Sunday, July 01, 2012

Marcelo Gleiser

The Prophet and the Astronomer
By Marcelo Gleiser
Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

“In this book I explore religion’s assimilation of cataclysmic cosmic phenomena and its influence on scientific thought through the ages from the pre-Socratic philosophers of ancient Greece to modern day cosmology … Indeed, I will argue that we create a scientific world as we do a spiritual one – in order to overcome fear, to defy time, to understand our place in the world, and to justify our lives … Drawing on the Book of Danial, the Book of Revelation, and an investigation of apocalyptic sects, art and literature we will examine the formation and evolution of the solar system, the extinction of dinosaurs, Einstein’s general theory of relativity, pulsars and black holes, the big bang and the inflationary universe, all the way to the latest ideas on cosmology.”

Reading the above, a curious reader who is not familiar with Marcelo Gleiser might conclude that this is a book by some right wing religious preacher type who is going to do a mystical tap dance on the science of the Universe.

Not so.

Marcelo Gleiser is the real thing. He is a professor of Natural Philosophy, physics, astronomy at Dartmouth College. If you are like me and found your way to an interest in the origins of the Universe and science in general via early religious training followed by studies of early Greek and Roman philosophers, then you will enjoy reading this book.

This author keeps it as simple and understandable as could be expected while dealing with highly complicated cosmological theory and speculative particle physics.

The first part of the book was right up my alley. The reader is taken back to before the time of Christ and the Christian era. The author links the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers and philosophies to the heavens.

We learn about Zoroaster and other pre-Christian like tales. We see how the heavens have always played their part in the hopes and fears of humans. We see the connection between astrology, astronomy, religions and their holy books.

We delve into comets and asteroids make connections between then and now.

The old superstitions are constantly being updated to our present day superstitions and similarly cultish ideas.

The author continually attempts to explain to the reader the difference between religious superstition and science.

This is easier said than done.

As the author delves more and more deeply into speculative cosmology and particle physics, the Big Bang, black holes and whatnot, the line between the fantasies of the superstitious and the scientific get more and more blurred.

The bottom line:

“First and foremost, science does not promise redemption. Science is a human invention preoccupied with understanding the workings of nature ... Science may not offer eternal salvation, but it offers the possibility of a life free from the spiritual slavery caused by the irrational fear of the unknown ... Thales of Miletus during the sixth century B.C.E. tried to understand the workings of nature, without invoking the actions of gods or God.”

Despite Thales the author points out repeatedly the many geniuses of science who specifically sought science as their means to establish the truth of their religious beliefs.

Isaac Newton stands out among these.

Isaac actually gave up his endeavors in science as a waste of his time to delve more deeply into what really mattered … the Bible and God’s revelations.

But as the author attempts to assuage our fears with the wonders of science, he exposes us to new real fears.

“The conclusion is clear: Earth has been bombarded by large objects in the past and not so distant past, just like all other bodies of the solar system. Scientists use terms like ‘cosmic pinball’, ‘cosmic shooting gallery’, ‘target earth’ and so forth to illustrate the fact that collisions are an integral part of life in the solar system.”

So the end of our world may still be just around the corner, Big bang or no Big bang and whether there is a God around that corner or not.

The point being that science may not eradicate all our fears but it may provide a rational explanation.

That could be considered helpful; then on the other hand, maybe not.

“If the history of life on earth, in all its myriad forms, can be understood as an experiment in evolutionary genetics orchestrated by natural selection, the emergence of intelligent life seems to be the result of a chance occurrence, an odd event that would be extremely hard to duplicate elsewhere. The long reign of the dinosaurs … success and longevity as a species makes it hard to argue for the necessity of intelligent life at the top of the evolutionary chain … it is much easier to argue for extraterrestrial life than for extraterrestrial intelligent life.”

We are all aware via Einstein and his famous theory of relativity that matter can be turned into energy but what about the reverse?

“The converse is also true, energy can turn to matter; it is possible for highly energetic photons … to spontaneously create particles of matter.”

Now this is my theory and not the authors.

For years I have been reading about a lack of matter in the universe and how nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. It seems that when something (for lack of a more scientific word) approaches the speed of light it gains in mass and consequently slows down. As it continues to slowdown and gains in mass, could it not then turn back into matter at some point along the way?

If the answer is yes, then are we not back to the possibility of a steady state universe with matter transforming into energy and energy reforming into matter according and in concordance with the laws concerning the conservation of energy and matter?

In which case there is not a lack of matter in the universe. What has always been there, is always there in one form or the other … and in balance.

A few pages later in this book the author criticizes scientific thinkers like Hoyle because their steady state notions suggest that matter must be created ex nihilo (from nothing) to sustain the steady state notion.

