Posts Tagged ‘physics’

the Word BigBang

January 18, 2019

Way, way back in time, before all this stuff was here, even back before the Big Bang, something very amazing happened.


I was wondering about our universal origin, so I  took a chance on a Wikipedia entry about it. This is what I found:

The (Big Bang) model describes how the universe expanded from a very high-density and high-temperature state.”

Scientists and dreamers like me have, for many and many a year, puzzled about what that “very high-density and high-temperature state” might have been.

I was pondering this development. My irrational dreamer self was wrestling with Reason as I attempted to figure out what that very high-density pre-Bang substance might have been. Being the 20th-century educated baby boomer that I am, my mind stumbled into an idea that I must have discovered in a science classroom somewhere along the line. Therefore, E=mc² banged into my big (bigger than a chimpanzee’s) brain.

Energy = mass x the speed of light squared.

Which means something like: When a very small chunk of (mass) material stuff gets its atomic parts whirling around at a certain  extremely high speed, and when that speed is zipping along at a rate of that same velocity multiplied by itself (faster than I can imagine), the whole baleewick crosses some kind of transformational threshold and suddenly that mass of nuclear stuff gets changed Presto Chango! into something fundamentally different— Energy!

Waves and waves of energy . . .

Energy. . . hmm. . . whataboudit . . . Now I do know that there are many different forms of energy. There’s kinetic energy, like a bat hitting a ball, which then suddenly propels that ball to an absolutely reverse direction from the direction in which the pitcher had pitched it. Pretty amazing thing for a batter to do, when you think about it.

Amazing. Lots of amazing in this universe. Moving right along. . . don’t blink or you’ll miss something.

And then there’s potential energy, like Mr, Newton’s apple, which was, naturally, connected to an apple tree until, all of a sudden, something gave way and the apple dropped to the ground, which provoked Mr. Newton to ask:

Say what?

Which translates from 17th-century English to: what the heck is going on here? Or, if you’re an out-of-the-box kind of thinker . . . what the hell is going on here?

Potential energy instantaneously being converted to kinetic energy! That’s what.

Perhaps it’s a little microcosm of the Big Bang, but on an exponentially smaller scale. The apple does make, you know, a kind of thud when it hits the ground, and then it transforms into a treat for an itinerant traveler to partake thereof.

Meanwhile, back at the tranche,  back to the the case of the macrocosm, the, as it were,  Big Bang, which was hypothesized as high-density matter being converted suddenly into kinetic energy, and subsequently expanding outward . . . (as John Lennon sang back in the day) across the universe . . .

and then, along the way, settling into a reverse of the mass-to-energy scenario, back into the energy-to-mass state of being, which brought forth . . . mass, stuff . . .

a Universe, duh . . .

I can only wonder, well, it is what it is, or . . . or it is what it has a become, as a result of all that instantaneous transformation, which has been transforming itself over 14.5 billion years to ravel as what we call “the Cosmos,” and everything therein.

14.5 billion years of unfolding Universe.


Francis Collins’, in his book the Language of God, described the beginning of the phenom, this way:

“For the first million years after the Big Bang, the universe expanded, the temperature dropped, and nuclei and atoms began to form. Matter began to coalesce into galaxies under the force of gravity. It acquired rotational motion as it did so,  ultimately resulting in the spiral shape of galaxies such as our own. Within those galaxies local collections of hydrogen and helium were drawn together, and their density and temperature rose. Ultimately nuclear fusion commenced.”

All of this posited data reverberates in my 21st-century brain, settling into my born-again spirit, and restates itself as an expanded statement of Moses’ ancient, pre-science explanation:

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light; God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”

Makes sense to me. You?

Glass half-Full


The Mysterious Door

June 24, 2018

The great physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, had a problem in 1867. It was a very old problem; many had tried to solve it before he came along. It wasn’t actually his problem to fix, but merely to figure it out; his objective was to try and determine who or what had already solved “the problem”. Because, you see, the matter had already been taken care of long, long ago.

Otherwise none of us would be here; nothing would be here.

