is a philosophical axiom that: ‘There are three categories of events in physical reality: events that are reproducible, events that are unpredictable, and events that are singular.
- An event that is reproducible is the data of science.
- Events that are unpredictable lend themselves to statistical studies.
- Events that are singular lend themselves to philosophical inquiries.’
The question of whether there was an origin of matter, and what was the origin of matter, is a singular, one-time event. For this reason, although one may speculate on the origin philosophically, science will never be able to produce any reality-based answer for or against this question.
The purpose of this article is to search, with the aid of philosophy, for the simplest and most essential ideas relating to matter. I propose doing this through the labyrinth of science in general and physics in particular – which is the basis of physical science. However, it will be hard to form a meaningful and simple idea on the subject, for the following reasons:
- the basic information that is available from expert publications is widely scattered, complex and sometimes presented in unscientific and conflicting theories.
- both science and physics underwent major transformations in the past few decades, which have affected the definitions of certain properties of matter and energy.
These changes are mainly due to three scientific developments:
- The Theory of Relativity (by Einstein), of space, time, space-time and motion.
- The Theory of the Nature of Matter (a combined effort by several eminent scientists), and the ‘Forces of Nature’ that act upon it.
- Quantum Mechanics (principally by Bohr and Planck), with its ‘Uncertainty Principle’ (by Heisenberg), and with other implications, that flow from it.
Of all the recent theories, Quantum Mechanics is the one that changes our common-sense view and values of the physical reality the most. It does this mainly by introducing the concept of ‘uncertainty’ into modern physics. Two items stand out:
- The Uncertainty Principle states that heat and light (i.e. electrons) behave like waves and could also behave as particles (i.e. photon-quanta of energy).
- The concept of ‘uncertainty’ undermines our anthropic, material way of thinking, by revealing that matter seems to possess far less material substance than we once believed.
The sources for this article are largely based on scientific publications of various authors as acknowledged below. Those sources shown in three groups, relate to the respective main sections of this article:-
- F.H. Shu, Professor of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley: The Physical Universe
- P.W. Atkins: The Second Law of Thermodynamics
- W. Heisenberg and H. Pagels.
- Frank H. Shu, J.V. Narlikar, Sir Martin Rees, J. Gribbin, Paul Davies, S. Weinberg and H. Genz.
- P.J. Glenn: Aristotelian Philosophy
- B. van Fraassen, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University
- Lawrence Sklar, Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan.
This article covers only the principal issues associated with matter, in order to provide a global view, through a synthesis of philosophy, physics and physical cosmology, as each of these disciplines holds the concept of matter as being its rightful domain. I discuss the following items in this article:
- What is Matter?
- Origins of Finite and Infinite Matter
- Infinity and Causality
- Origin of Matter by Chance
- Evolution and Properties of Matter
- The Ultimate End-state of Matter
1) WHAT IS MATTER?
I will consider the two major scientific disciplines, physics and physical cosmology in general, which deal primarily with the subject of ‘matter’, and hopefully provide a modern-day scientific view on these.
Physics is a discipline that deals with an organized body of tested ideas about the real world through continued research. Physics is the science of energy (Joule, 1851). This axiom was adopted by Kelvin, who stated that atoms were to be regarded merely as manifestations of energy, an idea that is confirmed by modern physics.
Description of ‘matter’ by modern physics: Matter is a specific arrangement of atoms that is distinct from any other that a substance might possess. Matter in the form of elementary particles demonstrates mass and charge, having a wave-like aspect. Matter can be created from energy. Both matter and light have intrinsic properties of both waves and particles. Wave motion is the fundamental basis of all material beings and their motion in the physical reality. The wave function therefore incorporates everything there is to know about a particle, regarding all its possible positions and movements. This is considered by P.C.W. Davies as being a quasi ‘Quantum-Social Security Number’.
- All matter is made up of the following stable elementary particles: electrons, protons and neutrons; these constitute the visible materials. On the other hand, protons and neutrons each comprise three Quarks. Neutrinos, photons (and Graviton?) are the carriers of energy, created by interactions among the visible materials.
- In the physical reality, through Einstein’s Law of Equivalence, all matter, and ultimately all energy, is subject to the laws and forces of nature. These Laws are set immutable, in that all energy/matter/particles must conform to them without being able to react back and alter them. The three forces of nature are considered the causes of the interactions among matter of all kinds; these are: strong nuclear force, electromagnetism and the gravitational force.
- Ultimately, in the microcosm, matter is controlled by the laws of Quantum Mechanics combined with Einstein’s Theory of relativity, and, as it is said: ‘if these are proven to be correct and everything can be reduced to intangibles of the transcendental then one has to give up either ordinary logic or physical reality.’ In the macrocosm, matter is controlled by the laws of the gravitational force.
- Again, through Einstein’s Law of Equivalence of energy and matter, it is appropriate at this point to describe briefly the nature of energy as well. Energy is the capacity for producing effect. Therefore energy is recognised through its effects, and these are:
- stored energy, which can be mechanical, thermal, electrical, chemical, nuclear and potential energy.
- transient energy, which is heat and work, (mechanical and fluid flow).
The total energy of all forms of energies in a closed system remains constant quantitatively. In a closed system, energy is neither gained from the outside nor lost to it. Heat in a system is a transfer of energy through the incoherent (multi-directional) motion of its particles. Heat is measured by the change of temperature. Temperature indicates quantitatively the molecular equilibrium of the kinetic heat energy, between the set-point of the thermometer and an object. Work in a system is a transfer of energy through coherent (unidirectional) motion of its particles. Work is not a form of energy, but the name only of a method for transferring energy through change. Work may be completely converted into heat by using energy.
Cosmology in general has three main branches: physical cosmology, philosophical cosmology and cultural cosmology. The latter is not the subject of this paper.
Physical Cosmology is considered a branch of physics and astronomy and it is a study of the physical Universe, its origin, its structure and the processes in it.
Philosophical Cosmology, or the philosophy of nature, does not deal with pure scientific facts, but examines the origin, development and finality of the physical Universe through applying the first principles of philosophy. It analyses them as links in a causal chain, i.e. proceeding in accordance with logical necessity or probability. In this case, there is no distinction between natural science and natural philosophy. Metaphysics has an important role, even today, as a means of making physics intelligible. Therefore, the task of modern natural philosophy is only to oversee and comment on modern physics.
