Why is there stuff in the universe?

Let there be stuff? I don’t think that’s a very satisfying answer. This one is much better.

This lecture is entitled ‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss. It is rather lengthy, but amusing throughout and not too technical for a lay audience, such as myself. The introduction is by Richard Dawkins, who if I remember correctly, at some point calls Lawrence Krauss the Woody Allen of physics. It’s a fairly apt description, and a high compliment IMHO.

I highly recommend this. If you’re thinking it’s not worth the time, just replace a couple of reruns of older TV shows with an hour of this. It’s better for your brain anyway and just as entertaining.

29 Responses to Why is there stuff in the universe?

  1. Kerberos says:

    Nicely done Scott,

    I’m trying to ascertain why the universe is 13.72 billion years old, yet the oldest stars are approximately 16 billion years old?
    How’s that possible?

  2. Hi Kerberos,

    Short answer. It isn’t possible. Check your source for oldest stars. It may be from before we knew the correct age of the universe. Not that long ago, estimates would change by a factor of two every so often, though I seem to remember that it doubled from 7 billion to 14 billion years. Then WMAP cleared it all up. I believe the age is currently stated as 13.73 billion years plus or minus just 158 million years, which is a very small range.

    There are, however, estimates that stars with about 85% of the solar mass (mass of our sun) may last longer than the age of the universe before their deaths. Perhaps this is what you were reading, that these may last that long, even though this is greater than the age of the universe today. All that would mean is that none of this type of star have died yet.


  3. Kerberos says:

    Hi Scott, me again.

    HE1523 is about 13.2 billion years old, and the oldest star yet detected. Space. Com.

    Boy do I feel stupid.
    Well, thanks for setting that one strait for me. Thanks.

  4. No problem Kerberos. I expected that it was conflicting information due to the two bits being from different sources and different years. We’ve learned a lot in recent times. WMAP was not that long ago and is a very authoritative and reliable source for age of the universe.

    Interestingly, did you catch that the star you referenced is thought to have formed from the remnants of an earlier exploded star? I was not aware that the universe had produced stars that long ago. The prior star must have been very massive and short-lived for its remnants to have created HE1523.

    BTW, on WMAP, I seem to be citing the 3 year (outdated) result. The 7 year result, out since 2010 puts the age at 13.75 billion years. The one year result was out since 2003. Anything written before that probably didn’t have a very accurate age of the universe.


    Take a look at historical estimates of the age of the universe, noting that WMAP’s estimate is not included here. Note that the error bars on each of these estimates was still quite large. Also note that only the NASA estimate from 1999 even had the error bars bracketing the current known age of the universe. Today’s error bars are much smaller than any of these estimates and represent a far greater degree of confidence in the answer.


    There was even a time not that long ago when the age of earth was estimated at 25 billion years and the age of the universe was estimated at 5.5 billion years. Clearly one or both of those numbers were wrong. Science gradually converged on much more precise numbers. Perhaps we will get even greater precision. However, the current error bars of less than 1 percent for the age of the universe indicate a fairly high degree of certainty.

    My point though is that anything written before 1999 would have had severe trouble with time and would have been much more likely to show objects older than the then-current knowledge regarding the age of the universe. What it meant at the time, and scientists knew this then, was that one or both of the numbers were wrong.

  5. Hi Scott,
    I watched the full lecture, and found that some of the concepts are just a little difficult to get one’s head around. How can individual atoms or ions pop in and out of existence? Where do they go? Are they the same ones when they pop back in? ie. an Oxygen ion leaves, does it come back as a Nitrogen or Carbon?
    And multiple Universii undetectable except for the gravity that they exert! Are they made of Anti-matter and Anti-energy? Plus also diverging at ever greater speeds just like the observed Universe!
    I think the biggest question is why is light limited to the measured speed? What is the barrier to it going faster? Now if these Neutrinos detected at faster than the speed of light hold up over time, and if Scientists find a way to detect the direction they arrived from, then maybe a greater picture of the Uniuverse(ii) can be calculated. What else besides Neutrinos are emitted from stellar thermonuclear sources which we have not detected and focused on?
    All great fascinating stuff. When Dr. Krauss gives an updated lecture, I hope to be able to watch it, too! His talk was prior to the Neutrino speed discovery!

    • Hey Sir Munkee,

      How’s it going? Yes. Some concepts are hard to get. Let me start with saying that I still think that the faster than light neutrinos will turn out to be bad data and non-existent. This speech, BTW, was given again post-FTL-neutrino study and did not change. In fact, I thought he glossed over that in this video. I’ll have to watch again. The great likelihood, as the experimenters know, is that it will be disproved by better data or some other explanation of the bad conditions of the test. If I’m wrong about this (a real possibility), we’ll readdress the issue then. Until then, let’s stick with mainstream science.