The actual problem-solver who had worked it out was not thought to be credible at the time of Maxwell’s work. The problem-solver’s presumptuous  representatives had made such a mess of things.

Consequently, in the 1800’s, the scientific community placed little or no credence in what the so-called Church had to say about anything—especially presumably scientific matters like the origin and unfolding of the Universe.

19th-century scientists and other serious researchers like Darwin, Marx and many others were all in a tizzy about throwing the God idea out with the bath water. It was a leap of faith instead of a rational inference. They did have some legitimate arguments about the Church’s faith-based input, because the so-called Church had made such a mess of things while they were running the show back in the middle ages. Two especially bad screwed-ups the Church had done happened when they had, earlier, rejected the findings of Copernicus and Galileo.

But you betcha the mystery still lay unsolved when the science boys took over, long about 1800 or so. They were working on the mystery intently. And so Mr. Maxwell, diligent Scot that he was, took hold of the mantle in 1867, as many others were doing at the time, and he gave it a shot—solving the riddle.

The question of how all this happened.

This existence, this world we live in—how did it get here?

There was, you see, a piece missing in this great puzzle of existence.

In the chain of events that ostensibly took place when the universe was made, there was a missing link that no one had been able to figure out. So, James Clerk Maxwell tackled the question, striving to solve the riddle of the missing link.

Therefore Dr. Maxwell came up with what he called the “Demon.” My unschooled opinion says he could have chosen a better word. . . something like what Rene Descartes had termed it, the Prime Mover.

As Peter Hoffman gives an explanation of Maxwell’s work, the Scot posed this profound question:

“How can molecular machines extract work from the uniform-temperature environment of cells without violating the second law of thermodynamics?”

In other words, how can atoms and molecules organize themselves to become something more than what they already are—just a bunch of damn molecules kicking around like unemployed vagrants?

Or to put it yet another way: How could life have come out of dead particles?

And so, as Dr. Maxwell pondered the problem of the missing link in 1867, he came up with the idea of (what was later called Maxwell’s. . .) Demon.

Peter M. Hoffman explains it, in his 2012 book, Life’s Ratchet,       this way:

“Maxwell’s demon . . . was a a tiny hypothetical creature who controlled a little door separating two gas-filled chambers, which initially have the same average temperature. The job of the demon was to separate gas molecules into fast and slow molecules. . . Starting from a uniform-temperature system, the demon had created a temperature gradient—making one side cold and the other side hot. . . This temperature gradient could now be used to do work if a little turbine could be placed in the demon’s door.”

The analogy of a demon is not, of course, to be taken literally. James Maxwell was a brilliant physicist whose work paralleled Einstein’s. His use of the hypothetical creature is merely a literary device to communicate the function of an unidentified catalyst that makes something constructive happen in an environment in which (theoretically) nothing can happen.

Obviously something did happen, back in the days of universe origin, or we wouldn’t be here. Nothing would be here, if the problem had not been solved. Someone, demon or otherwise, must have worked it out.

Rene Descartes, a mathematician who lived in the 1600’s, had stumbled upon the same dilemma. He had posited the idea of a Prime Mover, which seemed pretty logical at the time.

Still does, if you ask me.

An original cause (as in cause in effect), that caused everything else to happen, big bang blah blah etc. and so forth and so on.

But what diligent mathematicians and scientists neglected to mention was that the problem had long ago been solved by a mysterious entity who had been so erroneously represented by the so-called Church: God.

Not a demon, but God. The demons were the created beings who tried to pull rank on the Creator, YWHeh.

Therefore, in order to now— in the 21st-century— give credit where credit is due . . .


I say it was a notable accomplishment what YWHeh did, when he solved the problem of the missing link, way back in time. And he said so.

He said it was good— in the first chapter of his bestseller, Genesis.

It was good when He separated light from darkness. Genesis 1:4:

“God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.”

This “separation” function is no chance development. It needed to happen. It’s no coincidence that Maxwell’s demon and Creator YWHeh both are depicted as having “separated” something from something else. . .  The Separator’s accomplishment was functionally something like Maxwell’s presumed demon’s task of separating molecules into two different energy levels in order to create

“a temperature difference between the chambers without expending work, thus seemingly violating the second law.”

