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Perspectives

has been called quantum foam at gives relativists a headache arises on


String theory and the smallest scales. This is usually precisely that scale. String theory
the origin of the not a serious drawback, since strong therefore eliminates the problem
gravitational fields, the domain of and allows a unified description of
universenew idea, general relativity, usually occur on nature.2
old problem large scales, where the quantum effects String theory involves a number
are not noticed. But in some cases, such of very strange ideas. For example,
Daniel Schmidt as the singularity inside a black hole, the universe consists of nine or ten
there are strong gravitational fields spatial dimensions, along with the one
Perhaps the most serious problem (requiring general relativity) coupled dimension of time.3 Furthermore, all
with the big bang theory is the with very small scales (requiring forces arise from the same underlying
singularity problem, which involves quantum mechanics). If one simply force (just as electricity, magnetism
the original cause of the universe joins the equations of general relativity and the weak force are already known
to those of quantum mechanics, they to be interrelated). The properties of
and the origin of matter and energy.
give totally nonsensical answers to elementary particles are believed to
Big bang theorists can attempt to
calculations, such as infinity.1 arise from the patterns of vibrations in
describe the early universe, but so far
String theory is the most successful, strings. String theory has not yet been
they have not explained why there
and the most popular, attempt to unify completely developed or understood
is a universe to describe. However,
these apparently conflicting theories at the mathematical level, but so far it
there have been numerous attempts
in a coherent description of reality. A seems to have great potential.
at such an explanation, and recently
critical part of this new theory is the Despite its apparent theoretical
Paul J. Steinhardt has suggested yet promise, string theory does have
idea that elementary particles such
another idea, this one based on string the problem that there is not yet any
as the electron are not points, as is
theory. String theory is a new physical experimental evidence for or against
generally believed, but oscillating
theory that seeks to solve the conflict it. That will have to wait until either
loops of string. This apparently
between general relativity and quantum unrelated suggestion actually has the theorists or the experimenters
mechanics, thus providing a unified, profound implications for the conflict (or both) develop their techniques
overall description of physics as it is between general relativity and quantum and ideas further. In the meantime,
now known. But despite the advanced mechanics. however, string theory seems to be
physics involved, Steinhardts model When you want to probe something the most promising solution, even if
does not overcome, or even address, at very small scales (and assuming for speculative.
the old problems that have plagued all the moment that you cannot see it
previous naturalistic origins theories. directly), you can shoot very small String theory and the origin of
projectiles at it and see how they are the universe
An introduction to string theory deflected, thereby reconstructing its
image. Large projectiles will reveal As might be expected of such a
Quantum mechanics and general only the largest-scale structure of new physical theory, string theory has
relativity are both tremendously the object in question, giving only a important implications in the field of
successful scientific theories. Quantum crude picture. Very small projectiles, cosmology, and it has been applied to
mechanics describes the bizarre however, can be deflected by the the singularity problem.
workings of matter and energy on the smallest irregularities in the target, Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil G.
smallest imaginable scales; general revealing the finer details. In common Turok have claimed that string theory
relativity describes the force of gravity, experience we do this with photons, allows for the possibility of an eternal
and becomes useful when gravitational particles of light, without even thinking universe.4 In their model, called the
fields are so extreme that they begin about it. The pattern of light and ekpyrotic model, our universe is only
to depart from Isaac Newtons much shadow, revealing an objects shape, one of two. These two universes, or
simpler description. The problem is a result of the way light is deflected branes, lie side-by-side in a higher
is that these two theories seem to be by the surface. dimension (an analogy would be two
mutually exclusive. Both appear to It takes small objects to probe flat sheets lying parallel in the third
be accurate descriptions of the world, small scales, and no object can be dimension) and are attracted by a new
but they cannot both be true. General used to probe a scale smaller than its kind of force arising from quantum
relativity assumes that space-time is own size. Therefore, if all elementary interactions between the two branes.
a smooth continuum which is curved particles are actually loops of string, This attraction causes the branes to
by gravity. Quantum mechanics, by then no scale smaller than these strings collide, with the energy of the collision
contrast, involves random, violent can possibly be probed. The problem producing a big bang. The branes then
distortions of space-time in what of the ultra-small quantum foam that separate, space expands in each brane,

TJ 18(2) 2004 13
Perspectives

stars and galaxies form, life evolves attempts, indicating that there is
and asks where it came from, etc. something fundamentally wrong with
Eventually, this attractive force pulls the naturalistic assumptions behind
the two branes back together in another such ideas.7 If we simply take the laws
big bang, and so it goes, in an eternal of physics at face value, however, it
cycle with no beginning, no end, and becomes obvious that the universe
no need for a cause or a creator.4 must have had a beginning, and that it
Unfortunately, despite all the must have been caused by some outside
advanced (if unproven) physics agent. Thus there is no scientifically
involved in this theory, these two valid way to avoid the conclusion that
scientists have made a very elementary In the beginning God created the
mistake that could have been perceived heavens and the earth.
long ago. The ekpyrotic model,
like any other theory that claims the References
universe is infinitely old, ignores the
simple fact that the Second Law of 1. Greene, B., The Elegant Universe: Super-
strings, Hidden Dimensions and the Quest
Thermodynamics disallows any such for the Ultimate Theory, Vintage Books, New
possibility. According to the Second York, pp. 127129, 1999.
Law, any isolated system must tend 2. Greene, ref. 1, pp. 152157.
toward randomization and disorder
3. Greene, ref. 1, pp. 201204.
or, more precisely, it must increase in
4. Naeye, R., Delving into extra dimensions, Sky
entropy. Obviously, nothing that is
& Telescope 105(6):4344, 2003.
wearing out can last forever, so this
5. This was the response Sky & Telescope Senior
well-demonstrated law of physics Editor Alan M. MacRobert gave to my letter-
requires that the universe cannot be to-the-editor concerning this problem. I wrote
infinitely old. This argument has back, clarifying, as below, that I was referring
been made many times before, and big to the overall system of both universes, an
overall system that is still bound by the Second
bang theorists will sometimes admit Law. There was no response to this second
to it when it is convenient. But when letter.
an otherwise apparently promising 6. One might suggest that the Second Law
origins theory contradicts the Second does not necessarily apply to the universe
Law, that law is ignored, as in this (consisting of two branes) as a whole. But
case. (Sometimes it is claimed that the general methodology of scientists is to
assume that known physics is correct until a
this argument is not correct, since the problem is found with it (whether theoretical
Second Law applies only to isolated or observational), not to assume it is false until
systems, whereas in the ekpyrotic proven correct. The known laws of physics are
model, the universe we live in is assumed innocent until proven guiltyso to
speak. All of astronomy would be impossible
interacting with another, and thus is not if this approach were not taken. Astronomers
isolated.5 However, the two universes base their conclusions about distant objects on
can still be counted together as an the assumption (not always provable) that the
isolated system. This overall system known laws of physics apply in those distant
parts of the universe. The Second Law applies
must still increase in entropy.6) in all known cases, and there is no reason from
theory or observation to suppose it does not
Conclusion apply to the universe as a whole.
7. It is also interesting that a cosmology based
Naturalistic theories of the origin on unproven physics is taken so seriously.
of the universe generally fall into Cosmology is a very speculative enterprise
even when it is based on solid, tried-and-
two categories: those that claim the true physics, but the ekpyrotic model is a
universe appeared from nothing with speculative theory based on untested physics.
no cause, thus denying causality and Imagine what the response from evolutionists
the conservation laws; and those would be if a creationist used this approach!
that claim the universe is infinitely
old, thus denying the Second Law
of Thermodynamics. The recent
idea based on string theory makes
no more progress than the previous

14 TJ 18(2) 2004