      Atoms most certainly DO NOT pop into and out of existence.

      Virtual quantum particles, which have different masses and other characteristics than their non-virtual counterparts for some reason, do pop into and out of existence. However, please remember that quantum particles are the elementary particles. Quarks, electrons, neutrinos, gluons, and others are the particles that pop into and out of existence.

      Atoms do not for the same reason that people do not. Larger objects are made up of quantum objects but are not themselves quantum objects.

      Here is the list of standard model particles.


      These, plus the Higgs boson, assuming it exists as currently very strongly believed plus the antiparticles of these particles are it.

      If super-symmetry exists, there will be super-symmetric counterparts to all of these particles, including the Higgs. This is still hypothetical, of course.

      So, anything not on this list, is not a quantum particle and will behave as normal matter typically does. Dark matter, of course, is still an unknown.

      Regarding multiple universes, they are not observable at all, even by their gravitational effect. By the definition of what anything outside the observable universe means, it is not observable. It can make for nice hypotheses like the anthropic principle. But, such hypotheses are untestable. I have only ever heard one hypothesis, at a lecture by its author Lee Smolin, of a multiverse that led to testable predictions. It was very elegant. Lee Smolin gave another speech, also at the American Museum of Natural History, about a decade later in which he stated that the predictions had proved false. So, the hypothesis was dead.

      I like when a scientist is so willing to throw out a hypothesis when its predictions fail. It shows great honesty and integrity. Too bad though as I liked the hypothesis.

      As for limits to the speed of light, that is solidly in the theory of General Relativity. The interesting thing is that it was the constancy of the speed of light that was the biggest input into Einstein’s formulation of relativity (special or general, I can’t remember). But, that was the known fact that required explanation. Prior to relativity, one would assume that our motion would cause light to appear to come at us faster when hitting us head on and slower when coming from behind. This does not happen.

      In fact, according to relativity, if one were to have a very very fast space ship and bring it’s speed up to 90% of the speed of light and a beam of light were to run parallel (and somehow be observable), the beam of light would pass the ship with a relative speed of the speed of light. So, increasing the speed to 99% of the speed of light, another beam of light would pass by the ship at a relative speed of … the speed of light. Increasing to 99.999999999% of the speed of light, the beam would still pass the ship with a relative speed o the speed of light.

      Time would be ticking very slowly in this ship. The mass of the ship would also be increasing exponentially to something extremely huge.

      In case this sounds literally incredible, i.e. not believable, rest assured that the satellites that make your GPS work account for this difference in clock speed, else they would not work.

      Hope this helps,

  6. tim marakovits says:

    a question on arrogance… if future astronomers will be wrong in there theories of the universe because other galaxies will be moving too fast to see, how can we be sure there wasn’t something else prior to the big bang and astronomers who were around prior to that event, say 100 billion years ago, weren’t saying the same thing about us and that most of our theories are based on incorrect observations? Because 100 billion years from astronomers observations and calculations will be fact to them, just as ours are to us now.

    • Actually tim,

      What came before the big bang is a very good question. But, like all things outside our observable universe, this one being outside the dimension of time, we may not have the ability to formulate testable hypotheses about that time. So, while we may speculate, if we cannot test, the question will not be answered.

      Current theory states that it was the event of the big bang that began the flow of time. If that is the case, “before the big bang” would be meaningless. However, the point is that for science to be science, we must be able to make testable hypotheses.

      This is not arrogance, quite the contrary. Scientists were arrogant in the days when they called their findings laws of nature rather than theories.

      Today we use the word theory for a tested hypothesis that has passed all tests to date. And, we recognize that should a theory fail a test, it will need to be either thrown out, as in the case of alchemy, or subsumed into a larger theory that accounts for more conditions, as was the case with Newton’s Laws of Motion. They are still useful in their realm. But, we know that they fail under certain conditions. We use relativity for those cases where Newtonian physics does not work. We could use relativity all the time, but the calculations would be far more cumbersome. And, they would not be necessary for building bridges and skyscrapers.

      Unfortunately, today’s humility on the part of scientists causes no end of confusion among lay people who assume theory means the same thing in normal English speech or in a court of law that it does in science. This could not be farther from the truth.

      • tim marakovits says:

        Thanks Scott. Agreed. We must be able to test hypotheses in order derive a theory and a theory is a theory, not a law. I suppose my point on arrogance came from a tested hypothesis in dealing with politicians. Based on many personal observations I have derived a theory that these entities have unfortunately evolved (perhaps devolved would be more appropriate) into beings who have become incapable of objective observations.