The philosophy of nature was first developed 2400 years ago within the systematic Aristotelian philosophy as a study of strictly philosophical issues associated with natural sciences. Its aim was, and still is, the search for truth in reality, while its material object is the ‘being as such,’ that is found in every knowable real thing, in its ultimate, rational explanation. It was after the seventeenth century, however, that rival philosophical interpretations were developed, primarily by Descartes, Newton and Leibniz.
Philosophy in general enters into, and often enmeshes with, physical cosmology because of the frequent changes in our physical picture of the Universe, and the multitude of conflicting observational data, which require radical revision in our conceptualization of the Universe. A conceptual revision, just as logical thinking, according to the principles of the rules of logic, demands that the specific description and definition of a physical entity or event, prior to a relevant question must be clearly and universally identifiable in a systematic, philosophical framework of reference.
The problem with the modern cosmological theories and models is that many of them are far too ambiguous and based on pure assumptions. They often conflict with other similar assumptions; hence, instead of helping the reader develop an understanding of a particular theory, they create confusion.
This problem is compounded further by the all too frequent and illogical practice of trying to prove an assumption of a new theory with other assumptions. Philosophy asserts that: ‘Any assumption, which relies on an other assumption to prove an idea, term, theory or fact is philosophically an unacceptable explanation.’
Heisenberg wrote: ‘Science must be based upon language as the only means of communication and there, where the problem of unambiguity is of greatest importance, the logical patterns must play their role.’ He further states that the fundamental problem of our mutual understanding lies in the intrinsic uncertainty of the meaning of words. The word ‘definition’ originates in the ancient Aristotelian philosophy, which created a system of logical thinking, in order to determine and set boundaries in modes of expression, thereby setting the solid basis of scientific language.
Cultural Cosmology is the study of the creation myths of different cultures, their function, meaning and orientation. (It is the domain of cultural anthropologists.)
Description of Matter by Physical Cosmology
Matter is best understood through Einstein’s demonstration of the equivalence of energy and mass, resulting from his famous formula of E = mc2. This implies a possibility for converting energy into mass and vice versa. Lord Kelvin hoped to establish a ‘material physics’ based solely on energy. He had an idea that all material phenomena could be explained in terms of the transformation of energy from one form into another. Einstein confirmed this idea by his energy-equivalence equation.
Within physical cosmology, an in-depth description of matter, together with other related theories associated with the origin, nature and fate of the Universe, are detailed in the so-called cosmological models. There are some 10 to 15 such models published so far. Some of them often contain strange, new theories that conflict with theories that are already accepted by the broader scientific community.
The Einstein-deSitter Cosmological Model, which provides the most realistic analogue for a marginally-bound Universe, has been accepted by the scientific community as the ‘Standard Cosmological Model’. This model assumes that the thermodynamic properties of the Universe, in its first milliseconds after the Big Bang (i.e. at the very beginning of the Universe), caused the high-temperature drop to go through a phase-transition from its high-temperature (i.e. massless plasma) phase to a low-temperature massive phase.
This reasoning is based on the successful description by particle physics, that particles at the very high temperatures of the Big Bang did interact at energies over a thousand times stronger than nuclear energies. The same happens when an electron and a neutron meet. The energy confined in the particles’ mass is liberated and dissipated in the form of gamma rays; the same thing happens also in the decay of a neutron.
Scientists agree that one of the most conspicuous properties of energy being locked up is mass. It may be said that matter is energy ‘condensed’. Others say that mass of a particle represents highly ordered ‘energy’. However, even after scientists have pulled matter into its, ever smaller, constituent pieces, they are still unable to clearly define the true elementary structure of matter and precisely what matter is. Theorists merged Quantum Mechanics with Einstein’s theory of Relativity, and this provides the basis of the Standard Model of Particle Physics, which in turn describes the present view of the building blocks of matter.
P.C.W. Davies suggests that besides the analytical view of matter, it may also have a synthetic aspect, analogous to the ‘Uncertainty Principle’ of Quantum Mechanics. Suggesting that we may be unable to determine simultaneously how matter works while analysing what it is made of.
Description of Matter by Philosophical Cosmology
Philosophical cosmology recognises that there are two substantial and complementary principles recognisable in every physical body. These are:
- the passive matter, ‘of which things are made’, being in its utmost purity, and as Plato called it, a kind of non-entity, i.e. incapable of separate existence, but only in conjunction with something else that is the form
- the active form of matter, which is – so to speak – the living idea of the physical body that determines and makes the purely passive matter what it is.
In summary then, matter is a quantifiable bodily substance – and yet it is wholly ‘indeterminate’ entity by itself – whose real identity is acquired only by its active qualifiable form, i.e. the principle of ‘determination’.
Expressing the same idea in a simple way: matter as such is a bodily substance that can only be recognised in the physical reality through its qualitative properties. In other words: Is there such a thing as matter without shape? An axiom of philosophy says: ‘There is no entity without identity.’
2) ORIGINS OF FINITE AND INFINITE MATTER
General Notes on Astronomical Practice
When scientific papers refer to the ‘beginning’ of the Universe, they usually take the word Universe as being synonymous with the word Cosmos. This beginning of the Universe is characterised by the so-called Big Bang, which happened 13.75 billion years ago (i.e. 13.75 Gy.), is located at a distance in space approximately 13.75 billion light years (i.e. 13.75 Gly) away from us in every direction.
We, the observers, find ourselves within the Milky Way Galaxy. This region is called the Observable Universe, the deep sky, from whose center we have already reached global ‘visibility’ with radio telescopes close to 10.00 Gly. (which is approaching the former location of the Big Bang). Finally, Our Solar System is located (in the Observable Universe), some 30 000 ly. from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, and within a 30 000 ly. wide circular band of the so called ‘Galactic Habitable Zone’; within which band the Solar System is orbiting around the center of the Galaxy, where cosmologists found the most stable conditions for the development of life. The Sun’s orbit denotes one cosmic year over 245 million years, at a speed of 220km/sec. The Sun has completed slightly over 20 orbits around the center of the Galaxy during its half-life of 4.75 billion years.
