Кригер Борис Юрьевич
The Uncertain Universe

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  • © Copyright Кригер Борис Юрьевич (kriger@list.ru)
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    Изд. "Llumina Press", 2007 (печатная версия)

  • Bruce Kriger

    The Uncertain Universe

      
       A Quest for the Ultimate Limits of Human Knowledge
      

    Llumina Press

      
      

    CONTENTS

      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
      

    What is Heavenly Wisdom to Us?

      
       So that we should not lead each other astray, we will begin with a clarification: Speaking of heavenly wisdom, I do not mean the religious aspects of our existence.
       This book is about my investigations in the area of contemporary knowledge of the universe-that with which the science of cosmology is concerned. The discussions will be seasoned with astrophysics, from which cosmology sprouted, and gently touched with philosophy, without which cosmology would have no special meaning, at least for us simple folks.
       Why should the science of cosmology concern us? What does the principle question laid in the basis of this science really mean? On the face of it, not much. And the same could be said of other sciences. We use mobile telephones and computers, not really considering-more accurately, not considering at all-how the microcircuitry works, and many have no idea what is inside these electronic devices. We use the universe like an automobile, without considering the workings of the engine. The universe carries us from birth to death virtually without pause, and insofar as it seems not to miss a beat, normally, we do not try to understand the core of its off that which is not broken.
       We are “consumers” of the universe as we are consumers of the services of airline companies. Should we really concern ourselves with how the airplane is constructed, and why it carries us to the end of our journey and does not drop out of the sky in mid-flight?
       In the case of the universe, everything is simple. We do not know the time of arrival at the destination airport; therefore, if the universe throws us out of everyday reality and into another world or non-existence (and it is a matter of taste-take your pick) before the schedule-established time, our complaint would not be quite valid.
       For the schedule to us is unknown, and we accept our mortality as a fact. Or perhaps we do not accept our mortality and attempt to forget that the essence of the universe is immutable. Yet even if we try to comprehend the construction of the airline universe, we will remain only mortal. Thus, following from the above statement, the manifestation of our interest in cosmology is not something that is more justified per se than an interest in the workings of a vacuum cleaner.
       There is, of course, one more factor that could cause us to take an interest in such an abstract subject, and that factor is none other than simple human curiosity. Like kittens, we stick our noses where they don't belong. But curiosity has its limits, and coming up against strange terminology and unimaginable masses, distances, and temperatures, we look away from this impractical science. We confuse the conceptions of meteorites and galaxies, and focus our curiosity on something simpler and more concrete.
       Occasionally, the apocalyptic news of an asteroid that might end human existence grips the world, and for a time the public warms to the celestial sciences, though as before, people confuse astronomy with astrology and cosmology with cosmetology.
       In the past, cosmology was inseparable from religion, and therefore interested society to a much larger degree. People discussed questions such as “Does God exist?” or “Whose god is superior?” People's lives were directly affected. Heretics were burned at the stake, and the question concerned not only learned men.
       Somewhere at the crossroads of past ages, the direct link between cosmology and religion was lost. Although people continue to kill each other in large numbers with relish for questions of religion, it is hard to imagine that someone today would be executed because of his adherence to a particular cosmological theory.
       But what do we hear? The New York Times reports in October 2005 that a representative of George Bush at NASA, George Deutsh, asked a Web design agency to add the word “theory” to occurrences of the term big bang on the NASA website.
       The administration of the most powerful person on Earth, George Bush Jr., isn't quite indifferent to whether the big bang is considered the premiere theory, or whether it is only one of many possible theories. (By the way, one must note that in this respect, Bush is completely correct: The use of the word “theory” at every mention of the big bang is the completely correct approach from the scientific point of view.) Most likely, however, Bush's primary concern is not scientific correctness, but of a religious bent. A similar situation is observed in the newly resurrected dispute over teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in schools without mention of the theory of intelligent design.
       It is possible you do not agree that the president of the United Sates-in January 2008, it is still Bush-is the most powerful person today. One may even say that his power matches the power of the gods. He can punish and have mercy on all of humanity. If one evaluates his power by its ability to destroy the world, consider that Bush is one of the few world leaders who possess a suitcase containing a control center for a huge nuclear arsenal. In the decades following the Cold War, we forgot about these nuclear suitcases, despite the fact that they have not ceased to exist. Incidentally, it is a known fact that President Nixon, in his time, delivered an order to start a nuclear war. (His subordinates ignored him, however.) Allegedly, there even existed a secret internal memorandum to ignore such orders from Nixon, who liked to play the role of a madman-or actually was one! In any case, the ability to start a nuclear war gives one power. Bush's fundamental enemies, those he has dubbed the “Axis of Evil,” do not yet possess sufficient power to destroy at once the entirety of humanity.
       You can say that there is nothing wrong with religiosity, a fear of God, and endeavoring to sustain morals, and I will agree with you to a certain extent. On the other hand, most civilized countries already declared a while back that religion should be separated from the state. This has become sort of a self-evident notion in our time.
       Now that we have illuminated possible contradictions, we return to cosmology. Therefore, properly speaking, cosmology has become separated from religion only from scientists' point of view. Statesmen and religious figures consider cosmology relevant to their own objectives. How else can one explain the interest of the Catholic Church in the conduct of independent research in cosmology and astrophysics? After all the Catholic Church, as far as I know, does not independently elaborate on the physics of semi-conductors or other practical issues!
       Insofar as cosmology plays a role in politics and religion, it simply cannot be without affect on our lives. Granted, the connection is subtle; multiple layers of demagoguery mask it, but the question of the design of creation has always been and will remain the fundamental element of political and religious speculation.
       If you do not agree with my assertion, allow me to clarify. The current conflict between Western and Islamic civilizations is founded, on one hand, on Islamic dogmatists and, on the other, strange as it may be, on Christian dogmatists-specifically, Protestant dogmatists, advocated for by the current U.S. administration. Bush sees his position as moral and pious. He constantly invokes his Protestant God as witness to his high intentions and divides the world into friends and foes. Moreover, foes by Bush's philosophy are associated with world evil. In this respect, the position of Islamic terrorists hardly differs from Bush's position. They also base their motivation on articles of faith, invoking their Islamic God as a witness to their high intentions and again dividing the world into friends and foes. Moreover, foes by the philosophy of the terrorists are also associated with world evil.
       Thus, to varying degrees, both sides require confirming arguments that their God and faith are the only true ones. Where else besides in the questions of cosmology would one seek substantiation of creation's divine beginning? To my astonishment, I once came across a propaganda video on the Internet, which started with an explanation of contemporary cosmological theory. It then went on to call for a conversion to Islam.
       And so cosmology, along with the battle over Darwin's theory of evolution (which, by the way, is just a piece of the overall cosmological picture and therefore of secondary importance) has not lost its former potency. It is still able to move nations and ignite wars. Again, you will perhaps not find a direct correlation between politics and religion and any sort of cosmological discoveries. Worse yet, whatever the cosmological discovery may be, the result is simplified and distorted to the point of being unrecognizable in order to make it serve one or another politico-religious concept.
       Such being the case, that cosmology is not separate from religion and politics, there is an urgent question facing contemporary society. Where does the fault lie? Do astrophysicists and cosmologists themselves allow political profiteering with their behavior, generalizing, and half-serious names of complex astrophysical phenomena such as “Big Bang,” “black holes,” “dark matter,” and “dark energy”? Or does the fault lie at the level of the philosophers who interpret the cosmological discoveries? We usually gauge a civilization's development by its approach to cosmological models.
       In a highly politicized environment, science simply cannot develop independently. If the president's representatives dictate to scientists how to name and characterize scientific theories, and if the president himself, with one stroke of the pen, can take away the lion's share of the budget for fundamental cosmological research, dooming the Hubble telescope (now civilization's main celestial eye, directed toward the farthest reaches of the universe), and can redirect funding to highly-politicized, utopian, and poorly conceived future flights to the moon and Mars with questionable scientific value, then science cannot develop independently. We are doomed to remain a society that conceives its cosmological ideas on the level of turtles, whales, or strings.
       Because of the abovementioned reflections, I decided to travel the world in search of direct encounters with people who study astrophysics, cosmology, and philosophy, in order to understand what goes on in this secretive area of human knowledge that has so often been the cause for bloody world catastrophes.
       Don't fear an asteroid flying at us from outer space; fear the idea that our politicians and religious leaders can drink their fill of poorly understood scientific concepts.
       How do you like the following sequence Darwin - Nietzsche - Hitler? Darwin innocently points out that species evolve by natural selection, which is the driving force of evolution. Nietzsche applies Darwin's theory to human society, calling a person a mere bridge between an ape and a superman. Then Hitler appears, a person trying only to help natural selection and destroy all inferior races in order to hasten the triumph of the superman.
       The facile application of deep scientific principles to human society usually results in colossal catastrophes. It seems completely logical to examine comprehensively today's cosmological beliefs and determine at which moment a truly scientific approach was substituted with an adventurist politico-religious approach-an approach that causes the world to tremble.
       Thus, before you is the story of my wanderings on Earth in search of heavenly knowledge about how and why this heavenly knowledge turns to delusion, at times as hopeless as a freefall into a black hole.
      

    The Black Holes of Harvard

      
       My perceptions of Harvard were formed from a combination of many things: a paper symbol, a certification printed on expensive paper, a seal, a scepter, an increate monument of human prestige. Harvard to me was one of the artifacts produced by centuries of human civilization, like the pyramids of Giza, the lighthouse of Alexandria, and other wonders of the world.
       Imagine my astonishment when my perceptions took shape and grew to the size of real buildings with brick walls built in the style of mildly aesthetic barracks that were standing before me. And the people, yes, the intelligent people, the Homo harvardiens-I saw a multitude of young, bright, pensive faces. You won't find that many places nowadays. Imagine a youth whose trousers aren't sliding off his backside! What a rarity in the modern world! What a Sabbath for a soul troubled by presentiments of the degradation of human civilization.
       After a short flight from Toronto to Boston, we set out for the room I reserved, which was in an ordinary, dreary house lacking even a sign. There was a heap of confusion, including the absurdity of stepping on post-it notes explaining in ample detail how to get into the house and where to leave the key when I left. The obvious greed of the homeowners bore witness to the palpably near presence of the next marvel I was to behold. People behave this way in Paris, where human bodies ebb and flow constantly, and the probability of meeting the same tourist twice is as small as finding a needle in a proverbial haystack.
       Do you mind if I express myself so abstrusely? It must be the beneficial influence of visiting Harvard. Here, everything is esoteric and reminds one of a riddle marred by the clumsy hands of time. Anyway, coming across the third note in this mangy room, which from the looks of it was densely populated with bedbugs and-good grief!-rats, I, keeping my calm, decided to have a firm and frank conversation with the landlady. She, of course, deigned not to make an appearance, but talked to me via cell phone. In our conversation, I communicated my rich travel experience, mentioning Cuba, Israel, Russia, and even some forsaken holes that I'm not keen to name in decent company to the wife of a former professor who had decided to augment her pension by renting her unprepossessing rooms for 180 dollars per night (that was the going rate). I told her I was experiencing a certain disappointment in this degrading accommodation, where my son's bed consisted of blankets providently laid out on the floor. In the end, I was let go to the four winds, but I soon happened upon a much more pleasant camp where weary travelers could find rest. My son and I settled in the hotel Irwin House at the very end of Cambridge Street, which practically abuts the venerable complex of buildings by the name of Harvard Yard. These buildings form the heart of the famed symbol of knowledge and Western prestige. Spending only an extra twenty dollars per night, we spared ourselves the experience of sharing our beds with fleas and rats, which was a joy. Just before our arrival to Boston, we had gone on a safari outside of Toronto, and weren't yearning to encounter any more small creatures.
       In the morning, I set off for the conference at the Gutman Library. My journey took me through the campus and past the famous statue of John Harvard, the founder of this respected university, who in the 17th century left half of his estate to the new college, which then consisted of nine students, all candidates for the priesthood. Passing though the main gates, I followed Church Street, then turning right and walking for less that a mile I reached my goal. Not very far indeed, especially if one considers the remoteness of the conference's subject-black holes in the centers of galaxies.
       A galaxy is a huge agglomeration of stars, in which innumerable suns revolve around a galactic center. The most non-prosaic object of all creation lies at the center of a galaxy-an exceedingly huge black hole, as massive as several billion of our suns. Our solar system is located approximately thirty-thousand light years from the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Therefore, to walk a mile to learn more about this remarkable phenomenon was simpler than to course at the speed of light in the direction of the Archer, whose name in Latin, simply and without rank, is Sagittarius. It is there, in the clouds of galactic dust, gas, and multitudes of stars, that the enigmatic object hides. Have I intrigued you? Maybe just a little? Of course, I understand that such galactic problems don't resonate strongly in our everyday lives and consequently are easy to ignore. But how could one not notice the existence of such wonders? They do exist somewhere. Their existence is inevitable. And so, appreciating the magnitude of such objects and feeling the force of their gravitation on myself, I walked along the brick-lined Harvard pavement. I was content, sensing that I was in the right place.
       Finding myself in an auditorium among fifty of the world's leading astrophysicists, I was satisfied with my fortune, which allowed me to indulge earnestly my human curiosity. Here I was, simple-heartedly breathing in the myriad numbers and basking in the intelligence and seriousness of the presenters. I was delighted because in my presence, facets of these enigmatic objects, super massive black holes at the hearts of galaxies, were being revealed that could only be discovered with the help of modern technology.
       In short, I experienced exquisite pleasure. It was as if my material presence dissolved as I focused my attention on the presentations. I was in the clouds of gas; I was there with the stars, revolving around the galaxy's center. I was content. I didn't talk with anyone, because the conference participants discussed minute technical details that I found uninteresting. Everything genuinely interesting appeared on the huge screen hanging in the auditorium.
       At the outset of the conference, I realized that most astrophysicists don't make astronomical observations firsthand. Rather, they work on data collected by other scientists with access to the best telescopes or busy themselves with modeling, often using computer programs.
       The days when any astronomer could place a homemade telescope in the window and make a meaningful discovery are long gone. Even though sometimes miracles still happen, nowadays, celestial observation requires the best technology, which is available to very few. The rest channel their ambitions into modeling.
       During the evening of the first day, I stopped into a huge bookstore that occupied three floors. I was amazed at the quality of the books in this shop. Any one of those books I would have bought, if only one would appear in the bookstore of the town where I have deigned to reside for the last five years. But at Harvard, I allowed myself to buy only a few books; I wanted to buy the entire store, impossible as that may sound. In the store, a presentation about a book by the former rector of Harvard, Gary Lewis, was showing. Lewis led Harvard from 1995 to 2003. I stopped to listen as he hotly criticized contemporary university education, filling the store with people gathered to witness his scandalous (by Harvard's standards) speech. All of this interested me greatly, this scandal in the holy family. At the store checkout counter, I tendered twenty-six dollars and purchased a signed copy of the book.
       At Harvard, you can hardly walk two steps without running into one or another luminary pushing an autographed copy of his exceptionally scandalous book for a mildly speculative price. Lewis wasn't the only such personality I met, but I'll tell you about the rest later.
       What is the book about? You can be the judge. In his time, Lewis taught Bill Gates, who was kicked out of college before he finished.
       Lewis writes that there's not a Bill Gates in every class, but in every class, there are students who are smarter and more inspired by science than most of the professors who teach them. He admits that he became skeptical that universities could give something to these students. Further on, Lewis adds that the fact that Bill Gates, his best student, was dismissed from college possibly confirms that the more you are educated, the less successful you are in life.
       Lewis admits that Harvard has turned into a commercial business, where a year of study costs more than forty-three thousand dollars. To satisfy the expectations of parents and students, Harvard allows students to study anything they wish, while allowing their eminent professors, who would be welcomed with open arms at any other university, to choose topics for their lectures as they please. As a result, a few years after graduation, when people ask Harvard graduates what they studied in the famed university, they struggle to give a clear answer!
       Lewis writes about the extent to which his students are under the control of their parents, who because they paying the cell phone bills, know who their offspring speak with, how late they go to sleep, and how early they rise.
       Lewis calls these parents “helicopter parents,” since they appear to hover over their children, controlling their every move. What can become of these kids? Well, Harvard is the place where future American and world leaders are educated.
       The most sensational admissions of the former Harvard professor sound like the conclusion of a book. A liberal education, in the sense it is currently understood by Harvard, is an education whose goal isn't to make the graduate employable. Such an education is intended not to be overly specialized or progressive and doesn't include courses of practical benefit in the real world. Harvard's understanding of an education reflects the aristocratic ideal of the student athlete whose intention is not to go professional. At Harvard, to become a specialist in any profession, simply in order to earn a living, is considered poor taste.
       Indulging myself in reflections about Lewis' book and the illusory nature of Harvard's charm, I set off for the banquet at the Sheraton Commander on the penultimate day of the conference.
       In the informal atmosphere of the banquet, I noticed that the astrophysicists were clearly attracted to the bar, where drinks of varying strength were being dispensed. I drew the well-founded conclusion that a bar in a banquet hall commands a significant gravitational field, distorting space in such a way that the majority of the academics formed a highly massive cluster around it.
       I, having selected a cocktail glass filled with a green liquid giving off the familiar odor of vodka, modestly seated myself at the farthest table, hoping to spend the evening in my own company. I wasn't really prepared to converse with the coryphaei of the conference, in whose speech the Eddington limit and Kerr metric sounded much more frequently than the words “thank you” and “you're welcome.”
       From out of the blue, however, a couple dressed in red approached my table and seated themselves. The older gentleman's red tie was odd against the background of the drably dressed astrophysicists and their minimally less drably dressed spouses.
       The two, practically in unison, informed me that they were the authors of the new book View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos. At first, the lady in red peppered me with questions: who was I, where was I from, and why was I here.
       I answered clumsily that I was a writer with a special interest in astrophysics, and I planned to write a book. I added that I would be attending a cosmology conference in Cuba and a conference on the philosophy of cosmology in Montreal.
       The answer didn't satisfy my questioner, however; she requested I share the concept of my future book. As I planned to write a book called “The End of Cosmology” and prove that cosmology is, at its root, a false science, I couldn't reveal my plans. This was especially so now because when the couple introduced themselves, their names seemed oddly familiar and intimately connected with cosmology.
       Pressed to give an explanation, I began talking vaguely about the interaction of various trends in cosmology and astrophysics, along the way dropping references to various problems such as the one with dark matter.
       “What problems?” my interlocutor asked with pique. “I was the one who discovered dark matter, and there's no problem at all with it!”
       The gentleman turned out to be Stanford professor Dr. Joel R. Primack, the coryphaeus of contemporary cosmology, the co-founder of the theory of cold dark matter, on whose shoulders rest most of cosmology and a good portion of astrophysics.
       I said that no one had discovered dark matter, whose only manifestation is a hypothetical concentration of a huge amount of mass, due to which the edges of galaxies revolve against Kepler's and Newton's laws with the same speed as the regions adjacent to galactic centers, and that clusters of galaxies would not be able to stay together if it weren't for dark matter holding them together with its mass.
       “But,” I said, “why was it necessary to name this phenomenon `matter'? Why not name it `the paradox of the space-time continuum on a large scale,' or something else?”
       The point is, if the phenomenon is called dark matter, we mislead an enormous number of honest taxpayers who are far removed from science, as well as academics, who for many years have conducted an unsuccessful search for dark matter.
       Professor Primack listened to me with a fastidious half-smile, but he didn't offer a rebuttal. He informed me that there were no longer any problems with the theory, and that it predicted many things that were subsequently supported experimentally.
       His spouse and coauthor, Nancy Ellen Abrams, turned out to be an attorney and former adviser to Congress, and she went for me with all the zeal of a Washington top player. I was incorrect because I was incorrect by definition. However, I was ready for that type of behavior and unflappably voiced my objection that the comment Mrs. Abrams found fault with wasn't my opinion, and I never said it was. Nancy was dumbstruck, but quickly recovered and announced that I articulated my thoughts unclearly and therefore it was hard to speak with me. I tried to expound my position about the condition of contemporary science with utmost clarity, but those present interrupted me, requesting I clarify concepts that were generally comprehensible to all and would be difficult to explain in brief without seeming a fool. However, I was able to extricate myself from that situation by abruptly asking everyone's opinion of Bush's idea to send American astronauts to the moon and Mars, thereby completely tanking the budgets of all the leading astronomical projects, including the ill-fated Hubble telescope.
       Coming out of a prolonged silence, the second half of the table proved no more supportive than the others. This group consisted of the conference's administrators and organizers. They took up my discussion topic and started to criticize Bush, but for some reason, towards the end of their outpouring, they accused me of being sympathetic to his administration. At that, I rather loudly announced that in academic circles, an excellent method of destroying your opponent is to attribute statements to him that he did not make. The group again fell into a state of mild discomfiture, and taking advantage of this moment of silence, I again posed my core question, aggressively gesticulating in the direction of the group of taciturn astrophysicists, who by chance had seated themselves at our “elite” table.
       I turned to Doctor Primack with the question:
       If all cosmological theories proposed by humans up to now were proven false, would that cause you to think your theory is true?
       The astrophysicists delightedly guffawed, which made everyone feel a bit uncomfortable and attracted the attention of the neighboring tables. Nancy answered the question, rushing to battle like a natural lawyer.
       “Our theory is correct because it is true!” announced Mrs. Abrams. Realizing that such a Marxist explanation didn't satisfy us, she added that since her husband's theory was based on scientific observations, it could not be false. At this point, I brought up as an aside the history of science Ptolemy and Kepler. That subject again somehow led to Bush. The conference organizer announced that in her opinion Bush was responsible for everything. I asked somewhat spitefully, “And is Bush also responsible for the fall of the Roman Empire?” to which the conference organizer answered resolutely and an even with a bit of pleasure, “Yes!” Then she thought about it and added, “Because of Bush, America is entering the same phase as the Roman empire before its decline.”
       “Well, what can you do? One civilization's replacing of another is a natural process. The main thing is that this replacement be as bloodless as possible,” I announced, as I tucked into to my chicken as if nothing had happened. I thought to myself, if they have fleeced us for ninety dollars a head for this banquet, I should at least try the chicken.
       Hearing my prediction of the downfall of American civilization, the table grew oddly quite. Then everyone began talking about the bloodshed in Iraq. The atmosphere was labored, and I had a vision of this classic banquet room with its luxurious, yellow material-covered walls, like a ward for violent deranged people, its waiters dashing about with kebab bouquets and appetizers set in the 1930s, the Second World War about to begin.
       I interrupted the silence with a suggestion to return our attention to cosmology. No great enthusiasm followed because astrophysicists don't like cosmologists. They consider them adventurists, which they are. The conference organizer admitted that she wouldn't understand much of what was discussed because she was involved strictly in theoretical science. She was asked what kind, specifically, of theoretical science she was involved with, and she answered jokingly, “The kind no one understands but will give the most money for.”
       I began to advocate my views, carefully sidestepping my opinions of the falsity of cosmology. I talked about how the interaction and cooperation of scientists brings with it an accumulation of delusions, which are formed into false concepts, the experimental verification of which takes huge amounts of financing and effort. I also mentioned that it impedes scientific development for decades, if not centuries.
       The table listened to me almost without interruption because I assured everyone that I wasn't generally specifically targeting their science and the United States. I said America was not synonymous with the world; the world was larger than this country. The table willingly, if a little distractedly, agreed. But as soon as I hinted at the problems of cosmology, Primack again pounced on me. “What problems? Well, name at least one!”
       I answered, “For example, the problems that were discussed at this conference. How did galaxies and clusters of galaxies manage to form when the contemporary cosmological model allows practically no time for that to occur?”
       In the deep field observed by the Hubble telescope, fully formed galaxies with high red-shift values are visible. This indicates their age, which almost coincides with the age of the universe, according to the estimates of contemporary cosmological theory.
       My reply again came in the form of a sour smile. If they could be collected, I would probably earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the proprietor of the word's largest collection of sour smiles.
       Later, Nancy Abrams resolutely informed the table of the topic of her book, suppressing an aesthetically minded astrophysicist's half-hearted objection to a reference to God. The next event liberated us from conversation. The coryphaeus and most senior academic of the conference, Donald Lynden-Bell, a British astrophysicist known for his theories of galaxies containing massive central black holes that are the sources of quasar energy, stood up at his table. He didn't need to use a microphone because he possessed such a sonorous voice. Donald Linden-Bell related to those gathered the entire history of the discovery of black holes, beginning with Newton. The way in which he spoke even suggested the existence of a warm personal relationship with Newton. The main idea of his speech was how the interaction and cooperation of scientists brings with it an accumulation of delusions, which are formed into false concepts, the experimental verification of which takes huge amounts of financing and effort. He also mentioned that it impedes the development of science for decades, if not centuries.
       Joel Primack promptly feigned sleep. Nancy had a blank look, agitatedly crossing and uncrossing her legs. After the speech, we all shook hands and decorously took leave.
       On the way back, I visited the place where George Washington accepted command over the Continental Army on what would become Independence Day. A statue of Lincoln was nearby.
       “One wished not to pay taxes to Britain and founded the North American colonies; the other decided to bankrupt the independent South, which fed the entire country,” I thought to myself. “These are famous milestones of American history.”
       We left the black holes of Harvard, soaring upward into the cloudy heights of the Massachusetts heavens in a Canadian jet. I remembered with relish how, riding in the taxi on the last day of my visit, I informed the cab driver that cosmology was a false science and Harvard was nothing but a scam. Having given the unhappy black person a big tip, I slammed the door. “Well, have you finally had your say?” asked my son Jacob.
      