        That’s why I like science. It’s supposed to be objective. Unfortunately this evolution or devolution may be more all encompassing and may be oozing out of the political gene pool into science. I really enjoyed L.Krauss’s lecture and would have enjoyed it a lot more if he kept it scientific.

        I don’t accept things on a word. I question a lot , about everything, but I won’t go into my “why are we here” questions, because Larry’s right, we’re here because we’re here.

        If “knowing the answer means nothing, testing means everything”, my question is this. If future astronomers’ theories will be wrong in thinking they are the ones “living in this special time of the universe” and subsequently observe they are the center of the universe, then that observation will be wrong because they cannot test what they cannot observe (as in those future real, but invisible galaxies), couldn’t it be true that there are some things present today that we cannot observe (even though they are really there) therefore making some of our tested hypotheses invalid? If so, I don’t understand Mr. Krauss’s choice to take a position on the existence or non-existence of a god. Since it cannot be tested, we don’t know, and perhaps it can be left out of the scientific discussion.

        Religion is used as an excuse by many people to cause many problems. It is also used as a reason for many people to do a lot of good. Just as in the phrase ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people’, religion in and of itself doesn’t causes the problems, it’s how some of us choose to use it to suit our own needs. If Larry wants to change society he’ll need to pursue a career in social work or volunteer to feed a hungry kid. But attempting to make people feel intellectually inferior because they choose to believe in things that cannot be observed may not be the wisest way to accomplish that. Because, as might be the case 100 billion years from now, those things we cannot observe may really be there.

      • Hi tim,

        You make some good points, though there are a few with which I disagree. I’ll take them one at a time.

        Re: evolution of politicians:

        Evolution is non-directional. There is no devolution to compare with evolution. There is no general trend toward intelligence or complexity or any other so-called higher end. In fact, if evolution has any directional bias at all, it’s a very slight bias toward simpler organisms. This is seen in the great many parasites on the planet who have lost some or all of their own organs needed to survive on their own and instead rely on their hosts.

        Perhaps politicians fall into this parasitic class.

        Re: Lawrence Krauss.

        I can’t answer this issue you have with him making non-scientific statements without knowing which statements in particular you take issue with.

        Re: Things beyond the observable universe.

        Certainly the universe does not end at the point where things are moving away from us faster than the speed of light, despite the fact that no single object is moving faster than light. Nor does the universe end at the point 13.75 billion light years away where light simply does not have time since the beginning of the universe to travel the distance necessary for us to detect these objects. These points, whichever is closer to us, simply mark the edge of the observable universe, that which we have a hope of observing. They are not the edges of the universe itself. What is beyond those edges? More of the same? We will never know, at least not without developing some form of faster than light travel or possibly wormholes in space-time. Therefore, there is no point in discussing it. Presumably, if there are intelligent species in the galaxy in 100 billion years, they will say much the same thing. No point in hypothesizing about the universe beyond the observable universe because we cannot make testable predictions about it.

        That is all science is saying today about our boundaries. That is the reason for the phrase “observable universe”. It acknowledges that there may be much beyond the edges. There may also be a multiverse of other universes. We cannot observe these things though. So, we cannot make testable hypotheses.

        Occasionally, scientists may formulate a hypothesis that makes testable predictions regarding a multiverse or things beyond the observable universe. Lee Smolin did so; though he’s the only one I know of. The tests failed. The hypothesis wound up on the scrap heap right next to alchemy.

        Re: God.

        A) The God hypothesis or rather the suite of gods hypotheses do make testable predictions. They predict that prayer will be effective. They predict that one or more gods interfere with the daily running of the universe. These predictions have proven false. A universe with a one or more personal gods temporarily suspending the laws of physics to respond to someone’s prayers or just in the course of his/her daily god business would be demonstrably different than the universe in which we live. A god who simply created the big bang and went away is as irrelevant as the objects beyond the observable universe. S/he simply has no more effect on the universe and may just as well not exist for all practical purposes.

        B) The suite of gods hypotheses have been around for thousands of years. Not a single shred of credible scientific evidence has ever been found for any god or gods. String Hypothesis (I won’t call it a theory until it makes a testable prediction) has only been around for less than 40 years. Already, some are saying that it should be thrown out, or at least that other hypotheses should get equal or greater funding for research since this one is not panning out. Alchemy died for the same reason, lack of evidence.

        How many years would you keep a hypothesis alive without any supporting evidence?

        Atheism is not an assertion about god(s). It is an assertion about the level of evidence required to entertain a hypothesis.

        Just as we don’t believe in fairies and unicorns and fire-breathing dragons due to a complete and utter lack of evidence, so too do we not believe in god(s) for lack of evidence. Were some evidence to be presented, real hard scientific evidence, no atheist I’ve ever met would still maintain their atheism.

        So, show us some data, then we’ll talk.