Paradoxically, against our technological advancement, due to the ‘expansion’ of the Universe, we will see less and less stars and galaxies in the far future. Oddly enough, it is also a fact that due to the ever increasing ‘age’ of the Universe, we will see more and more stars and galaxies in the far distant future. So perhaps, these two cosmic events may compensate for one another.
The Present View of Physical Cosmology
‘The beginning of the Universe, and matter in it, was caused by the Big Bang. …the energy of ‘empty space’ may have planted the seeds of matter, from which galaxies and large-scale structures could grow, …elements, …stars and planets developed.’
This introductory quote epitomises the present, general scientific view (The Astronomy Magazine, Feb. 1998, by R. Kolb).
Below I have summarised the comments made by philosophical cosmology to the above described ‘present view’.
a) The Finite Matter
If a Universe, with energy/matter in it, had only one beginning, at the moment of the Big Bang (or repeated beginnings in every cyclic mode), the logical assumption is that we can call it finite or a contingent Universe; because that means the Universe had a beginning, hence, will also have an end. This would apply equally to energy/matter and space/time in it. However, the assumption made by physical cosmology attempts to make us believe that the ‘finite Big Bang’ had the ‘infinite power’ to create itself and the energy/matter in it. This assumption is philosophically a contradiction in terms.
Furthermore, in the case of a finite Universe one may ask: what was the first origin (and not just the beginning) that is the reason for the Big Bang of the Universe to come into existence? Philosophical logic suggests that this prime cause, i.e. the reason for the Universe coming into existence, had to come from outside of the finite Universe itself, otherwise this would only become a variation on the above contradiction in terms.
b) The Infinite Matter
The obvious alternative to a finite Universe is a self-sustaining, infinite Universe, which has never had an origin, other than perhaps in its infinite number of ‘cyclic’ modes (from ‘Big Bang to Big Crunch’). In this case, we could assume that the Universe would exist forever, without an end, which should apply equally to energy/matter and space/time in it. It would also be obvious that this Universe should possess in itself the infinite power required for sustaining itself with an infinite supply of energy/matter, both in quantity and quality forever.
Furthermore, similarly to the finite Universe as described above, the questions are: ‘What was the first origin (i.e. the reason) for an infinite Universe, together with energy/matter in it, to come into existence or into its ‘recycling’ mode in the first place? and What is the reason for its ever-lasting existence?
Proponents of the infinite (and/or recycling) Universe suggest that it must have a reason for its existence within itself; meaning that energy/matter has some kind of super-power to provide this reason for itself. But again, what is this super-power, and where did it come from in the first place? If energy/matter has an infinite, unending (or infinite recycling) existence, would it not conflict with the irreversibility of the Law of Entropy – the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics – that has been accepted by modern physics as being applicable to our present Universe and to all energy/matter in it?
c) The Hybrid Theories of Matter
There are theories with such titles as ‘semi-finite’, ‘eternally recycling with a beginning but no end’, ‘multiple universes’, etc. These theories have in common:
- they attempt to clarify/prove assumptions with other assumptions
- they contradict or avoid established physical laws and forces of nature, and fundamental terms of logic, such as:
- the question of first origin and the principles of causality
- the Law of Contingency with reference to physical energy/matter
- the implications of the applicability and irreversibility of the Law of Entropy
- the general concept of first origin of the Universe and its logical connection to the already described problems of infinite matter in space and time.
To sum it all up: physical cosmology alone may never be able to solve the fundamental mystery of the first origin of the Universe, nor answer the question whether the Universe, and energy/matter in it, is finite or infinite.
The first reason for this is that physical cosmology is not equipped to analyse the contradictory implications between the concept of first origin of the Universe and the existence of a finite or infinite Universe in the physical reality.
The second reason, according to philosophical cosmology, is that a theory that is based on pure physical concepts is unable to explain the essence of a self-generating infinite matter, and cannot reconcile within that theory the fact that it appears to contradict the scientifically proven contingent nature of matter of physical cosmology.
3) INFINITY AND CAUSALITY
In physical cosmology there is a general lack of clarity about material infinity, and, instead, there is frequent reference made to ‘infinity’ as such. This ambiguity is noticeable in the highly respected Standard Cosmological Model, of which even their distinguished authors acknowledge that ‘Infinities are a great embarrassment to us, which we will have to get rid of’. In philosophical cosmology, however, there is a clear-cut distinction made between non-material and material infinities.
- Non-material infinity is the subject of metaphysics. It is worth noting here that metaphysics deals with abstract (philosophically transcendent/unlimited) concepts. Our mind cannot form, therefore cannot comprehend, infinite ideas, because the bases of all our ideas are originally formed through a mental process of apprehension of the physical reality. This process comprises quantifying (a physical body), and abstraction (qualifying its properties) from the finite reality. Therefore, we have to invoke some logical reasoning to form some idea, analogically to our physical reality, of what non-material infinity might entail. The article entitled: ‘Paradox of Infinity’ provides further ideas on the concept of non-material infinity.
- Material infinity – as if the concept of non-material infinity would not be hard enough to comprehend – appears to present an even more formidable obstacle to logic and therefore to our common sense understanding. The concept of material infinity is a particularly favoured concept, used by many modern-day, physical cosmologists, who also call it ‘real infinity’. Physical cosmologists claim it exist in the physical reality, but are not able to define its meaning; this is tantamount to saying: you may believe it or not. Admittedly, the existence of material infinity is impossible to prove conclusively though science.
Curiously enough, the perceived ‘transcendence’ is deeply rooted in the abstract structure of material principles throughout science and mathematics. Examples are the constant values of pi, the golden ratio, the random fractals, the L-System (growth), the Euler number of e, and the irrational number of i. These are real numbers and transcendental because they transcend algebraic operations.
The mathematician, F. Lindemann, remarked that the great constants of e and pi are not merely irrational but far worse: ‘If these constants characterised irrationals as being hidden under a cloud of infinity, the transcendentals seem to be hidden under a cloud of algebraic inaccessibility.’ This pure abstract nature of mathematics, which by no means can be labelled as material infinity, gives it the universal value; i.e. its reliability transcends our common-sense anthropocentric concepts of physical space and time. Note that it is known generally that pure mathematics is driven by logic while applied mathematics is driven by logic and the physical reality.