      
      
      
      
      

    The Gravitation of the Isle of Freedom

      
       My visit to Harvard and the engaging conversations at the banquet didn't satisfy me, and I continued my journey across Earth in search of something that could increase my understanding of what I consider the core questions of the universe. It would seem these questions are far removed from everyday life, but to me, they are as real as any human undertaking.
       Sometimes I seriously frighten myself with my hastily conceived geographic hop-scotching and tendency to change spatial coordinates impulsively and eccentrically. This possibly unhealthy passion has intensified lately, for my Canadian passport and anti-depression tablets have been sending me to increasingly further corners of the earth-ones forgotten even by explorers. Morning after morning, I behold with eternally sleep-deprived eyes some simply painted wall, and my mischievous head remembers with difficulty where my no less mischievous body, nimble even with its sagging belly and startlingly slender ankles, took lodging for the night.
       Such was the case on this particular morning. I awoke, mildly bewildered, in a bungalow decorated in Indian peasant style, situated within the hotel complex Los Caneyes.
       “Cuba is far! Cuba is near! What do you mean near? It's more than near! There it is.” It sneaked up on me as a huge expanse of ocean, unrestrainedly peeking in at me first through the cabin window, touched by the confectioner's sugar of fierce stratospheric frosts, then staring up at me with its greenish waters through the window of whatever floor I was on in the Havana hotel. In the room, the window was open from floor to ceiling-you could jump if you wanted. You won't find that anymore in Western hotels. The Isle of Freedom is truly free. Jump if you'd like, or if you'd like, sit and bide your time.
       At first, Cuba met me as ocean breathing on my face, but now it was gauzily staring at me in the form of a simply painted wall of a hotel bungalow-the proud structure of a chicken-filled tourist town. Apparently, the chickens were brought in deliberately so I could feel at home. This was good, as absent my morning wake-up calls from the rooster I keep back home, I was finding it hard to wake up.
       If you consider that I have a reputation for being a demure homebody, these mad leaps in space concern not only me. This is my second visit to the island in the last three months, and before these trips, I had never been here. This fact may cause one to suspect that some sort of special Cuban gravity prevailed and attracted me, my tiny suitcase, and my loyal travel companion-my spouse. She, of course, also had a suitcase, small, happy, and green, like a box of oatmeal flakes. I don't like heavy luggage and insisted we make do with small, wheeled suitcases, which were packed in fumbling hurriedness on the night before the flight into tropical obscurity.
       My geographical impulsiveness is unhealthy and mildly dangerous, especially in combination with my topographical madness. Some can get lost in three pines. I can get lost in two. We won't even mention palm trees! I acquired my unhealthy propensity to activate my “planetary roaming mechanism” during years of intensive flight from myself. It very effectively allowed me to break away, at least for one or two days, from the fear chasing at my heels and breathing down my neck. This fear abated under the effects of my pills, but the impulsive desire to break free remained.
       How would you feel if you couldn't say with certainty where you would turn up the next evening? Good Lord, having shared these thoughts with you, I have actually begun to frighten myself. There was a time we would leap to our feet and rush out headlong without a thought. Now travels are initiated by a piece of paper, such as an official letter from a university holding a conference on gravitation and cosmology. I've always loved papers, and here, in response to my humble request to invite my wife and me to a conference as science writers, our Cuban comrades didn't send a worthless e-mail invitation, but instead dispatched an official letter of invitation bearing a huge oval seal.
       I brought the prize to my wife in the bedroom. We had just returned from our trip to Harvard. Before that, she had been vacationing with me in Cuba. She was feeling a little worn down and disinclined to travel. However, being no less worn down than I by five homebound years, she tensed up at the suggestion of travel. She wanted to go, for my research and me, but she wanted to go for herself as well. In the bedroom stood an unfinished painting of her that depicted an aquamarine sea, a white Cuban beach, and a huge, branchy tree, seemingly unwilling to be completely drawn. It was posing naked, without the ovate leaves that are so fun to hold to your head as ears as you impersonate a bear or Mickey Mouse. My wife looked at the tree, sighed, and agreed.
       The deed followed the word. We bought the tickets and awaited our departure, much as some await an unavoidable date upon which something stressful but desirable will happen.
       No longer will I plan trips ahead of time. Riding the wave of mad midnight enthusiasm, deciding to dash off to the ends of the world the very next morning-what's the use? To plan ahead to go in an unknown direction is thoroughly unpleasant. But we held silent and, panting, moved toward our departure with the universe, which was stippled not with stars, but with question marks. The departure date, which was fixed on the space-time continuum and pinned in its quantum liveliness to the hour our Air Canada ticket had precisely designated, approached.
       Why are so many words necessary? Tell me directly, why are you charging off there? Or better yet, just keep silent. I'm not really one to hold my tongue. As they say, we will keep silent in the grave, but an explanation I'm glad to give-as detailed as you care to hear.
       You already know about my abnormal enthusiasm for cosmology, my agonizing ambivalence toward that science, which simultaneously lures me and turns me against it with its self-assured and occasionally intolerable fantasies. These models and theories are firmly supported by advanced mathematics; a circumstance that should make them more real, though in reality achieves the opposite effect.
       Cosmology is the branch of astronomy and astrophysics that studies the origin, large-scale structure, and evolution of the universe. The data cosmologists use are generally collected from astronomical observations. In the early 1920s, these observations, in combination with advances in theoretical physics, put cosmology on par in importance with other exact sciences. Before then, cosmology was in the domain of philosophy and an excellent excuse to burn heretics at the stake.
       Today there are two schools of cosmological inquiry: the empiricists and the theorists. The former limit themselves to the interpretation of observable data and do not extrapolate their models into unstudied areas. The latter attempt to explain the observable universe using hypotheses chosen for simplicity and elegance.
       It's not difficult to surmise that I am a strong advocate of the empiricists, for I'm deeply vexed by the philosophical, political, and religious speculation that accompanies cosmological models. If the cosmological constant is equal to zero, the story goes, God exists, and one must follow his commandments. If it is not zero, you can behave disgracefully, or any way you see fit. Feel free to insert your own imbecility here. Are these a madman's ravings? That's what I'm saying: it's raving madness. But who am I to talk? Theoreticians seek artificial solutions to artificial problems, and a whole gang of pseudo-philosophers is ready to explain to the simple folks-you and me-what and what not to believe in. What if the universe is a diaphragm or, more accurately, a rug? Then what? Can we kill one another on Thursdays? What if the universe is nothing but a dust rag? Can we kill each other on Fridays? What if-and what if you keep silent in the hopes you'll be taken as intelligent? No, you won't be taken as intelligent. Not at all!
       Thus, maybe for lack of other activities or due to a passion for learning or the new physical sensations a change of climate brings, we traveled to Cuba.
       Some trips are accompanied by seemingly minor, but on close inspection terrible discomforts. Before the flight, my lower back seized up in such a way that I could neither bend over nor straighten out. However, the persistent thought `the tickets have been purchased” drove me forward, and after suffering three and a half hours in a cramped airline seat, I arrived on Cuban soil a rather hunched form.
       A Soviet-style travel agent with a broad mustache met us. As he broadcast his broken English to us, it became clear that he was more skilled at speaking than understanding the language. Sure, he could repeat the same worn phrases over and over, but he had a rough time understanding. So rough, in fact, it seemed like he no longer tried.
       The travel agent sat us in a taxi alongside a Canadian cosmologist, ethnically Italian with the sonorous surname Faraoni. We noticed him at the airport because of the perpetually grim and skeptical look on his face and his absorption in his thoughts about-what else?-the vibrating membrane of the universe. We made each other's formal acquaintance and left for our Havana hotel, where I continued suffering intense back pain.
       It's strange how a person becomes defenseless when he's far from home. No doubt, credit cards, mobile phones and comfortable hotels help, but you can't fool your body. It's tough to be in a new place; eventually, your body will start to ache. Sometimes a pain will appear out of nowhere then disappear without a trace, only to be replaced by a different ache. Of course, you shouldn't pay attention to what I'm saying, for I am a certified neurasthenic and hypochondriac. I'm in therapy for that. Isn't all of world literature, though, minutely detailed descriptions of people's neuroses?
       The next day, I had a massage from a local rehabilitative therapy specialist, a well groomed, strapping young fellow who half-looked like a charlatan. I rationalized parting with an obscene sum as money well spent on a Spanish lesson. I had an in-depth conversation with the masseuse in Spanish about my fatigue and psychosis. During our conversation, I must have used my entire Spanish vocabulary. With deft hands, the masseuse poked me with pins, gave me a rub down with hot oil, and towards the end, briefly but skillfully massaged my body. Usually, I hate when people touch me. That probably stems from a sense of detachment from my body. Besides, I have always been agonizingly bashful. However, even in Cuba, it's not hard to come by the most wonderful antidepressants. Now it seems I could strip naked on the square and feel absolutely comfortable, though not enraptured. Exhibitionism is not my cup of tea. The masseuse tried to persuade me to visit his “international clinic” on my return to Havana after the conference. I couldn't figure out why he insisted on using the word “international.” Only in the West can someone start a fly-by-night operation and call it an “international clinic.” In our little town, the only one who lives on the misfortunes and suffering of others is a young Greek, and he is a sad homeopath. I'm not one to fall for a scam, but once he stiffed me a pretty penny by performing an analysis on the composition of my hair.
       Yes, Cuba is a socialist country. But it has a budding business sector, authorized by Castro in the “special period” when Cuba was forced to tighten its belt. Without orders for grapefruit and sugar from the Soviet Union and without Soviet spare parts and oil, the country switched to plowing their fields with oxen. “International” before “clinic,” in this destitute country, means nothing more than the establishment is tolerable (that is, does not smell of urine) and designed exclusively for foreigners.
       These insights would come in time. After recovering from the “rehabilitative therapy,” I left on a bus, with the cosmologists, for Santa Clara, a three-hour drive from Havana.
       As the bus cruised through Havana, Cuba's poverty held our attention. It was clear Cubans aren't ashamed of poverty. They display it for all to see, as if it were a national point of interest.
       It never occurred to our European minds that building sturdy houses in Cuba is as pointless as saddling a bull. Eventually, he will fling you off his back to the trampled ground. Hurricanes, which begin at the start of the summer and last until the middle of winter, carry away everything that is not built sturdily. In Cuba, this is everything not chained to the ground, and on the Isle of Freedom, there aren't any chains, for what kind of freedom would you have if there were chains? Actually, the Isle of Freedom lacks a lot more than chains. A lack of material goods is a common feature of the disastrous fusion of socialism and Latin-Americanism, but it seems the people don't suffer from the impoverishment. The only thing they invest in is a solid stone floor. After the latest hurricane, they collect their wind-strewn plywood walls and furniture, rebuild their dwellings, and continue living in almost universal and therefore shameless poverty.
       The island has stood its ground against hurricanes and an American blockade with Fidel and Raul, the revolutionary bearded Barbudoses, who disembarked from a dirty schooner to capture the island. Che Guevara, their loyal commandant, who once captured the entire island, is present in Cuba in the form of monuments, posters, and one grandiose memorial in Santa Clara. This memorial holds his ashes and the remains of his comrades from Bolivia, where they fomented revolution.
       Why is commandant Che significant? Even though I am not organizing a revolution, I can fully imagine myself sitting in a government office in Havana as the minister of health of a young republic. Then I can imagine I am fighting in the Congo. The next moment, I lie dead in Bolivia. I can imagine anything. The same flights of imagination, unconstrained by reality, were what Che had. The same energy pulsing outward-out into space and other worlds. For Che and me, there is no reality, for we are reality itself. Do you believe me? I've smoked a Cuban cigar and decided that I'm a revolutionary hero, too. Or maybe not. Well, my beard is growing. Second, I have an a priori dislike for all governments of the world. And third, I'm joking. I am to Che Guevara as my lazy cat is to a saber-toothed tiger. She's fury, but that's where the resemblance ends. Yup. I really don't aspire to shoot, kill, or sit in trenches in a muggy swamp. That life is not for me.
       And so Commandant Che Guevara is besides the point, though when you're in Cuba, you must nod your head to him. Everywhere you hear songs that are amazing in their expressiveness and plaintiveness. The Cubans who have, it seems, long ago lost faith in the revolution, obediently and with emotion praise Commandant Che Guevara, and for their suffering, they receive special converted pesos from stirred and touched tourists.
      