        Re: Religion, good or bad.

        In my opinion, one must weigh the sum total of the effect of religion, i.e. the works of its practitioners, in order to state whether religion is good or bad. My own opinion is that the net effect is hugely negative, despite the good that has also been done. My reason for this opinion is quite simply the huge number of deleted humans specifically killed in the name of religion. True, atheists kill too. I do not forget Stalin when I say this. But, at least in all cases of which I’m aware, killer atheists are killing for an ideology, not for atheism. In the case of Stalin, the ideology was Communism (mixed with legitimate mental illness in the form of paranoia). Communism may be a greater evil than religion. I’m not sure. It’s basic premise, which sounds so good at first glance, is wholly evil.*

        Re: Pissing off the religious.

        In general, I agree that it’s best not to piss off those who one wishes to convince. Unfortunately, I’m not that eloquent. I have yet to find a way to convince anyone that atheists even deserve respect, let alone that the idea of atheism is correct. Most today think that atheists have no morals. This is patently false. I have had many discussions where I have shown people that their morals do not come from the bible, and that is a good thing.

        Once I point out the fallacies in all of their arguments to the contrary, I see one of two responses, they simply leave without ever acknowledging my point. Or, they are more angry with me than ever. Too many religious folks are too married to the idea that their morals come from the bible to ever believe that an atheist can be a moral human being. I don’t know what kind of argument would work without pissing off people on the other side.

        Do you have any ideas?

        You mention charitable acts. There are already numerous secular charities, such as Red Cross, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, most environmental organizations, etc. And yet, people still regularly cite that all charities are religious. This is far from true.

        So, what could atheists do that would convince the religious that atheists deserve the same rights as the religious without pissing off the religious? I’m not looking to “convert” anyone to atheism. I’m merely seeking to assert my rights. What argument might work?

        * From each according to his/her ability to each according to his/her needs. That sounds so nice. Unfortunately, the barely hidden evil is in who decides one’s ability and needs. Assuming that I can produce more than I need, someone will force me to work until death and take the extra. And, that same person also gets to determine my needs. Multiply this by a large society and those crumbs scraped off the top by the ruler add up to a lot. And you end up with a whole lot of people living with just barely met needs, if things are running well, and with unmet needs if not. And, they’re working that way and living that way until they drop dead.

  7. tim marakovits says:

    Loved your classification of politicians and your stance on communism, but we digress.
    I think the issue here is beliefs versus assertions of being right.
    I make no assertion of being right. My assertion is that some people believe in some things that others don’t. I follow the Eagles, others like the Cowboys. That’s their right. If I’m having a conversation with a cowboys fan about football I’ll use facts, statistics and yes, my opinions to argue why I believe the Eagles are a better team. It’s the other person’s right to do the same for his team. If I’m having a conversation about politics with a cowboy fan, I will use facts, statistics and again my opinions to argue my political point of view. And again, s/he has the same right to argue their position. Although I can’t say never, I can say I probably wouldn’t mix football statistics with unemployment statistics to argue a political or economic point of view.

    During Krauss’s physics lecture he includes multiple slurs against beliefs that differ from his own. You asked for some examples:
    “…cosmology is much more remarkable than the fairy tales that make up most religions situations”
    “… sterile aspects of religion where the excitement is knowing everything when they clearly know nothing”
    “… forget Jesus, the stars died so that you could be here today….”
    After one of these comments he says “This is a science talk but I’ll throw in little bits of commentary”. Why?
    If Larry wants to discuss religious beliefs, let’s discuss them. If he wants to talk about the politics of George Bush, let’s discuss them. If he wants to talk about expanding universes, then let’s discuss that.

    To your question… “So, what could atheists do that would convince the religious that atheists deserve the same rights as the religious without pissing off the religious?”
    Here’s a suggestion.
    You have the right to be an atheist, so be one. Others have the right to believe in God, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Satan, … etc.
    Who’s right? Who cares. It’s their right. If it helps get them through their day, week or life, great.
    What I care about are Larry’s who use their academic pulpit and perceived intellectual superiority to degrade and minimize what others believe in.

    I know there are evangelists who will ridicule atheists from a pulpit, and mullahs who preach death to all infidels. Although they’re doing it from the proper venue, it’s a shame and I don’t agree with them either. If you are firm in your beliefs, whatever they may be, you shouldn’t need to lash out at those whose beliefs differ.
    He also says “Science loves not knowing” and “Cosmic humility should be a characteristic of science… the recognition that we don’t understand everything”.
    Then why profess that he does in this respect? You do not believe in gods due to lack of evidence. Maybe I don’t either because I experienced several terrible tragedies and cannot possibly believe any God would have let them occur. Or perhaps I prayed for my terminally ill child who recovered, and I firmly believe God answered my prayer. Can either of those situations be considered hard evidence?