Physical cosmologists appear to have the following problems with material infinity:
- They claim that physical entities, such as energy and matter, space and time, etc. have material infinity, and are divisible at the same time, (i.e. having individual units), have finite numbers, extensions motion and change. There are many, perhaps infinite numbers of such infinities in the Universe, and, oddly enough, some of them are more infinite than others.
- On the other hand, they give no clear indication whether those concepts of infinity exist only in their minds or if they also exist as objective entities and events in the physical reality. And, if they exist in the reality, do they exist even in the absence of material quantity, such as e.g.: infinite space in the absence of matter or infinite time in the absence of motion and change. What is supposed to be the reason for their very existence, either in the mind or in the physical reality?
Philosophical cosmology interprets that, although energy/matter and space/time may tend or is permitted to increase (or decrease) towards infinity, by no means are these infinities in themselves. The dilemma is: should not extensions of physical bodies as well as changes and movements in space and time be equally infinite if space and time themselves would be physically infinite? Furthermore, entities and events, such as energy and matter as well as space and time, etc. are said to not be actually infinite in the physical reality, but are only potentially infinite, i.e. infinitely divisible.
Infinite divisibility, however, is unattainable in the physical reality. Otherwise an infinite transitive chain of causes and effects would result in a vicious infinite regress, which does not exist in the physical reality. It is vicious because one should complete an infinite number of acts, i.e. through the endless process of cause and effect, within a finite time available, to achieve the desired ultimate effect. In other words, something you can approach without ever getting there or, as they say: ‘you could die of thirst before reaching the tap’. Since the common meaning of infinity is that it is incomprehensible, beyond imagination, the attainment of any finite action in a finite lifetime would be an impossibility.
It is a well known philosophical axiom that ‘causal purpose’, in detail of the particulate components of any entity, points towards a causal purpose of the entire entity. Therefore, the concept of material infinity contradicts logic, common sense and the physical reality as well. Because, in principle, the attributes of real infinity are expected to be at least analogous, even if not similar to those attributes referred to above, to the non-material infinity.
Philosophical cosmology proposes that energy/matter, space/time, etc. are evidently finite because they demonstrate also their contingent nature through the following main characteristics:
- Limits of Spatial Extension: Finite material objects exist within their evidently limited boundaries (a mark of their contingency); therefore, they require finite means of measure. We can define their specific sets by counting the type and number of things in them. We can add or take away from these numbers; we can determine, and alter their weights, dimensions, wavelengths and every form of change in the physical reality.
- Limits of Time: Finite material objects change (e.g. move) within their evidently limited time. We measure this finite change with finite instruments, which would be impossible in infinite time, where there is never a second, nor a century, but it is always forever.
- Limits of Change Itself: Finite material objects that have a beginning and an end to their existence are called contingent (i.e. changeable beings). Therefore they cannot change or act freely. This is because they are subject to the universal laws and forces of nature, which demonstrate direction and logic towards the attainment of maximum entropy, (the irreversible direction of time) that is the qualitative material degradation of all energies and matter throughout their existence. (This is why everything we have or use, including our human way of existence, needs maintenance, for which we also have to pay a price).
- It is proper to highlight here also that these laws and forces act in (their finite mode?) an astonishingly precise order, unalterably, without failing, reversibility, redundancy, waste and without contradiction with one another. One may ask: if matter is infinite and a self-sufficient being, why is it that the smallest sub-atomic change within that same matter must obey the laws and forces of nature outside itself?
- The final criteria of material infinity should be, if attainable and as suggested by some philosophers, each with an intrinsic contradiction. These are the following:
- The small-scale, microscopic reality should be extendable downward to infinity.
- The large-scale, macro-cosmic reality should be extendable upward to infinity.
We can understand and influence our material world only through the knowledge of causalconnections. Einstein said: ‘Scientists live by their faith in causality, and the chain of cause and effect. Every effect has a cause that can be discovered by rational arguments. But it just fails at the beginning. And that is really a blow at the very fundamental premise that motivates all scientists.’
Aristotle’s philosophy describes the word cause may have a different meaning to different people. There are also many types of cause. When regarding an event, the word ‘cause’ primarily answers the question of ‘why’, for which Aristotle proposes four types, according to their explanation. A causal explanation is accepted by many philosophers as explaining and verifying facts and events by saying yes.
The intrinsic meaning of ‘cause’ distinguishes it from an everyday type of explanation by a conditionalacceptance of a fact or event by adding that something is ‘accepted universally and always’. This truth in acceptance implies a law-like connection by necessity between two entities or events, which distinguishes causality from an accidental regularity. The understanding of this definition of cause leads us into the very nature of material things, and approaches those absolute regularities, which are the sole examples of natural laws.
In philosophical cosmology, a cause is anything that contributes in any manner to the producing or the maintaining of an effect in the physical reality. The principal components of every causal event are the First Cause that initiates movement and/or change, the Final Cause that produces the effect of movement and/or change and the Connection that is the quintessence of Causality. Although, both the First and Final Causes may or may not be scientifically observable, the Connection, like energy of any kind, is not observable.
The essence of ‘connection’ lies in the concept of causality, about which Aristotle begins his reasoning with reference to a principle that all animate and inanimate beings in the reality must be either produced or unproduced. If produced, it is caused by others and it is an effect. (If it is unproduced, this is described elsewhere as: it must be either a ‘Perpetual Motion’ that is a contradiction, or made itself, which is an other contradiction, or made by a Creator.)
The enigma of connection can only be described as a transcendental necessary conjunction, understandable by reasoning out through the repetitively observed effect, which is produced in the physical reality. It must be said here that the concept of ‘connection’ is a stumbling block for materialists in general, for it could lead them through the concept of causality to the reasoned acceptance of a metaphysical Creator.
When we know the cause of anything, we have at least a partial explanation of that thing; therefore, as Aristotle continues, every cause is a reason. However, since there are reasons other than causes, therefore, not every reason is a cause. Furthermore, a physical reality, even if it lacks causes, cannot lack reason for its existence, because reality as such must be identifiable through our human understanding.
