Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cosmic Origins, Computer Models & Life. Or How to Get a Headache

The history of the Universe goes something like this.  At least according to the guys that study the stuff and it least as far as I understand it.

In the beginning there was an infinitesimal speck with infinite mass and it exploded in the “Big Bang.”  The resulting energy cooled ending up with protons and neutrons.

That matter cooled some more collapsing the matter into Hydrogen and Helium. The gravity of the particles collapsed the light gasses into masses so dense that they burst into stars.

The stars, as they burned, created oxygen, carbon and other elements.  Eventually the stars ran out of fuel, exploding and expelling the newly created elements into space.

These stellar remnants eventually coalesce and create new stars.  These stars manufacture more oxygen, carbon, etc.  They explode, expelling their elements into space. These remnants eventually coalesce…

This process continues and continues for billions of years creating new stars with richer mixes of elements which explode until there are enough of the heavier elements that they collapse, not into stars, but asteroids and planets.

On one such planet the elements of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, etc chain together in such a way that amino acids are created and then proteins.  Eventually, these complex molecules result in single cell organisms.  Darwin then takes over and you get humans and the various flora and fauna of the planet earth.

Physicists have fairly complex computer models that basically confirm that this story is plausible. Plug in an infinitely dense point and what we know about physics and you get something evolves approximately like what I have described above.

So, those computer models that simulate the creation of matter, the birth and resulting death of stars and galaxies.  Computer models that churn vast amounts of data simulating billions and billions of years over the course of weeks and months.  Could those computer models actually be simulating the formation of life?

Does that life actually gain sentience? Could we actually be in a similar computer model?  I know that life as a computer program isn’t really new (though I never saw The Matrix) I’m not sure that it has ever been thought about quite this way.  Is what I am thinking about possible?

Obviously, if it took a Supreme Being to create that trigger than resulted in the proteins that make up life it certainly isn’t possible.  But if you assume that the spark that created life was purely random could we actually be creating the conditions for life every time we run through a Big Band simulation?

I think I have a headache – anyone have an Aleve?

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