    So you can’t observe what happened or what existed before the event when science “believes” time began. Does that mean nothing existed? No, it just means you can’t observe it, and that makes it irrelevant. But to use Larry’s example again, those future astronomers who will not see any other galaxies will hypothesize, test and then theorize that there aren’t any. But there are. Perhaps in that future there will be true intellectuals who allow other people to believe those galaxies exist, because it’s their right to do so without ridicule.

    • Hi tim,

      Hmm… funny. A mind is a terrible thing. Because I already agree with those opinions, it barely registered that he even gave opinions. You’re right. He certainly did.

      What I didn’t notice in the intro was any statement of the purpose of the lecture, specifically that it was to be a pure science lecture. The intro by Dawkins certainly gives a clue that the lecture will likely be at least somewhat of a science versus religion type of lecture.

      One thing I would point out, more as an explanation than as a defense of such statements is that religion has been actively attacking science, especially in recent years. And the attack has been stepped up repeatedly with attempts at school prayer, calling evolution “just a theory” in biology classes, the Creationist Museum, etc.

      As an aside, religion is now even attacking history by rewriting history text books to call this country a Christian nation. It is neither. It was formed as a secular nation on secular principles by both Christians and non-Christians and is very much not a nation but rather a federation.

      So, the fact that this science lecture also takes a few pot shots at religion may be not truly so scientific but doesn’t really bother me the way it bothers you. Though, I do understand why it bothers you and acknowledge that you have a real point.

      I would also like to address specifically the point where he said, “… forget Jesus, the stars died so that you could be here today….”

      There are some interesting scientific points to be made here. First, one cannot even prove that Jesus as a flesh and blood human ever actually walked the face of the earth. There is simply no writing about him at all from the time of his supposed life. And, some of the stories about him are wildly at odds with what is actually known form the time. The San Hedrin would never have convened on Erev Pesach. It would be similar to the United States Supreme Court convening on Christmas Eve. It doesn’t happen. In the case of the San Hedrin, they would have had to explicitly violate their own law, the law of the Torah. There is also no mention of any controversial crucifixion taking place around the correct time.

      I am willing to assume that Jesus likely did walk the planet. But, with no record of him, it’s really hard to prove. Here’s a good write-up giving the reasons to question his existence as flesh and blood.


      What’s my point? Believe it or not, I do have one.

      It is genuinely a scientific and proven point that the “death” of at least one star did indeed go into our make up. We are truly and literally star barf, if barf is an acceptable term. The elements from the big bang were exclusively the lightest elements in the periodic table, hydrogen and helium to be precise. Though I think there was some trace amount of lithium in there too. I think this is mentioned in this video, though I could be confusing sources of information.

      The carbon, nitrogen, iron, calcium, and many other elements that are necessary to make a human are only formed inside stars. To make planets with these elements requires that the planet be formed from the remnants of an exploded star.

      So, unlike Jesus, whose physical existence cannot even be proven, it is a hard and well-proven fact that we are star barf.

      Did the star(s) die for us? Well, certainly stars are not sentient beings capable of saying “I must explode so that humanity can one day evolve.” But, the death of at least one star was required for our birth.

      Now, on to your point about my right to be an atheist. Do I really have that right? Do I have the same rights as theists? I don’t think so. Do you believe I, or any other atheist, no matter how qualified for the job could ever run for president in these times?

      OK, forget that. There are very few locations (actually one) where an atheist can attain any level of political office. Though the population of the U.S. is about 15% non-theist, there is only one admitted non-theist in congress.

      Now let’s move on. Can I use money without being subjected to the obvious violation of the establishment clause printed on the back since the McCarthy era? Can I say the pledge of allegiance to this once-great non-nation without acknowledging a deity in whom I do not believe?

      Hint: No.

      What about abortion and birth control? Is there any way to view this whole issue as anything other than Christians trying to create a Christian theocracy here in the U.S.? Really?

      What about scientific research that could cure my mom’s Parkinson’s disease? Sorry, Christians believe that a small lump of 20 undifferentiated cells smaller than the brain of a mosquito have more of a right to life than the mosquito or my mother. So, no medical research using stem cells here in the U.S. You’ll have to wait for China to pick up the slack (and make the money and have the competitive technological edge) for that to happen.

      No. We do not yet have the right to choose none of the above in religious matters. So, there is a reason people of science fight religion. It is self-defense. Stephen Jay Gould tried to make peace between science and religion with the concept of non-overlapping magisteria. Please note that I do not agree with Gould on this.


      Religion would have none of it.

