The “Clockwork Universe”
Classical Physics reached its apex in Sir Isaac Newton’s day (1642–1727). The “Clockwork Universe” was so tightly linked together that the chains of cause and effect — which we called “determinism” — were obvious to everyone.
God was in His heaven and watchfully controlled everything down to the smallest detail. The same universal laws of physics prevailed within the miniature universe of the atom and beyond the furthermost star.
In 1801 Thomas Young reported his famous double-slit experiment with light beams. If light were corpuscular, photons directed at the slits should divide equally and exit the other side uniformly. Instead, Young found interference patterns that cleared showed light was a wave phenomenon. Soon, electric and magnetic fields were discovered and the propagation of light waves was accounted for eloquently by James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879).
By the turn of this century it was clear that light and atomic particles behaved at times as if they were bunched-up wave packets, and at other times like rigid billiard balls.
An obscure clerk in a Swiss patent office began to turn things upside-down in 1905. The young Albert Einstein explained the photoelectric effect. Light shining on certain chemically coated surfaces resulted in the emission of electrons, in numbers proportional to the light intensity but not at constant velocities.
Einstein’s paper came the same year that Max Planck (1858–1947) explained “blackbody” radiation-light emission from heated surfaces.
Building on the work of Wein, Stefan, and Boltzmann, Planck’s formula showed that the intensity of radiated light from a heated object involved quantum jumps within the atoms of the surface — and these were statistically distributed. His formula contained a new constant, Planck’s constant, h (6.6 x 10-24 joule-second).
The next surprise was that light photons, though massless, carried momentum and energy — and photon energy and momentum were quantized. When atoms emit photons, they do so only at discrete wavelengths. The energy of photons could be calculated from the simple formula, E = hf = hc/l where h is Planck’s constant, c the velocity of light, f the frequency of the light and l, the wavelength. Soon a mathematical model for atomic particles known as “Quantum Mechanics” was developed.1
This theory has been spectacularly successful, but it has disturbed some theologians who see the probability based calculations of QM as undermining the principle of determinism.
Though quantum mechanics dismissed the notion of so-called “hidden variables,” this does not mean that God has lost control of things. “Chance” is not an entity that does things — it is philosophically meaningless, for example, to say that “time plus chance” has brought our universe into being or brought order out of chaos.2 In spite of the complex probability-based models of QM, God still is in full control.3
Very upsetting discoveries have been made about photons (and now other particles) from quantum mechanics: apparently one particle is able to communicate information with another particle after the particles have been separated by time and distance — as much as 10 km in a recent experiment!4
But this communication is “instantaneous” — or at least much faster than the speed of light. This leads to the hypothesis that two particles separated by time and space in our ordinary four-dimensional world may be at the same point in hyperspace — they may be connected in a higher dimension.
Similar weird and wonderful things seem to occur with gravitational forces: apparently all objects in the universe are “in touch” with each other instantly as far as gravity is concerned, yet ordinarily information signals can not travel from point A to point B faster than the speed of light.5
At latest count at least 11 higher dimensions have been invoked in the mathematical models that attempt to tie together the Laws of Physics.6
Physicists like to keep things simple: to do as little work as possible, they follow “Occam’s Razor”7 and have a sense of elegance and beauty about nature. Therefore simple theories are to be preferred to complex theories — and if possible a Grand Unified Theory (GUT) would be wonderful to discover. GUTs attempt to link together the four forces of physics8 and the fundamental constants — c, the velocity of light; e, the charge on the electron; h, Planck’s constant; and, G, the gravitational constant. When one brings quantum mechanics into attempts to unify the laws of physics, Planck’s constant is found to define the “fuzziness,” or the “grain size” of the universe. Thus the smallest meaningful length is (Gh/c3)1/2 = 10-35 meters. The smallest time increment of time is the Planck time, 10-42 seconds, the Planck mass, (hc/G2)1/2 = 1019 Gev, etc.
Quantum mechanics furthermore has revealed that attempts to make measurements — for instance, on an atom — would disturb the atom such that precision in one type of measurement automatically meant fuzziness in another parameter.
