Monday, April 6, 2009
Post #4 "Forever Pondering the Infinite"
I started thinking the other day about infinity... Not the lazy eight symbol, but what it actually stands for. Eventually my brain started to hurt, but prior to the Advil these are the questions I pondered... Probably not a lot of comedy in this post... next week.
If something can be Infinitely large, can something be infinitely small? (insert dick joke here..)
If time stretches before us into infinity, wouldn't it also stretch behind us into infinity?
The questions aren't what made my melon hurt, but the possible answers did.
Question number 1: If something can be Infinitely large, can something also be infinitely small?
Try a little home experiment. Stand on one side of a room and look at the wall on the other side. Now walk halfway toward the opposite wall. You should now be in the center of the room. Now, from the center of the room, walk halfway toward the wall again. Repeat this experiment over and over moving halfway to the wall from the spot you end up in. This should take you... well... forever.
Realistically, you are maintaining forward momentum, but mathematically speaking, you should never reach the other wall. You should only continue moving in ever decreasing fractions toward the wall without ever touching it. Makes sense... doesn't it?
We can step out our front doors at night and look up into the night sky. What we see are the stars, planets and the dark places between them. The dark places between are what we call empty space, and it goes on for... well, forever.
If you think about the big bang theory. Space was there. A forever dark nothingness, a dark vacuum. Then, "BANG" an explosion of energy and matter that began a rapid expansion into the void, creating suns, planets, galaxies, a whole expanding universe... This has to assume there was a something to begin with. What we think of as nothingness, a vast empty void could not actually be so. Where's the cause and effect? A reaction is defined by an action. For one there must be another, and for a reaction to occur there must be a catalyst... Anyway, I digress, that's a post for another day.
Back on track, space is defined as being infinite. You could travel to any point in space and still from the point you arrive at be able to move to another further point... You could do this forever... So now look inward. If something can be infinitely large, can it also be infinitely small?
If you pick any object... Say a coffee cup. It's smaller than you. Then there's the dried spot of coffee on the outside of the cup ("I'll do the dishes later, get off my back"). Within the dried spot are the various chemicals which make up the coffee spot. Those chemicals are made up of the molecules which define the composition of the various chemicals. The molecules are are made up of atoms of different size that define them. The atoms are, in-turn, made up of Protons, Neutrons, and Electrons, which are in turn made up of quarks, gluons, photons, bosons etc... According to our current scientific knowledge, these are the smallest particles. They are "elementary particles." Pretty much pure energy.
All particles are made up of this energy, which means the coffee spot's elementary make-up is no different than what makes up you... but that again is a post for another day.
So our current scientific knowledge states that we do indeed have a starting point. Everything has a starting point with their own elementary particles. I guess that means that you can define infinity if you start with the elemental particles within all existing matter. Wait a minute... Infinity has a starting point (or rather, many starting points depending on the elemental particle in the matter you're starting with)...? How can that be the case? (popping Advil number 1) If this is true then it is not Infinite, but semi-finite, because it starts somewhere (many somewheres).
We know from our experiment above that we can step forward toward a wall in ever decreasing fractions, at least mathematically. This is because Math is infinite and the experiment is logical. If that is indeed the case, then it would be the same when looking at ever decreasing levels of size? Mathematics should tell us that we should be able to ever decrease the fraction of size infinitely... right? This is where math fails us. Yes mathematically we should be able to do this, but if there are an infinite number of even smaller particles we run into a problem of volume. Ever heard the old saying "ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag"? Infinite smallness would result in infinite largeness and create a kind of matter paradox.
My answer to question number one: You cannot have infinite smallness, and space is semi-finite. OR, you could say that if we're talking about infinite largeness, space does not count, because it is, in fact, nothingness. And that neither infinite smallness and largeness exist. The largest any matter can be is defined by the largest body of matter in the universe. The smallest is defined by elementary particles.
Question number two:If time stretches before us into infinity, wouldn't it also stretch behind us into infinity?
This is one of those questions that has actually kept me up at night. I guess that makes me kind of a strange cat, but whatever... I don't judge you.
Here's my problem with that definition of time. It's easy to imagine that time from this particular point will march on into infinity. But what about the time before this point. It marched in from infinity... right? Wrong! Or rather, impossible.
Bear with me here. The reason it is easier to conceptualize time from this point on as being infinite is because you have a starting point from which to start your measurement. BUT, time has no beginning point... right? If that is the case than we could never have reached this particular point in time, or any measurable point in time. Now could not have happened, because it would have taken forever to get here....
So how does time work? I still have no clue... (taking second Advil now).
Next week will be fun...