Monday, March 26, 2007

When Humans Can Create Universes, Who Needs God?

From New Scientist:

One of the good things about being God is that there's not much competition. From time immemorial, no one else has boasted the skills necessary to create a universe. Now that's about to change. "People are becoming more powerful," says Andrei Linde, a cosmologist based at Stanford University in California. "Maybe it's time we redefine God as something more sophisticated than just the creator of the universe."

Linde was prompted to make this wry observation by the news that a glittering prize is within physicists' reach. For decades, particle accelerators have been racking up an impressive list of achievements, including creating antimatter and exotic particles never seen in nature. The next generation of these giant colliders will provide the hunting ground for the elusive Higgs boson, thought to be the source of all mass. These machines might even create mini black holes. Mighty as those discoveries and creations are, however, they pale into insignificance beside what Nobuyuki Sakai and his colleagues at Yamagata University in Japan have now put on the table. They have discovered how to use a particle accelerator to create a whole new universe.

The idea of creating another cosmos is not a new one; in fact it has a long history. "The story really begins with the question of the origin of our own universe," says Eduardo Guendelman, a physicist at Ben Gurion University, in Beer Sheva, Israel. As physicists began to research what kick-started our universe, they realised that if it happened once, maybe it could happen again. The growing acceptance of the big bang model in particular, which suggested that space-time burst forth in an explosion of energy concentrated in a tiny space, opened up a new set of tantalising possibilities. "People immediately started to wonder what would happen if you put lots of energy in one space in the lab - shot lots of cannons together," Linde says. "Could you concentrate enough energy to set off a mini big bang?"

For theoretical physicists the initial answer was a resounding "no". All of the particles that you would create in such a process would have their own gravity, pulling them together. So, instead of creating a baby universe in the lab, you would just create a black hole. The idea came back to life in 1981, however, when Alan Guth at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proposed the theory of inflation, which suggests the universe went through a period of rapid expansion just after the big bang.

Guth's idea solves many cosmological puzzles, but no one really knew how or why it happened. So he and his colleagues set about trying to find out what might have made our universe inflate - exactly the question that would help us create a new universe using our own tools.

Read the rest.

This sounds kind of dangerous to me, just as does creating one's own black hole. But then, I don't know that much about physics -- maybe it is possible to have your own pet universe or black hole.

Me thinks the "one true God" people aren't going to be too pleased with this development.

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