Sunday, May 20, 2018

What's the frequency, Kenneth?

Thanks for tuning in!  Today we're gonna discuss the fine tuning argument as presented here.

The fine tuning argument is basically the idea that some prime mover/god/deity/whatever caused the conditions of the universe to exist exactly as they appear.  Currently, as far as we can tell, the laws of physics came about as time and space stratified as they expanded in the inflationary period at the 'beginning' of time.  It's in quotes because time isn't linear.
It used to be believed that whatever the conditions of the early Universe, that given enough time and a little bit of luck, intelligent life would inevitably occur somewhere.
It also used to be believed that gods were required to create rain or lightning, or to cause crops to grow, or all sorts of other things people at the time didn't understand. It used to be believed that the universe was comprised of aether, and that it was in a steady state.  What I'm saying is, it doesn't really matter what we believe, it matters what the evidence shows.
 This belief is even professed today by the news media; whenever water is discovered on some astronomical object such as Mars or Europa – one of the major moons of Jupiter, report speculate that where there is water, life is sure to eventually erupt like spring flowers after a rainfall.
 The news media are not scientists, and they don't publish peer-reviewed journals.  Also, the claim is generally that these would be good places to start looking for life outside of our planet within our solar system.  I'm not familiar with anyone claiming that life is definitely going to happen. Too bad they don't actually have any citations in their article, I could have fun responding to them as well.

This table appears in the original article.  Twice.
With no citation.  Let's see where it's from.

 The table appears to be from this source perhaps?  Maybe an older version or one of the related articles?  Either way, the table doesn't seem to be supporting the claims of fine tuning, only that the measurements exist, so let's sally forth.
 As a result of discoveries over the past fifty years or so, we now understand that such optimism was not well placed; in fact, the opposite is true.
No, the opposite isn't true either.  We can't claim for certain that life will or will not exist in those places.  They do resemble places on our own planet where life currently exists though, as well as places on our planet where life probably first start existing, like the vents at the bottom of the ocean.  They would surely kill us, what with all the heat and pressure and so on, but we aren't the only form of life.  Neither are flowers, as the article alluded to earlier.
Physicists have been stunned to discover how many samples of delicate balance initial conditions have to be for the existence of intelligent life anywhere at all in the cosmos.
First off, we don't actually know how much the laws could be different and support life.  Second, life is life, we don't need to qualify it with 'intelligent' or any other thing.  It's hard enough to define as it is, after all.  It's entirely possible that the laws of physics could have simply changed at the time the singularity inflated, and that there was plenty of life in the universe before it, with completely different rules.

Saying it's fine-tuned is a bit like looking at two halves of a broken rock.  Go out, find a rock, and break it.  Let's see if I can do that now. 
So I found a rock and tapped it with a hammer.

Look at those pretty layers
Clearly, I must have laid out the cleavage/fissure lines perfectly for it to break in exactly a way that it fits perfectly back together.  This couldn't just happen by chance, right guys?  The rock must have been tuned to break in such a way that the pieces could fit back together, right?

Might be some old dead thing was once trapped in that bit
Can you make out the few layers of rock there?  Surely they must've been formed by someone to perfectly layer up like that, right?

Of course not.  You can clearly understand, I think, how this line of reasoning fails.  The bits of rock fit together because they happen to have broken there.  In fact, it would be weirder if they didn't fit back together nicely.  Even as complex as those fractures are, you can understand why they fit together perfectly even though no one caused it to be that way.
 The delicate balance of initial conditions has come to be known as “fine-tuning” of the universe for life.  
The term 'fine tuning' only seems to exist in philosophy, really.  We know that as the universe expanded in time, the various forces came out of it, almost exactly like how the rock cracked when I tapped it. It happened relatively quick, just like tapping the rock, and the forces fit together as though they broke off in the way they did from the beginning.  You can even understand how the hammer isn't necessary in this example, sometimes rocks just crack.  Sometimes a universe just inflates, maybe.  Maybe something did, in fact, tap ours, but we would never know.  It also wouldn't mean that it tuned anything by doing so, because the apparent constants can just form spontaneously and ours just happens to support life. 
We have, over these fifty years, come to understand that the Universe is adjusted for the existence of intelligent life with such a complexity and delicacy that defy human comprehension.  
 If it defies human comprehension, then how are you certain that it is definitely tuned?  You mean that humans can't comprehend it and that's how you comprehend it?  Are you not human, by chance?

