of the universe," just don't work for me.  They're fine creation myths, of course, and many people believe in the Judeo-Christian Genesis creation myth or the Big Bang Theory creation myth constructed by the priests of science, but they ring very, very hollow for me, and I definitely don't "believe in" them.

My Creation Myth narrative has all dimensions being infinite in both the plus and minus direction.  It also has an infinite number of non-orthogonal, non-linear dimensions, and no time dimension, but I'm neither going to get into that, nor defend that, in this post.  For this post, assume the 3 more-or-less orthogonal, somewhat close to linear physical dimensions, and the time dimension which we all experience.  And assume they're all infinite in both the plus and minus directions.

Why Would There Be Nothing?

Now we need to get back to a variant of my daughter's original question.  Why is there something?  As opposed to nothing?  My answer below is admittedly a non-answer, but hey, I also admit this is a Myth, not some sort of factual compendium for explaining existence.

The concept of "nothing" has no meaning without the concept of "something."  You can't have one without the other.  It's a yin and yang sort of thing.

And that leads to my belief that there's actual neither really "something" or "nothing" but rather just noise - that which is fluctuating randomly between something and nothing. In all the systems I deal with, noise is the natural state of things.  Neither a perfect signal, nor perfect quiet, as both are too ordered to be a natural state.  Just the static that you saw on old TVs or the static you heard on old radios.

Overall, not quite "something" and not quite "nothing."  Just noise, just randomness.

Noise of the Universe

In the universe, in my Creation Myth, the noise is ripples around the zero energy level.  They're tiny ripples, but every once in a while, they randomly have enough oomph to create matter/anti-matter virtual particle pairs, which, almost all of the time, recombine and dissipate back into the noise.

Since this is a Myth, I'm trying to avoid using scientific concepts whenever possible.  However, in this case, what I'm describing is something like the concept of vacuum energy and virtual particles.  Not exactly like that, but the gist is close enough if you need something more to stimulate your imagination.  And since this post is nothing but imagination, I figure there's no reason not to tap into other people's feverish imaginations as well.

So every once in a while, the noise has enough oomph to create very short lived particles, even less often it has enough oomph to create them and push them apart such that they don't immediately recombine, at least under certain conditions.  How often does this happen in any localized spot in space?  I have no idea, but it doesn't matter a bit, because no matter how long between particle creation events, the time is essentially zero relative to infinity.

How long would it take for 1080 such particles and anti-particles to form in reasonably close proximity with the particles all going one way and the anti-particles going another (I picked 1080 particles since that's approximately the number of particles thought to be in the universe that are observable by us)?  A really, really, really, long time, but that time is still essentially zero relative to infinity.  So it would almost surely happen.  Again and again and again.

And that's the gist of my Creation Myth.  Random energy fluctuations and infinity conspire to create possibility.  Watch the TV with the random number generator connected and eventually there will be something interesting to see.  Not in human time frames or even galactic time frames.  But relative to infinity, lots and lots of interesting stuff to see.

I call random creations of large numbers of particles (1080 for example) relatively close to each other Large Cosmological Events (LCEs). There have been an infinite number of LCEs like the one in which we exist, just separated very, very far apart in space and time.  They are usually separated by such large distances and time that we can't observe any evidence of other LCEs, though it may be that some of the particles and bits of energy in our portion of the observable universe are particles that originated in a different LCE a really long, long time ago.

Generally, all of the energy and matter dwindle away back to the background noise level way before they could be detected within other LCEs.  Our LCE will also dwindle away to nothing and then in this part of the universe, nothing of interest will happen again for a very long, long time.

Noise And The Big Bang

As I mentioned above, I don't find the Big Bang Theory very convincing.  But my Creation Myth doesn't exclude it as a possibility.  If you need some Bang in your Myth, either the particles swirl down into a point singularity and from there the Big Bang Theory can take over or there could have been a huge random energy spike in the vacuum right at the point of the Big Bang, essentially creating all of the particles at once at more-or-less the same point.

Noise and Deities

My Creation Myth doesn't preclude deities either, as long as deity is defined as extremely advanced conscious entity that has figured out how to utilize the vacuum energy of space to sustain itself for eons.  The deity would have originated as an intelligent life form on some planet or something somewhere in a Large Cosmological Event and then transformed itself to survive the eventual dissipation of the matter and energy of the local universe that allowed it to form and evolve.

While the deities would eventually dwindle to nothing and die due to being corrupted by the noise of the vacuum, it's possible that they might survive long enough occasionally to encounter one or more LCEs and the resulting habitable planets at some point.

Noise and Life

I've seen statements like "we now know the odds against the spontaneous generation of life are astronomical."  I don't personally subscribe to that analysis, but even if life is extremely unlikely in any one Large Cosmological Event, given an infinite number of them, life will almost surely happen in some of them.

In addition, the possible deities mentioned above might seed life as they drift through space and encounter LCEs, making life occur much more frequently than it would via random chance.

