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Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Layman's Thought Experiment Concerning the Scale of the Universe

[What follows is a though experiment distilled from several late-night conversations I had years ago.  It is based on a layman's knowledge of physics, and attempts to be nothing more than a sketch of the universe, purely for fun]
See the humble string.
It has but one property: Length.  It does nothing, except be precisely that long.
By the winds of chance, a string or several strings begin to vibrate in such a pattern that they are now recognizable as quarks and other particles.
The quark has mass, it has direction, it has type (up, down, top, bottom, strange or charm).  Other particles have mass, direction, some even carry an electric charge.
In a sea of chaos, fundamental particles begin to bind together, and an atom emerges.
The atom has mass, direction, velocity, momentum, charge, and the ability to react with other atoms in a myriad of ways.
After being jostled around enough, atoms begin to react to one another in such a way that a molecule is formed.
The molecule can do things the atom could not.  It can program and build other molecules, it can ingest atoms & particles and change them into new things, or use them to change itself.  The molecule is capable of chemical reactions.
And through an infinite series of these, one or more of the chemical reactions is bound to result in an organic compound.
Organic compounds contain a specific mixture of molecules that is suited to a specific environment.  And on the extremely rare instance where the conditions are perfect, some of them make the jump into actual organisms.
An organism has something that none of its constituent parts had.  It is alive.  It requires nourishment to sustain life.  Whatever it nourishes itself with produces both energy and waste.
And organisms have one special thing that nothing that came before had.
They evolve.
They adapt to their environments, change their environments, they consume their environments and move to new ones.  They reproduce themselves and with each new generation, new properties arise.
Given enough time, properties like sight, hearing, thought, memory, morality and violence arise.  And when these properties begin to interact, something else happens.
Organisms come together to create societies.  Some are simple in nature; a group of bees that work together because their instincts demand it, they can conceive of no other existence.  Others more complex; groups of humans create rules and hierarchies to control one another and move toward common goals, but some humans reject the established order.
When enough societies come together, what is created?  What properties will it exhibit that none of its constituent parts were able to?  And how will the integration be achieved?  What creative abilities will they possess?  And where could it possibly end?
At each level of existence, there is a combining of constituent parts that results in a whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.  New properties and abilities emerge that were impossible to conceive of within the context of the previous level.  It is meaningless to ask if strings can evolve, or even have chemical reactions.  By the same token, we as a society cannot begin to conceive what powers we will possess once we make the leap to the next level of existence.
But one thing seems clear.  That leap will only be achieved if we work towards further integration of our collective minds.  And in the current age, it seems as if technology is the way in which our minds pass closest.  It allows us to communicate over vast distances, and to contemplate ideas that were difficult to conceive of before it.  Given enough time, I believe it will take us to the next level.
There's a lot of room to expand.  Even our largest cities are but a speck on the face of this enormous planet.  The planet itself is to the solar system as a single grain of salt is to an extra large pizza.  Our solar system is to the galaxy as a speck of dust is to your entire house.  Our milky way galaxy is to the known universe as that same grain of dust is to the entire galaxy.  And scientists believe that the entire universe is at least 10^23 times as big as the known universe.  Its so big, and so complex that it is incapable of being accurately modeled by anything simpler than itself.
So yeah, I don't think we're done evolving yet.

What was the point of this?  I don't know.  Just trying to put my 10,000 hours in.
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