Although, I think most humans can comprehend the analogy I gave up there.  I even gave you pictures.
Several of these factors are adjusted with far more precision – trillions of trillions of trillions more precision – than anything that is remotely possible by humans today.
 See that rock I just broke?  See how precise the crack is, to land exactly between the pieces that formed?  Do you understand how I don't actually have to put the crack there for it to end up existing there?  It's at least as precise as this article claims.  I was so good I only put the crack exactly where the crack formed, and not anywhere else.
But why is this so?  
How did it come to be that the Universe is so finely adjusted for the emergence of intelligent life – and indeed, is so finely adjusted for the existence of matter as to be nearly miraculous.
It isn't.  We just happen to exist in this one because we can.

Why this is Important

It appears to be important because it suits your narrative, nothing more.
When physicists say the Universe is finely adjusted for the emergence of life, they mean without these adjustments there could be no life.  
Sometimes they just use it as a turn-of-phrase, though.  Yes, there are physicists who think the variables had to be tuned. They are generally in the minority though, and don't generally give compelling arguments or evidence. Kinda like this article, in a way.  Most of the fine-tuning people won't even go so far as to say that ours is the only possible one, especially the scientist ones, because they understand that we don't have another universe to compare it to, for example. We simply can't assert whether or not ours is the only kind of universe in which life can arise.  I wish he'd quit saying 'intelligent.' Life is life, get over it.

Let's presume that our constants are the absolutely only ones that could produce life, though.  It still doesn't mean ours was tuned. It just means we happen to exist in a universe that has these constants.

Without the precise adjustments which are in place today, there would be no possibility of life for there would be no possibility of matter; there could be no stars, no galaxies, no planets – and no matter.
Do you have another universe with just one constant slightly modified to prove this?  Neither do I.  therefore I can't say, and neither can you, that one tiny change would result in an inability for life to form.  It may be that slightly different rules just produce slightly different criteria for life, and wildly different rules produce life the likes of which we wouldn't understand.
 For example, the Universe might have come into existence through the Big Bang explosion – and then almost immediately just collapsed back upon itself; or the Universe might have flung apart before any matter could coalesce into solid objects such as stars or planets.
This might have happened any number of times, actually.  The way the early universe formed in the inflation, we can't actually see the CMB and stuff beyond a certain point.  We know mathematically how the laws separated out in some cases, but beyond the earliest point we can view, we can't see any more.  It's entirely possible that it was actually a massive time/space flux before that, that acted exactly as was just described or something. 
To be clear, it is not that some other form of life-form might have arisen without the precise fine-tuning in existence today such as in a fanciful Star Trek episode; there would have been no matter from which life might have arisen.
Except that most of the life forms are biological and could exist within the constraints of this set of laws of physics in the star trek universe.  I don't think you quite understand this point.
 It turns out that the production of matter, the “elements” with which we are all so familiar such as carbon, oxygen, iron and uranium, requires accurate adjustment of multiple constants of nature, and it also turns out that these constants of nature do not have to be their current value.
Fair enough, it is what it is because that's how it is and it doesn't necessarily have to be this way. We can't say for sure that it can be any other way, but it's true it doesn't have to be as it is.  That rock up there, it could've broken along different lines, or fewer lines, or whatever.  It doesn't mean the rock can't break unless it forms exactly on those cracks, though. It doesn't mean that if it cracked on other lines, it would suddenly become a rhinoceros, either.