Philosophical cosmology has two major classifications of cause:
- Final cause is the end (i.e. teleological) towards which a fact or event is aiming. To explain a fact or event by its final cause is to explain it in terms of the end result it achieves. This is also referred to as the ‘law of least action’, i.e. of achieving an end result in the most economical way.
- Efficient cause is mechanistic, i.e. that which initiates the process of change. To explain a change by its efficient cause is to explain it in terms of prior conditions.
Note: The final cause seems scientifically simpler, yet both definitions of ‘causes’ describe the same state of affairs and yield the same predictions.
The Aristotelian laws of cause and effect are not accepted by many cosmologists because of their inevitable implications with the so-called Uncaused First Cause. Others, on the other hand, accept this law as a fundamental principle and a rock-bottom basis for our cosmological understanding of the physical reality. Some of the cause and effect laws lead to the controversy of infinite divisibility. The laws of causality highlight their intrinsic contradiction with the concept of material infinity, their existence, movements and changes in an infinite Universe.
The following laws of causality, as laws of logic, apply to the finite energy/matter and particles, in a finite Universe:
- Every cause must end in an effect; otherwise there is no cause to speak of.
- Every entity and event in the physical reality is the product of a cause. Therefore, every entity and event in the reality is an effect, that could become later a cause of further effects.
- A cause cannot be an endless (i.e. infinite) chain of events. Every chain of events must have its causes and must end in an effect.
- A cause can never be unpredictable, as every cause in the physical reality is a reason for existence with certitude of understanding it. Reason can never be a cause, as reason can only explain the physical reality that may not be self-evident to the mind.
4) ORIGIN OF MATTER BY CHANCE
If the origin of the finite Universe was not caused by a prime cause outside itself, then the Universe is either infinite or it was caused by chance. Chance, however, can never be a cause, as it is a circumstance, meaning that the effect it produces has a nature of unpredictability. If creation or the Big Bang, etc. is a ‘chance-effect’, and knowing that cause cannot be unpredictable, one may ask: ‘What was the cause of all these effects in the physical reality?’ and, ultimately, ‘What was the Prime Cause of the Universe?’
In the absence of scientific evidence for or against, the problems associated with a chance-origin of matter are highlighted in the following scientific comments by various people:
- P. Davies proposes the following in his work Are We Alone? ‘Human intelligence can be explained as the result of three possibilities:
- Stupendously unlikely accident.
- Self-organizing cosmic principle that brings about consciousness as a cosmic imperative. (See the cosmic constants and the genetic code, but who is the organizer?).
- Supernatural miracle.’
- According to P. Davies ‘If the strength of gravitational force were altered by a mere one part in 10^40, stars like our Sun would not exist, nor, one might argue, would any form of life that depends on solar-type stars for sustenance.’
- Freeman Dyson suggests the following about the so-called lucky accidents in the atomic structures: ‘Without such accidents, water could not exist as liquid, chains of carbon atoms could not form complex organic molecules, and hydrogen atoms could not form breakable bridges between molecules.’
- S. Hawking states that:
- ‘If electric charge of the electron had been only slightly different, stars either would have been unable to burn hydrogen and helium or else they would not have exploded, and the heavier elements necessary for life would not have been available.’
- ‘Physicists see the logical necessity for something more than a set of physical laws at the beginning.’
- ‘Even if there would be only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is that breathes fire into the equations and makes a Universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the question of why there should be a Universe for the model to describe.’
- ‘The odds against a Universe like ours emerging out of something like the Big Bang are enormous… I think clearly there are metaphysical implications whenever you start to discuss the origin of the Universe. But I think most scientists prefer to shy away from the religious aspect of it.’
- R. Naeye (Astronomy, July, 1966) states that: ‘On Earth a long sequence of improbable events transpired in just the right way to bring forth life, as if we had won a million dollar lottery a million times in a row.’
- H. Pagels questions: ‘Where are these laws of nature written into the void (space) before the beginning? What tells the void that it is empowered and ready for the beginning of a possible Universe? It would seem that even the void is subject to law, logic (“Logos”), that exists prior to space and time.’
- According to R. Penrose: ‘The odd against the Observable Universe appearing by accident is shown by a figure of my estimate as 1010^30 to one.’
- C. Sagan states that: ‘A single message would establish the existence of E.T. intelligence.’
- An unknown philosopher comments: ‘The signal, a clear mark of intelligence, was left on this Planet cca. 3.85 billion years ago, in the form of the Genetic Code. This message resides in every biological cell of every existing being.’
- According to S. Weinberg: ‘Life as we know it would be impossible if any one of several physical quantities had slightly different values. The best known of these quantities is the energy of one of the excited states of the carbon 12 nucleus. There is an essential step in the chain of nuclear reactions that build up heavy elements in stars.’
5) EVOLUTION AND PROPERTIES OF MATTER
a) Evolution of Matter
The evolution of energy and matter in our Universe can be traced back in time to the beginning of the Universe at the moment of Big Bang. Using the Standard Cosmological Model – through reverse-reasoning from the observed expansion of the Universe and from the measured temperature of the cosmic microwave-background radiation – cosmologists have arrived 13.75 Gy back in time. At that time all the energy of the Universe was concentrated ‘in a point-like physical singularity’ and the existence of our Universe, together with all its energy/matter and space/time began.
Why did the Big Bang take place in the first place and why was the ‘singularity’ the way it was? The chain of regressive causal process, from the present time to the earliest state of the Universe, is believed to be a sufficient cause. At the initial Big Bang, all scientific speculation came to a halt, because in the further search for answers, physics and cosmology seem to have become inextricably entangled with questions that are predominantly philosophical in nature, and for which cosmologists cannot provide answers.
The evolution of matter went, in micro-seconds, through several transformations, from the initial brief flash of the Big Bang, until it reached the formation of galaxies. The primeval nucleo-synthesis produced approximately (by weight) 75% of hydrogen and 25% of helium. The steady rate of cooling due to the rapid expansion of the early Universe ensured that from the original mixture of hydrogen/helium nuclei and photon radiation a wide variety of heavier elements would form.
