Fahrenheit 10^10^12

Periodically one might wonder why Herr Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit fixed his temperature scale to a freezing point of water at 32 degrees, and the boiling point, at 212 degrees. Reading in Wikipedia that the numerical difference between boiling and freezing is exactly 180 furnishes one with relatively little additional comfort, unless one is planning a series of experiments in which the temperature of ice needs to be raised to boiling in exactly 180 annoying little increments.

For the big numbers of really hot stuff, of course, scientists use the Kelvin scale, so we say the surface of the sun has a temperature of about 8,500 Kelvin, whereas the surface of a white dwarf is closer to 85,000 Kelvin. For true convenience, this can be converted back to Fahrenheit using the formula TF = (TK whatever 459.67 … where we see that for big numbers the 459.67 conversion constant doesn’t mean a damn thing, and 85,000 x 9/5 is plenty close enough for government work.

Better we switch to theoretical physics, where a conversion factor of 9/5 can be too small to make a damn bit of difference either.

I’m reading in a complimentary Scientific American supplement, The Cosmic Life Cycle, that the Big Bang theory may have outlived its usefulness. It’s conveniently easy to visualize, sort of: from singularity to roughly the size of today’s visible universe, 10 to the 28th power centimeters (10^28), in about 10 to the -35th power (10^-35) seconds.

Cosmologists know that there are several severe objections to the Big Bang model, possibly insurmountable. I can remember only two of them. (1) If the universe expanded from essentially nothing to essentially everything in a finite amount of time, slightly greater than “an instant”, how did different parts of the expanding sphere know to coordinate their expansion with the other parts? (2) If space is curved, as relativity predicts, how come the universe is measurably flat out to 10^28 centimeters, pretty much the extent of today’s visible universe?

Replacement theories are harder to visualize, and we won’t even try, here … but they suppose infinitely expanding fractals, with a separate universe arising out of each whorl. If our visible universe is in a trough of one of those, it would appear “flat” to us, as “inflation” is occuring in other whorls that by definition, we can’t see. In this model, the true size could be up to 10^10^12 centimeters: that’s 10, followed by a trillion zeroes.

In such a model, our pathetic little 10^28 centimeter corner of creation would indeed appear flat, just as the 10×10 backyard vegetable garden appears flat against the 24,902 mile circumference of Planet Earth.

And the Scientific American pundits even speculate that there might be a way to create new universes in a laboratory, starting with super-compressed matter that is triggered into Expansion. What, they asked, if all universes had been created that way?

This would be the theory that in the beginning the earth was without form, and void, and a laboratory tinkerer said, Let there be light … and all that was before was destroyed, and all that came after was good. This is exactly what we were talking about in our November 2006 article Where Did It All Come From? , except we were joking, and – hey – DON’T touch those two little wires together!

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