       Midway between Havana and Santa Clara, we got out to breathe the hot, dense air. By the road, I noticed a small pond next to an iron sculpture of an emaciated cow. Livestock in Cuba reminds one of concentration camp inmates. Looking at the sculpture, I thought hopefully that it was just a certain breed of cow, that the Cubans hadn't seen any other types of cows, and Socialist Realism required artists to sculpt true to life. Three large fish were swimming in the pond, and three turtles were plodding around as well. One of the cosmologists gazed at them intently. I mused that in his head, the next cosmological theory, of the universe on a turtle's back, was forming. The turtles were busy, too-trying to climb on top of one another; maybe they spied the bus that carried us here. Surely, they were thinking it must be some kind of gigantic turtle. “But where is its head?” thought the turtles, tensely peering at the bus. But no head appeared, and the turtle-bus theory fell apart. Good lord, why can't we avoid anthropomorphism in our conceptions? Like the turtles, we try to explain everything from our own shell-bound perspectives.
       The conference began with a power outage, which happens often in Cuba. It's just like in Canada; our electricity goes out every time a breeze blows. God save us if there's a snow flurry. Snow in Canada, you see, is a new and unusual phenomenon, especially north of Toronto in the forests of the hinterland where I live. I am being sarcastic, of course.
       Since without electricity it was inconvenient to conduct presentations, the participants opted instead to stroll around outside. Under the scorching sun, they studied the chickens pecking the ground near the modest conference center, host of the international scientific event.
       Paying for the entire stay in advance depleted my cash. We took a taxi to Banco Internacionale in the city center to get some money. At the bank, we were watched so intently that I wanted to vanish. We finally managed to convince the bank staff to process our transactions, but for all the arguing, at the end of the day, we were exhausted, as though we'd been battling Cuban partisans. If we hadn't been able to withdraw cash from my credit card, my adventures would have been a lot crazier.
       After the trip to the bank, I took my spouse back to the hotel in a taxi and returned to the conference. The power came back on, and I was able to listen to three or four presentations before lunch. They fed us there in the conference center. As usual, I occupied a separate table, not intending to join anyone, but three Spanish-speaking cosmologists sat down next to me, and we became acquainted. Sensing that I was some sort of strange interloper, my tablemates bristled slightly; nevertheless, we fell into conversation.
       To my left sat a cheerful bearded fellow who was smoking a pleasant-smelling pipe. (Smoking is permitted virtually everywhere in Cuba.) This was Roberto Sussman, a professor from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Across from me sat Axel de la Makora from the Institute of Physics of the same university. I don't remember our third tablemate. They stopped conversing in Spanish and, switching to English, focused their collective attention on the modest personage before them who was tucking into a plate of fried chicken. I finished chewing and explained with a bit of difficulty who I was and what I was doing there. When the initial bewilderment had passed, we began speaking of my interest in cosmology. We didn't touch on any new topics, but rather rehashed the same arguments and counterarguments common to cosmology. After a while, I asked Axel if he truly believed that our human interpretation of time applied to vast cosmological scales. To my surprise, Axel and Roberto firmly assured me that, in their opinion, human understanding of time had no relationship to cosmological time. We measure time with respect to the mechanical movements of material bodies. For example, time can be measured with respect to the movement of Earth around the sun. Axel said that in the beginning stages of the universe's development there were not, and could not be, any material objects. Sussman added that in the big bang theory, history is roughly subdivided into three periods, which together reflect our current understanding of the formation of the universe. These periods are standard cosmology, particle cosmology, and quantum cosmology.
       Standard cosmology is the most reliably explained epoch. It encompasses the period from approximately one hundredth of a second after the big bang to the present day. The standard model of the evolution of the universe in this epoch has stood up to a multitude of precise observational tests.
       Particle cosmology paints a picture of the universe as it was preceding the epoch of standard cosmology, when temperatures were hotter, yet still within the range of known physics. High-energy particle accelerators at CERN and Fermilab allow us to test physical models of processes that could occur only 0.00000000001 seconds after the big bang. This branch of cosmology is more speculative because it requires various extrapolations and often runs into insurmountable computational complexities. Many cosmologists believe that reasonable extrapolations can be made right up until the time of the phase change of the Grand Unification Epoch.
       Quantum cosmology studies questions of the origin of the universe itself. It attempts to describe quantum processes at the very earliest times understandable within the framework of classical space-time; that is, the Plank Epoch after 0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds. We don't yet have a consistent theory of quantum gravity for this period. This epoch is the most speculative of the three.
       How does the human mind conceive of time in Plank's Epoch? It's not a concept that is compatible with our everyday understanding of time.
       “Why do you maintain that the universe is approximately 13.7 billion years old?” I asked. “What is the force of that assertion?”
       Axel replied that in cosmology they don't use the concept of “years.”
       He was referring to the measurement of vast cosmological distances by the degree of red shift in galaxies' spectra. He confirmed that we were talking about this instantiation of the Doppler Effect, on which Hubble's law relies.
       “And all of those `light years' are for the public,” summarized Axel De La Makora.
       “Ah, so that's it! You're aware that you can't translate cosmology into ordinary human concepts, but you think all of this up for the public, feeding us terms like `dark matter,' `dark energy,' `big bang,' and `quintessence.'”
       “Yes, some really dislike us because of the mystical terminology,” acknowledged Sussman.
       “Is there really no other explanation for red shift?” I asked, starting on my pet topic. “What about the Compton Effect?”
       “Why the Compton Effect?” responded Axel. “There are many explanations having to do with the `aging of light' and so forth. The point isn't that it's difficult to find an alternative explanation. You can find an alternative explanation for any phenomenon, but the theory of the expanding universe best explains all phenomena at once-the distribution of hydrogen and helium in a constant ratio throughout the universe, red shift in the spectra of remote galaxies, background radiation.”
       “And dark matter, you propose, is prominent among the latest discoveries, which have put a nail in the coffin of modified Newtonian theory?”
       “How could dark matter not exist?” said Axel, becoming nervous and glancing at me unkindly. “If you bumped into a dresser in a dark room, would you assert there is no dresser in the room because you can't see it? Can there really be another explanation besides the physical presence of a type of matter that manifests itself in no way except by its gravitational interactions with visible matter?”
       “Yes, there is. A hallucination, for example,” I said obstinately. Axel became visibly upset.
       “Dark matter-it's not the primary question now,” said Axel.
       “The primary question is dark energy,” said Roberto Sussman, taking the conversation in a new direction. “It's a hypothetical form of energy having negative pressure and evenly filling the entire space of the universe.”
       According to the general theory of relativity, gravity depends not only on mass, but also on pressure. Moreover, negative pressure should give rise to repulsion, or anti-gravity. According to the latest data proving the acceleration of the expansion of the universe, this force does act over cosmological distances. There are two explanations of dark energy's essence. The first explanation is that dark energy is a cosmological constant, a constant energy density filling space homogeneously. The second explanation is that dark energy is a kind of quintessence, or a dynamic field whose energy density can vary in space and time.
       We must precisely measure the speed of the expansion of the universe in order to choose between the explanations. The rate of the expansion of the universe is described by a cosmological equation of state. Finding the solution to the equation of state for dark energy is one of the most pressing tasks of contemporary observational cosmology. Inserting the cosmological constant into the standard cosmological model (the Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker or FLRW metric) led to the appearance of the contemporary model of cosmology, known as the Lambda-CDM model (Lambda-Cold Dark Matter model). This model fits existing cosmological observations very well.
       I butted in, “And Joel Primack, who I met in May at a conference at Harvard, is one of the founders of that theory and its biggest champion.” I couldn't help boasting of my newly acquired acquaintances among top cosmologists.
       “I know him,” said Susman. “I met him in Israel.”
       “He and his wife just came out with a book View from the Center of the Universe in which they undertake to explain to the public in an accessible, cabalistic, and spiritual way Primack's new theories.”
       “You don't say!” laughed Susman. “I know Nancy. She sings a beautiful guitar accompaniment.”
       Cosmologists attempt to study the history of the universe from an evolutionary standpoint. Observing the most distant regions of the universe, from where light has traveled more than ten billion years to reach us, they expect to see less-formed galaxies. However, as if out of spite, in the Hubble deep field (images from the Hubble orbiting telescope created to reveal the most distant objects in the universe), one sees rather large, well-formed galaxies. According to the present theory of an expanding universe beginning with the big bang, there wasn't enough time for such large galaxies to form after the initial explosion. What would happen if we obtained higher resolution images, penetrating further back in time, in which we discovered gigantic, well-formed galaxies? I changed the topic of conversation again.
       “Yes, that would be a big problem,” answered Sussman pensively and a little sadly. “Cosmology is going through tough times. The newly discovered acceleration of the expansion of the universe has nonplussed many cosmologists. And that's not necessarily bad for cosmology. On the contrary, it makes it more interesting. It's not enough that the universe is expanding; that expansion is accelerating. The question of the size of the cosmological constant worries academics. For many leading theoretical physicists, this is the number one question.”
       The anthropic explanation of the size of the cosmological constant is that of all the possible sizes of this parameter allowable in the multi-verse (the aggregate of all universes), life can occur only when the cosmological constant falls within a very small range. (It goes without saying that it's close to the size of the cosmological constant in our universe.) Since other universes are not accessible to us, proving this explanation is difficult.
       “Well, there's Abraham Loeb, one of the organizers of the Harvard conference that I attended in May. He thinks he was able to devise such a test,” I added. The main idea is that if planetary systems could form at a z value of 10 (the quantity z indicates the degree of red shift in a galaxy's spectrum, and therefore the distance of the galaxy from us), that means planetary systems could form in universes where the cosmological constant is different from ours by a factor of 1,000. If it is possible to prove that planets exist in star systems that with such high red shift values, then, Loeb proposes, the anthropic theory will suffer a serious blow. Of course, observing evidence of the existence of a planet whose z value is 10 is presently impossible, but one can search for them in old systems; for example, in globular clusters and dwarf galaxies. It's possible to do that with the help of microlensing.
       This approach, even if planets are detected, cannot seriously upset the ranks of those supporting the anthropic explanation. First, as Lakatos correctly writes, it's not easy to bring down an entire research program. Second, Loeb's conclusion about the decrease in probability of an anthropic explanation to 0.1 percent if planets are discovered is based on a number of assumptions that may not hold true. The presence of planets doesn't imply the presence of life. Furthermore, one must evaluate the quantity of civilizations and the average length of their existence.
       We finished lunch and returned to the conference room. I was very impressed by Chris Impey's presentation. He is a professor studying quasars at the Steward Observatory of the University of Arizona. Chris, the wonderful speaker he is, elected to use the microphone, which immediately captured everyone's attention. Chris and his group made geometric measurements of dark energy using the Alcock-Paczynski test and the emissions of quasars as data sources. When the presentation ended, I went up to Chris, and after expressing my admiration and respect, asked him to clarify one of the points in his presentation. His eyes lit up, and he explained everything to me again.
       Geniuses and idiots look and behave identically. (This idea came to me through the observation of cosmologists.) How can you tell the difference without delving into the essence of the questions they discuss? Therefore, people rely on scientific authorities and public opinion. In public opinion, the collective consciousness of humanity is revealed. Just as an individual develops, makes mistakes, and becomes degraded, so does the collective consciousness. Where is the way out? How does one find a universal yardstick with which to measure truth?
       Conveying information visually is incomparably more effective than delivering it orally. An aphorism: “Better to see once than to hear one hundred times.” Not using visual methods for teaching in our age is senseless. Teaching, like any conveying of information, should be supported, when possible, with visual images. The problem with visual teaching, however, is that it can cause thought to come to a standstill: once a visual image is learned, it is discarded only with difficulty. In this way, the brain's formulation of new concepts can be slowed. For example, while we had electricity, slides were presented and the ideas were at least partially comprehensible. However, as soon as the cosmologists switched to oral discussions, it was lights out-nothing was comprehensible.
       A person must be in a friendly environment to think and express ideas effectively. Certain individuals pursue the glory of winning arguments. However, an amicable and respectful dialog, when a person is not afraid to say something foolish, is the most productive form of intellectual exchange. The truth, if it exists, is a result of collective thought in the form of a Platonic dialog.
       What is more important for society, a few brilliant thinkers, or the elevation of the public's level of thinking? In the first case, quick and brilliant achievements are possible in any area of science or the humanities. In the second case, amicable conditions and an effective general education lay the foundation for a massive breakthrough in two or three generations. But in contemporary society, it's impossible to be sure that a long-term investment such as this won't be scuttled by hostile interference from within, or by revolutionary movements in society. Most nations take the first path, not resolving to make long-term investments, instead choosing candidates for the sciences on a competitive basis. The weight of established scientific and social goals crushes those chosen for their great intelligence. Their reward for their achievements is neurosis and similar problems. The only escape from this situation is the pursuit of science; in other words, that which crushed them in the first place. It's an endless cycle. It's like breeding a mule, who is only suited for work, and for whom work constitutes the meaning of his existence. Dual societal pressures affect individuals: the weeding out process, which eventually causes the less capable to cave in, and the rigid appropriation of the capable for society's purposes. A genius able to withstand these dual pressures is a rare occurrence. Progress would occur more efficiently if society adopted the second approach toward education. How large a contribution those weeded out could make and how bright those inducted into academia could be, if only they possessed a normal life and sound psyche! Today's system of higher education reminds one of the processing of timber. Logs are split, hewn, and sawn to produce a few toothpicks, but the overwhelming mass of lumber is turned into sawdust and discarded.
       Science fiction, at the turn of the 21st century, is dying out of because those predisposed to love it are migrating to the sciences, where computer simulation allows them to exercise their imagination much more than a fantasy novel would. The presentation on the membranous nature of the universe included a discussion about the proposed density and temperature of this hypothetical membrane, which was much more thrilling than Wells' War of the Worlds. Simulation or, roughly speaking, legitimized science fiction, is considered more prestigious than observation, though the opposite should be true. It's entirely possible that contemporary “modelers” take their inspiration from Einstein. First, he formulated his theory, and then he proved it experimentally. Now people try to claim as much theory as possible in their writing-something is bound to be true!-because the scope of the theory cited is so wide.
       The next day, all the conference participants went on a group excursion to the city, which is on the Caribbean Sea, about two and half hours from Santa Clara.
       In 1514, Diego VelАzquez founded Trinidad on the rivers Agabama and Jayoba, which at that time were still prospected for gold. In the town's early years, the residents of Trinidad earned their livelihood from contraband. Pirates, however, often attacked them, and in the 18th century, they sought a legal (albeit more labor-intensive) source of wealth: growing sugarcane. When sugar prices were booming, Trinidad experienced a golden age. However, when Havana and Cienfuegos became hubs of commerce and the abolishment of slavery was right around the corner, Trinidad lost its significance as quickly as it had gained it. But because of this decline, colonial architecture was preserved for us to enjoy in the present day.
       The most frightening and insidious element of this architecture was a cobblestone road made from smooth round stones that appeared to have been excavated from a streambed. Every time we walked this road, we risked twisting an ankle!
       During our walk, we lost our way under the scorching high afternoon sun and decided to rest in the shade on a church parapet. Pirate figures materialized before me in the hot and humid mugginess. It seemed I was becoming delirious. But my wife confirmed my hallucinations. It turns out the Cubans were filming a movie in the square in front of the church.
       We sat on the parapet while our group steadily passed. After a while, we rose to follow them. No sooner had I turned around than my wife fell and twisted her ankle. Her foot immediately began to swell, just as if it were made of puffy dough.
       My wife couldn't put any weight on her foot, and our group had already walked by. I left her in the company of a mangy, wheezing dog and ran to catch up with the group. Just then, the Cuban police officer who had organized the cordon for the filming stopped me. He didn't seem to want to release me; however, after murmuring a few unintelligible phrases, he let me pass. I circled the town center twice before I found the group of cosmologists indolently lounging in a nearby bar. I cheerfully informed the group leader that my wife had sprained her ankle. He responded by asking if there was a doctor among those present. A rather beautiful Moor wearing an earring volunteered. He was a doctor, though he worked in a concert hall bar because the pay there was higher.
       And so my Cuban comrades and I set out to find my spouse. At the first intersection, a police officer from the cordon stopped us. Our group leader's explanations didn't help the situation: they still wouldn't let us through. I made a sign to our Cuban comrades, jestingly indicting that my amigos were backing me up. Having run around the town center several times in search of the cosmologists, I'd already discovered which back alley would lead us closest to the church.
       But on this path, too, we ran into a policeman. The doctor began shouting anti-revolutionary slogans (from what I could understand of his Spanish) and accusing the policeman of shameless behavior in the presence of foreigners. He retreated down the street and from his new position began shouting that he was ashamed for Cuba. The policeman's unfriendly eyes searched for the Moor. I thought that we would all be arrested for anti-Soviet activities.
       Somehow, the group leader and I made it past the policeman. We found my wife crying on the parapet next to the shallowly breathing dog.
       All around us, the pirates continued to shoot and carry on with the soldiers, who were chasing after them dressed in 18th-century uniforms. It was surreal. Soon we were retrieved by an ambulance and brought to the International Clinic. From there we were taken to a simpler clinic for an x-ray.
       No bones were broken, and my wife (with a plaster splint on her ankle) was able to hop up into the ambulance that took us back to Santa Clara. The driver spoke little English and didn't understand anything I tried to tell him. I was glad for the opportunity to practice my Spanish with him on the way back to the hotel.
       In the morning, my wife rose and, using me for support, hopped to the bathroom. To my horror, while she was leaning on me, she set off my gouty knee. I also started limping, though I didn't need to hop around on one leg.
       So began the tedium of my spouse's hobbled ambulation. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find crutches in Cuba. I tried to bribe a hospital worker who knew a nurse in the hospital. The idea was to steal muletas (crutches) from an invalid. However, the Cuban invalid, it seems, was able to fend the nurse off with those very crutches. Thus, my wife hopped away from Cuba on one leg, flying home with me two days early. She demonstrated to everyone empirically, having fallen and dislocated her foot, that gravity on the Isle of Freedom was in working order.
       At home, our kids, who weren't surprised at finding lame-footed parents, met us.
       “We told you not to fool around with those cosmologists! We knew they would eventually rough you guys up if you kept nosing around in their business.”
      

    The Uniqueness of the Universe

      
       Apparently, it doesn't require special proof that the science of cosmology has little effect on the daily life of an individual. Although it seems overwhelmingly distant from our immediate concerns and mundane worries, cosmological ideas have, for centuries, played an essential role in shaping philosophical views, and therefore, they have heavily influenced numerous aspects of religious and political life.
       Cosmology, as a science, limits itself to the study of the universe as a whole-its contents, structure, and evolution. Cosmological beliefs are based on the conclusions drawn from astronomical observations and mathematical models, but they still substantially influence the media and raise public interest.
       The study of cosmology has changed from a speculative enterprise into a data-driven science that is part of a modern standard physical theory and supported by a wealth of observations. Nevertheless, some theoretical proposals are being made for the very early stages of the universe that have no observational support. Thus, in some respects, it remains a principle-driven enterprise, with observation subordinate to theory, which means that the foundations of this science are inherently consigned to some degree of speculation.
       In this book, we are going to undertake a breathtaking journey into the very roots of the philosophy of cosmology to appraise rigorously this degree of speculation. This will allow us to attempt to define the ultimate limits of human knowledge to form a sober view of what, exactly, we can and cannot know.
       We hope our efforts will escape possible accusations in agnosticism and will distance ourselves from Socrates' saying, “I know that I know nothing,” by trying to estimate the limits of our knowledge while appreciating tremendous progress of science since the days of the great Greek thinker.
       The first difficulty that the philosophy of cosmology encounters is the uniqueness of the universe. The most fundamental issue is that there is only one universe. This essential uniqueness of its object of study sets cosmology apart from all other sciences. In particular, the unique initial conditions that led to the current state of the universe were somehow “set” by the time that physical laws as we know them started governing the evolution of both the universe and its contents. We are not able to alter these unique initial conditions in any way. They are given to us as absolute and unchangeable.
       One of the major implications of this is that the universe cannot be subjected to physical experimentation. Obviously, we cannot re-run the universe to see what would happen if conditions were different, so we cannot carry out scientific experiments on the primary object of our study, the universe itself. Furthermore, due to its uniqueness, the universe cannot be observationally compared with any other universes.
       For example, the laws of inheritance, which laid the foundation for modern genetics, derived by Gregor Mendel, needed tests on over 28,000 pea plants. His experiments wouldn't have been possible if he had only had one pea to examine.
       Unfortunately, we have only one universe to study, and one that we can only partially observe. Because we cannot compare our universe with any other universes, we are limited in our ability to derive laws that would apply to the whole group of objects that we aren't even sure exists.
       This example may illustrate that the concept of the `laws of physics,' since it applies to only one object, is questionable. We cannot scientifically establish `laws of the universe' that might apply to the class of all such objects, for we cannot test any proposed law except in whether it is consistent with one object. Indeed, the concept of a `law' becomes doubtful when there is only one given object that is possible to study. The idea of a physical law is that it applies to a group of objects, all of which have similar characteristics despite possible variations. These variations result from different initial conditions for the systems on which the law acts. Scientific experiments allow us to vary the initial conditions of the systems we wish to test. This is not possible in the case of cosmology because we cannot re-run the universe in the lab.
       We can observe the laws of physics locally and confirm that they look the same on a small scale anywhere in the universe, but we have difficulty extrapolating them on the higher level of hierarchy of the organization of the universe. For example, Newton's laws of gravity work perfectly on the level of our solar system, but they can not be applied with the same degree of certainty once we examine the orbital speeds of stars around the galactic center, which are higher than expected, or the behavior of the galaxies in clusters that stay together despite the fact that their visible mass shouldn't be able to hold them together, and other issues. Even though modern cosmology explains this by the presence of the missing mass dubbed “dark matter” in the halos of the galaxies, there are alternative theories, like modified Newton's gravity (MOND) that challenge mainstream cosmology from time to time, upsetting advocates of the Lambda cold dark matter model that currently is in agreement with observed phenomena.
       On a higher level, the laws of gravity cannot explain why the universe is expanding and accelerating in its expansion. There is a need for new laws to describe the missing energy, dubbed “dark energy,” responsible for such expansion which may take the form of the cosmological constant or quintessence. Although such new laws may provide reasonable explanations, they cannot be checked because we cannot observe them on any other object but our universe.
       Because of the restriction of a global solution to a local neighborhood, we can employ as a solution the hypothesis that we have zillions of “mini-universes,” on which we may test the laws that control the local nature of the universe, but a mini-universe is not the universe; it is a small part of the whole. By examining these “mini-universes” and seeing if they are essentially the same everywhere, we can, to some degree, check that the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe (a key feature of all cosmological analysis) and that the universe is practically the same in all areas and directions. The latter feature has to be explained by a “law of the universe.” Verifying homogeneity does not explain why it is the case.
       Finally, the concept of probability is problematic in the context of the existence of only one object. Problems arise in applying the idea of probability to cosmology as a whole, but a concept of probability underlies much of modern argumentation. For instance, we are talking about very low probability of the observed `fine tuning,' which means that physical constants have precise values that allow them to create conditions not only for life to exist, but also for atoms to form. If the constants were different, the atoms would never form, the stars would never shine, thermonuclear synthesis of the elements wouldn't be possible, and the diversity of the chemical elements that supports life would never emerge.
       This assumes both that things could have been different and that we can assign probabilities to the set of possibilities that have never become a reality in an astronomically provable way. The issue here is to explain in what sense they could have been different with well-defined probabilities assigned to the different theoretical scenarios, if there is indeed only one universe with one set of initial conditions.
       We cannot scientifically establish laws of creation that might determine different initial conditions and resulting probabilities. First, it is useful to distinguish between the experimental sciences, physics, chemistry, and microbiology on the one hand, and the historical and geographical sciences, astronomy, geology, and evolutionary theory on the other. The experimental sciences are usually discussions of the scientific method. The understanding in these cases is that we observe and experiment on a class of identical, or almost identical, objects and establish their common behavior. The problem then resides in just how identical those objects are. Quarks, protons, and electrons are all identical to each other, and so have exactly the same behavior (indeed, this feature underlies well-tested quantum statistics). All DNA molecules, frogs, human beings, and ecosystems are somewhat different from each other, but similar enough that the same broad descriptions and laws apply to them; if this were not so, we would be wrong in claiming they belonged to the same class of objects in the first place. Water molecules, gases, solids, and liquids are in an intermediate category: almost identical and certainly describable reliably by specific physical and chemical laws.
       As regards the geographical and historical sciences, one explicitly studies unique objects (the Rio Grande, Antarctica, the solar system, the Andromeda Galaxy, etc.), or events that have occurred only once (the origin of the solar system, the evolution of life on Earth, the explosion of a certain supernova star). Because of this uniqueness, we can only observe rather than experiment; the initial conditions that led to these unique objects or events cannot be altered. However, at least in principle, there is a class of similar objects (other rivers, continents, planetary systems, galaxies, etc.) or events (the origins of other galaxies, the evolution of other planetary systems, the explosion of other supernovae, etc.) that we can observe and compare with our specific exemplar, carrying out statistical analyses on such cases to determine underlying, regular patterns. In this respect, these topics differ from cosmology.
       If we truly cannot carry out such an analysis, that subject poses a legitimate question about the nature of cosmology. One may claim that the dividing line is that if we convince ourselves that some large-scale physical phenomenon essentially occurs only once in the universe, it should be regarded as part of cosmology. However, if we are convinced the phenomena occur in many places or times, even if we cannot observe them (e.g. we believe that planets evolved around many stars in other galaxies), then the study of that class of objects or events can be distinguished from cosmology precisely because there is a class to study.
       Some scientists have tried to get around this problem by denying the uniqueness of the universe. They propose the physical existence of many universes, to which concepts of probability can be properly applied, envisaged either as widely separated regions of a larger universe with very different properties in each region (as in chaotic inflation, for example), or as an ensemble of completely disconnected universes with no physical connection whatsoever between them, in which all possibilities are realized.
       So far, there is no hard proof that other universes exist, and we have to stick to the statement that the universe we live in is unique, at least from our point of view, and deal with the philosophical implications of such an approach.