Thus, some life may be a mix of Creation and Evolution.


Clovis e Adri said...


" some moment all matter in the universe was contained in a single point, which is considered the beginning of the universe"

That wikipedia line you quote is doing a disservice to the comprehension of the big bang.

It is even more radical than all matter to be concentrated in a single point: it is the beginning of time and space itself to be marked by that point.

In other words, the picture of the big bang as a grenade exploding is wrong. When you think of a grenade exploding, you think of it in a definite position and a definite time, at which it explodes. The big bang is not like that, for there is not a stage set where the explosion event happens following a sequence in time. No, it is time and space itself coming to existence.

In this sense, Bret, your Myth is almost surely* contradicted by our cosmological theory with the best experimental validation we can have so far - we do not have infinite time to excuse us of any infinitely unlikely possibility. I am sorry.

*I say "almost surely" because it is possible to fit the big bang scenario within other scenarios, e.g. as it coming from another "prior" spacetime, among other possibilities, where there would be some other kind of space and time existing before our own coming to existence. So, if you really, really wish, keep going with your Myth, least I am accused of installing a big bang theocracy.

erp said...

Nicely skirted and entertaining.

Peter said...

"We seem to live our lives in perfect indifference to the Standard Model of particle physics, the world we inhabit nor only remote from the world it describes but different in detail, thank God."

"Over there, fields are pregnant with latent energy, particles flicker into existence and disappear, things are entangled, and no one can quite tell what is possible and what is actual, what is here and what is there, what is now and what was then. Nothing is stable. Great impassive symmetries are in control, as vacant and unchanging as the eye of Vishnu. Where they come from, no one knows. Time and space contract into some sort of agitated quantum foam. Nothing is continuous. Nothing stays the same for long except the electrons, and they are identical, like porcelain Chinese soldiers. A pointless frenzy prevails throughout."

"Over here, space and time are stable and continuous. Matter is what it is and energy does what it does. There are solid and enduring shapes and forms. There are no controlling symmetries. The sun is largely the same sun now that it was four thousand years ago when it baked the Egyptian deserts. Changes appear slowly, but even when rapid, they appear in stable patterns. There is dazzling variety throughout. The great river of time flows forward. We anticipate the future, but we remember the past. We begin knowing we will end."

"The God of the Gaps may now be invited to comment--strictly as an outside observor, of course. He is addressing us. And this is what He has to say: 'You have no idea whatsoever how the ordered physical, moral, mental, aesthetic and social world in which you live could ever have arisen from the seething anarchy of the elementary particles.'"

" 'It is like imagining sea foam resolving itself into the Parthenon'."

---David Berlinski

Susan's Husband said...


That's actually a known big issue in modern physics, except they call it the "collapse of the wave function". I've read entire books on exactly that issue.

It's also something I've been thinking about lately. Perhaps what we think is "reality" is just a convenient delusion, a purely cognitive reality imposed on the chaos of the real physical universe. Is sentience simply the ability to create a functional delusion of that nature?

Peter said...


As the resident liberal arts gadfly here among all you brilliant techno-geeks, I try to keep up, with limited success. All I can say in answer to your question is that I am blown away by the suggestion that a remote world of abstract conjecture based largely upon theoretical mathematics is the "real" one and the one we experience daily through our senses is the illusion.

Getting back to Bret's myth, I confess I have come to grab my wallet when I come across materialist savants basing their theories of reality on infinity. (And assume they're all infinite in both the plus and minus directions), whether they are talking about infinite time, infinite distance, infinite universes or an infinite number of typing monkeys. Infinity is a merciless taskmaster in logic, but it is also an abstract theoretical concept, no? From a materialist perpsective, isn't there something a little skewed in using it to ground theories of the origins and history of the "real" universe? How would you answer the charge that it is just a Ph.d version of that sweet old lady who said it was turtles all the way down?

Barry Meislin said...

Um, I think the point is that if a particularly great blog falls down in a dark forest with no one around to hear one hand clapping, then may one conclude that the opinions expressed (or not expressed) in/by/via that blog are figments of our collective imagination?

Or maybe not.

(But if one is looking for some humourous---well it has its moments---recreation mythology---I even think there's some chocolate in it, though it may well be ersatz---I'd recommend Atwood's "Oryx and Crake" trilogy....)

Susan's Husband said...


So at least you're getting your money's worth, reading here.

Susan's Husband said...

Ah, serendipity, the ability to perceive patters in the random chaos of underlying reality.

Peter, as an example of what I'm pondering, consider the Marvel Comics "no-price". Is it a thing? Is it real? Is it a functional delusion?

erp said...

No-prize is like many jokes, either one gets it or one doesn't.

Is Marvel comics a spin off of the old Captain Marvel comics I read as a kid? We used to wait at the candy store for the trucks to arrive delivering them. What pleasant memories.

aog: How do you manage to do all you do?

Bret said...

Barry Meislin wrote: "-I even think there's some chocolate in it..."