Two Kinds of Fine Tuning

Or none.
There are two kinds of fine-tuning,
Or there's not...
Forces of nature.  The first type of fine-tuning involves the constant of nature such as those holding the nucleus of an atom together, the gravitational constant, or the speed of light.  A “constant” is a law of nature that appears in mathematical equations that stand for unchanging quantities.  
 These are based upon observations, mind you.  The speed of light is C, for example. Traveling faster than the speed of light is potentially the same as moving backward in time, for example, and photons do this all the time.

See this thing right here?
Feynman Diagram.
But yes, it's true, we observe lots of forces acting consistently, in exactly the same way we observe cracks happening where rocks split.  Again, it doesn't mean that someone created the cracks exactly where they were just because they happen to be there, and just because they happen to be between pieces of rock, rather than somewhere else.
The laws of nature do not determine the values of these constants.  
Well, you're wrong. The constants describe the laws, more or less. Even if they change, or if they are different in other universes, those are still their laws, with their constants, one being related to the other.  Exactly like if the rock cracked differently, the crack (let's pretend it's a constant) still describes the bounds of the pieces of the rock (let's pretend it's the laws).  They do actually determine one another because that's how constants and laws work, even if they're different from ours.
There potentially could be other universes governed by the same laws of nature even though these constants have very different values.  
Correct.  Or they could be completely different laws with the same constants.  Either way, one will determine the other.  The dark matter that affects how things work in our universe might well be the exact opposite laws (anti-gravity where we have gravity) yet have the same constants, for example.
Depending upon these constants, universes governed by the same laws of nature would look very different
  Correct.  Although, you wouldn't be able to look at it, because light probably wouldn't work the same, etc.  It's very hard to think how different universes might act because we probably will be fundamentally unable to ever observe one in any meaningful way, even with advanced technology etc.
Arbitrary quantities.  In addition to physical constants, there are certain arbitrary quantities that are present initial conditions of the Universe upon which the laws of nature operate.  Because these quantities are arbitrary, they are also not determined by the laws of nature.
 I can't make sense of this statement.  Let's see if it gets any clearer.
An example of an “arbitrary quantity” would be the amount of thermodynamic disorder (or “entropy”) in the early universe.  It is just given in the initial big bang as an initial condition and then the laws of nature take over and determine how the universe would then develop.  If these initial conditions had been different, then the laws again the Universe would look very different.  If there had been less order or more order in the initial big bang conditions, then our Universe would not be able to have intelligent life – or even any life at all.
 So it's basically the first argument turned inside-out?  If the rock was larger or smaller, then it couldn't possibly be a rock?  A bigger rock with different cracks couldn't possibly form?

Also, ignoring how this doesn't make any sense, unless they've got another universe to reference, they can't say whether or not any given configuration of laws/constants can lead to life, and then to intelligent life.  It's like Douglas Adams described here...

It's a bit like saying that only one puddle can ever exist because other puddles are different, and therefore this specific puddle is the only one that could ever have slime or whatever grow in it.  It's very silly.
Another example of an “arbitrary quantity” might be the rate of expansion (“inflation”) of the early Universe.  Too much inflation and the Universe would fly apart; too little and the Universe would eventually collapse back into a hugely dense mass of plasma; either way, no life could exist.
"Might be..." See, that's the problem.  You can't say 'it has to be exactly the way I think it is because this or that might have happened if it wasn't.'  Aliens might have probed my brain, you see, so it's a good thing aliens don't exist, otherwise it means that my brain would be probed, therefore aliens might not exist, especially if there's only ten aliens.  If there were twenty aliens, that would just be too many for some reason, so there can only be ten aliens because there were none...

You can see how this reasoning falls apart, I hope.  Cracks under pressure, as it were...
Several examples of fine tuning, an estimation of their precision, and their importance are provided here.
No, they aren't. That table up there is just showing us the values of several constants, as well as our certainty to how correct they are in this universe.

Anyway, that's where I'm gonna leave it.  Time to start on my next video!  Thanks for tuning in!!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Cool Creators #13: Camille and Kennerly (The Harp Twins)

 This is a post in a series about creators I enjoy.