      Oh, but, you might say that religious moderates do not feel this way. Religious moderates think it’s OK to have abortion and stem cell research and atheists in this country. You might even be right. If this were the case though, one might expect the religious moderates of this country to be fighting alongside science and atheists to keep this a secular nation.

      Will you join me and the Unitarian Universalists at the Reason Rally?



      Regarding the statement about science loves not knowing, it’s true. Scientists don’t do research where the answer is known.

      Religion, on the other hand, does not ask or even tolerate questions. When the religious point to the fact that we do not yet know how life came from non-life, you do not find them in the Christian Science Laboratory praying over test tubes to see if they can get God to create life in a test tube to show how he did it.

      Scientists do try to create life in a test tube and have gotten as far as organic molecules. They have also found organic molecules on a comet. This means the starting point may have been closer to life than expected.

      When the religious ask questions about how the universe began, the question always ends with God created it. And yet, it takes a non-theist to ask, then who created God? That question will never be tolerated in any Judeo-Christian-Islamic church. It is guaranteed to be answered curtly and definitively that God has always existed. Why God? Why not the hot dense mass that exploded into the universe? Why not simply “I don’t know”? Why is this not a valid area of research among the religious?

      Science seeks answers. Lawrence Krauss is one of the people working on origins, as this video states. Perhaps he will find a way to detect what was before the big bang. However, putting God there asks more questions than it answers.

      With God in place, not only do we have a huge and bizarre universe to explain, we now have to explain the existence of a creature who can go around creating such things at the rate of one a week. Is this not a clear violation of Occam’s Razor? Does it not get worse when it is taken to the logical infinite recursion of Creator-Creator-Creators?


      Yes. We can know that there are no gods in the same way that we know that there are no fire-breathing dragons. Proof of either would change our minds. But, there is no hint of proof of either despite centuries of talk of both. So, we say that they do not exist.

      Regarding future astronomers who can only observe one galaxy. They will be correct. Because, they will make the statement that the observable universe has just one galaxy. See my point in a prior post about the observable universe. These future astronomers will not say there is only one galaxy. They will say there is only one in the observable universe. That will be a true statement at that time.

  8. I have to disagree with you, Tim. There is no correct or incorrect venue, so to speak regards dissing those who you believe to be in error, or misunderstand the facts. Did Dr. Krauss break the law in his side-swiping theists? Not that I can see, but then I am Cdn., not American, plus an Agnostic and an Antagonist! [I have the scars to prove it!]
    As you probably know from the school yard experiences, if you hang it out there, somoeone will take a verbal shot at it, in some cases just for the hell of it!
    When the Rev. Pat Robertson advocated that your gov’t or Americans should take a gun and shoot the Iatollah for his actions and beliefs, that was a clear case of hypocrisy…total disregard for the tenets of Christianity or any moralistic conventions! To counter that public statement, do I or anyone else have to go up into a religious pulpit to lambaste the retard? NO, you do it from where you operate normally! In our case, the keyboard, n’est pas!
    It is human nature to ridicule others that do not adhere to percieved norms of what ever group one belongs to! It happens, so grow a thick skin, and soldier on! One benefit of ridicule is that it makes the recipient think about what he is doing and thinking. Some individuals are more mature about it than others, plus the level of self analysis can vary greatly! I had the advantage of being the eldest son of a psychological terrorist for a father. He could verbally rip a strip of hide off you or anyone for percieved inept actions, and had the fast fists to back up any physical confrontations! His ilk are missing today in our permissive society to its detriment! He did raise 3 who have never been arrested or convicted of criminal actions, and have never been on welfare outside of unemployment insurance!
    And another problem, regardless of what is said and where, in our society today, who is listening? We are so bombarded with advertising, political propaganda, never mind religious tripe, that the vast majority are mentally tuned out, off, and immune to the best of sales pitches, eh?!!!

    • I’ve got not much to add to this. I won’t express either agreement or disagreement. It’s entirely your opinion based on your experiences. I will say this though.

      “… so grow a thick skin ….”

      Someone’s been reading my etiquette page.


      I did think that this thread was going surprisingly peacefully though and would like to keep it respectful, if possible. Who knows though? We’ll see how my most recent post is received. Whether I’ve gone over the top can only be decided by the other side.