    The Large Scale of the Universe in Space and Time

       The problems arising from the uniqueness of the universe are compounded by its vast scale in space and time, which poses major problems for observational cosmology. We therefore need to introduce various principles, in addition to the observations, in order to develop working models that will support theories that interpret the current observations and predict future ones with a reasonable degree of accuracy.
       To get an idea about observations on the large scale of the universe, let's look at the distances with which we are dealing. The distance to Andromeda, the nearest large galaxy, is such that it takes light about two million years to travel to Earth. The speed of light is about 300,000 km per second, which means that if you send a powerful light signal from Earth, it will not reach Andromeda for a couple million years. The present size of the visible universe is about five thousand times bigger than the distance to Andromeda. This size, relative to our own physical scale, places major constraints on our ability to observe distant regions (and certainly prevents us experimenting with them). The uniqueness of cosmology in this respect is that it deals with this scale: the largest with which we can have causal or observational contact.
       Astronomical observations are confined to the past null cone, fading with distance. We can effectively only observe the universe, considered on a cosmological scale, in one space-time event in terms of “there and then.” Visual observations are possible only on our past light cone, so we are inevitably looking into the past as we see to greater distances. Uncertainty grows with distance and time.
       On the other hand, the vast scale of the universe implies that we can effectively only view it from another space-time event “here and now.” If we were to move away from this spatial position at almost the speed of light for, say, 10,000 years, we would not leave our own galaxy, much less reach another one, and if we were to start a long-term astronomical experiment that stored data for 20,000 years and then analyzed it, the time at which we observe the universe would be essentially unchanged. Its age is now believed to be about 13.7 billion years, and the extra time would make a negligible difference. This is unlike other geographic sciences. We can travel everywhere on Earth and see what is there. The situation would be quite different if the universe were much smaller. Given its actual scale, we are now seeing galaxies whose present distance from us is about ten billion light years; the effect is as if we were only able to observe Earth from the top of one mountain and had to deduce its nature from those observations alone.
       We can only observe the universe by means of the particles and electromagnetic radiation coming to us at the speed of light, and we can run astronomical observations of distant sources and background radiation by telescopes operating at all wavelengths (optical, infrared, ultraviolet, radio, X-ray, gamma rays), but all of them are constrained to rays lying in our past light cone. These allow detailed observations (including visual pictures, spectral information, and polarization measurements) of matter as it intersects our past light cone. In observing distant regions, we can also aspire to use neutrino and gravitational wave telescopes, and perhaps cosmic ray observations, representing information coming to us at the speed of light or less. However, all our detailed data about distant regions is gathered along our past light cone. Consequently, we encounter the following problems in interpreting the astronomical observations.
       First, because we cannot travel considerable distances from Earth and cannot change the point from which we observe the universe, we can obtain only two-dimensional projections of the sky, which gives us only partial information about the real, three-dimensional distribution of matter in the universe. Many stars that appear close in the sky are, in fact, separated by great distances along the axis of our observation, and only their projection's two-dimensional plane let us view them as close counterparts. Constellations, those groups of stars that for millennia were considered parts of one stellar structure, have nothing to do with each other, apart from the fact that they appear in close proximity on the two-dimensional plane. Let's have a look at the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Dipper).
       The well-known, bright star Polaris, or North Star, is 432 light years from us, while the next star in the constellation, Delta Ursae Minoris, is 183 light years away, making it twice closer to us than the more luminous Polaris. Why does Polaris appear brighter if it is farther away? Because Delta Ursae Minoris is a main sequence star (like our sun) while Polaris is a giant. The things in the sky are not as they appear.
       We need reliable methods to measure distances and obtain a true picture of the universe. Even though we have succeeded in using different objects as “standard candles,” this method of measurement is not quite reliable. Some distances are measured with precision as low as 50%, which is like if you were asked the distance to next gas station and you replied, “Between fifty and a hundred miles.” It's a big difference even on Earth scale, saying nothing of possible mistakes of thousands of light years. There are many stars the distance to which is unknown.
       The second problem in the interpretation of astronomical observations arises with the realization that we can see distant galaxies only at earlier times in their history. There is no way for us to know what's going on in these galaxies now, because light coming from them left its source millions, and for more distant galaxies billions, of years ago.
       It is the same as if we could learn about the geography of what now constitutes the continent of Africa only by observing it as it used to look in the era of dinosaurs. This gives us some advantages by making cosmology a combination of geographic and historical science, although the science is cursed with disadvantages. Because we are looking at the past appearance of the object of our observation, we have to consider the evolution of this object to determine the distances. In practice, it is one of the unknowns we are challenged to determine.
       The third problem arises when we face the fact that distant sources appear very small and faint, both because of their physical distance and because their light is highly red shifted (as suggested by mainstream cosmology due to the expansion of the universe).
       It is difficult to detect the light that comes from great distance, let alone determine characteristics of the objects that emit it. Moreover, there is the problem of absorption by intervening matter that can interfere with light from distant objects. The farther away we look, the worse these problems get. Therefore, the certainty of our knowledge of the universe decreases rapidly with distances.
       A certain solution to these problems comes from the availability of geological-type data; that is, the present-day status of rocks, planets, star clusters, galaxies, and so on, which contain much information on the history of the matter comprising those objects. Reviewing this data allows us to obtain detailed information on conditions near our past world line in space-time very early if we interpret the data correctly. Geological type observations can probe our immediate vicinity in the distant past. Physical and astrophysical observations tell us about conditions of the far distant past of more distant objects.
       This constitutes the basis of physical cosmology, which is the study of the evolution of structures in the universe tested by comparison with astronomical observations. We have also an opportunity to measure the abundance of elements in our region of space and confirm it in distant regions, which can serve our better understanding of nucleosynthesis in the hot big bang.
       If we can obtain adequate quality data of this kind for objects at high red shifts, we can use this to probe conditions very early in their histories at some distance from our past worldline.
       One of the main challenges of observational cosmology is determining the large-scale geometry of the universe. The obvious way to approach this problem is to try to determine the geometry of the universe from observations (assuming that the nature of objects observed is properly understood). This approach is based on the observational cosmology theorem, which states that the data available on our past null cone from astronomical observations is necessary and sufficient to determine the space-time geometry on that null cone.
      
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       Even if these assumptions are right, and there is sufficient data available to determine the space-time geometry on that null cone, it is possible that the observable universe is only a fraction of a bigger universe that may always stay beyond our observational abilities, especially if one believes in the acceleration of the universe, which may separate different parts of the universe at a such pace that light from these sources will never reach our telescopes.
       The size of the observable universe has grown one thousand times larger in the last one hundred years as our observational equipment has improved. Maybe it is worth waiting until we are able to observe an even bigger part of the universe before we jump to conclusions about its geometry. The currently observable universe appears flat, which may not be the case as the size of the observable universe increases. Analogously, from a terrestrial point of view, Earth appears flat, but when seen from space, it appears round.
       It is a good question-whether there is a need to research areas that obviously lack sufficient data to obtain conclusive results, or if it is better to leave these areas alone until other methods prompt us to reconsider the questions researched. Alas, this is not the approach in modern science. What was the point of losing lives to reach the North and South Poles when in half of century it was reachable by flight? The flight was developed for independent purposes, but later was available to satisfy the thrust of geographers to learn what Earth's poles were concealing from them. It turned out, not much.
       We already mentioned the allegory that describes the cosmologist as a man standing on the top of a hill in the desert, trying to make meaningful conclusions about Earth as a whole, with no ability to see the oceans. Anyway, from the data available, it is possible, in principle, to determine the space-time in the past of the null cone, and if there is no interference, its future. However, in practice, this is difficult to carry out, both because of the problem of estimating distances for all observed sources, which requires knowledge of the nature of the sources, and because of the difficulty in obtaining some of the needed data (which includes apparent distortions of all distant objects and the transverse velocities of all observed matter). The further we observe down the past light cone, the larger the uncertainty becomes.
       This direct observational approach, where no prior model is assumed for the space-time geometry, has been pursued to some degree. In essence, this approach underlies the observational studies that discovered large-scale structures such as the great walls and voids.
       Nevertheless, it is not widely adopted as an overall approach to cosmology, both because of these observational difficulties and because it has little explanatory value. The direct observational approach simply tells us what the geometry and matter distribution is, but not the nature of it.
       It is acceptable in mainstream cosmology to use a theory-based approach. We assume a priori a model based on space-time geometry with high symmetry and then determine its essential free parameters from the comparison of theoretical relations with astronomical observations.
       There is always a need for the link between observations and theoretical models. Such standard models of cosmology are the Friedmann-Lemaitre (FL) family of universe models. Their metric describes a homogeneous and isotropic universe, which has the same uniform composition throughout, independent of the direction in which we look. These models are easy to comprehend and have good explanatory power. Moreover, the physical predictions of these models (the existence of blackbody cosmic microwave background radiation and specific light element production in the early universe) seem confirmed by observations. The problem is, to what degree do observational data confirm these universe models for the expanding universe geometry?
       According to current astronomical observations, the observed region of space is nearly isotropic about us. It is true regarding the distribution of galaxies on a large scale, and it is also true regarding observed cosmic microwave background radiation.
       Indeed, background radiation is spectacularly isotropic, with a slight anisotropy, which is understood to result from our motion relative to the rest frame of the universe.
       The fact that on a large, cosmological scale, no major matter concentrations in any particular region of the observable universe were found signifies that the space-time structure and matter distribution are isotropic about us. This allows us to design exact, spherically symmetrical universe models that would be supported, or at least not contradicted, by current observations. In general, such models will be spatially inhomogeneous, with our galaxy located at or near the center. Philosophically speaking, this won't be a very popular theory, because of the previous failures of geocentric and heliocentric models. Nevertheless, it is certainly possible, though not probable.
       In order to supply convincing observational evidence for spatial homogeneity, in addition to spherical symmetry, we may employ various arguments.
       One such argument is the cosmological principle. Just assume spatial homogeneity because it is the simplest case and you need nothing more complex based on current observations. We may simply adopt a philosophical principle as the basis of argument. This is essentially an a priori prescription for the initial conditions of the universe. It means a universe that initially has an isotopic geometry will have that geometry later, because the symmetries of the initial data are usually preserved.
       Another argument is the Friedmann-Lemaitre (FL) observational relation. If we could show that the source observational relations had the unique FL form as a function of distance, this would establish spatial homogeneity, in addition to isotropy.
       However, the observational problems mentioned earlier, specifically that we couldn't measure distances reliably enough, do not allow us to carrying this through. Astrophysical cosmology could resolve this in principle, but it is unable to do so in practice.
       In the face of this, the usual procedure is to assume that spatial homogeneity is known in some other way, but attempts to prove spatial homogeneity observationally fail. Even though the alternative interpretation would be that this observational data is evidence of spatial inhomogeneity, i.e. that we live in a spherically symmetric inhomogeneous universe in which we are situated somewhere near the centre, with the cosmological red shift being partly gravitational.
       Similarly, the supernova data usually is understood to imply the existence of a cosmological constant. This could also be interpreted as evidence of inhomogeneity, without the need for “dark energy.” Most cosmologists regard such proposals as very unappealing, but that does not prove they are incorrect. It just proves that there is uncertainty in this question and obtaining the hard evidence of homogeneity is not as easy as it might look.
       Another argument is the physical argument. It states that physical processes such as inflation make the existence of isotopic regions highly likely, much more probable than spherically symmetric inhomogeneous regions. Even though it is a viable argument, we must be clear that we are merely replacing an observational test with a theoretical argument based on a physical process that may or may not have happened. It may seem to many mainstream cosmologists that there is no definitive observational proof that inflation took place.
       The inflationary universe theory is popular because of its predictions of the detailed pattern of cosmic background radiation anisotropy on a small scale. That argument would only become rigorous if it is shown that spherically symmetric inhomogeneous models (with or without inflation) cannot produce similar patterns of anisotropy. In fact, however, such models can produce similar patterns of anisotropy, because the acoustic oscillations that lead to the characteristic predicted anisotropy patterns take place after inflation and can plausibly happen if suitable initial conditions occur without a previous inflationary phase. Doesn't that mean that before we attempt to explain inflation by a cosmological constant or quintessence (or any other form of “dark energy”) we need to obtain substantial proof that inflation has really taken place?
       There is an alternative to conventional cosmological thinking. In his book In the End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics, first published in 1999, Julian Barbour asserts that the existence of time is an illusion. Barbour begins by describing the evolution of his view of time. After taking physics courses in graduate school, Barbour became obsessed with the idea that time is nothing but change. During his studies, he encountered the work of Paul Dirac, which turned his attention to the results of quantum physics. Working as a translator of Russian scientific articles, he was able to pursue his research freely.
       Despite the counterintuitive nature of his central claim, Barbour attempts to persuade the reader that our experiences are, at the very least, consistent with a timeless universe. He does not explain, however, why one might seek to exclude time from his or her view of the universe.
       Barbour points out that some sciences have long ago done away with “I” as a persisting identity. To take atomic theory seriously is to deny that the cat that jumps is the cat that lands, to use one of Barbour's illustrations. The seething nebulae of molecules that make up humans, cats, and all matter are constantly rearranging themselves at incomprehensibly fast speeds. The microcosms metamorphose constantly, which motivates the idea that one must deny that a cat or person persists through time.
       Barbour addresses the charge that writing with tensed verbs disproves his claim of a timeless universe. The next revolution in physics will undermine the use of tense in speech, according to Barbour, who adds that at present there is no way to speak or write without using tense.
       If the universe is composed of timeless instants and non-enduring configurations of matter, one could nonetheless have the impression that time flows, Barbour asserts. Consciousness and the sensation of the present, which lasts about a second, are just in our heads. Information about the recent past is indeed in our brains, but it is not there as a result of a causal chain leading back to earlier instants. Rather, it is a property of sentient beings, perhaps a necessary one, to begin thinking in the first place. Brains are “time-capsules,” in Barbour's words. He investigates configuration spaces and best-matching mathematics, fleshing out how fundamental physics might deal with different instants in a timeless model of the universe. He calls his universe, absent of time and fixed positions, Platonia after Plato's world of eternal forms. Barbour's Platonia consists of an infinity of “nows.”
       Why is the true frame and object of the universe the instant in configuration space, and not matter in space-time, as traditional cosmologists believe? Barbour marshals as evidence a non-standard analysis of relativity, the many-worlds theory, and ADM formalism. Since he believes we should be open to physics without time, we must re-evaluate physical laws such as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation without respect to time. These laws take on radical but powerful forms when time is excluded. Barbour writes that our notion of time and insistence on including it in physical theory has held science back. A scientific revolution awaits, he claims. Barbour suspects that the wave function is somehow constrained by the “terrain” of Platonia.
       Barbour ends with a short meditation on some of the consequences of “the end of time.” If there is no arrow of time, if there is only being and no becoming, creation is equally inherent in every instant.