The Universe is made of energy and matter, occupied in space and time. We still do not know what 99% of the cosmic mass is made of. Some refer to it as the missing mass, dark energy or dark matter, still others say it is the ‘missing light’. The physical structure of the Universe comprises ultimately the laws and forces of nature and the energy particles out of which matter evolved. Finally, as matter separated from light radiation, proto-galaxies were formed.
Galaxies formed super clusters whose dimensions can extend 500 million light years. These clusters move with velocities of hundreds of kilometres per second, due to the expansion of space. Due to gravitational forces within the galaxies, slow contraction formed gaseous globules. After a balance was reached between the external gravitational forces and the internal heat energy build up, these gaseous globules compressed sufficiently to set off thermo-nuclear fusion reactions within their core. Thus, the stars were born. Stars in galaxies form a dynamical unit. Atoms, which formed in many different stars of our galaxy, travelled across inter-stellar space and through billions of years, developed into a giant gas cloud that finally became our solar system.
Thus, every single atom on Earth, and in our bodies, came from our Milky Way galaxy. According to the latest astronomical observations, our solar system is located in the Orion Arm of our galaxy, at approximately two thirds from its centre on the 75o to the South Celestial Pole, 330 light years from Theta Apodis. All the stars that we can see in the sky are located in our galaxy. The Earth, during its annual orbit around the Sun, mostly faces away from the galaxy in winter nights and faces towards the galaxy in summer. This is the reason why we do not see so many stars in the winter sky.
Just as a curiosity, let us visualize the unimaginable. Using a comparative scale of the material world, imagine that our reference point, the Milky Way, is the size of an aspirin. From our galaxy, the edge of the Observable Universe is one kilometre away. At the size of another aspirin, representing M31, the Andromeda galaxy, is 0.13 metres away. Andromeda and our galaxy are two of the 35 galaxies of the Local Group. The 200 galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, which has the size of a basket ball, are 3 metres away. The Sculptor Group (which is similar to the Local Group) is 0.60 metres away. All the galaxies and clusters above comprise the Local Super Cluster. Furthermore, thousands of galaxies in the Coma Cluster are 20 metres away. Cygnus A galaxy (which is 20 metres across) is 45 metres away. The brightest Quasar-3C273 is 130 metres away.
The Importance of the Supernovae
In the dying phase of stars that are heavier than our Sun, the nuclear reaction stops and their core becomes a solid mass of iron. The star shrinks from its original size to a size equal to the proportion of the Sun to Mount Everest. Material from the inner region begins to fall towards the core, creating high pressure and temperature, which eventually causes the dying star to explode. During this expansion, when our galaxy was developing, neutrinos and elements that are heavier than iron – and were essential for the development of life – formed in the core, expelled by the shock-wave from our galaxy towards other galaxies as well as towards Earth. The remnant of an exploding star is called a pulsar, or spinning neutron star. Without the dying stars and Supernovae there would be no life anywhere in the Universe.
b) Properties of Matter
The structure of all matter in the Universe is atomic, i.e. all matter is made of atoms, which on our planet Earth originated from our galaxy. Matter in general may be likened to a pile of wheat as seen from a distance, first it appears from a distance as a continuous, smooth mound. However, in close-up we realize the illusion as we see that the mound is in fact made up of tiny grains. These discrete grains are modern physic’s ‘quanta’, the ‘grains’ in the pile of wheat.
Planck tried to understand the material radiation of a black body through analysing the colour spectrum of a heated object. He came to the conclusion that heat radiation was vibrating oscillators, whose radiant-energy exchange with the black body was quantised. The oscillators were none other than atoms, which make up the black body. The energy exchange is not continuous, but discrete. The amount of discreteness is specified by a ‘number’ h, called the Planck’s constant. This understanding lies at the beginning of the Quantum Theory of modern physics.
Following this theory, one could deduct that if h could be set to zero, the size and the ‘continuous’ nature of the (analogous) grain pile, as well as the Universe, would ‘reappear’.
The understanding of matter requires a deeper understanding of its constituent parts, the atom and molecules, which are described below:
a) The atom has an identifier, the atomic number, which is simply the number of protons in its nucleus. The atomic weight is given (in most cases) by the mass number of the atom, which is the combined total number of protons and neutrons. An atom is symbolised by its chemical symbol as having an atomic numberxxx and a mass numberyyy. For a neutral atom, the number of electrons is equal to the atomic number.
The tiny positively charged core, the nucleus, is only one ten thousand part of the size of an atom. Almost all of the mass of the atom, and hence of ordinary matter, is concentrated in this nucleus. The much lighter, negatively charged electrons orbit around the nucleus, much like the planets orbit the Sun. This picture, however, is an analogue only as, because of the Quantum Theory, these electrons should be viewed as being smeared out over their entire orbit so that they form a cloud charge of uncertain and complex shapes. Surprisingly, all atoms have comparable sizes, despite having large differences in the number of electrons they contain. The properties of electrons determine the laws of chemical combinations for the formation of molecules. Other characteristics of an atom are:
- its nucleus comprises two ‘massive’ (composite) particles: protons and neutrons
- its outer part is formed by the electrons; they are the ‘light’ particles
- its mass is measured by its rest energy, and in terms of a unit of electronVolt.
Other mass values (expressed in Giga electron Volt or GeV) include:
- a neutron is approximately 1 GeV
- a proton is approximately 1 GeV
- an electron neutrino, i.e. an electron 0.5 x…0.5×106 eV
Einstein applied the Law of Conservation of Energy to mass, as he considered that energy and mass are simply manifestations of the same thing. Today energy/matter only appear distinct, but at the Big Bang – and at the ultimate end – matter may again freely convert into energy. Matter and the Universe did not exist at all times, this has been proven by the cosmic microwave-background radiation (CMBR). This CMBR of the Universe represents a thermal ‘black body’, spectrum at a temperature of 2.725K.
b) The molecules are the smallest physical quantity of matter. They are the building blocks of everything we can see, feel, smell, hear and measure in the reality. If a molecule is divided, it looses its chemical properties and is not the same any longer. Atoms in molecules can form solid matter, gas or liquid. Random chemical interactions cannot explain the myriad of complex molecules in the Universe, or the existence of life on Earth.