Indeed: "...and a chocolate-flavoured energy bar ... limp and sticky inside its foil..."

That counts as chocolate to me, so I bought it (kindle edition).

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...because it is possible to fit the big bang scenario within other scenarios..."


Bret said...

"It is like imagining sea foam resolving itself into the Parthenon."

I can easily imagine that.

Clovis e Adri said...


Peter, as an example of what I'm pondering, consider the Marvel Comics "no-price". Is it a thing? Is it real? Is it a functional delusion?

That and everything else Peter asked was already answered by a greater intellect than us all.

And the answer is 42.

Clovis e Adri said...


Getting back to Bret's myth, I confess I have come to grab my wallet when I come across materialist savants basing their theories of reality on infinity.

You better keep that wallet shut tight, for before you see it they will rob you infinitely many times.

Maybe you should invest it in bitcoins, I guess fraudsters and Libertarians won't mess up with their own currency.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "...they will rob you infinitely many times. "


Barry Meislin said...

Can anyone explain to me how stellar, supra-intelligent, cortex-ripped reps of the nation of exceptionalism can so easily/eagerly become Buddhist monk wannabees?

File under: There are no---thwack!!!---questions.

Barry Meislin said...

Well, enjoy it (I hope)....

Note, though that one must give it a bit of time and suspend more than a fair amount of disbelief...

Did I say it was "humourous"? Actually, it's terrifying...

Well, let's say "terrifying and humourous", so to speak.

Yes, give it time. It does kind of grows on (in?) you (like gene splices or organ implants).

But it's really quite something (once one gets over the queasiness and nausea)....

In short, highly recommended....

Peter said...

I can easily imagine that(sea foam resolving itself into the Parthenon).

Sure, me too. All the foam needs is enough oomph.

Hey Skipper said...

This is why I am a Dunnoist.

Even if your myth is correct, it answers nothing, because it begs another turtle.

And, along with Peter, I grabbed for my wallet at the invocation of infinity. It is a concept, not a number, so comparing it with a number, particularly when the subject in question — this universe's material existence — is countable, then infinity doesn't really come into play. (FWIW, I threw around some numbers and came up with 35,515 years to see just one frame from the chocolate factory, and 1.2E18 years to see two, never mind order. That is already meaningless.)

Bret said...

Hey Skipper: "...because it begs another turtle."

Ultimately, I'm a dunnoist as well, but I reject out-of-hand any theories or myths that have a beginning (or end). Those beg an infinitely number of turtles. I'd rather the one turtle that supports an infinite universal sort of thingy or thingies.

Hey Slipper: "...this universe's material existence — is countable..."

Is it? I reject that as well. It looks to me that which we are able to observe* seems to have a finite age, which is different from stating as fact that everything including that which is unobservable has a finite age.

*And what we think observe may or may not be accurate.

Hey Skipper said...

It looks to me that which we are able to observe* seems to have a finite age ...

That is what I am talking about.

Anything beyond that is religion.

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret & Skipper,

[Bret] Is it? I reject that as well. It looks to me that which we are able to observe* seems to have a finite age

[Skipper] That is what I am talking about. Anything beyond that is religion.

Let me bring news to you guys: what you are doing is indeed religion.

We have a very good theory, with outstanding experimental validation, that pretty much describes with good confidence the universe behavior up to its first seconds.

Now, from a pool of 10^17 seconds, you've chosen to apply your personal belifes to 1 single second. You ought to invoke a 10^-17 precision in your personal preferences over our experimental data.

That's not dunnoism. That's just blind faith, of the middle ages sort. Keep with your turtles guys, and take care not to fall down form Earth if you go too far away in the sea.

Bret said...

Clovis wrote: "Let me bring news to you guys: what you are doing is indeed religion. "

LOL. First note the post's title is Creation "Myth" so it's obviously not news.

A theory that can explain what is observed doesn't necessarily explain what is observed. It takes a leap of faith to link can and does with perfect certainty that there is no other possibility.

Hey Skipper said...

[Clovis:] We have a very good theory, with outstanding experimental validation, that pretty much describes with good confidence the universe behavior up to its first seconds.

I agree. (Although, I thought the theory is strong after a fraction of the first second.)

Any explanation of what went before that is hand waving.

Clovis e Adri said...


I agree. (Although, I thought the theory is strong after a fraction of the first second.)
As the exact number is a moving goalpost, I prefer to state 1 second just to make things simple.

Our most recent evidence on primordial gravitational waves can be interpreted (although that's model dependent too) as indicating that our Universe was hugely inflated when it was quite younger than 1 second, and that such inflation was triggered at an energy scale near 10^14 GeV.

We don't really understand the physics of such energy scale, as we could not yet achieve it under controlled experiments in our particle accelerators. Although the good news is that, previously, we thought the energy scale of inflation was near 10^19 GeV (the famous Planck scale), so in future we may come to understand more about those first microseconds than we expected to be possible.