    Man's Duel with Time

      
       All human misfortunes and sorrows can be traced to passing, merciless, all-devouring time. “Men don't kill time; time kills men.” “Time is the best teacher. It's a shame it kills its students.” “All seconds wound, the final one kills.” These are just a few examples of what man has said about time, his frightening, deadly, and uncompromising enemy. Time is always associated with death, and as Ralph Waldo Emerson correctly noted, “The blazing evidence of immortality is our dissatisfaction with any other solution.” But while man meets his own death only once, he runs up against time at each passing second.
       Few conceptions in man's consciousness can be decoupled from time. Even on this printed page, it is impossible to get by without a concept of time, for anything that presents itself as a succession of ideas is firmly yoked to it. Without time, there can be no succession; without succession, there is no logic; without logic, there is no thought; and without thought, there is no existence. “I think, therefore I am.” Existence as man conceives it cannot be without time. The thought of time's absence is more distressing than the reality of its presence. Time is like a splintery, floating log that overturns the moment a drowning person reaches for it, entombing the pour soul beneath it in the abyss of nonexistence.
       It would seem that the sharp, wounding sensation of time passing communicates itself to us by way of our mature consciousness' understanding of the meaning of time. One might suppose that he who doesn't reflect on the meaning of time and lives without counting the days is happy and invulnerable. William Ernest Hocking expressed the idea thus: “Man is the only animal that contemplates death, and also the only animal that shows any sign of doubt of its finality.” While watching a cat comfortably sprawled out in the sun, lazily pawing the air with closed eyes, one unwittingly begins to envy the unconcern and happiness of its existence. It's doubtful that man alone can become distraught over the thought of his own death, but never having been an animal, it's hard to judge what one feels in relation to its life and time.
       Children in the most carefree stage of their life, who do not yet comprehend the concepts of “today” and “tomorrow” subconsciously feel the painful melancholy associated with the passing of time. A child parts with a toy reluctantly because he feels he may never see it again. The fear a child feels when his mother leaves the room is associated with the dread that she will disappear forever. What a child doesn't see and touch is nonexistent for him in his early years. The most vivid manifestation of the feeling is the universal reluctance of practically all children to go to sleep. It's more than a desire not to miss interesting events in the world of wakeful souls. It is the feeling of irretrievable loss that will occur when the child is asleep. Most likely, a mature consciousness protects us from childish fright before irretrievably passing time. The reluctance to discard papers and broken toys has, at its base, nostalgia for that which has past irretrievably and a fear of loss, subconsciously communicated to us by the irreversibility of time. It often seems that small children are privy to knowledge that we have long ago forgotten. It's as if they bring something from the other side-from nonexistence or life before birth. Seneca compared the act of birth to death. He characterizes both as an entrance into a new world.
       Man has always tried to prove that his existence is not meaningless. This is the essence of the eternal battle waged with time. Primitive cave drawings helped to halt the flow of time, serving to remind viewers of particular hunts and actual events. The preservation of amulets made from the bones of slain animals also served as a reminder of past events. When a person is not able to keep track of time, he is defenseless, as if living blindfolded in an infinite abyss of being. Winters, droughts, and old age occur unexpectedly, and in order to gain a measure of control over what is going on, man invents simple calendars and primitive clocks based on the sun, moon, and stars.
       The ability to draw and record enables memory to return to the past, helping man cope with irreversibly flowing time. Books have become the most important man-made instrument with which to preserve time. Their construction is the first model of time as it truly is. The beginning, middle, and end exist simultaneously. This simultaneity, however, is accessible only to the creator. The first creator (man) paints vases and carves bas-reliefs, in which he depicts events sequentially, as in comics. The nature of this medium allows the end and beginning to exist simultaneously. If the heroes of these scenes were endowed with consciousness, time for them would have the same irreversible progress. The further the technical abilities of man develop, the more closely his creations model time. Photographs freeze time so exquisitely that we can now observe with the highest degree of reality ancestors who died a hundred years ago. Finally, photographs begin to move. A film creates a live reflection of time, where for its creator the heroes are immortal and the beginning and end exist simultaneously. Even though the creator and the viewer cannot see all of the film's scenes simultaneously, the reality of the existence of the beginning and end on the celluloid film isn't disputed. The heroes of the film, as before, appear to suffer from the irreversibility of time, even though the reversibility and repeatability of time in the film is obvious to viewers.

    An End to the Commonly Accepted Conception of Time

      
       In a letter of commiseration to the loved ones of his deceased friend Besso, Albert Einstein wrote, a month before his death, “The separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, however tenacious, and death is no more real than the life that it concludes.”
       Time is a stubborn illusion within which our entire existence passes. We wouldn't be able to imagine anything without time. Yet time is a deception of our senses. Evidence leads us to believe that fear and worry experienced in connection with passing time is naive. This does not mean, unfortunately, that this worrying is less agonizing. In Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the heroine cries when she is told she is unreal and simply dreaming. To her response that if she is crying she is real, Tweedledum answers, “I hope you don't suppose they are real tears.” The same can be said of us. No matter how we may persuade ourselves, no matter how many philosophical arguments for the reality or unreality of time are made, we remain human. We are burdened with the baggage of our illusions and delusions. Copernicus didn't displace man from the center of the universe; Darwin didn't make man the descendant of apes; Freud didn't diminish man's intellect by elaborating on the chaos of the subconscious. Man will always be man, philosophical outlooks, and scientific discoveries aside. However, if we come to see that time, which causes us tremendous grief and dooms us to nonexistence, is an illusion (albeit a stubborn one), perhaps we will look upon the world with a relieved smile. We will sense our eternal connectedness with creation and in this feeling lays our immortality. The thought that time is nothing but a stubborn illusion leaves us a ray of hope that our sentence in this life isn't final and immutable. Freud wrote in Civilization and Its Discontents:
       I had not properly appreciated the true source of religious sentiments. This, he says, consists in a peculiar feeling, which he himself is never without, which he finds confirmed by many others, and which he may suppose is present in millions of people. It's a feeling he would like to call a sensation of eternity, a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded-as it were, oceanic. This feeling, he adds, is a purely subjective fact, not an article of faith; it brings with it no assurance of personal immortality, but it is the source of religious energy which is seized upon by the various Churches and religious systems, directed by them into particular channels, and doubtless also exhausted by them. One may, he thinks, rightly call oneself religious on the ground of this oceanic feeling alone, even if one rejects every belief and every illusion. I cannot discover this oceanic feeling in myself.
       It's possible that Freud got by without this “oceanic feeling”; many of us, however, cannot. Without it, we are insignificant creatures tormented by the apathy of time.
       The ideas presented here are invoked to prove that what we consider time does not exist. At first, that assertion sounds paradoxical to the point of banality. It seems it should be grouped among such declarations as Nietzsche's “There is no God,” Solvyov's “God exists,” or “There is no such thing as motion” from Zeno. It's a pity that only through the categoricalness of declarations one can attract attention to one's work in the hope that one's lines will be read by someone besides their author.
       Philosophical literature has proven its abstruseness and baroque style to the extent that it's impossible to expect any sort of interest towards a new philosophical work, even if it addresses the questions most stirring to thinking people: life and death or the hollowness of existence or its possible meaning. Philosophers have forgotten that man needs philosophy. Philosophy without man has no value. If a person can't use philosophy to make sense of his life, what is its use? Therefore, stepping back from the “language of tiresomeness” in which philosophical works are written; stepping back from opaque citations, meaningless words and academic fame, I turn to the ordinary person, the person who has sought but not found the answers to eternal questions, the person who is frustrated not to find at least a partially satisfying answer to his questions.
       If we investigate all of the emotional stresses of life, it's not hard to see that the cause of suffering is time, or more precisely, what we understand time to be. Time carries away life irretrievably. It consumes our flesh, leads us to our inevitable death, and deprives our life of meaning. Numerous unfounded, philosophical and religious concepts promising us “eternal life” and “immortal souls” don't satisfy us. Such is also the case with materialistic worldviews, which reassure us that the meaning of life is based on the utility of our biological existence from the point of view of our species. We participate in the process of generational change and the creation of posterity; therefore, our lives have meaning. Assurances by Schopenhauer that if we are living we don't have any relationship to death because we are still living, and if we are not living we don't have any relationship to death, are none too helpful. This is so despite the long intellectual pedigree of this idea, which reaches back to the time of Epicurus and Seneca. Much has been said by wise men of humanity, but their postulates don't help the average person find answers to his eternal questions, questions that arise because of time. In the absence of time, all of these questions lose their meaning.
       In this essay, I attempt to demonstrate the flawed basis of our current understanding of time and expose all of the undesirable consequences of the delusion of human intellect in connection with the mistaken understanding of time. Further, I reconsider the fundamental aspects of creation and world perception from the standpoint of the negation of the concept of time.
       What can a close reading of this essay yield? The ability to completely reconsider man's view of creation and his role in it. This new perspective, which will leave a believer a believer and an atheist an atheist, frees us from the fear of death, the feeling of the emptiness and senselessness of existence, and the pain of loss and misfortune. It can positively affect our understanding of justice, happiness, and self-actualization through debate and reason in the arena of contemporary physics, astronomy, biology, and psychology.
       What will not reading this essay give us? Possibly a short-lived satisfaction of our feeling of superiority over the next “Messiah” that the author portrays himself to be. But the question of unhappiness, death, the emptiness of existence, the irreversible passing of life, and time lost forever will go without a reasonable solution, regardless of whether the potential reader is an atheist or a believer. For not one of today's faiths or conceptions fully satisfies the inquiries of a contemporary person, if only because the major religions are poorly adapted to everyday reality. But our focus isn't shifting to religion. We shall attempt to find, study, and eliminate the source of our problems, which is the human mind's incorrect conception of time.
       Time, or what we name as such, is no more than a perception. Before we begin to support our argument with scientific fact, we should make the proviso that human language cannot be used to discuss concepts that aren't discoverable though our sensory organs. (Further on, we will evaluate separately the question of the inadequacy of the resources of human intellect to interpret creation.) Therefore, we must analyze time in terms of space. At first, this may seem like nonsense, but as we will show later, our senses represent reality not as it really is; they are mistaken time and time again. We will show that it's up to us whether these delusions cause us to suffer.
       Our consciousness is organized in such a way that we apprehend the world with respect to temporal sequences. That's not surprising. We can't think several thoughts simultaneously, and we can't make multiple mathematical calculations at the same time, despite the fact that computers capable of executing several actions at once were long ago invented. Our cognition has evolved the ability to process only one thought at time. (Those who consider themselves capable of doing many things simultaneously are simply very adept at switching from one thought to the next, returning easily to the former thought without losing track of the next one.) Because thoughts don't occur simultaneously and are dependent on preceding ones, a chain or succession of thoughts forms when we think. Consequently, our perception of time is based on a succession of thoughts connected with the intake and processing of impressions taken from the surrounding world. How did the brain's way of functioning come about, and why is it so limited in comparison to artificial intelligence, which is man's creation? The cause of thought's asynchronism lies in the asynchronous way events transpire in the universe. A glass falling from the table breaks. It never spontaneously reassembles itself from glass shards, and it never rises back up to the table. A glass is never in the form of a glass and glass shards simultaneously. The consecutive way in which events unfold in nature is directed along the thermodynamic arrow of time, along which entropy, or the dissipation of energy, increases. This directionality of events in nature is reflected in the process of human cognition. Which phenomenon drives the other? Is our consciousness capable of determining the sequence of events only along the arrow of time? Or is creation imperfect, foolishly squandering its energy into space, infinitely expanding towards its own destruction? Before we charge the universe with imperfection and profligacy, let's evaluate our abilities, the abilities of the descendants of primates, realistically. We note that our inability to perceive events simultaneously does not necessarily entail that these events do not exist simultaneously.
       No matter how intensely we peer at the horizon, what lies beyond it remains unseen. What is beyond may as well not exist with respect to our sensory organs. Our knowledge of the physical world doesn't allow us to assert that it does not exist in reality, however.
       We don't think when we are reading a book that the read pages have disappeared irretrievably when they are no longer directly in view. Similarly, we don't doubt the existence of the pages ahead because we don't yet see them.
       We can't read all the pages of a book simultaneously; however, a book exists as a whole entity independently of whether we desire it to or not. Our experience teaches us this, but we may also verify it by jumping ahead to later pages or by returning to ones previously read. It's not so easy to do this with a presentation when slides are shown to us in sequence. An image on the screen appears and disappears. We can neither go back nor jump ahead, because another person controls the slides. In this case, as well, experience teaches us that all of the slides exist simultaneously, though we view them sequentially.
       We turn now to events we can observe, events with which we have no direct experience, and the occurrence of which does not depend on us. One such event is the sun's rising. For the greater part of his existence, man believed that the sun “sank in the sea” when it set. Later on, man decided the sun revolved around the Earth. It was only fairly recently that we discovered that Earth revolves around the sun. Nonetheless, we stubbornly persist in saying (and thinking) that the sun “rises” and “sets,” despite what academics tell us. And all the more rightly, because with these words we reflect our impressions of the sun more precisely. It is a fiery ball, which gradually falls and becomes obscured, or appears, rising above a line dividing Earth and sky. Mankind eventually discovered his perception of the sun's rising and falling was an illusion. Similarly, we may discover our perception of other universal things is equally illusory.
       There were faiths built on people's fear that once it had set, the sun would never again rise. Prayers and ceremonies of ancient peoples were often rooted in this fear. Now, using the facts that science gives us, only a madman could doubt the sun's persistent motion and become distressed that it may not reappear in the morning.
       In the Critique of Practical Reason, Immanuel Kant writes:
       Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within. I have not to search for them and conjecture them as though they were veiled in darkness or were in the transcendent region beyond my horizon; I see them before me and connect them directly with the consciousness of my existence. The first begins from the place I occupy in the external world of sense, and enlarges my connection therein to an unbounded event with worlds upon worlds and systems of systems, and moreover into limitless times of their periodic motion, its beginning and continuance. The second begins from my invisible self, my personality, and exhibits me in a world which has true infinity, but which is traceable only by the understanding, and with which I discern that I am not in a merely contingent but in a universal and necessary connection, as I am also thereby with all those visible worlds. The former view of a countless multitude of worlds annihilates as it were my importance as an animal creature, which after it has been for a short time provided with vital power, one knows not how, must again give back the matter of which it was formed to the planet it inhabits (a mere speck in the universe). The second, on the contrary, infinitely elevates my worth as an intelligence by my personality, in which the moral law reveals to me a life independent of animality and even of the whole sensible world, at least so far as may be inferred from the destination assigned to my existence by this law, a destination not restricted to conditions and limits of this life, but reaching into the infinite.
       The star-filled sky above our heads has not ceased to be a symbol of eternity and immutability. When it comes to moral law, alas, it is not necessary to prove its relativity; with respect to the star-filled sky, one can say it doesn't exist in reality. What we see gazing upward into a dark, clear night is the same deception of our senses as the rising sun. The truth is that all stars are located at varying distances from us. When we observe two seemingly adjacent stars, we don't realize one may be located twenty thousand light years from us and the other a million light years more distant. Their light reaches our retinas simultaneously, but the stars could have long ago ceased to exist. They could have exploded as supernovas, changed in size, luminosity, or temperature. They could have even changed their relative positions in space. This doesn't at all correspond to what we observe. What kind of picture is developing of the heavens above? It's like all of the train schedules for the last hundred years, if all of the entries had been mixed up. Would one find such a chart useful? What we observe in the night sky does not correspond to reality.
       Here's a much-cited example. A station platform begins to depart when the train starts moving. Of course, this does not occur in reality. Before we begin to feel the jolt of the carriage's acceleration, it seems to us that the platform is moving as we remain in place.
       And if we propose that we have just such a false impression with respect to time? What if it just seems to us that time “flows,” but in reality, it's the same deception of our senses as the sun's rising, the stars in the night sky, and the station platform?
       Let's examine man's earlier attempt to understand the essence of time. The feeling of conditionality and limitation in our intellect's understanding of time has long since been noted. Kant, in Critique of Pure Reason, draws conclusions that do not contradict the assertions in this essay:
       Time is nothing else than the form of the internal sense, that is, of the intuitions of self and of our internal state. For time cannot be any determination of outward phenomena ... It [time] determines the relation of representations in our internal state. And precisely because this internal intuition presents to us no shape or form, we endeavor to supply this want by analogies, and represent the course of time by a line progressing to infinity, the content of which constitutes a series which is only of one dimension; and we conclude from the properties of this line as to all the properties of time, with the single exception, that the parts of the line are co-existent, whilst those of time are successive ... Time is not an empirical conception. For neither coexistence nor succession would be perceived by us, if the representation of time did not exist as a foundation a priori. Without this presupposition we could not represent to ourselves that things exist together at one and the same time, or at different times, that is, contemporaneously, or in succession. Time is a necessary representation, lying at the foundation of our intuitions. With regard to phenomena in general, we cannot think away time from them, and represent them to ourselves as out of and unconnected with time, but we can quite well represent to ourselves time void of phenomena. Time is therefore given a priori. In it alone is all reality of phenomena possible. These may all be annihilated in thought, but time itself, the universal condition of their possibility, cannot be so annulled. The infinity of time signifies nothing more than that every determined quantity of time is possible only through limitations of one time lying at the foundation. Consequently, the original representation, time, must be given as unlimited. But as the determinate representation of the parts of time and of every quantity of an object can only be obtained by limitation, the complete representation of time must not be furnished by means of conceptions, for these contain only partial representations. Conceptions, on the contrary, must have immediate intuition for their basis.