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics is the law that YWHeh seems to have broken when he started the ball of the universe rolling. But it didn’t matter if he broke that “Law” because he set up the whole kitnkiboodle anyway, back in the Day. That 2nd Law of Thermodynamics was an idea that we came up to try and explain it all. It wasn’t something that YWHeh declared when he declared Let there be light and so forth and so on.

On Day 1 (whatever that means to you) the Prime Mover separated light from darkness, and the rest is history.

Not bad for a day’s work, YHWeh. Keep up the good work.

Glass Chimera 

The Apple Moment

May 6, 2014

Who knows how many lifetimes ago the Appalachian mountains laid this little stream down between these two ridges.

This afternoon in bright spring sunshine, flowing waters roll softly over mica-laden silt. Here and there the ripples leap over smooth stones, gushing as they go.

It’s just a small stream here, but clear, cold water has trickled along this valley’s lowest path for centuries.

The creek is not a wild one now; it’s been domesticated. Lawn grass, now vibrant with spring greening, extends through the surrounding slopes down to the water’s edge. But the peaceful waters still render it, for visitors and passersby, a welcome respite from nearby human habitations. Overhead, the maples, locust trees and shrubs are sprouting leaves. Spring is here at last.

A cluster of two-story apartment buildings adjoin the stream. A street winds pragmatically through the well-planned site. Beside the shady street, which is reasonably quiet most of the time, a wooden landscaped ledge displays low juniper foliage.

I am walking through dappled sunshine below the ledge, which is about four feet high. There between two junipers next to the timbered ledge I see an apple on the ground. It’s very red atop the brown bark mulch. Somebody has dropped this apple.

So I pick it up. I am the maintenance man here. Whose is it? Its a store-bought apple. Maybe I’ll return it to its owner, or maybe I’ll just take a bite of it. But no! There’s a big rotten spot on it.

On second thought, because the bad spot occupies about half the apple, I will not eat it, I’m not hungry in mid-afternoon, and surely nobody else wants this apple either. That’s probably why its here on the ground by the road.

What shall I do with it?

I will throw this apple. What the heck. This is the first real spring day here in the Blue Ridge. I’ll just go crazy like a March hare and throw it and let it smash. Spring practice.

Where shall I throw it?

There’s the stream over there, gurgling through the shade and the spotty sunshine about thirty yards away. Maybe some baby trouts would enjoy this apple if it smashes in their watery domain.

I look at the stream. In an instant, my eyes settle on a specific spot in the stream, where water is gurgling over rounded stones. I raise my arm and cock it back like the center-fielder that I was many and many year ago in little league back in the day, and I hurl the apple over at the stream.

It strikes the water with a splash, exactly where I was looking on the water’s surface. How did I do that?

I haven’t thrown anything in a coon’s age. I have not been practicing this. I’m 62. I wasn’t even aiming. I was just. . . throwing an unplanned apple on a day in May.

Doesn’t everybody throw an apple, or something, in the spring time just to, just for the sake of . . .

It wasn’t my mind that did this. It was a sudden, impetuous act, with no purpose. I didn’t even think about it. My arm and my brain managed, intuitively, to retrieve some ancient muscular memory from baseball or from skipping stones or . . . it landed exactly where my eyes were focused.

To what do I attribute such intuitive finesse?  Is it evolution that preserved within me this unprecedented, unplanned mastery? Hurling a found object across a trajectory in such an arc of indeterminate accuracy that it splashed exactly where my eyes had imagined it would?

Am a genius? Maybe an idiot savant?

Well, no. And I don’t think such a wondrous accomplishment as this is attributable to mere evolution.

My belief is: I know there is a God; God did it. Surely I myself could not have pulled off such a thing. God conceived and formed my DNA and my bones and my muscles that cling to those bones, and my neurons that connect up to my brain that commands my arm and coordinates its movements with my eyes, and my depth perception and a hastily-improvised assessment of the appropriate arc of the purposeless apple projectile and the weight of the apple with air resistance and sunshine and springtime and suddenly for no reason whatsoever there it is splashing in the millennial stream.