      • tim marakovits says:

        There is no other side here, it’s just a differing of opinions and only in some respects. And thank God for that (oops, sorry to interject a theme, just taking notes from Krauss). I agree that most people today wouldn’t take time away from an American Idol episode to actually have an informed conversation about something.
        But on the flip side, many of us have grown intolerant. No one agrees all the time. There was a time in America when even though intolerance was rampant on one side of the aisle it existed on the other so “we” moved forward. And yes, ‘forward’ is a debateable term so let’s not go there. After all, Bhutan may consider themselves much more advanced by measuring their Gross National Happiness quotient as compared to our GNP, and sometimes I’m tempted to agree with them. But people who emigrated to the U.S. (or Canada) in search of a better life, found it through hard work and overcoming intolerance by being tolerant (in most cases). I put “we” in quotes because I mean it to be the majority of individuals and individual familiies who took pride in a better tomorrow, not only for themselves but their kids.
        So I agree to disagree on the toipcs we disagree on. Because a world without tolerance is chaos or anarchy. A world where we all just get along? Well, not in my lifetime.
        I was going to leave this by repeating a quote I heard somewhere along my travels…
        “Is it better to live your life as if there is a God, and then fade into obliviion? Or to live your life as if there is no God, only to find out there is?” Or something like that.
        But then we’d get back into the argument of atheists being, or not being good, charitable people. I’m sure some are and some aren’t. Just like there are good chrisitians and those who only pretend to be when they go to chuch on Sundays.
        So, I’ll leave with a note that might, or might not, make a difference…
        From Scott…
        “…Regarding future astronomers who can only observe one galaxy. They will be correct. Because, they will make the statement that the observable universe has just one galaxy. See my point in a prior post about the observable universe. These future astronomers will not say there is only one galaxy. They will say there is only one in the observable universe. That will be a true statement at that time….”
        —But they’ll be wrong—

      • Hi tim,

        I’m glad we’re keeping this respectful. It’s often hard to do on both sides. I myself usually fail. So, this is a welcome change for me.

        The quote you cite is a correct paraphrasing of Pascal’s wager.


        I have issues with this wager. First, there is no reason I know of to even consider the God hypothesis as a possibility. There is, quite simply, nothing that even hints at it. So, as I said, I class it with other fiction.

        Second, and perhaps more importantly, accepting the God side of Pascal’s wager is far from cost free. Most hypotheses of god(s) exact a significant cost in terms of worshiping some number of times a day, or at the very least several hours once a week. This wastes that one life we get.

        Third, there is no way to know which god(s) hypothesis to accept. In the case of Islam, I believe one must pray 5 times a day. In the case of Judaism, it’s 3 times a day plus 4 on Saturday. In the case of Christianity, I’m not sure, but believe that it is at least several hours a week and one must guess correctly which flavor of Christianity. Then, add whatever requirements come from Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, worship of the Norse gods, the Greek gods, the Roman gods, plus all animist religions.

        In short, to properly accept Pascal’s wager, I strongly suspect there are not enough hours in the day. It would consume one’s entire life, the only life we know to exist.

        And, that’s without even considering the great many of these religions that expressly forbid worshiping the others, making it impossible to pick all of the above even if there were enough time.

        How would you pick which horse (set of gods) for your wager?

        Regarding those future astronomers, I’m quite surprised that you are still not getting the concept of the observable universe. What part of stating the limits of one’s knowledge gives you trouble? If you correctly state the limits, your statement is correct. In 100 billion years, it will genuinely be true that there is only one galaxy in the observable universe. Why do you disagree? The important point is that the universe beyond that galaxy will not be observable at that time. That is clearly noted in the statement. It is most certainly 100% true. The billions of galaxies we see today will have sped away so far as to be outside the observable universe.

        I think you need to think long and hard about what the term means. I have defined it above.

      • tim marakovits says:

        Let’s say you’re sitting on your back porch looking at your dog.
        You can see your dog because it’s in your field of vision, in other words, your currently observable universe. So let’s set your back yard as the limit to your currently observable universe, just as the speed of light is the current limit in the wider currently observable universe.
        Now your dog decides to run into your front yard so he is no longer observable from the limits of your observable universe.
        Does that mean your dog doesn’t exist ?

      • Tim,
        I don’t know about your dog, but if mine disappears around to the front yard, I better find out right now if she is chasing a rabbit from out of the hedge or under the big Spruce tree into the court and into someone elses yard. If a Rabbit or a Squirrel catches her attention, she does not bark of growl, but does boogie right after them PDQ. [American Golden Cocker Spaniel] I hope she never catches one or a cat either, since some neighbors would be very upset! Once the Skunks and Raccoons start coming around again in the Spring it will be on leash time all the time! At least we don’t have Porcupines anymore, but we have had one about 40 years ago of the 44 years on this court. [ We are the last of the originals]

        As for the Galatic argument, the hypothetical situation an exercise in the perverbial. Homo sap. maybe history, or even superceded by another mutant brain trust! Ha ha ha

      • No. It doesn’t mean that the dog does not exist. It means you cannot tell anything about the dog anymore. The dog may have been run over by a car. The dog may have run away from home. The dog may be anywhere, including carried off by a harpy eagle.