    Space and Time in the Framework of a New Model of Creation

       “It is my supposition that the world is not only queerer than we imagine, but queerer than we can imagine,” said John Scott Haldane. And he was absolutely correct. Recent centuries have seen the concepts of space and time dethroned. Once clear, tangible, familiar, and constant concepts have been relegated to the realm of the ambiguous and indefinite. The curvature of space and slowing of time at speeds approaching the speed of light became banal truths. Few understand these truths, however. Since this is the case, there's no need to spend much effort proving that man's perception of time, far from corresponding to the state of affairs in reality, is in fact very much at variance with it. And it's not necessary to prove that man's perception of time differs from the generally accepted, everyday understanding of time. The astrophysicist Steven Hawking, whose genius is compared to that of Albert Einstein, establishes in his scientific work that time has some properties of space, and at every point in it, physical laws and constants are uniform. Based on his conclusions, one can imagine the universe as a sphere in time. We can conceptualize the universe's space as an infinite many cuts in the sphere, all of which are perpendicular to the arrow of time. The arrow of time is directed from the pole of the sphere (the big bang, the start of the universe) toward its center. Further, it appears there will be a tipping point, where the arrow of time will continue to the other pole of the sphere (the end of the universe). A theory such as this solves both the problem of the singularity of the big bang and the problem of preserving physical constants at the beginning of time. In the conditions existing at the time of the Big Bang, it would have been impossible to preserve the physical constants known to us. In this way, the phenomena of the expansion of the universe and the recession of galaxies are explained. We are capable of observing time only when it is directed along the thermodynamic arrow. It's as if we as observers are located at an angle below the pole of the sphere of time, viewing the recession of galaxies from this vantage. It's as if we are moving through an extended tunnel with torches along its walls. If we were, we would have the impression that a torch travels away from us at a speed directly proportional to the speed at which we move through the tunnel. Not delving too deeply into the laws of astrophysics, it should be pointed out that the phenomenon of galactic recession, which is based on the Doppler Effect, or the shift in m spectrum of the light emitted by receding objects, could be explained by yet unknown properties of large expanses of cosmic space. The presence of masses of invisible matter in these expanses could be capable of distorting the spectrum of light passing through them. If the only evidence for proposing the phenomenon is based on the Doppler Effect, it is possible galactic recession does not exist. We will not assert that other evidence of the mutual recession of galaxies will be determined equally untenable, but it can be proposed that the theory of the “big bang,” which is founded in part on the phenomenon of Doppler shift in the spectra of receding galaxies, could be called into question when other facts emerge. Such facts may be the striking homogeneity of background radiation in all directions. If the beginning of the universe really occurred with the big bang, one would expect this background radiation to be distributed non-uniformly. It's possible that the theory of the big bang will crash just as Ptolemy's geocentric model of the universe did, though to this day, when we observe the rising sun, we say “the sun is rising” instead of “we are rotating,” referencing the motion of the sun with respect to ourselves.
       There is a certain absurdity in the theory of the “big bang.” As the theory goes, all of creation is an unstable system, with matter flying about in different directions as a result of a gigantic explosion, which occurred after all matter was concentrated at a single point. The absurdity of this is patent, just as it is in the model of creation where the entire universe rotates around us. Intuition, however, never served as a reliable guide in the world of science, especially of contemporary science. Anyhow, we do not aim to disprove this model. We accept Stephen Hawking's point of view, which presents the universe as a sphere of time in which we, by virtue of our intellect, travel in the same direction as the arrow of time. What effect can this model have on the metaphysical level of time's perception? Time exists simultaneously from its beginning to its end, much as the beginning and end stations of a railroad line coexist. Intellect, whose system is built on consecutive perception, cannot exist and therefore, cannot recognize itself in any other direction besides the one moving with the arrow of time.
       In order to illustrate this limitation of our perception of time, we can create a hypothetical intelligent being that is even more limited than are humans. We create conditions in which this being will experience the same limitations with respect to space that we experience with respect to time.
       If a subject spent his entire life in a moving train without the ability to communicate with those leaving the train and could not see oncoming trains, what would he feel? Undoubtedly, the subject would develop a relationship to the space outside the train's window that resembles our psychological perception of time. In the first place, everything flashing by outside would, from the perspective of the subject, disappear irretrievably and cease to exist. Our passenger would perceive any person departing the train as lost forever and having ceased to exist. Second, the individual would perceive his own departure from the train as death, with all of its accompanying psychological stresses. Even if the subject were endowed with a normal intellect, his existence in such constrained circumstances would make it impossible for him to imagine that the places he passed would continue to exist and that the departure of his fellow passengers could be anything but a fateful event. We imagine that we are the same way. Repeatedly, we are deceived by our senses. We move through time in only one direction, perceiving each past moment as irretrievably lost and each future moment as non-existent. The real picture could be different. A section of our life could be an insignificant slice of Hawking's sphere of time, a slice the thickness of a lifetime, in which everything exists simultaneously.
       Stars influence everyday things, such as our kitchen pots and pans, little. This influence is imperceptible. Therefore, my fanatic interest in all that is located beyond the limits of Earth's gravity can appear eccentric and unnatural. It is inexplicable that I can read the most sophisticated astrophysics articles for hours and repeatedly flip through popular astronomy magazines, absorbing facts I assimilated long ago, facts that remain contradictory. No other area of learning arouses in me such a tragically all-encompassing interest.
       Perhaps there is some explanation of this. I can pontificate endlessly on the fact that the solutions to age-old philosophical questions can be found in the cosmos. I can talk big about how everything in the world comes from stars and will end in stars. Stars are the source of all elements heavier than hydrogen. The origin of every atom in every molecule of the fingers that are typing these lines can be traced to the nucleus of a giant star.
       It's generally accepted that most elements (including inert gasses) originate from the nucleosynthesis of star material. Nucleosynthesis occurs in the center of a massive star when thermonuclear reactions of hydrogen are accompanied by increases in pressure and temperature. This creates the conditions necessary to synthesize C12 and He4. Because of the release of energy, the process of compression ceases, allowing the syntheses of heavier elements in the star mass to begin. Strange as it may be, the whirlwind heads of Earth's population didn't assimilate this simple truth, even though it became known in the middle of the 20th century. Yes, exactly. We are all star children. We feel a certain familial connection with proud Sirius or Aldebaran, rising up above the horizon.
       I didn't have the opportunity to observe stars directly until recently, when a cozy little telescope shop in a neighboring town went out of business. I indulged myself in the purchase of a rather large reflector telescope, which was romantically named “Genesis.” On the first night, I observed the blindingly bright moon, and like all newbie astronomers, I was completely overwhelmed by its majestic, glowing beauty. I tried to find the place I was viewing on a globe of the moon, but I apparently suffer from topographical ineptness not only with respect to Earth. In the darkness, the moon globe slipped out of my hands and rolled onto the recently frozen pool, leaving me to strut and maneuver through the fragile ice sheets. Maxine soon came to the rescue with a skimmer, and on the seventh try, she fished the moon from the pool, thereby saving the wonderful heavenly body.
       Other stellar objects did not make a proper impression on me. Mars in my telescope was no more than a slight red disk, and it's not even worth mentioning the rest. The joy of warming one's frozen limbs on a cold December night can't compete with the domestic comfort offered by an astronomical computer program, which allows one to view detailed images of the surface of most of the planets in the solar system and their satellites. I spent several evenings crawling over the entirety of the photographed parts of our galaxy and other galaxies, and then I became bored. I named one distant star cluster that had a colorful appearance “Maxine's Treasure Box” and was satisfied.
       I was astonished at how insignificant a part of our galaxy contains practically all of the stars that form the familiar constellations. The distance to many distant stars has been determined with an accuracy of up to fifty percent. Therefore, their mass can also be determined, though inexactly. Astronomy is not such a respectable exact science as it may appear to an outside observer.
       My nature is remarkably predictable: as soon as a strong desire is satisfied, I lose interest in the subject that initially excited me. I looked over the entire collection of images several times, but it seemed like there was nothing at all to view with the telescope. Jupiter would be rising over the horizon only in January. There was nothing to do with my gigantic tube in the snowy December yard.
       Why didn't I make astronomy my life's work? Well, in school, I had a reputation for being a fool. I maintain this reputation to some degree even today. And as my mom explained, you need to have strong math and physics skills to excel in astronomy. I was disgracefully weak in both of these subjects. Only approaching thirty I understood that neither math nor physics present much difficulty to master, but alas, it was too late for me to go back to school. Upon the attainment of the age of Christ, there comes an inescapable desire to teach, and the instruction of another mentor is received poorly at this age. Of course, I'm kidding. I study constantly, but I couldn't imagine going to university again. Why would I go back? To sit again in a classroom with a bunch of brats? To be spoon-fed by pompous turkey-professors and receive a doctorate in astronomy at age fifty? And after that try to win grants so I can look through a bigger telescope? That's a joke.
       I dealt with my heightened passion for astronomy much more simply. If you want to research something, you don't have to be a specialist. I hired a couple of first-class scientists to help me solve one theoretical question in astrophysics that had been bothering me. It was my attempt to explain the paradoxically high speed of the rotation of stars on the peripheries of galaxies.
       Curve A on the graph reflects the speed of a galaxy's disk rotation as a function of its distance from the center, as predicted by Kepler's laws of planetary motion and Newtonian mechanics. Curve B represents what is observed in reality. This phenomenon spurred the invention of the theory of the mysterious and invisible “dark matter,” which allegedly composes most of the universe's material. It's true that in time the theory of dark matter was also used to explain other problems that arose in astrophysics.
       I attempted to take into account the interaction of a gravitational field on the flow of time at a point in space where a source of radiation is located. In this way, I intended to calculate the differing characteristics of gravitational fields directly adjacent to the center of a galaxy, at the point of observation and on a galaxy's periphery. I hypothesized that this could explain the effect depicted by Curve B. I won't get into the technical details, but thirty pages of correspondence with one Canadian astrophysicist explained my question conclusively. I was satisfied that, first, my question was legitimate and, second, it is impossible to answer my question given the current state of observational technology. It would require a device equivalent in length to the distance between Earth and the moon to study the question.
       Now I was set ablaze by a new idea. The task was no more and no less than to kill cosmology, and please, don't confuse this science with astronomy, astrology, cosmonautics, or cosmetics. Don't be dim like the primordial dark matter that fills our unhappy universe, slandered repeatedly by scientists. One way cosmology is described is “the study of the universe as a whole, of the contents, structure, and evolution of the universe from the beginning of time into the future.” Notice that the description itself smacks of charlatanism. You probably noticed it annoys me that scientists create theory after theory, while the universe, according to their quackish views, migrates from the backs of turtles to various other absurd places. The basic tenant of my idea is that cosmology is a false science. How can one trust a science that has deceived us throughout humanity's history? In our day and age, research into perpetual motion machines and alchemy is not a respected endeavor. It would behoove science to cease creating all-embracing models of the structure of the universe, for we will always experience a shortage of information and are eternally doomed to failure. Even if one of these days an astronomer peers though a telescope and sees that the edge of the universe is a brick wall-even that would not put the question of the end of the universe to rest decisively. Scientists would immediately begin to construct theories on who built the wall, what exists beyond it, and other such baseless speculation. Contemporary physics and cosmology are increasingly speculative sciences. Specifically, the conclusions from these theories are extrapolated beyond the bounds of the area where they can be reliably applied. Newton made this mistake when he extrapolated the action of his law of the composition of velocities to infinite speeds. And today, the very same mistake is made again by the most venerable physicists, who talk up the “big bang” and forget that at such great depths of time, these models become less reliable. They forget that the concept of time lacks a reliable physical basis and that the flow of time not only varies in different epochs but also in various positions in space. Thus, there isn't any sense in pontificating on the age of the universe.
       This position in cosmology has changed little in recent decades. The discrepancies are many, and they crop up faster than cosmologists are able to explain them. For example, now theories about multitudes of universes are fashionable. This is nonsense by definition. Many authoritative authors write, “The universe is all matter,” “There is but one universe,” “Other universes, by definition, cannot exist,” “The universe encompasses everything that exists. Outside the universe, there is nothing. Moreover, not only galaxies and other matter are absent, but there's nothing at all-no space, no time.” “The universe is everything that exists; outside of it, there is nothing-not even emptiness.” The phrase “multitude of theoretically possible universes” is blasphemous. In contemporary cosmology, the word “universe” is used to mean what in dialectical materialism is called objective reality or matter. And it's not just that some author or even a majority of authors persist that there is only one universe. It is common knowledge that when one creates a theory or mathematical model of an object, it's essential to give the boundary conditions of that object. These boundary conditions reflect the interaction of that object with its surroundings. Not a single cosmological model gives these conditions for the universe. In cosmology, the universe is viewed as an object with no surroundings or boundaries. Even learned philosophers say the universe is infinite.
       In cosmology, there are not only firmly established conclusions like the ones described above, but also unresolved problems. If one doesn't consider specialized problems, such as the origin of galaxies, the rest of the problems relate to one of two types. First, there are problems related to the “very beginning.”
       What caused expansion to begin? How did the world expand in the very beginning? Was the density of matter infinite at the beginning of expansion? What was there before observable expansion? How reliable is the conclusion about the beginning of expansion, about the state of the huge density of all matter (as they say-the singular state), what processes were occurring in the super-dense matter, what caused the material of the universe to expand and finally, what was before expansion, before the moment of singularity?
       Beginning in the 1980s, the genesis of the universe was discussed within the framework of the “scenario of the inflatable universe.” According to the inflatable universe scenario, the entirety of the universe visible today formed from an area smaller than a Plank length. This makes it possible to consider the origin of the universe (or its visible part) a result of initial quantum fluctuations. Such a universe initially had a small size and expanded exponentially. In this process of inflation, it reached its present size. All matter contained in the observable universe came into existence as a result of work done by gravitational forces inside an area which initially contained no more 1x10-5 grams of material.
       The second problem that is often addressed in cosmology is the problem of the geometry of the universe. It turns out that the curvature of three-dimensional space may be similar to the curvature of a sphere. It can close upon itself, becoming borderless but finite, like a sphere. It's unknown whether our universe is open or closed.
       We note that in his time, the answer to that question wasn't a riddle for Albert Einstein. In 1917, in the section entitled “Considerations on the Universe as a Whole” of the work Relativity: The Special and General Theory, he wrote:
       It follows from what has been said, that closed spaces without limits are conceivable. From amongst these, the spherical space (and the elliptical) excels in its simplicity, since all points on it are equivalent. As a result of this discussion, a most interesting question arises for astronomers and physicists, and that is whether the universe in which we live is infinite, or whether it is finite in the manner of a spherical universe. Our experience is far from being sufficient to enable us to answer this question. But the general theory of relativity permits of our answering it with a moderate degree of certainty ... The results of calculation indicate that if matter be distributed uniformly, the universe would necessarily be spherical (or elliptical). Since in reality the detailed distribution of matter is not uniform, the real universe will deviate in individual parts from the spherical, i.e. the universe will be quasi-spherical. But it will be necessarily finite. In fact the theory provides us with a simple connection between the space-expanse of the universe and the average density of matter in it.
       It is likely my book will be ignored and not cause a scandal. However, by writing it, I can check off the part of my existential project called “Try to Undermine a False Science that Has Enabled Religion and Politicians to Pull the Wool over People's Eyes for Centuries.”
      

    Peculiarities and Limitations in the Perception of Time

      
       “With the exception of the edge of the present moment, the entire world consists of that which does not exist,” said King Izhikovsky, expressing a widely held view of man's perception of the world. One can speak of the ability of human consciousness to perceive “real existence,” which lasts for a few seconds. Our sensation of reality is a manifestation of the conventional way our consciousness works, not the negation of the existence of all events that came before the present moment. We have spoken repeatedly of the tendency of consciousness to distort the real world for the benefit of our feelings. Why couldn't we propose that in our perception of time, too, we observe the same phenomenon?
       Speaking of the perception of time, we find it insightful to cite the position of Descartes:
       Let us grant that there is no God, no earth and that that we ourselves have no body. We cannot suppose, nonetheless, that we do not exist ... It is senseless to propose that which thinks does not exist. For more clarity we examine the opposite position: our cognizance of our own existence is the result of an internal awareness of our cognitive activity, which consists of the receiving of inputs from our sensory organs and the comprehension and processing of these inputs. If we didn't feel the cognitive process in ourselves, we would not notice the absence of a like feeling. If one accepts that man's understanding of existence is a direct result of thought, then only the subject himself can say with certainty whether or not he exists. It is like, for example, when a subject awakens after feinting. He has no recollection of his thought processes while he was unconscious. He cannot confirm that he continued to exist when he was unconscious. If this subject were in the presence of onlookers, however, these people would observe the feinting and would confirm with absolute certainty that during the period of unconsciousness the subject continued to exist-at least physically.
       The existence to which Descartes refers is not physical in the everyday sense, but the result of the presence in the subject (more accurately, in his intellect) of self-sentiment. Adopting a similar position, stating that only reason itself is able to establish the fact of its own existence, we can easily agree with Kant: “If I remove the thinking subject, the whole material world must at once vanish because it is nothing but a phenomenal appearance in the sensibility of ourselves as a subject, and a manner or species of representation.”
       Since time, like other manifestations of the physical world, has only the meaning a thinking intellect attributes to it, one cannot assert that time can identically manifest itself as a phenomenon (that is, something perceived by a person) and as a noumenon (the thing in itself), the manifestation of which is not comprehensible our intellect. In any event, we cannot agree with the generally accepted view of the objectivity of time, which holds time is a phenomenon perceived by a subject. Further, we cannot accept the view of the uniformity of the flow of time if we view time as a phenomenon perceived by a rational being. Using an opportunity to conduct a survey among subjects of varying ages, we were able to establish the existence of an acceleration of the perceived flow of time with age. Attempts were also made to establish a biophysiological basis of this phenomenon (KMR, Oct-Nov 1999). The surveyed individuals noted that with age, the rate at which they perceive time to pass increases. Moreover, the respondents answered that the process can be quantified: time passes two to three times more quickly as age increases. In reality, the prevailing method of keeping time based on the periodicity of day and night and seasonal climate changes has nothing in common with how the human intellect perceives time to pass. This results in a serious inconsistency between astronomical intervals of time, which are of equal durations, and periods of time as they are perceived by sentient beings. Mention of this inconsistency is found everywhere from literature and art to everyday conversations among people of varying ages who express a feeling of loss in relation to passing time. Most often, this feeling of loss relates not to physical wealth and achievements, but to the metaphysical understanding of self-awareness and maturity. “I've lived life, and yet I haven't understood a thing in this world”-the basic tenor of this feeling of loss is concentrated in this phrase. The onset of the feeling of “having lived life” and the rapid acceleration of the perception of the flow of time does not occur in old age or even middle age; it occurs early in life. A person's acquaintance with such a phenomenon, as was the case when Freud's subconscious was introduced, could alleviate the suffering of many individuals caused by the acute awareness of elapsing time. Legitimizing the phenomenon of the subjective perception of time and refuting the postulate of the uniformity and objectivity of time's perception, one can alleviate the suffering of individuals who believe that these feelings are their personal tragedy. For these individuals, the feeling of loss results from their nervous and unwise use of time in the spiritual sense. Giving the subject knowledge of the metaphysical property of time to accelerate, we give him the ability to measure his time more reliably. For example, if you take the average coefficient of the acceleration of time to be 1.5 and measure biological age and the psychological equivalent, then at age twenty, the individual's perception of his age may correspond to the psychological age of thirty. Between thirty and forty, the psychological age is forty to sixty. (It is possible the fantastic ages of biblical prophets were based on their psychological age.) Counting the number of years remaining in a person's life instead of the number of years lived, and assuming an average life expectancy of seventy-five to eighty years, it's not hard to calculate that the remaining years of a twenty-year-old is not fifty-five, as is true according to biological age, but forty years. At age thirty, the remainder is thirty-three years. That is the middle of a person's life. In certain cases, the scale becomes even less optimistic. This discrepancy between the self-sentiment of the subject's age and the generally accepted opinion that a thirty-year-old is a young person, having lived only a small portion of his or her life, leads to the psychological suffering of the individual and an acute feeling of the loss of time. This feeling lies at the base of typical age-related crises.
       Now that the limitations of the perception of time in the context of age have been discussed (we will return to this idea in the continuation of this essay), we should like to address the question of the capability of perception to distinguish reality from unreality. We are referring not to the simple deception of our senses, as in the case of the rapid advancement of film cells that gives rise to the illusion of motion. Here, at least among educated people, arguments about the reality of what appears on a movie screen do not arise. We are referring to a more subtle deception of the senses, when life's considerably removed and insignificant events mesh and become indistinguishable from memories of dreams. We are discussing insignificant events that have had real consequences and influence on the course of our lives-rather, insignificant events, or impressions of things that have or have not been seen in reality. If we rummage around in our memories and consider insignificant worries, events, and images, we find we often cannot clearly distinguish events that have occurred in reality from those we have dreamed. We attempt to conduct a search for evidence of the reality or unreality of these events by identifying their connections to events reliably known as real to our memory. If we're not able to find this confirmation of the reality of trivial events, they retain the status of half-real, half-dreamed events. Incidentally, this does not bother us at all. In the preceding example, we see that in our consciousness, there is no great difference between the real and the imagined. If our dreams flowed in a ceaseless succession and were completely subject to the logic of evolving events, as are events in real life, we would be unable to distinguish dreams from real life.
       One more conclusion can be drawn about the merging of dreams and reality in our memories. Dreams are just as meaningful a component of our lives as reality, and if they had a direct and manifest continuation in our real life, they could attain a status equal to that of reality.
       In any case, taking dreams as examples, we may analyze the mechanisms of our perception of reality in their pure form, when the focus is directed inward toward the depths of our consciousness. How is time perceived in dreams? Its role in sleep is much less significant than in real life. It's as if we find ourselves in reality, and the logical connections that lead us there completely agree and exist as if they were an independent block. When we recall the source of the situations in which we find ourselves while dreaming, we invariably find in our memory (the pseudomemory of the given dream) logical confirmation of the reality of our existence at that moment in the dream. While we're in the thick of the events of a dream, we often do not doubt the reality of what is occurring. We awaken when our attempts to remember preceding events encounter obvious contradictions with our “real memory,” and when, through willpower, we interfere with the flow of the dream. Subordinating a dream to your will, one disturbs the “real” logic of the flow of events in the dream. This makes a dream unreal, and its further serious perception is impossible.
       Time in dreams is easily compressed and stretched both in relation to itself and in relation to real time. The phenomenon of pseudomemory, which exists in dreams, is very interesting. Our consciousness, asking itself in a dream how it ended up in one or another situation, obligingly furnishes explanation after explanation drawn from the pseudomemory, where situations and sensations that connect us with our real life are stored. But this process of verification does not occur constantly. Rather, it is replaced by a general feeling of certainty in the reality of our present situation. As in real life, we don't give way to the constant thought of how we ended up in the present moment; rather, we are satisfied with the general feeling of the undoubtedly logical coherence of the events proceeding the present moment. In a dream, we're not made uneasy by manifestly illogical (from the point of view of our real memory) inconsistencies in circumstances, events, and the environment. Hybrids of houses and apartments and various cities where we have lived, admixtures of countries and times, these do not make us uneasy. We're not disturbed by the presence of people who could not have been brought together in space and time. Sometimes our dreams bring together people whom we met at various periods in our lives even though they could have changed altogether or even have ceased to exist. In sleep, we don't think about this since we are captivated by the events of the dream. And the moment we fall into thought, our consciousness tries to corroborate and resolve the conflicts of the dream with its pseudomemory. When the futility of this task is exposed, we awaken. Fears and worries in dreams can often be intense, and the moment we experience them, they can be perceived as more real than those we experience in real life. In view of the linearity of the progression of thoughts, we, absorbed by the development of events in a dream, are not capable of always maintaining a critical eye on what is transpiring. We can easily become a victim of the deception of our own consciousness. Time in dreams doesn't flow backward, nor does it stop or slow down, for we would be unable to imagine it. But dreams allow us to experience events as if outside the frame of real time, not so much by traveling backward to the past or forward to the future, but by experiencing existence in a certain world that lacks time altogether. Even though fears and worries in dreams resemble real ones and all events transpire in alignment with the arrow of time, restrictions are more flexible. Looking at our life in dreams as one global experience interrupted only by wakefulness, we can firmly assert that our existence blends both a real and an imagined life, one flowing into the other, with the boundary between the two weakly delineated.
       What is the quantity of experiences in dreams? If one tries to measure the information that flows through one's consciousness as we do with computers, measuring memory in bytes, kilobytes and megabytes, one can say with confidence that the informational burden of dreams is perhaps greater than that of real life. The fact that we recall only a small portion of our dreams (and only very dimly and in the context of a reappraisal by our waking consciousness) tells us the world of our dreams can be no less extensive, and possibly more extensive, than the world of our real life. That we remember only a fraction of our dreams is counterbalanced by the fact that in a dream, we remember only a fraction of our real life. Further, one can assert that most often we remember those dreams that directly precede our awakening, and with respect to narrative structure and logic, these dreams always remain unfinished. Just when one begins to make connections between the real world and the imagined dream world, one's waking consciousness becomes aware of the dream and the dream is remembered. What is remembered is not so much the dream itself as the evaluation of the dream, plus a few visual-sensual images. The remainder of the dream is completely cleared from our “real” memory, and emerges from the subconscious under hypnoses during psychoanalysis.
       What can we say about the discontinuity of our life in dreams? It's possible that if we could remember all of our dreams and comprehend the logic of the atemporal development of events in dreams, we would realize we live a parallel life in sleep. For while we sojourn in the world of dreams, we perceive our real life to be just as disjointed and illogical as our dreams seem to our waking consciousness. Interpreting our life not as a chain of consecutive events, but as a unified whole or a repository of feelings and perceptions, we see practically no difference between dreams and reality. Further, the relationship to real life, like the relationship to dreams, can give us unlimited freedom of enjoyment of the infinitely many variations on the ways events, feelings, and perceptions can develop. It frees us from the physical bonds of time, and legitimizes the feeling of eternity, to which many of us feel a latent connection. “You live gloomily within me, like a secret premonition of immortality.” In the words of Yuri Vizbor, we fumble for the feeling of the vast depth of our existence as it appears to us from an everyday perspective.
       Therefore, we don't find proof of the evenness of the flow of time in our perception, and we can't reliably sense its continuity, which is interrupted by dreams differing from reality only insignificantly. What is reliable in man's perception of time? Can one call the commonly accepted opinion of the perception of time anything but the rudest of assumptions, necessary for the sequencing of certain unimportant events in our life? Time, whose passing so dispirits us, is possibly nothing other than the result of our habit to interpret the flow of certain events in one of the “real” variations of the development our lives, which is no less real than other variations that exist in parallel.
       The human memory records individual episodes and erases the unimportant intervals between them. Our perception of life always occurs in episodes, not in a consecutive, uninterrupted flow. Insignificant events are quickly forgotten, forming a memory of a string of episodes. It's not a coincidence that art, attempting to reflect life through the prism of human perception, also records individual episodes, omitting the connecting routine of unimportant events. A picture records an event. A narrative consists of episodes flowing in parallel and in sequence. A film shows us individual episodes, sometimes using the devices of “two hours later,” “the next day,” in “twenty years” and “at the same time in a different place.” That approach isn't by chance. It completely reflects the mechanism of human memory, segregating a chain of episodes to recognize and remember from a vast quantity of other unimportant connecting episodes, which are temporarily or even completely forgotten.
       We also perceive dreams as episodes with the loss of connecting links that we're not able to recollect. These links are considered absent when analyzed by the waking consciousness. While sleeping, however, we don't perceive the fragmentary nature of the episodes we experience, and therefore, while dreaming, we don't lose the feeling of realism, without which would make lengthy continuations of dreams impossible. This means that memories of real events, like those of certain fragmentary visual-sensual episodes, hardly differ from memories of dreams, which are characterized by episodes just as fragmentary. If one proposes that we remember only a small portion of dreams, one can assert that during a single dream, one can experience an almost infinite quantity of episodes with links assumed forgotten or omitted from the frame of reference of the sleeping consciousness. These links are only forgotten and omitted on the level of a dream. In many cases, awakening in the middle of the night and falling asleep again, we encounter the continuation of the plot of the same dream, or we encounter a new dream with a different plot. One cannot say that one can dream several dreams at once; however, we understand time in the usual sense, which we have convinced ourselves is false. Can the multitude of dreams not be considered a certain model of the multitude of simultaneously developing logical lives, whose echoes we attempt to capture upon waking, and only due to an abrupt transition to a new stream of events a dream seems to us inconsistent and therefore unreal? Sometimes we experience a multilayered dream when we dream that we're dreaming and dream that we awaken. Only when we awaken in reality do we realize that the awakening in the dream was false. What do we dream in dreams that occur when we dream that we fall asleep? Do the intervals between episodes of that dream vanish? Isn't what we feel as real life one of the possibilities of a set of dreams existing in parallel? Are our dreams real lives passing in parallel? Are you reading these lines in one of these real lives? Don't dreams command respect and consideration equal to that commanded by real life? Or is it the opposite? Are we justified in relaxing our psychological exertion, approaching real life a little more as we approach dreams, where, from the point of view of waking consciousness, events are reversible and not so decisive? After all, events of our real life seem to our dream-seeing consciousness not so decisive and reversible. In one way or another, the proposed model of a possible parity between the realities of dreams allows one to alter one's perception of the flow of time, with its imaginary limitations, and declare the flow of time illusory.