Today I'd like to introduce you to the harp twins, Camille and Kennerly.  They are known primarily for their harp covers of popular songs, which feature each generally playing her own harp.  Generally, their videos are shot in high quality in a rustic-looking location as they perform the piece.  They have a range of harp sizes to accommodate all styles of music, and generally make quite enjoyable content.

I'm also a fan of Iron Maiden so...
 This is a good example of what you can expect from them.  If you enjoy unusual instruments and good music, this is the channel for you.   Here's an older video to give you some idea of how they've adapted over time.  Also another catchy tune.

If you enjoyed that, be sure to follow them on Youtube to see when they create new content!  You can also follow them on Twitter and see when they're touring near you, for example.

Thanks again for tuning in, and stay tuned next time for another creator I enjoy!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Cool Creators #12: ViHart

This is a post in a series about creators I enjoy.

Today I'd like to introduce you to ViHart.  There's a good chance you're already familiar with her.  ViHart is a youtube creator, among other things.  Her iconic style and voice are instantly recognizable, and most of her videos involve math of some sort.  Take a look at this video, for example, probably the most famous video she's put out to date.

This is a classic example of the way in which she explains complex topics in simple ways, so that nearly anyone can understand to some degree.  My favorite videos tend to be the ones about music though, and this is one of my personal favorites.

She is also an accomplished mathematician, and you can find her website here.  Be sure to follow her on Twitter, too!

Thanks for tuning in!

Stay tuned next time, when I introduce you to another creator I enjoy!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Youtube tomfoolery

Apparently youtube thinks I would like to watch kids shows, nursery rhymes, and so on, from channels I'm not even subscribed to.

I'm watching PhillyD.  I'm subscribed to people like Mundane Matt, PewDiePie, Bearing, and other channels that are definitely more closely related to him than any of these suggestions.

Is youtube just blatantly spamming people now?  I pay for Red so I don't have to have advertisements.  If I let autoplay go, I'd end up watching whatever stuff this is.

Youtube appears to be losing its sanity as of late.  So weird.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking.

Stephen Hawking passed away today.  Here's a good video about him and his achievements.

"A still more glorious dawn awaits..."
-Carl Sagan

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Cool Creators #11: Bill Wurtz

This is a post in a series about creators I enjoy.

Today's creator I would like to introduce you to is Bill Wurtz.  He has been around for quite some time, and his unique style is fun to observe.  His videos, for example, are very well produced and have a purposefully slapdash feel, with heavy contrasts in color and mood.  Most of his videos are fairly short, but more recently they've become longer.  Check this one out, I really dig it.

I think it is safe to say that his style is unique among creators, on youtube or elsewhere.

Bill also has a website, where you can ask him various questions, or view most of his previous work.  He also has a twitter where he apparently makes one post per day.  If you enjoy his work, be sure to subscribe, so you can be the first to know when his new creations arrive!

Thanks for tuning in!  Stay tuned for more short blog posts on creators I enjoy!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Cool Creators #10: Poisoning The Well

This is a post in a series of posts about creators I enjoy.

Today I'd like to introduce you to Poisoning The Well, a comedy duo who consistently creates social commentary videos in a humorous manner.  Each video is well produced and timely, and addresses a current event in the social media sphere.  From the skeptic clone uproar to the dawn of internet bloodsports, PhatPat and SoFain give their unique style and spin to the events that shape our online lives.  Take for example this video, perhaps the best video on this channel, regarding whether or not dogs have boobs brains, I mean.  Do dogs have brains?  The intro's a bit long on this one, but I guarantee you'll enjoy it, or your melons money back!

The epitome of high-brow entertainment.

If you enjoyed that, be sure to subscribe for all their new content IN REAL TIME!  You can also find SoFain and Phatpat on twitter.  They can also be followed on facebook, and I hear they have a functional website resting at this domain.

Stay tuned next time as we look at other great creators that I enjoy. Thanks for tuning in!