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Particles You Can Believe In

The Big Bang, the “God Particle,” and how we got here in the first place.

On Discovery Channel recently, in a show called Grand Design, physicist/cosmologist Stephen Hawking attempted to answer the deepest questions of the universe, including the deepest of all: How did we get here? Hawking describes a journey through the laws of nature, of how the universe was made and how it really works. Hawking says, “We mere mortals can understand how the universe works, although it takes courage to find the answers.”

People once believed in supernatural beings in order to make sense of natural phenomena, like a solar eclipse. Vikings believed that “skoll,” a wolf god that lived in the sky, ate the sun. The Vikings tried to scare it away, and believed their actions caused the sun to return. In Greece, long before the Vikings (about 350 B.C.), Aristotle realized a lunar eclipse was actually the shadow of the earth on the moon, proving the earth was spherical, not flat.

We learned that the stars are not holes in the floor of Heaven, but suns like ours, only a very long ways away. It seems the universe is a machine, run by the laws of nature, and can be understood by the human mind. So, the Catholic Church claimed the laws of nature are the laws of God, and we are still the center of the universe—that the sun and stars rotate around the earth.

In 1609, Galileo Galilei, father of modern day science, made a telescope to study Jupiter and discovered four “moons” orbiting that planet. He deduced that the earth revolved around the sun, and not vise-versa. The Pope cried “heresy” and placed Galileo under house arrest for the next nine years.

Over the next 300 years, scientists discovered other things that explained how the universe works—what makes stars shine, etc.—and ultimately asked the question, did God create the universe in the first place?

In 1985, the Pope said it was okay to study the workings of the universe, you just can’t ask questions about its origin, for that is the work of God. Stephen Hawking suggests it is the cosmologist’s duty to find out where the universe comes from.

It turns out you need only three ingredients to make the universe: 1. Matter (stuff that has mass – like dust, rock, ice, and gas); 2. Energy (you can feel it on your face – energy from a sun that is 93 million miles away); 3. Space (lots of space in all directions).

Where does it all come from? In the 20th Century, that question was answered by Albert Einstein. E=mc2 (Energy = Mass times the Speed of Light (C) squared). Mass and energy are kind of the same thing. Energy and space were created spontaneously in an event called the Big Bang. Space was created like blowing up a balloon. But, how did it appear out of nothing? The Catholic Church said God created the Big Bang. Science tells a different story.

To build a hill, you must dig a hole—the negative version of the hill. The laws of physics demand negative energy. The Big Bang created a vast amount of positive energy, and the same amount of negative energy. The positive energy we see is like the hill. The negative side of things is spread throughout space. This means that all of the universe, positive and negative, adds up to zero. And you don't need a god to create it.

Then what triggered the spontaneous appearance of a whole universe in the first place?

In the sub-atomic level, you can, at least for a short while, create something out of nothing—where particles obey the laws of quantum mechanics—and appear, stick around for a while, then disappear. Likewise, our universe was once quite small, infinitely dense, and smaller than a proton, which means it could have popped into existence without violating the laws of nature!

Did God create the “quantum” laws that allowed the Big Bang to occur? It is natural for people to believe that something causes everything, but that is not necessarily so. Nothing caused the Big Bang! Einstein again: Time itself began at the instant of the Big Bang. The universe created itself.

Nothing can escape the incredible gravity of a black hole. Even time slows down as it descends into a black hole—and eventually stops, because inside a black hole, time does not exist. As you go back in time, the universe gets infinitesimally small, condensing into a black hole. You can’t get to a time before the Big Bang, because there was no time before the Big Bang. We have found something that doesn't have a cause. There was no time for a cause to exist, or a creator to have existed. It has taken us 3,000 years of human endeavor to find the process that created "us."

Stephen Hawking says, “No one created the Universe. No one directs our fate – no Heaven, no 'after life,' either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe. For that, I am grateful.”

Amen to that!

Now, scientists have discovered the long-sought Higgs boson, a class of sub-atomic particle that some are calling, the “God particle,” believed to be associated with the property of all matter known as mass, without which our universe could not exist. This may lead to the discovery of other sub-atomic particles with mass, affecting studies of mass, dark matter, and dark energy. How the “God particle” may affect our understanding of the universe – or contribute to a new gizmo – only time will tell. And we still have time.

Jac Flanders is the author of “What I Learned On The Way Down,” eBook and paperback versions from Amazon.com

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Yarnall July 18, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Ron,sorry, don't know why I said Joe.
Tom Yarnall July 18, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Jac, I did not say, nor do I know, if the absence of belief is based on hatred and bigotry. I was merely asking an "in your face" atheist what is the basis of his believe . I am not aware of any scientific discovery or facts that disproves the existence or non existence of a supreme being. Perhaps you could enlighten me. How many have died for their disbelief? How may are dying because of their superstitious certainties? I know not and don't want to speculate, but am sure it is many. Why not refer to the experts in Egypt where Christians are being slaughtered for lunch and conflict in other countries is only based on religion. How much slaughter has occurred in the U.S.? Not significant. I agree, complexity is no proof of an omniscient creator. I referred to Darwin because that is what many non-believers reference as scientific fact. You said "But, I think we are all a little ignorant and could use a bit of tolerance in our search for the facts" I think that is absolutely correct and am waiting for you extreme atheist to start the ball rolling. Are you and Ron tolerant of those who are believers? I believe the Founders would be aghast at how their true intent has been interpreted as time has gone by. Even though I take no stand on a Supreme being, I do believe religion has had a positive impact on the evolution of the democratic principles of our great country. Most of your freedoms came from "People of the Book". My last word.
Jac Flanders July 19, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Tom – I appreciate that was your “last word.” However, you did make some provocative statements. You asked Ron (and therefore other atheist readers of the blog) if we came to our view based on scientific knowledge, or is it just based on hate and bigotry – and would the world would be more to our liking without religion? May I? Yes to the first, no to the second, and absolutely yes to the third! You say you are not aware of any objective scientific knowledge “that has led to less support for the belief in an almighty God.” Sounds like a logical fallacy – please don’t ask us to prove a negative. Regardless, please re-read the blog above. The ACLU is an atheistic organization? Really? Civil Liberties? And you are against them? And, you ask, “Why are you so compelled to keep God out of every crevice of a nation founded on Christian values?” Sorry, Tom, the United States was not founded on Christian values. We owe our Democracy to the Greeks, not the Bible. Our morality comes from a much earlier time: “Do unto others,” etc. Christians take too much credit for our morality and moral values. You then ask, “Are you like a pedophile who does not know why . . . but must do it?” And later, “A little knowledge can be dangerous.” Perhaps you think name-calling and insults are effective ways to change minds. To me, they seem less than Christian – or, maybe not.
Tom Yarnall July 20, 2012 at 02:56 AM
In many cases intellectuals are educated beyond their logical competence. They tend to knit pick and use twisted logic to salvage their arguments. Welcome to the club. Sorry to extend my final comment. The devil made me do it.
Jac Flanders July 22, 2012 at 11:35 PM
No problem, Tom. Thanks for commenting.

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