Molecules range in size and complexity from having a few atoms (like in a water molecule) to having tens of thousands of atoms (like in large organic molecules). For example, water is known to posses at least eight different crystalline states, which are observable at very high temperatures. At low pressures and temperatures, such as in interplanetary and inter-stellar space, water turns into an amorphous solid, whereby its aggregate crystals take on a powdery or other nondescript shape. Other crystals, like diamond form a continuous network of chemical bonds. Diamond is, in effect, one single molecule of carbon.
6) THE ULTIMATE END-STATE OF MATTER
The end-state of matter is synonymous with the dying of the Universe. The fate of the Universe was imprinted right at the Big Bang, which we could decipher if we had enough knowledge of the quality of the material particles and their quantity, i.e. the density of the Universe. The fate of matter then depends on how long the Universe will exist, for the hitherto unknown cosmological processes to work themselves out.
The prediction that the Universe will end one day due to ‘heat death’, was based on the second Law of Thermodynamics. This law is considered to be the supreme jewel of macroscopic physics. The law states simply that all natural processes of entities and events tend to decrease (i.e. degrade qualitatively) – or at best remain constant – in the irreversible time-direction of time (i.e. the future) from an ordered structure, in a closed (therefore finite) physical system, towards disorder or thermodynamic equilibrium at Absolute Zero of -273o Celsius (zero degrees Kelvin).
At this point, the thermal motion of atoms and molecules ceases as far as the uncertainty relation permits it; although the Absolute Zero is unattainable. In thermodynamic equilibrium, a collection of particles and photons will usually have an even distribution of energies.
The history of hydrogen fuel began after the initial few minutes of nuclear fusion of the Big Bang stopped when most of the atoms of the Universe ‘froze’ in the form of hydrogen. Similar nuclear fusion continues ever since inside the stars. Hydrogen fuel drives most of the activity in the Universe today, and this activity carries the imprint of time-direction towards the future and of continual entropic degradation.
Many cosmologists consider the Universe to be a closed system, through its so-called numerous ‘branch systems’, such as our solar system. This closed system approach allows the Laws of Thermodynamics to apply. Hence, eventually the entire Universe may reach its ultimate end-state of ‘heat death’. The thermodynamic laws apply only to large (macroscopic) numbers of particles and photons, and these laws are intrinsically statistical in nature; an atom has no temperature.
In the second Law of Thermodynamics, the degree of the quantifiable disorder is called entropy. The Law of Entropy states that the progress of natural processes towards degradation in the quality of matter and in their movements never decreases and is irreversible. Note that an inbuilt irreversible time-direction does not apply to either the laws of mechanics or the laws of electromagnetism.
The full understanding of entropy is important for three reasons:
- the Law of Contingency of energy and matter
- the Closed versus Open System
- the Degradation of the Environment.
These are discussed below.
b) The Law of Contingency of energy and matter
The nature of entropy points to a precisely definable and irreversible progress towards degradation of all material beings in the physical reality and is analogous to the Law of Contingency, whose qualitative degradation is applicable to the attributes of all material beings. This contingency, which seems to contradict the attributes of infinite matter, is clearly manifested all around us in the physical reality. This occurs in atoms, when energy is dissipated (decayed) in the form of photons or alpha and beta rays. This is represented by material degradation due to age and corrosion, which causes physical entities fall apart, wear out and crumble. This process points also to a similar, biological degradation process present in all living beings as well as to the physical degradation of the dying stars.
The gravitational force of the Milky Way moves our solar system around the outer edge of our galaxy at a speed of approximately 400 km/sec. This is about equal to flinging the entire solar system across one and a half width of the Australian continent in 15 seconds. The star nearest to Earth is our Sun; the Earth, one immense planet and it is being whipped around the Sun by the power of the Sun.
This Sun, each second, transforms four million tons of its energy into light as radiant energy, and has been doing this for the past 4.5 billion years. It has 5 billion years more to go before it reaches its end stage. The loss of this massive energy is analogous to the burning down of a candle, it cannot last forever. The natural tendency for temperature to fall from high to low (heat always rolls downhill) points towards the continual dissipation of heat to the surrounding space, and ultimately to the ‘heat death’ of all stars and galaxies in the entire Universe.
Meanwhile, the concluding act, which is running parallel with the inexorable march of the Universe towards its ‘heat death’, seems to be played out in the ultimate struggle between the gravitational force and entropy of the Law of Thermodynamics.
c) The Closed versus Open System
A closed system is characterised by a finite number of stars and galaxies in a finite space-time, where nothing is lost to the outside and nothing is gained. This means that the universal volume is also finite, without an edge or boundary. In any ‘closed’ system, such as typically in our solar system, neither an appreciable inflow nor outflow of energy could be detected. In such a closed system, the quality of energy tends to degrade, due to the second Law of Thermodynamics, whose measure is the increase in entropy. For the reduction of entropy, the quality of energy should be maintained at its original or higher level, which can be achieved only at a cost elsewhere. Hence we speak of the ‘environmental tax’ human beings have to pay in order to maintain quality of life in a civilized society.
An open system, according to some modern cosmologists, is where the number of stars and galaxies and space-time are infinite. Although time may have had a beginning, it has no end, and the universal volume is also infinite. (This seems to comply with the interpretation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity). However, we can only see the ‘finite’ past, i.e. the Observable Universe in a ‘finite’ time, even in principle.
According to Frank Shu ‘The conflict between the two theories of open and closed systems is important to resolve if we want to understand the true difference between the ‘total’ Universe and the ‘observable’ Universe.’
Both the closed and open Universe are ‘almost equally bizarre according to our normal conceptions of physical reality.’
d) The Degradation of the Environment
The concept of entropy increase is applied throughout the Universe, as it is considered somehow a ‘closed’ system, meaning that the quality of all energies is degrading from a higher state to a lower state. In a typically closed system, such as in our solar system, the quality of energy could be maintained or even decreased, whereby entropy could remain the same or even decrease, but at a ‘price paid elsewhere’. Such a decrease of course could also apply on the same basis anywhere else in the Universe.
The contingent nature of biological life, its growth, its development, and the environment requires the continued renewal of degraded energy as a whole on Earth. The energy transformation of the Sun is fully understood, together with the way nature turns it to our advantage in sustaining the highly contingent biological existence on Earth. The modern industrial West has developed intricate and effective methods for maintaining the ever increasing drive to consumerism.
