Networked Inference — The Universe, How to Stop Worrying and Understand the Bomb
Networked Inference is my blog, it’s a non-technical advanced tutorial for Internet research. This is a post that could go on that blog, but is not really a tutorial, and I made it a Medium post to show I mean serious business that it’s for learning.
Call it Offensive Critical Thinking, as long as you call it something cool, networked inference is about understanding systems of information so you can make them work for you — that is, inform you. I figured it would thus make a good breakout post for me to explain the universe.
Roger Penrose is a brilliant cosmologist whose explanation of a very abstract whole picture concept of the universe is achieved quite admirably; he’s terribly British but it grows on you.
In a sentence: Penrose here explains how it is possible for everything to be nothing and for something to happen before and after the Big Bang, including the Big Bang.
My own paraphrasing, not his words:
This involves two key principles or mechanisms, entropy and special relativity.
Entropy is a law of thermodynamics that says that organization of any whole system decreases over time.
Special relativity is E = mc2, and a good example of how it works is an atomic bomb. The one dropped on Hiroshima was 15 kilotons — it exploded with the force of 15 thousand tons of TNT. The US military already had explosives more powerful than TNT, but at best many multiples as powerful compared to weight, not hundreds of thousands of times as powerful.
This only takes some rough math to get an idea of — a kiloton is at least a million pounds, the Hiroshima bomb weighed 9,700 pounds, with a 140 pound Uranium-235 core. You have to count the whole thing because you need something to turn the mass of the Uranium into the energy of fiery death for at least 66,000 people — exact figures are impossible to determine given the number of people instantly cremated.
The alchemy of the bomb project was to directly manipulate matter, as mass, and turn it into energy, stored in a form that could be put in a tube, flown over a target, and triggered with a button.
They weren’t starting their quest from scratch, but it does help to have in mind that the task was to take some “stuff” and use E = mc2 to make it energy, because then you don’t need much stuff, you get to multiply it by the speed of light times the speed of light. You need stuff like Uranium and Plutonium that are radioactive, stuff very rapidly becoming energy, rapidly relative to other stuff, to start a chain reaction to accomplish this easily enough for it to be worth the effort.
Since the process of nuclear fission is not efficient, the blast yield from the nuclear material was about 0.7 grams, meaning less than a dime — a dime is about two grams — of matter was turned into the energy that completely destroyed everything in a one mile radius under the blast point 1,900 feet above ground.
Keep that in mind when the gentleman poses to Penrose that it’s “just another theory.”
Penrose tells him without swearing that “it’s possible to test it observationally.”
With the cyclical universe Penrose describes, total matter is gradually becoming energy, going from order to chaos, organized to disorganized — entropy. As it is doing this it is “expanding,” but once entropy plays out, that is, once total matter becomes total energy again, something happens.
Disclaimer: Here I would probably be scolded by Penrose for some particulars, I’m not a physicist.
Energy has no dimension, that means no length, width, height, or duration. Duration=time, as far as our before and after are concerned. So there’s no amount of time that the universe remains perfect energy, and this state doesn’t precede or follow anything. It does precipitate another Big Bang from a single “point.” In the context of turning a building into a fireball the size of the sun with math, it’s not far-fetched, and you don’t really have to be able to do the math going on to grasp the concept behind the universe being a many-billion year explosion that takes no time over and over again.
The Uranium and Plutonium are examples where matter is becoming energy in ways we can meaningfully observe, they are literally becoming disorganized and falling apart at the quantum scale, and even the subatomic pollution burns humans inside-out, causing radiation sickness.
The trend is destruction with random (but inevitable) clustering together of matter and circumstance, pockets of high organization within a system that is degrading overall.
This doesn’t have much to do with what I usually write about on my blog; I thought it would be fun to write about and might secondarily serve as a means to explain my blog’s purpose. It’s much easier than blowing up cities with coins, and can be explained by and in terms of finite math.
I’m not going to strangle finite math in this post. Networked inference is extracting information from a model of the greatest resolvable scope by aggregating the way data within the model is linked, as a stone is linked to a star. Maybe segue is a stretch.
Look, Slim Pickens: