Tag Archives: Discovery Channel Curiosity

Analyzing the Cosmology Explanation Given by Stephen Hawking on Curiosity

28 Aug

In my paper, “Working Together on Knowledge,” I advance some standards for using language in the service of science and the type of understanding, clarity, and consistency that we want from scientific explanations. In this post, I’d like to use my proposed approach, or framework – called Place – to look at a specific example. The example I’ll analyze is Stephen Hawking’s explanation for the origins/beginning of the physical world that was made via the Discovery Channel’s TV show, Curiosity.

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A theory context should be empty at the beginning so that we can know clearly and explicitly what is in the theory and what is not. Thus, start by setting up a blank theoretical context in your mind. The goal for this context is for it to be the place where we develop the target explanation put forward by Hawking. Let’s call this context SH Cosmo Ex for Stephen Hawking Cosmology Explanation.

In order to communicate about theory (or anything really) we need nouns and verbs. [The most simple unit of communication is a declarative clause which consists of a noun and a verb.] Thus, distinguish between noun meanings [stuff] and verb meanings [forces]. The primitives of a theory are noun meanings called concepts, and verb meanings either capabilities (triggered) or rules (always effecting or active).

Next, introduce the concept of nothing into the SH Cosmo Ex context, we’ll call it Nothing. [This may seem strange, but it is also done by the set-theoretic development of numbers which starts with the null set; so it’s not without precedent.] And introduce a capability: to-separate-nothing.

Now, it could be that Stephen Hawking [Hawking] would take exception to the idea that his explanation needs a capability.

Consider that Hawking indicates through the use of a hole and the stuff removed from the hole that he envisions Nothing being separated into Energy and Negative Energy.

A principle in Place is that in any construction site (a theoretical context is a type of construction site) things stay the way they are unless a force is active to effect the change. (Force ≡ that which is common to verb meanings.) Scholars don’t generally accept magic as a part of science; if there’s a change, there is a reason for it. Therefore, if Nothing changes, if Nothing is separated into energy and negative energy, then some force acted to cause the separation. A capability, must be employed: to-separate-nothing.

Hawking wants energy to be a raw material in his explanation. However, with (conventional) dimensional analysis we know that energy has units of mass, distance, and time. Thus, the the basic raw materials involved in the SH Explanation are matter, space, and time. The presence of energy requires the presence of mass, space, and time.

Returning to the development of Hawking’s Explanation in SH Cosmo Ex, to-separate-nothing acts on Nothing to separate Nothing into amounts of positive mass, space, and time, plus amounts of negative mass, space, and time. Before to-separate-nothing spontaneously acts, there is no time or space. After to-separate-nothing is active, time begins, space begins, and matter begins (which is measured in units of mass). Anti-time begins, anti-space begins, and anti-matter begins.

It is known that if matter and anti-matter collide in equal quantities, then both are annihilated. But to my knowledge, most program-viewers and I have not been exposed to the idea of negative space-time. Given the dirt separated into a hole and a hill analogy given by Hawking, the positive something known as space-time would require a corresponding negative something which we’ll call anti-space-anti-time in order to balance the equation (established by Hawking) which equals Nothing.

Next, rules are introduced into SH Cosmo Ex that provide the 4 basic physical forces: gravity, electro-magnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. The analytical lens of Place reveals that whenever we have order rather than randomness, then a force known as a rule is active. The physical behavior associated with the basic physical forces is consistent and non-random. Thus, these forces are cast as rules in SH Cosmo Ex.

In the SH Explanation, the raw materials: space, time, matter, anti-space, anti-time, and anti-matter are initially present in a single clump that starts to expand. I think that Hawking sees this expansion as a result of the to-separate-nothing force, but it’s hard to say for sure. He asserts that causality requires time and since there is no time before the raw materials of the physical universe blink into existence there is no cause for the intial separation of Nothing. Would SH agree to a self-triggering force/capability acting on Nothing? A force, to-separate-nothing, is absent from the explanation he offered; however, it is necessary for a well-formed theory.

Let’s grant the required set up SH Cosmo Ex according to SH’s Explanation, starting with Nothing and the to-separate-nothing force. And we’ll further grant that everything starts out in a clump such that space (and anti-space) has practically no extension in any direction. Why does the clump expand?

Gravity acts in a radial direction pointed towards the center of mass, so gravity acts to keep matter clumped together. If no space is separating matter (as is the case if space has no appreciable distance in any direction initially), then individual charged particles are not present (a particle inherently requires a spatial boundary), so electro-magnetism would not have a role in the Big Expansion. The strong and weak nucler forces are short-range forces which are generally not seen as playing a role in the macroscopic movement of matter. And initially, there are not any nuclear particles, right? …just one singular clump of stuff. So why would there be any expansion of the clump?

The SH Explanation, as I see it, does not account for the Big Expansion which happens in his history of time.

Here’s another issue. What keeps anti-matter, anti-space and anti-time separate from matter, space and time? What keeps quantities of them from recombining into nothing? If some quantity of negative energy and positive energy combine, then we would experience this as (observable) energy being destroyed. And yet the conservation (non-destruction) of energy is a widely-observed property of the universe. The conservation of energy means that Hawking’s negative energy and positive energy don’t combine; they remain separate. This consistent non-random behavior must be effected by some force. However, the SH Explanation does not address this. Without a force maintaining separation, the SH Cosmo Ex permits the destruction of energy which would mean that the SH Explanation is at odds with the conservation of energy.

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I hope this analysis shows how Place can be helpful as a rubric for evaluating theories.

On the other hand, the SH Explanation makes me wonder if scholars are prepared to accept acts of magic – spontaneous appearances and disappearances – as part of a scientific explanation. Is Hawking’s explanation acceptable to the academic community?