If one wanted to locate an electron’s location accurately by means of a measuring apparatus, the apparatus disturbed the environment; precision in position measurement meant the electron’s momentum became proportionally uncertain. The same was true for particle momentum and time and for angular momentum and spin angle as pairs of variables. Planck’s famous Uncertainty Principle can be expressed as DpDx h/4 or DE Dt Dh/4 (read, “the uncertainty in momentum times the uncertainty in position is greater than or equal to Planck’s constant, h,” etc.).
The phenomenon is not unlike the work of a pollster who sets out to measure public opinion. If he is hasty, works rapidly, but alerts the public so that they become opinionated, and if his sampling methods are not careful, he will get results quickly, but his results will not likely be very representative of the true state of public sentiment on the topic. A second pollster who takes a longer time to collect his data, works quietly, and takes care so as not to alert people ahead of time will get better results.
Recently, QM has been applied to cosmology in attempts to unravel the early history of our universe — assuming the basic Big Bang model is correct — and assuming the speed of light is a fixed constant in time!
All of the above discussion is based on the assumption — since Einstein — that the speed of light, c, is indeed a fixed constant. However as we noted in our earlier Personal Update articles on the aether, the velocity of light, c, is determined by the properties of space — and space may be a very real medium after all. When all of the available measurements of c are carefully studied — using the best possible methods of statistical analysis — the result is that the speed of light has apparently decreased in the past 300 years — with a statistical confidence level of at least 95%.9
Some have thought that a non-constant c would lead to an unstable universe, but so far no papers have been presented that show that changing c would disturb the basic operation or stability of the cosmos. In fact, several theoretical papers have suggested that the velocity of light after the second day of creation week — when God stretched out the aether — had an initial value of about 5 x 108 times greater than the present value of 3 x 108 meters/sec.
As far as this writer has been able to understand, changing c mostly affects the run rate of atomic clocks versus ordinary (Newtonian) dynamical time. Thus the universe appears to be 10 – 20 billion years old in atomic time, when in reality it was all created only thousands of years ago.
We began this discussion by mentioning the relationship between Planck’s constant, c, and the wavelength (or frequency) of photons emitted from orbital transitions within the atom: E = hf = hc/l.
Astronomers measure wavelength of light from distant stars (not frequency) and wavelengths of stellar light are known to be invariant with time, as is the “fine-structure constant” a = e2/hc = 1/137. This means that hc is a fixed constant, invariant with time. But if c was much higher in the past, then h was a much smaller number than it is now — h and c are inversely proportional.
Therefore, the universe was less “fuzzy” in the beginning, quantum mechanical effects would have been negligible, and Planck length and time were even smaller than they are now (they are already very small numbers)! The universe was more “certain” in the past, and more “orderly” than it is now! This increased uncertainty in the physical world is, of course, paralleled by the inexorable deterioration of the human condition due to sin as revealed in the Bible.
Of course a decrease in the value of Planck’s constant by 10 orders of magnitude in the past pretty well shoots down Quantum Cosmology as a viable model. (There are many other reasons for discarding Big Bang cosmology anyway!)
The laws of physics have been disrupted in the past by the fall of the angels and the fall of man as we have pointed out in this series. One cannot take observations of the present universe for 50 or 100 years and extrapolate the results back to t = 0. This will give the wrong answer — the real history of our universe is not based on “uniformitarian” principles (2 Peter 3:4).
The Big Bang model also ignores the many steps God took to create the raw material of our universe and to mold and fashion it over a unique period of time (144 hours) called “creation week.” During creation week the universe, being uncompleted, was not yet set in motion. It was “Under Construction” — the Laws of Effects went into effect for the first time after the Seventh Day. And the original creation has been since drastically disrupted by cosmic forces of evil.
In any case, the mysteries of our universe only deepen as we understand more and benefit from God’s unfolding (“general”) revelation hidden in nature, as well as by new light on his (“special”) revelation given to us in Holy Writ:
O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen.
— Romans 11:33–36