    The Limitations of Human Language and Consciousness in the Comprehension and Description of Creation and Time

      
       “The world does not exist, but rather is constantly occurring. Its continuity is the result of a lack of imagination.” In his brilliant aphorism, Stanislaw Jerzy Lec expressed the limitedness of human reason in its attempts to comprehend and describe the elements of creation. In the words of Protagoras, “Man is the measure of all things.” Unfortunately, we don't have access to another thinking being's perceptions and comprehension of creation. And although “out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing straight was ever made” (Immanuel Kant), we don't have at our disposal any other object or observer besides human consciousness.
       It's hardly possible for one to understand creation on one's own. No, this doesn't contradict the image of the lone philosopher, disengaged from the bustle of everyday life. By this, we mean that a person who doesn't find himself in direct and prolonged contact with like beings and who doesn't study the language and logic of thought isn't capable of developing his consciousness to the level necessary to question creation. As numerous cases have demonstrated, people who become excluded from human society at a young age fail to develop interpersonal skills. The ability of these people to interact with other humans in later life remains at the level of an animal. But even for a person who possesses a normally developed human consciousness, it is insufficient to accept an unsubstantiated opinion that could not be understood and accepted by another person. And though objectivity is merely the sum of subjectivities, any knowledge outside of objective analysis is subject to scrutiny.
       Human language, undoubtedly, is the primary means by which this understanding is realized. The flow of thoughts is based on language. Even if it seems to us that some thoughts fail to find expression in words, it's impossible to imagine a proper cognitive process without verbal language. At the inception of a thought, a concept or feeling arises in our consciousness. This thought is expressed, often imperfectly, in words. For convenience, when complex thoughts are processed, we mentally express them in words. For those who speak several languages with equal ease, the language in which the ideas find expression does not matter. Thus, we can speak of language on two levels. It is not necessary for the language of consciousness to consist of grammatically well-formed words and sentences as human language does. The language of consciousness consists of completely defined and mutually distinct concepts and cognitive images, which may or may not have verbal analogues in human language.
       The richness of the verbal trove of a language and a person's ability to utilize his innate linguistic resources significantly influences the exactness with which he expresses his cognitive images. “The worse you speak a language, the harder it is to lie in it,” (Christian Friedrich Hebbel). Often, the richness of a language's resources is used not with the intent of expressing thoughts more exactly, but in order to avoid the decisive formulation of a thought. This distorts the cognitive image or replaces it with another one. According to Talleyrand, “Language is given to a person so he may conceal his thoughts.” In reality, many people do not attempt to reflect their cognitive images accurately. Often, a subject's goal is to hide his incomprehension of something when he lacks a precise understanding of it. Or he may have an altogether different and selfish goal, which has little in common with the attempt to express the cognitive image precisely. A similar situation is encountered in discussions of philosophical and abstract subjects. This is an additional serious limitation of language as a means to acquire knowledge and describe creation.
       In addition to the obstacles mentioned above, it's necessary to note the frequent non-correspondence in the meaning of one and the same word, which different subjects can imbue with different meanings. “You can converse with those who speak a different language, but not with those who place entirely different senses in the same words,” as Jean Rostand observed. It's also impossible to give an object an exhaustive description. Followers of Socrates very skillfully practiced a rhetorical method whereby they asked their interlocutors to provide a description of what they were talking about. The philosophers would find something unaccounted for in the description, and in doing so undermined it, proving the impossibility of defining a concept with infinite precision. People relate even limited descriptions to different concepts, and therefore it is impossible to achieve an exact expression of a cognitive image. In other words, not only the source of the thought suffers from its imperfection, the listener to whom the thought is expressed also suffers because of the limited and often incorrect decoding of the expressed thought.
       Before we discuss the imperfection of verbal human language, it's necessary to determine whether the language of our consciousness, which is based on cognitive concepts and images, is perfect in itself. Undoubtedly, this language of images and concepts has as its first principle the language of concepts and images of higher mammals, which for a variety of reasons is expressed with gestures, body movements, and sounds. At present, we cannot equate these means of communication with articulated human language. Is this language of consciousness intended to comprehend creation deeply? After all, any attribute that has developed as a result of the process of evolution has a distinct goal. Does human consciousness have the goal of understanding creation? The process of evolution is well understood. If, over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, the individuals who out-competed their peers were those who could comprehend creation more lucidly, perhaps man would have evolved a consciousness more adapted to the comprehension of creation. However, natural selection didn't follow this course. In fact, quite the opposite happened. The survivors were individuals who commanded more concrete and limited intellects. They lived more successfully and were more successful in creating posterity. If natural selection based on man's ability to understand creation did occur, if anything, the trait was disfavored. One could suggest that modern humans are no more capable of understanding creation than was primeval man or even animals. The creative process, or, as Engels called it, “labor,” wasn't saved, either. The fact of the matter is that the process of creating and the process of understanding creation are not at all the same thing. As Anatole France justly remarked, “It is easier to create the world than to understand it.”
       Is man a perfect instrument of learning? The question can be put another way: Is man the final product of evolution? Is the comprehension of creation one of the goals of the development of the biological world? If you accept that this is truly the goal of evolution, then most likely, man is not its final product. Friedrich Nietzsche echoes this idea: “Man is a rope, stretched between a beast and a super-human-a rope over an abyss. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.” If this is so, one shouldn't be concerned that our consciousness is imperfect. Somehow, evolution, either on its own or with the help of man, will eventually reach a higher level of intelligence. Perhaps computers will be the continuation of evolution. And if one believes Lawrence Peter, who said, “The devil can change again. Once he was an angel, and maybe he will continue to evolve,” we should hope that the further evolution of man will not see him become more like the devil.
       Taking into consideration the limitations of the base cognitive language of consciousness, formed from cognitive concepts and images, it's not hard to imagine that the second system of signals, which is ordinary, segmented human language, is an even less effective instrument for the description of abstract concepts. This is not so. On one hand, language consisting of words limits the expression of cognitive images. On the other hand, language creates new cognitive images when a word acts as the object of expression in the cognitive sense. For example, the word “galaxy” calls up in our consciousness an expansive image of a colossal aggregation of stars. Telescopic photographs seen previously support this image visually. In this case, the word along with the earlier seen representations initiates the image, not the other way around. It is upon this effect the co-development of consciousness and language is based. Consciousness generates new images for which new words are created. These new words, in turn, form the basis for new images. And in this ability, we observe an advantage of modern man's consciousness compared to that of primeval man. However, along with the benefits of an articulated language come certain disadvantages. Often, incomprehension and the absence of a precise cognitive image lurk behind difficult words.
       One must point out that languages based on ideographs are closer to the basic language of consciousness. And a thought is even more vividly expressed by way of a proverb, which is a search for an analog of complex concepts in everyday situations. This is the language in which the New Testament is written, if what is written in it truly reflects what the son of Christ said and is not a distortion.
       “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible,” was the opinion of Albert Einstein. Comprehensible-if we're talking about the process of comprehension and not the result. For example, it's like measuring Earth with a ruler. We could easily imagine using a ruler to measure the circumference of Earth. We could even begin doing it. It's exceedingly improbable, however, that one could finish the task. And the main problem wouldn't even be the gigantic size of Earth. Most places on Earth can't be measured, due to the presence of mountains and oceans. Attempting to understand the fundamentals of creation is like using a ruler to measure Earth. And taking the analogy a step further, we're not even measuring Earth with a ruler; we're measuring centuries with a ruler. In this way, we're attempting to measure time with an instrument intended to measure length.
       “The universe is a thought of God,” said Friedrich Schiller. And within this thought there is a certain confirmation of our idea: The thoughts of God are incomprehensible, for one who can think as God is God.
       It's not surprising that no matter how we try, the resources of the human language are insufficient to express concepts man doesn't encounter in concrete form, and the more removed a concept is from a concrete event, the less likely it is possible to express it precisely using language.
       Often, words acquire such importance for our consciousness that many philosophical works engage in a sly substitution of words that denote the same concept. This work of consciousness is often found, for example, in the pages of Kant. It appears to the author himself that he is creating a new concept or category when searching for a denotation of a new word or phrase.
       It's clear that the limitations of consciousness and language mentioned above don't allow us to define our concept of time with precision. Furthermore, language fetters our consciousness, forcing it to express what we perceive of the simultaneity of time, eternity, and the limitlessness of life using inexact words and expressions meant to describe entirely different concepts. Therefore, our words and expressions often assume the form of a banality, simplification, or absurdity, and are inexactly interpreted by the reader or listener.