Surely God hath done this thing with the apple!

But why did I do such a crazy deed as hurling an apple at a creek when I was supposed to be doing my maintenance man job?

A few hours later, I’m thinking maybe my exuberant toss happened because I was jubilant, having just heard Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue on the radio,  or having just realized that it was was a springtime day such as this 350 years ago when Isaac Newton noticed that an apple dropped from a tree and the rest is history and history is being made as we speak.

 Glass Chimera

BodySurfer’s Intuitive Calcs

June 23, 2012

Ocean waves, generated by the interplay of lunar and earth gravity, travel very long distances across open water. When a wave reaches land, having no more water in which to move forward, it breaks upon the shore. How many millennia have humans been observing this? A long time.

Standing in shallow water very near the shoreline, we would see the hapless bodysurfer waiting to experience the thrill of catching a wave and riding it the short distance until he and the wave are tossed onto the sandy beach. If you happened to be at Ka’anapali beach, Maui, Hawaii, yesterday, that adventurous bodysurfer would have been, perhaps, me, or one of the other hundreds of free-floating small-time adventurers.

The body surfer is not a real surfer, you know. He’s just a  clueless vacation visitor, not really serious about investigating the larger potentials of the great swells on the north shores of these far-flung islands. He doesn’t have the board. He just has his own body, which he has trained to float. In my case, I learned to float at YMCA summer day camp in Jackson, Mississippi, long about 1956 or so.

Consider one wave coming in–the one that I’m going to jump into in just a few seconds here. How does this little dance between the wave and the bodysurfer work?

When the wave is still out in deep water where there is nothing to alter its somewhat ideal sine, orcosine, or bell-jar shape, it is a force of energy moving through the water, rearranging the shape of the water surface as it moves forward. It is moving the water somewhat, mostly up and down, at any chosen point of the ocean surface. Within the force of the wave there is kinetic energy moving those millions of molecules of H²0. But the wave is not really moving as much water, or anything else, as it actually has the physical power to do. So within the wave there is, along with the kinetic energy that is in constant use, potential energy.

So every wave that travels across the Pacific, approaching the beach, is a combination of both kinetic energy and potential energy. When the kinetic force of it hits the beach, the potential energy is suddenly converted to strong kinetic action and the wave totally expends itself on the sand. All that physical force erupts upon the shore and upon whatever happens to be there, be it a surprised snoozing sunbather, a sand castle, or a bodysurfer like me. Over long periods of time, this wave action churns rocks down into fine sand, and this is how we get our beaches. It also steals sunglasses and plastic cups and rubber rafts and other stuff that we consumers drag to the strand with us.

What the bodysurfer seeks to do is partake of that thrilling moment within the wave when its potential energy is instantaneously being converted to kinetic force, and thereby producing for him/her a few seconds of very fine sporting excitement. This occurs when the wave’s natural shape is being violently altered by its contentious encounter with the sandy bottom. Entering shallow water, that potential energy has nowhere to put all those water molecules that were formerly being moved up and down in such a gentle, rolling manner. Suddenly there is no more “down” available to the wave, because where there was deep water before there is now something solid that does not yield to the wave’s force.  In this case, the “something solid” is the edge of the island, i.e. the shore.

So the rambunctious wave tosses all those water molecules up into the air, in a kind of tantrum. Like a spoiled child that has grown accustomed to having its way all the time, the wave shouts with much sound and fury that signifieth nothing, if I can’t have my wavy way here, I’m going to throw all this liquid in the air!  Waugh!  Now it’s splash and crash time.

So suddenly the formerly tame motion becomes an eruption of spray through the air, and foam upon the sand. That noble wave that hath traveled afar all the way from Japan or wherever–it just gives up the ghost and dies right there on the coast of Hawaii.

But not before this thrill-seeking tourist can get in on a little super-planetary wave action, ha! I love it.

Glass Chimera