So about 10 pm last night, while taking a break from sewing, I watched this really groovy tv program about black holes on the Science channel, which led me to an idea, which led to a conversation, which led to this post. But first – a little background….
When I married Studmuffin almost 22 years ago, I didn’t know much about physics, having never taken a physics class and had never heard of Occam’s Razor or Schroedinger’s cat, etc., and the Second Law of Thermodynamics? Forget it. He knew loads more about these things, so I took it upon myself to learn something about physics so I would better understand what he was talking about some of the time. Turns out, I love physics and I especially love subatomic particle physics, more commonly known as quantum physics…which is the area of physics that interests him the least, but hey, whatever. We both really like Einstein – what a GREAT thinker! And Newton was probably the greatest scientific mind EVER. But getting back to the subject, I’ve not done too much reading on current hot topics in physics in about 10 years, and even though I love physics, I cannot do the math without a WHOLE lot more education than I’ve got…..
Which leads me to this morning while I was taking him to work, I told him about the program about black holes which taught me several things: 1) black holes are common as houses in the universe, 2) Einstein’s theory of relativity has a flaw in it once you get down to the “center” of a black hole, 3) Einstein thought that black holes were theoretical (so the flaw in his theory didn’t really matter) but in recent years, a few scientists have observed proof that they really do exist. I won’t go into it all, but boy, is it COOL!
To make sure that you’ll get the idea I had, let’s talk about space. To get how Einstein’s theory of relativity and how it describes gravity, think of a heavy ball on a trampoline. The surface of the trampoline makes a kind of dimple where the ball is, and that’s how space (or more accurately, space/time) curves around mass in the Universe: planets, stars, galaxies, ok? Now throughout space/time, such as at the center of galaxies or wherever a star dies, there’s a super deep dimple in space time. Back to our trampoline analogy, it’s like someone took a nail and pushed it through a point in the surface of the trampoline and pulled it way, way down. That’s a gravity well, better known as a “black hole”, because the gravity is so strong in the well, light cannot escape and time stops.
At the center of the gravity well – where our theoretical nail is – is what the physicists call a “singularity”. At this point, the center is so incredibly small, the mass is so dense, the gravity so huge, that this is where Einstein’s theory of relativity has its flaw, because mathematically, we hit infinity and that does NOT go along with relativity. The theory of relativity describes everything really perfectly until we get to the subatomic level. When things get super small, things get *seriously* weird. Quantum physics is much more like philosophy than math or science, and when things get so tiny, gravity doesn’t matter very much at all.
Einstein, and many of the folks that have come after him, wanted to come up with an equation that describes everything, which he called the “Unified Field Theory”. It’s sort of like the Holy Grail of science. Many of the physicists and astronomers on this program believe that if we can describe the singularity at the center of a black hole, we’ll have the Unified Field Theory. So now, one of the big ideas to create this Unified Field Theory is squish together quantum physics and relativity; to try to come up with a theory of “quantum gravity”. So far, attempts to do this come out mathematically absurd – where the answer is not just infinity, but an infinity of infinities.
One more thing before we get to my idea: the huge number of black holes. Every time a star dies, it creates a gravity well. It is estimated that there are about a million of these throughout our own galaxy. And at the center of our galaxy, there is a much, much, MUCH bigger black hole – this is called a supermassive black hole. It’s also estimated that there are about a million galaxies throughout our Universe, and they all pretty much have the same number of black holes throughout with a supermassive black hole at the center of each. That’s a really BIG number of gravity wells, and singularities, to contemplate. Now on to the idea I had…
I want you to think about a fireworks display, like for the Fourth of July. The big ones, where everyone goes, “Oooh!” and are very often white or copper in color. When that fireworks shell explodes in the sky, all the sparkly bits radiate out from the exploding shell creating a kind of sphere, although when we see it, we don’t perceive it as spherical from our vantage point. The Big Bang theory of the creation of our Universe is that a singularity exploded about 14 billion years ago and voila! The Universe happened. All the galaxies in it are moving away from each other, much in the same way as the exploding firework we just thought of.
When we’ve been thinking of our space/time trampoline surface, we’ve been thinking of a flat kind of surface, but what if it isn’t? The idea occurred to me last night that space/time could indeed be spherical (we already know that it is curved) and that the center of all gravity wells could be the SAME center – not many singularities but one super-singularity. Now is the ONLY time that I wish I had all the education to come up with a mathematical equation to describe this idea. If this were true, well, what a Unified Field Theory that would be!
Since I’m not up on the latest news about the universe, I’m pretty sure that someone else has already thought of this. Still, it’s a really fun idea for me to think about. You see? TV doesn’t always rot yer brain. :o)
*In English, this means, “A little morning physics instead of night music, anyone?”