        That’s all it means when future cosmologists report that there is only one galaxy in their observable universe. They have no idea if there are others. They cannot know. They will never know. They will be claiming only the knowledge they have available to them. They will not be wrong. The other galaxies will be forever beyond their reach. And that is their only claim.

        And, that’s the difference with your dog. Your dog may come back. You may find the body. You may see the eagle fly off. Regardless, your dog remains in your observable universe. The other galaxies, with the exception of Andromeda that will merge with ours to become a single galaxy, will not be anywhere accessible ever again, being outside the range in which light can reach the observer.

        I believe we’re actually in agreement on this now. Correct me if I’m wrong.

        If you do decide to correct me though, reply to the thread in general, not this post. It’s starting to get ugly here with such narrow margins. (I wonder why the margins outside of this are outside of our observable web page. I’ve never figured out how to fix that and keep the look I like. 🙂 )

  9. Scotty,
    Will the margins open up if you go to the washroom instead of crossing your legs! Ha ha ha

  10. Roight Munkee,

    The possibility of cosmologists in 100 billion years is real. They will almost certainly not be human. After we finish causing our current mass extinction, taking ourselves and many others out of the picture, it will only take 50 million years or so for the biosphere to recover to its pre-human diversity.

    More importantly though, this planet will be toast in under 5 billion years when the sun engulfs the planet in its red giant phase.

    So, we’re talking about hypothetical cosmologists somewhere else in the galaxy. Or, perhaps they will be in a different galaxy unable to see ours. By that time, all galaxies will be unable to see all other galaxies, with the possible exception of very small galaxies like the Magellanic clouds that orbit our Milky Way. Galaxies held together gravitationally like that may stick together. Disclaimer: I’ve never heard anyone mention orbiting galaxies ether way with respect to the accelerating expansion of the universe. It just makes sense to me. If this is important to you, google and let me know the answer.

    Actually our own galaxy will be the result of our merger with the larger Andromeda galaxy. So, the corporate merger of these two galaxies will likely keep the name of the larger Andromeda rather than the smaller Milky Way.

  11. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    That was a delight to see. He really got going at 28 min into it. New for me: we can directly measure the size of the universe ….. hmmm… thats what he said all from gravitational lenses and the heat of the early universe prohibiting matter from forming so it was all a plasma (sic?)…. but then at the end he said that the universe was infinite too. You can’t measure infinite…so…as always…I can only imagine for a few moments at a time that I understand anything about this marvelous singularity in time and space.


    • I’m glad you enjoyed this. My understanding is that the universe is not infinite but is larger than we can measure.

      The observable universe is easy to measure. It is 13.8 billion light years in all directions. Beyond that, light has not had time since the big bang to get here. Determining the age of the universe has been difficult. But, this concept of the observable universe is simple.

      • Rodnikov Magilovich says:

        The very fact that we can detect gravity exerted by non visually observable mass(es), means that the Universe or Universes dimensions are not known or finite until such time as we can ascertain the directions and magnitudes there of to flesh out the realities. In time, greater minds will prevail, and devise means to this end. Intelligence is not a patent-able or proprietary commodity! Trust in Science and Scientists of the right kind!

      • Are you referring to dark matter in your first sentence?

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

        I would have to view the video again for what he exactly said. Maybe it was the “shape” of the universe?==or somewhat related whether it is open or closed. I don’t know, as stated, its only a short term illusion that lets me think I understand any of it. But you are right, maybe the issue was its shape or dimensions “based on” what is observable. That at least makes some sense to me for a few days/weeks. When time permits, I will go back to the 28min mark and listen to it again. Nice discussion in the side bar when clicking through to Youtube.

        So much of interest is available today. Just not enough time.

  12. Rodnikov Magilovich says:

    Probably, but why is it dark? Is it radiating in another polarization that we cannot observe? Are the “other” Universii co-incident with ours in space but not time? I will probably not learn this before I am extinguished how ever that happens!

    • The fact that dark matter is “dark” says nothing about other universii or dimensions. It doesn’t even really mean dark in a traditional sense. True it neither radiates nor reflects in any part of the electromagnetic spectrum. It also doesn’t block any part of the spectrum, which makes it very unlike a dust cloud, which does.

      So, I really just don’t understand what you mean by stating that this implies an infinite universe or an infinite observable universe.

      Sorry, I am just missing the point on this one.

      • Roderick Mc gillawee says:

        Scott,  No implication made for an infinite Universe, only that the dimensions are not finite and thus could and likely are larger than is now known. As to infinitely observable, I was implying only that if other means of making measurements based on detected gravitational forces, then it maybe possible to dimension the Universe or Universii more precisely. But that becomes far more complex if these currently unobservables are co-cohabiting the same or similar spacial locations! Nothing more, nothing less! Rod

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