    The Problems with Heavenly Philosophy

      
       I had to decline participation in the Montreal conference, with which I had intended to conclude my quest for heavenly wisdom. I met with astrophysicists at Harvard and cosmologists in Cuba, and I had planned to meet with scholars specializing in the philosophy of cosmology in Montreal. There's no stopping a person thirsting for knowledge, however. Declining real participation in the conference, I nonetheless studied the conference materials and reviewed the proceedings. I also became familiar with an extensive body of work on the philosophy of cosmology.
       One of the works I read was particularly interesting. I found it on a website called E-prints, which provides access to scientific publications in electronic form. E-prints allows scholars to publish their work on the Internet, thereby making articles available to the scientific community regardless of the desire of scientific journals to publish them. This method of publishing makes contemporary science more democratic and efficient. Anyone may submit their article, regardless of their scientific education or academic status. Certain sites require aspiring contributors to be recommended by an author who has already published in his or her field. The recommending author, however, is not required to verify the correctness of the new author's work. Publication in serious scientific journals remains the primary way to inform the world of your work; however, E-prints sites allow you to make your article available to the world's scientists and the public almost immediately. When you search the system on a specific topic, you will inevitably find all related publications. Using the site is usually free for both authors and readers. If you consider that a subscription to a journal such as The Astrophysical Journal costs a lot, it's not hard to see the attractiveness of E-prints. One often finds notes appended to articles in E-prints indicating the journals to which they have been sent for consideration. This system has strengthened science a hundredfold. Surely, the future of scientific publication will be influenced by it.
       The South African scholar George F.R. Ellis of the University of Cape Town wrote the article I found interesting. It was published under the title “Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology.” To my surprise, it contained not only everything I wanted to say about the topic, but many things I didn't even consider. I have never experienced true scientific ambition and am resigned to my humble function as a writer-joker of limited acclaim. Therefore, I was overjoyed to find this work and immediately e-mailed the author with a proposition to publish it in book form. I even agreed to cover all of the publishing expenses. To this end, I began the Kriger Research Foundation, a fund that provides small research and publication grants to scholars working in various fields of science.
       Believe me, the existence of this work made my life easier, for I had long planned to express similar ideas. Here my plan was realized with a degree of sophistication I would have hardly been able to match.
       The offer to publish this work as a separate book seemed sufficient to advance the ideas expressed in it, ideas that I, for the most part, strongly support. And my name-what does that matter? It's enough that my name will appear in the name of the organization sponsoring the project. After all, Harvard was known well before Einstein, and will be known after the next Einstein proves the old Einstein wrong on some points. The position of Nobel and Harvard in science seems sufficiently prestigious and persistent.
       What makes this article so wonderful? It is the most complete overview of contemporary cosmology-its achievements and shortcomings, its potential and limitations-existing today. Philosophical questions are posed in the form of propositions followed by a detailed discussion of all of the pros and contras. The article depicts the current state of cosmology, and most importantly, draws conclusions that are completely in line with the conclusions I made after visiting two conferences and studying the materials of a third.
       My view of cosmology became less negative after reading this manuscript. I discovered that the science of cosmology was, in fact, acceptable. If certain norms are observed in its pursuit, cosmology can remain a respectable science. My plan to write a book entitled The End of Cosmology was misguided. What I really wanted to say should probably be called “The End of Political Cosmology,” for what bothers me is speculation and invoking cosmological concepts to achieve political or religious ends. I wrote about this idea in the first sketch of my cycle of cosmological musings.
       In Ellis' article, we are again confronted with the image of an ant attempting to build a model of the planet Earth. The ant views its surroundings from atop a hill in the middle of the Sahara Desert. According to this ant's theory, Earth is a desert. The forests, mountains, and seas inaccessible to the ant are impossible to incorporate into its system.
       There are definite limitations to our learning, and cosmology should acknowledge them. Even if our methods of observation were more sophisticated than they are today, and even if we felt we had absolute knowledge, we still would not be able to completely convince ourselves of the accuracy of this knowledge. We wouldn't be able to prove this knowledge was truly absolute or that there was no additional knowledge that would influence what we know.
       George F.R. Ellis concludes:
       Cosmology considers questions of physical origins in the uniquely existing physical universe. These questions can be extended to include ultimate issues if we so desire, but physical theory cannot resolve them. In the end, there are a variety of mysteries underlying the existence and nature of the universe. The scientific study of cosmology can help illuminate their nature, but cannot resolve them ... As well as celebrating the achievements of cosmology, one should take into account the limits and problems considered in this chapter, and not claim for scientific cosmology more than it can actually achieve or more certainty than is in fact attainable. Such claims will in the long term undermine cosmology's legitimate status as a project with solid scientific achievements to its name. In the opposite case cosmology loses its scientific legitimacy.
       I will permit myself to reproduce and discuss the primary assertions of Ellis' work in the following paragraphs.
       The universe cannot be the object of physical experiments. We can't “restart” the universe with different initial conditions to observe how it would evolve differently. It's impossible to draw comparisons with other universes based on observations of our own universe. Further, we can't compare our universe with similar universes. We're not able to test our hypotheses about the makeup of our universe by performing a statistical analysis of the characteristics of a known class of existing universes. Presently, it does not appear to be possible to prove the existence of other universes.
       The idea that a universal set of physical laws exists that hold true only with respect to one object (our universe) is dubious. We can't determine, scientifically, a set of universal laws that relate to an entire class of like objects since we wouldn't be able to test any of these laws on more than one object. We may only test laws on our observable universe.
       Astronomical observations are tied to the past of the region of the universe in which the observations are conducted. The further away our telescope looks, the more weakly visible an object and the longer the light we're studying takes to reach us. Consequently, we can't observe the present cloudiness of the Andromeda Galaxy. What we see is a picture of two million years ago, because that's how long the light took to reach Earth. We can observe the universe on a cosmological scale effectively only with respect to one event occurring at a given point in space and time. Even if we were able to continue our observations over the course of tens or hundreds of thousands of years, it would be too short an interval of time to observe changes that shed light on the regularities of the universe's evolution.
       Geological observation allows us to study the distant past of an object near us. Conversely, astrophysical observation yields information about the deep past of very distant objects. The basis of cosmological observations lies in the principle that information received by observing space along a defined space-time cone is sufficient to draw conclusions and create cosmological models. The principle also states that it is possible to determine the space-time geometry of the universe. Theoretically, it is possible to do this based on these observations, but only if it is assumed that the information we receive is not distorted. In practice, however, the avoidance of interference is a difficult or even impossible task, since it is not easy to determine the distance to the objects under observation with a sufficient degree of accuracy. Further, it is difficult to determine the nature of these objects reliably. Finally, avoiding interference is difficult because we know the relative velocities of the observed objects with a limited degree of accuracy. The further in the universe's past we direct our observations, the higher their uncertainty.
       How should astronomical observations be made? When they are conducted outside the framework of a cosmological theory, for example, when mapping galaxies, they can yield unexpected results: the discovery of gigantic structures on the super galactic order, walls of galaxies, and “wells” of space that are practically devoid of galaxies. Nonetheless, this approach is not often taken in contemporary astrophysics and cosmology. This is not only because of the aforementioned observational difficulties, but also because of the low possibility that the results will enhance our understanding of the universe. For example, the results of galactic cartography reveal the geometry and distribution of matter in the visible universe, but they do not inform us of the nature of what we observe.
       Interpretations of cosmological observations depend on how they are understood in the context of astrophysics. A cosmological analysis depends on the theoretical framework in which the researcher is working. There is sometimes room for the researcher to assist an ailing theory when the observed data doesn't completely agree with what is predicted. After every series of new observations, it is permissible to alter the theory slightly, thus making verification difficult when new results are obtained in the next series of observations. In cosmology, it is customary to look in the back of the book for the answers. Of course, observations that completely contradict the theory are put to rest, although sometimes not for long. Often, old theories are brought back to life and returned to circulation.
       In standard cosmological theory, it's essential to confine oneself to reasonable tests. The universe should not be younger than the oldest stars in it, for example. In these cases, it's often helpful to question how accurately we think we can determine a star's age.
       Despite the fact that astrophysicists have achieved remarkable results in explaining the evolution of stars, determining a star's age remains a significant problem in modern cosmology. The necessity to be in accord with the fundamental observations is a precondition for cosmology to be considered an empirical science.
       The limits of astronomical observations are postulated based on an assertion of standard cosmological theory that says objects in the distant reaches of the universe are receding from us at speeds greater than the speed of light. This does not contradict Einstein's assertion that speeds greater than that of light are impossible. We're not talking about the motion of material objects, but an expansion of the universe itself. The light from these distant objects will never reach an observer on Earth. Thus, we're not able to see far enough into the past to explain the nature of the initial evolution of the universe. If we don't live in a “small universe” we can suppose that the largest part of matter is located beyond the horizon of possible observations. Consequently, the large-scale geometry of the universe cannot be tested.
       Standard cosmology asserts we have made significant progress in the completeness of our observations. Since we can observe most of the universe, we are able to draw well-informed conclusions about its structure, nature, and evolution. Unfortunately, this is not so. In all of its existence, cosmology has had delusions of grandeur (to put it mildly). However, new observations have continually moved the physical boundaries of the universe farther and farther out. Astrophysical observations constantly bring surprises, such as the discovery of objects that threaten the integrity of the standard cosmological theory. The existence of gigantic, well-formed galaxies in the most distant regions of the observable universe was such a discovery. There wouldn't have been enough time for these structures to form in the framework of the aforementioned theory.
       There is a limit to the possibilities of physical observations. In order to test the conditions of the initial evolution of the universe, more energy is required than particle accelerators are capable of producing. It's necessary to extrapolate known physics and apply its conclusions to conditions of extremely high energy, assuming that in this way we can determine what really happens in the poorly understood realm of high-energy physics. The hope that these assumptions are correct is, alas, not great. The lack of clarity about the universe's expansion indicates that the current theory is not complete. Expansion theory's promise to establish a connection between cosmology and particle physics remains unfulfilled.
       The theory that the universe began at a single point of infinite density called the “initial singularity” appears equally plausible and implausible. The universe could have started at a specific time in the past, but various alternative scenarios exist-an eternal universe, a universe in which time as we understand it arose in some way, an anthropic perception of time. We don't know what happened, but the ideas of quantum gravitation allow us to avoid a singularity in which all of the known laws of physics don't exist.
       Experimental physics cannot explain the initial state of the universe. Consequently, it cannot explain its nature. We have a range of possible “beginning scenarios” to choose from; however, the fundamental question is the basis for supporting our choice. Why did the universe take it present shape and not another permitted by the laws of physics? The reasons for choosing between various possibilities cannot be explained scientifically. It is a question of philosophy and metaphysics.
       Physical laws may depend on the nature of the universe. Significant difficulties exist in the attempt to establish differences between the general laws of physics and individual boundary conditions in their cosmological context, observed at certain places and times. Real physical laws can depend on boundary conditions. They can even vary in different space-time regions of the cosmos. It is possible this contradicts basic cosmological principles.
       We cannot accept the known laws of physics as necessary givens. Cosmologists are interested in studying hypothetical universes, where the laws of physics differ from those in our universe. Approaching the study of the universe in this way helps cosmologists understand why the physical laws are the way they are in the real universe.
       A theory's criteria of satisfaction cannot be selected scientifically. Criteria of satisfaction, however, are essential for the selection of a good cosmological theory. These criteria should be based on philosophical considerations. The main criterion of a theory's satisfaction is its ability to explain both particular phenomena and the cosmological picture as a whole. A successful theory should be supported by experimental data and astronomical observations.
       Scientists are motivated to create theories consistent with the theory of inflation because of the theory's ability to explain the observed structure of the universe and its growth. Inflation theory's explanatory power makes it attractive to physicists, despite the fact that the physics on which it is based aren't completely understood. The theory's central predictions are not testable on a large scale, yet it remains attractive.
       A cosmological theory can address a broad or narrow set of questions. The standard cosmological theory attempts to answer questions that have a philosophical basis. This makes it attractive among both academics and non-academics. Reality, however, is fully reflected neither in observations nor in theoretical models. The problem is that observations and theoretical models often attain the status of reality. Theories and observations are our essential tools of the trade; they help us study the surrounding world. They can mislead us with respect to reality, however. Theories shouldn't be elevated to the status of reality!
       New matter can arise in the expanding universe because of its evolution. The appearance of new matter is permitted by boundary conditions of local systems. Life can be examined as one of the manifestations of such a physical newness in the evolution of the universe. Life, as we know it, is possible because the physical laws and boundary conditions of our universe have a very specific nature. Only certain laws and initial conditions in the universe allow the existence of intelligent life. Again, we note we're talking about intelligent life in its known form. The evolutionary process in a similar form of life would be impossible if these laws and conditions weren't in their existing form.
       The weak anthropic principle is based on the assertion that it's not surprising that the observable universe allows the existence of life. If life didn't exist, the principle states, no one would be present to observe the universe.
       The strong anthropic principle asserts that intelligent life necessarily exists in the universe because the presence of life is necessary for the universe to be meaningful.
       To progress in our understanding of anthropic principles, we must discover the fundamental cause of the phenomenon of life. When we examine the chain of physical causes and effects that brought us to the present, we're left with an unanswered question: Why is this chain the way it is and not another way? Why did it lead to the phenomenon of life? Whatever answer we propose, we must admit it will not have a physical basis. In search of answers to such questions, we explore the field of metaphysics. It is also possible to simply ignore these questions as do the majority of serious academics. Continuing along this path, we can identify six fundamental approaches to explain why our universe is the way it is and why it supported the appearance of life and continues to support life's needs. These approaches are: 1) mere chance, 2) necessity, 3) high probability, 4) universality, 5) cosmological natural selection, and 6) deliberate design.
       The first approach is based on random chance. It doesn't clarify anything. It asserts that the initial conditions of the universe came into existence haphazardly. The probability of that cannot be calculated. This approach is logical and possible; however, it is not satisfactory since it doesn't posses any explanatory power or lead to the unification of ideas on the development of the universe and intelligent life. This fact, however, doesn't necessarily mean this approach is incorrect.
       The second approach is based on the principle of necessity. Things should be the way they appear to us. Variations of what exists are not permitted. According to this approach, the aggregate of the existing laws of physics is self-sufficient, and all logically possible universes are subordinate to the same principles of physics. If it were possible to prove the correctness of such an approach, the science of cosmology would obtain a self-sufficient and complete basis. Nonetheless, we cannot imagine alternative universes! Why should they be excluded from consideration? Another problem we encounter with this approach is an insufficient knowledge of physics. Neither quantum physics nor fundamental mathematical concepts rest on a completely stable foundation. Until these problems are solved, it doesn't make sense to insist on an approach that presupposes the necessity of the existence of a single body of physical laws that are not completely understood.
       The third approach is based on high probability. Despite the fact that the formation of structures in the universe seems improbable to our intuition, from a physical standpoint, they are rather likely to occur. A similar argument is only partially successful, for it is impossible to calculate this probability scientifically.
       The fourth approach is based on universality. What is possible will happen. All possible universes exist, and ours is one of them. This approach satisfies both the strong and weak form of the anthropic principle.
       The fifth approach presupposes the existence of cosmological natural selection. Our universe is the most persistent and capable of supporting life.
       And finally, the sixth approach states that the design of the universe was predetermined. The delicate balance of physical laws allowing the formation of atoms and heavy elements suggests some higher being planned and created the universe. This approach satisfies theologians. Unlike the other approaches, this one adds an element of significance and special meaning to creation. Alas, it appears science is unable to prove this approach, and this is the reason scholars avoid examining it. This doesn't make it less probable or logical than the other approaches. From the standpoint of physics, which studies physical laws, it doesn't make any difference, for it doesn't change the research methods, the analytical techniques, or results. Further, shifting the responsibility to a certain creator simply avoids the task of explaining creation, for one can ask who created the creator, and so forth, ad infinitum. If we adopt a version of creation that involves the self-creation of the creator, we again find it necessary to choose one of the five remaining approaches to explain how the “self-creation” occurred.
       No matter how you look at it, the physical dimensions of the observable universe are immense. The images we receive of distant objects are extremely blurred, yet they are practically the only source of information we have about them. It is astonishing that despite this, we're able to understand the universe as well as we do. Until cosmology decides its most fundamental questions, such as the nature of “dark matter,” which comprises the majority of material in the universe, and the nature of “dark energy,” which makes up the majority of energy in the visible universe, contemporary cosmological theories will continue to engender skepticism.
       We don't know whether a fundamental law of cosmology exists in reality, but we can claim with certainty that, according the formulation of McCrea, there exists an “uncertainty principle in cosmology”. Thus, the cosmos frames two uncertainty principles: one on the small scale of quantum mechanics and another on the large scale of cosmology. Scientific research can tell us a lot about the universe, but it tells us little about its nature and its fundamental geometric and physical characteristics. It's possible that some of this uncertainty can be resolved, but most of it will remain unresolved. The science of cosmology should acknowledge this uncertainty, which is a core part of the study of our universe.
      
      
      
      
      
      
      
       “NASA Chief Backs Agency Openness,” New York Times, Feb 4, 2006.
      
       Carroll J. Nixon's madman strategy. Boston, 2005.
       The term “big bang” wasn't invented by supporters of this theory. It came from a sarcastic remark of one of its leading critics. Sir Fred Hoyle coined the name, referring to it sarcastically as “this big bang idea” during a program broadcast on March 28, 1949 by the BBC Third Program.
       String theory is a model of fundamental physics, whose building blocks are one-dimensional extended objects called strings, rather than the zero-dimensional point particles that form the basis for the standard model of particle physics.
       The Fourth Harvard-Smithsonian Conference on Theoretical Astrophysics. “The History of Nuclear Black Holes in Galaxies.” Sponsored by Raymond and Beverly Sackler. Monday, May 15 through Thursday, May 18, 2006. Harvard University, Gutman Library, 6 Appian Way, Cambridge, MA. Scientific Organizing Committee: Avi Loeb (chair), Andrea Ghez, Lars Hernquist, Rashid Sunyaev, and Scott Tremaine Local Organizing Committee: D. Adams, A. Loeb, N. Rathle, L. R.
      
       It might sound strange, but astronomers usually find it difficult to agree on even an approximate number of stars in our galaxy. The sources listed below give similar quotes of a hundred billion stars. “Our own Milky Way, a typical giant spiral galaxy, includes at least 100 billion stars in its diameter.” (Vidali, Gianfranco, Marco Falcioni, and Eric Gregory. “Galaxies.” SETI Module Astronomy Tutorial Page. Syracuse University) “There are about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.” (Encyclopedia Britannica. Astronomy. 2000) “The Galaxy is nothing else but a mass of innumerable stars planted together in clusters.” (Boorstein, Daniel J. Discovery of the World. New York: Random House, 1983: 320) “We can only see a few thousand stars at most with our unaided eyes. These are a mixture of stars which are nearby, and bright stars which are further away; but they are only a tiny fraction of the 100,000,000,000 stars in our own galaxy.” (Butterworth, Paul. Stars in Our Galaxy. Ask a High-Energy Astronomer. 1998)
      
       A super massive black hole is one with a mass of an order of magnitude between hundreds of thousands and tens of billions of solar masses. It is currently thought that most, if not all galaxies, including the Milky Way, contain super massive black holes at their centers.
       Sagittarius A is a bright, very compact source of radio emissions at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, part of a larger astronomical feature at that location. On October 16, 2002, an international team led by Rainer SchЖdel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics reported the observation of the motion of the star S2 near Sagittarius A* for a period of ten years and obtained evidence that Sagittarius A* was a highly-massive compact object. From an examination of the Keplerian orbit of S2, they determined the mass of Sagittarius A* to be 2.6 Ђ 0.2 million solar masses, confined in a volume with a radius no more than 17 light hours (120 AU). Later observations determined the mass of the object to be about 3.7 million solar masses within a volume with a radius no larger than 6.25 light-hours (45 AU), or about 4.2 billion miles. For comparison, Pluto orbits our sun at a distance of 5.51 light hours or 3.7 billion miles. This is compatible with, and strong evidence in support of, the hypothesis that Sagittarius A* is associated with a super massive black hole.
      
       For example, the SN 1987, a supernova on the outskirts of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby dwarf galaxy, became visible to the naked eye. It could be seen from the Southern Hemisphere. It was the closest observed supernova since the year 1604. The light from the supernova reached Earth on February 23, 1987. Ian Shelton and Oscar Duhalde, at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, discovered it on February 24, 1987. As the story goes, Shelton spotted it with his naked eye. He was the right guy at the right place, obviously at the right time.
      
       Lewis Harry R. “Excellence without a Soul. How a Great University Forgot Education.” Public Affair: 2006 P. 22.
      
       Primack, J.R., Abrams, N.E. The View from the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos. Riverhead Hardcover. 2006. April
      
       Newly collected data indeed attest to the theory most popular among astronomers, according to which the universe is filled with cold dark matter or slow-moving particles of yet-to-be-determined composition. With the aid of a hundred-million pixel digital camera and the high-powered French-Canadian telescope in Hawaii, formations of more than 1.5 million individual galaxies were studied over a period of two years beginning in 1999. These galaxies were distorted by the gravitational action on the transmitted rays from the side of the closest 120 thousand galaxies. Two additional years were spent analyzing the data. As a result, the conclusion was drawn that the invisible halos of dark matter possibly do exist.
      
       Second International Workshop on Gravitation and Cosmology, Las Villas Central University, Santa Clara, Cuba.
      
       Gravitation is one of the four fundamental interactions in nature, the other three being the electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force. Gravitation is the weakest of these interactions, but acts over great distances and is always attractive. Newton's law of gravitation states that every particle in the universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
       In physics, modified Newtonian dynamics (MOND) is a theory that explains the galaxy rotation problem without assuming the existence of dark matter. MOND was proposed by Mordehai Milgrom in 1981 to model the observed uniform velocity data without the dark matter assumption. The most successful relativistic version of MOND, proposed in 2004, is known as “TeVeS” for Tensor-Vector-Scalar. (Bekenstein, Jacob D. “Modified Gravity vs Dark Matter: Relativistic Theory for MOND.” JHEP Conference Proceedings, 2005)
       Lambda CDM represents the current model of big bang cosmology that is aimed to explain cosmic microwave background observations, as well as large-scale structure observations and supernovae observations of the accelerating expansion of the universe.
       Thermonuclear fusion is the process that takes place inside the stars throughout their lives and when the stars explode as super-novae. Gravity causes clouds of gas to collapse and form a star. In the core of the star, very high pressure and temperature ignite the thermonuclear reaction. By this process, multiple nuclei join to form a heavier nucleus. It is responsible for the diversity of elements in the universe and works to fill in the Periodic Table of Elements. The tremendous energy released in this process makes the stars shine and allows us to enjoy sunlight.
       This means that we cannot see what is going on in the Andromeda Galaxy right now; we can only observe the space-time events attributed to this region of space as they would appear for local observers about two million years ago.
       According to Albert Einstein's theory, so far proved correct, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.
       Red shift occurs when the visible light from an object shifts towards the red end of the spectrum. (The spectrum is the range of colors observed when white light is dispersed through a prism. Spectrum refers to a plot of light intensity as a function of frequency or wavelength.) More generally, red shift is defined as an increase in the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation (in this case light) received by a detector, compared with the wavelength emitted by the source. This increase in wavelength corresponds to a decrease in the frequency of electromagnetic radiation. Conversely, a decrease in wavelength is called blue shift. So, expansion of the universe is explained by mainstream science as the Doppler Effect, the apparent change in frequency and wavelength of a wave perceived by an observer when the source of the waves is moving relative to him.
       Nucleosynthesis is the process of creating new atomic nuclei from preexisting nucleons (protons and neutrons). The primordial preexisting nucleons were formed from the quark-gluon plasma of the big bang as it cooled below ten million degrees. This first process may be called nucleogenesis, the genesis of nucleons in the universe. The subsequent nucleosynthesis of the elements (including all carbon, all oxygen) occurs primarily in stars through nuclear fusion. Using the big bang model, it is possible to calculate the concentration of helium-4, helium-3, deuterium, and lithium-7 in the universe as ratios to the amount of ordinary hydrogen, H.
       The measured abundances all agree with those predicted. The agreement is relatively poor for 7Li and 4He, the two elements for which the systematic uncertainties are least understood. This is considered strong evidence for the big bang, as the theory is the only currently available explanation for the relative abundances of light elements.
       In physical cosmology, the term “large-scale structure” refers to the characterization of observable distributions of matter and light on the largest scales (typically billions of light years). Sky surveys and mappings of the various wavelength bands of electromagnetic radiation have yielded much information on the content and character of the universe's structure. The organization of structure appears to follow as a hierarchical model with organization on the scale of super clusters and filaments. The “Great Wall” is a sheet of galaxies more than five hundred million light years long and two hundred million wide, but only fifteen million light years thick. The existence of this structure escaped notice for so long because it requires locating the position of galaxies in three dimensions, which involves combining location information about the galaxies with distance information from red shifts.
       Cosmic microwave background radiation, also referred as “relic radiation,” is a form of electromagnetic radiation discovered in 1965 that fills the entire universe. It has a thermal 2.725-Kelvin black body spectrum that peaks in the microwave range at a frequency of 160.4 GHz, corresponding to a wavelength of 1.9 mm. Most cosmologists consider this radiation to be the best evidence for the hot big bang model of the universe.
       In physics, light loses energy when it moves away from a massive body such as a star or a black hole; this effect reveals itself as a gravitational red shift in the frequency of the light and is observable as a shift of spectral lines towards the red end of the spectrum.
       Julian Barbour. The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Physics. Oxford University Press, 2001
       The ADM formalism developed by Arnowitt, Deser, and Misner is a Hamiltonian formulation of general relativity. The formalism supposes that space-time is foliated into a family of space-like surfaces. Using the ADM formulation, it is possible to construct a quantum theory of gravity in the same way that one constructs the SchrЖdinger equation corresponding to a given Hamiltonian in quantum mechanics.
       In theoretical physics, the Wheeler-DeWitt equation is a functional differential equation. It is ill defined, but very useful, especially when solving equations involving quantum gravity. It is a functional differential equation on the space of three-dimensional spatial metrics. The Wheeler-DeWitt equation has the form of an operator acting on a wave functional (the functional reduced to a function in cosmology). Contrary to the general case, the Wheeler-DeWitt equation is well defined in mini-superspaces like configuration space in cosmological theories. An example of such a wave function is the Hartle-Hawking state, named after James Hartle and Stephen Hawking. It represents the wave function of the universe, a notion meant to figure out how the universe started, calculated from Feynman's path integral.
      
      
       Ellis, George F.R. “Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology.” Mathematics Department and Applied Mathematics. University of Cape Town, e-print. 2006. May 15.
      
       Barrow J., Tipler F. The Cosmological Anthropic Principle. Oxford, 1984
      
       McCrea, W. “A Philosophy for Big Bang Cosmology.” Nature. 1970. Vol. 228. P. 21.
       Isham, C.J. Lectures on Quantum Theory: Mathematical and Structural Foundations. London; Singapore, 1997.
      
      
      

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