No, not from nothing does the necessary matter come, but from the energy (light) gaining mass and transforming back into matter.

The author is an avid Big Bang supporter. I am not.

I try my best to follow along but much of what the author explores in this regard, I feel will all be scrapped as time rolls on.

I’m referring to background noise, time having a beginning and ending, that time did not exist prior to the Big Bang, cosmological constants and the super inflationary early universe. All this I find dubious and compensating along with much else that Marcello hypothesizes and speculates upon.

But Professor Gleiser’s theorizing won’t be scrapped by the likes of me. And I intend to keep reading this author.

I know one thing for sure. If the science changes, so will Marcelo Gleiser. Because he is a scientist and not a dogmatist … or a theologian for that matter.


Dov Henis said...

Eppur Si Muove, Higgs Particle YOK
Regardless Of Whatever Whoever

Regardless Of Whatever Is Said By Whoever Says It -
Higgs Particle YOK.

S Hawking is simply wrong in accepting it. Obviously wrong.
Everyone who accepts the story of the Higgs particle is simply wrong.
Plain commonsense.
Singularity and the Big Bang MUST have happened with the smallest base universe particles, the gravitons, that MUST be both energy and mass, even if they are inert mass just one smallest fraction of a second at singularity. All mass formats evolve from gravitons that convert into energy i.e. extricate from their gravitons clusters into mass formats in motion, energy. And they all end up again as mass in a repeat singularity.
Universe expansion and re-contraction proceed simultaneously..

Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)


Refresh Present SCIENCE Comprehensions And Restructure Science Plans, Policies And Budgets

Who Suppresses Science Creativity? Does Academia Suppress Creativity?

Again and again, ad absurdum:
Since the 1920s SCIENCE is suppressed by a Technology Culture, tightly supervised by a religious old style trade union , the AAAS…

Liberate Your Mind From Concepts Dictated By The Religious Trade-Union AAAS:

USA Science? Re-Comprehend Origins And Essence

* Higgs Particle? Dark Energy/Matter? Epigenetics? All YOK!

* Earth-life is just another, self-replicating, mass format.

* All mass formats evolve from gravitons, the primal universe mass-energy particles.

* Since singularity gravitons are extricated from their big-bang clusters , i.e. become mobile, energy, at a constant rate.

* All mass formats follow natural selection, i.e. intake of energy or their energy taken in by other mass formats.

* Evolution Is The Quantum Mechanics Of Natural Selection.

* Quantum mechanics are mechanisms, possible or probable or actual mechanisms of natural selection.

* Life’s Evolution is the quantum mechanics of biology.

* Every evolution, of all disciplines, is the quantum mechanics of the discipline’s natural selection.

Update Concepts-Comprehension…
Earth life genesis from aromaticity-H bonding
Universe-Energy-Mass-Life Compilation
Seed of human-chimp genome diversity
New Era For Science Including Genomics

Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)


Universe Inflation And Expansion

Inflation on Trial
Astrophysicists interrogate one of their most successful theories


Inflation and expansion are per Newton.

Since the Big Bang galactic clusters loose mass at constant rate. Mass, gravitons, continue escaping at constant rate from their Big Bang fragments-clusters thus becoming energy, mass in motion, thus thrusting the clusters. Constant thrust and decreasing galactic clusters weight accelerate the separation of clusters from each other.

Common sense.

Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)

Dov Henis said...

It takes a change of culture, of the mode of reactions to circumstances, to effect a change of habit. Genetics is the progeny of culture, not vice versa. This applies in ALL fields of human activities, including economy, to ALL personal and social behavioral aspects.

Since the early 1900’s ALL “science” has been taken over by the Technology Culture of the religious Americans, represented by the trade-union-church AAAS. Plain and simple. There has not been any science in the world since then except “religious-American-science”.

On the blissful religious science ignorance…:

USA-World Science Hegemony Is Science Blind

Since the early 2000s I have been posting many articles on science items surveyed and analyzed by me, without religious background-concepts. I have been doing this because I was deeply disturbed by the religiosity of the 1848-founded AAAS trade-union and by the consequent religious background-tint of its extensive “scientific” publications and activities.

On my next birthday I’ll be 88-yrs old. I know that I’m deeply engaged in a Don Quixotic mission-war to extricate-free the USA and world Science from the clutches and consequences of the religious-trade-union-church AAAS, adopted strangely by the majority of scientifically ignorant religious god-trusting Americans and by their most other humanity following flocks…

But I am sincerely confident that only thus it is feasible and possible to embark on a new, rational, Human culture (Scientism) and on new more beneficial and effective technology courses for humanity…

Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)
Energy-Mass Poles Of The Universe