The price, ‘the tax we pay elsewhere’ is then what our ‘science, technology, and the businesses of mining, agriculture, commerce, construction, etc. demand in return’ are all about. While these industries are trying to satisfy our ever-increasing demand and greed to continually provide and maintain our habitat, sustenance, health and entertainment, these satisfactions all come, of course, at a price paid globally and through, sometimes irreparable, degradation of local environment.
As a consequence, the global environment is continually being put under stress caused by pollution of the oceans, rivers, earth and the air. This alarming process of destruction cannot be slowed down or reversed through natural means. This is a scary thought, but – like entropy itself – it is also irreversible and may only be controlled through ‘artificial’ ways of creating more pollutants as by-products. Note that the recycling of materials is another paradox, because recycling only saves the material, while new energy has to be spent to recycle.
Warning: Earth already gains no net energy from the Sun any longer, because the same amount of energy is returned to space in the form of infrared radiation. The Earth has long passed the energy balance. There is now only an average of 23o Celsius of the planet’s surface temperature globally, due to the ‘greenhouse effect’ of CO2 and H2O in the air. (Frank Shu, 1981) All these unsettling phenomena could be summed up by saying: we are not having an ‘energy crisis’ but an ‘entropy crisis’.
There is consensus among scientists, based on observations and credible mathematical models, who say that ‘global warming’ is definitely true, because it has already arrived. There is, however, a somewhat less vociferous, opposing view to this. This is essentially based on two observations taken over the last 120 year period (one on the solar radiation alone and the other on the solar radiation including the CO2–caused warming effect). Both readings were taken separately as yearly temperature variations over the same Antarctic surface area. When subtracted, the resulting average temperature reading due to solar radiation alone from the average reading due to the combined solar + CO2 input data, the overall average surface temperature decrease is -0.8oC (not an increase). The latter observations indicate that, although there are periodic, short-term changes in climate temperature, the overall picture proves that in the long term the latter theory is true. (Note that in this opposing theory ‘global warming’ is still out of public favour and ‘climate change’ as well as ‘the extremes’ now are definitely in). The difference between the two semi-scientific theories, as in every other such mathematically proven ‘true’ (and nice) theory, may lie in the crucial facts of how reliable were the observations and how and who interprets such observations; therefore the jury is still out.
It appears finally, that the second Law of Thermodynamics is an absolute ruler of the Universe. Entropy being irreversible makes some scientists wonder: ‘Does the irreversibility principle mean perhaps that there is an incompatibility between quantum physics and the Theory of Relativity?’ (i.e. in-determinism versus determinism.) There are some problems that require further study, especially in the Standard Cosmological Model.
The following is a brief summary of the four Laws of Thermodynamics:
- In his major work, Second Law of Thermodynamics, Peter Atkins describes four laws, of which only the second law is detailed in this article.
- The following are the four Laws of Thermodynamics:
- The Zeroth Law: This defines one of the deepest concepts of thermodynamics, the temperature of things.
- The First Law: This is the so-called Energy Principle, which states that the quantity of energy is conserved. This means that the total energy of the Universe is constant at zero degrees Kelvin. Although forces could come and go, energy is here to stay. We deal with energy, yet we still do not know what it exactly means.
- The Second Law: This is one of the all-time great laws of science, called the Entropy Principle, which states that the quality of energy of the Universe decreases spontaneously. That is, the entropy of that system statistically increases through an irreversible process. Quantum systems also tend towards a state of lowest quality of energy and maximum entropy. Biological life tends towards quality improvement at the expense of universal environment, by taking its high-quality energy from the Sun and its terrestrial by-products, such as minerals and oil, etc., which are limited. The second Law of Thermodynamics is the only one physical law that defines the irreversibility, i.e. the ‘direction’ of time.
- The Third Law: This deals with the properties of matter at very low temperatures. Absolute zero Kelvin is unattainable in a finite number of steps. At zero Kelvin temperature all forms of matter become perfectly ordered (usually perfect crystals). This third law may not be a true law, as are the first and second laws, because of the assumption of the atomic nature of matter.
- All these laws are intrinsically mathematical subjects, set out by Clausius as functional thermodynamics and by Boltzmann as statistical thermodynamics.
- As a matter of interest, Ludwig Boltzmann’s tombstone in the Vienna central cemetery has the equation: ‘S = k log W’ in the inscription. (Meaning: Entropy = Boltzmann Constant x log of Measure in a chaotic system). Peter Atkins’ final comment: ‘Not knowing the Second Law is equivalent to not having read a work of Shakespeare.’
- Corollary to the Ultimate End-state of Matter: Through reading Paul Davies’ book The Last Three Minutes, the following intuitive thoughts emerged:
- One new force hitherto unknown or one of the existing forces of nature, the mightiest of them all in either case, will deal the final blow to the entire Universe in the end. Which one will it be?
- Is the final count-down in progress already or will it come unexpectedly? The answer depends on the previous question.
- Will that force be self-destructing, and, if so, is there any evidence for such phenomenon in nature observable today or is this concept a contradiction in terms?
- What will happen to that force after having destroyed the entire Universe except itself? This mystery appears to be analogous to the beginning of the Universe, but in reverse; i.e. what is the force that started the Big Bang. Ultimately, are these forces one and the same force?
The following is a summary of this article through its individual sections:
1) What is Matter?
There is no conclusive statement on this complex question. The problems are centred on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, the Quantum Theory and the conflicting cosmological models.
2) Origin of Finite and Infinite Matter
There is no scientific evidence for or against any kind of origin, shown by the disagreement among the cosmological models.
3) Infinity and Causality
There is no agreement among the scientists on these topics.
4) Origin of Matter by Chance
This theory falls into the same category as the previous item
5) Evolution and Properties of Matter
There appears to be a general agreement on these.
6) The Ultimate End-state of Matter
The Law of Thermodynamics is questioned on account of its statistical nature, and whether the Universe is truly closed. The Law of Entropy is also doubtful on this account. The Law of Contingency with regard to environmental degradation is, however, neither questioned nor denied.
It appears from the study of the multitude of semi-scientific theories that many of them are either incomplete and or omit some of the contentious items listed in this conclusion.