Missing Mass

Ask just about any educated person today about the origins of the universe, and the terminology swiftly rolls off the tongue: Big Bang; background microwave radiation; 13.7 billion years.

But how much do we really know about the universe? One thing all experts agree on – and the general public seems to be completely ignorant of – is that we don’t know what makes up 96% of our universe.

In Genesis and Genes, I began the section on Dark Matter as follows:

Nobody – including astronomers and cosmologists – knows what the universe is made of. Visible matter – the kind of stuff that people and planets are made of – is outweighed by a factor of 6 or 7 by invisible, cold dark matter. To put it another way, something like 95% of the universe is made up of stuff we can’t detect, except that it seems to exert a gravitational pull.

 I quoted numerous authorities on this subject, including the distinguished astronomer and author, James Kaler:

Our Galaxy, its stars revolving around the center under the influence of their combined gravity, is spinning too fast for what we see. Galaxies in clusters orbit around the clusters’ centers under the influence of their mutual gravities, but again, they move faster than expected. There must be something out there with enough of a gravitational hold to do the job, to speed things up, but it is completely unseen. Dark matter… We have no idea what constitutes it.

A popular history of astronomy weighs in with this:

Over 90 per cent of our Universe is invisible – filled with particles of mysterious dark matter. And astronomers have no idea what it is.

Nobody knows anything significant about what makes up more than 90% of the universe. And this is acknowledged even by those who pretend to be able to answer ultimate questions in naturalistic terms. Lawrence Krauss is a world-famous physicist and an ardent atheist. His latest book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing (Free Press, 2012) was reviewed in the January 2012 issue of Nature, the world’s most respected science journal. Nature appointed Caleb Scharf, an astrobiologist at Columbia University, to review Krauss’s book. Here is what he had to say on our subject: 

He [Kraus] notes that a number of vital empirical discoveries are, ominously, missing from our cosmic model. Dark matter is one. Despite decades of astrophysical evidence for its presence, and plausible options for its origins, physicists still cannot say much about it. We don’t know what this major mass component of the Universe is, which is a bit of a predicament. We even have difficulty accounting for every speck of normal matter in our local Universe.[1]

It is important to appreciate that dark matter is not something that was initially discovered in a laboratory, and whose existence was then used to explain some phenomenon. It is also not an entity whose existence was implied by some cosmological theory, and then applied to the problem of energetic stars. Dark matter is entirely hypothetical. Its existence was postulated to explain how the stars in spiral galaxies can orbit at such breakneck speeds without being flung off into the void. In other words, when astronomers tallied up all the mass in the universe, they came face to face with a phenomenon which they could not explain using known physical laws: those laws would indicate that stars in spiral galaxies should indeed be flying off in all directions. Since they aren’t, there must be something out there to prevent them from doing so. What that something is remains anybody’s guess, as Professor Kaler pointed out above.

Recently, TIME Magazine reported on an effort to elucidate the nature of dark matter.[2] The TIME writer begins by pointing out that “Together, [dark matter and dark energy] make up a whopping 96 percent of the cosmos—but to this day, nobody can say with any confidence what either one of them actually is.”

TIME reports on a planned 2020 space mission named Euclid that will try to “sniff out the nature of these similarly named but (presumably) unrelated phenomena.” It then offers a bit of history. “The mystery of dark matter goes all the way back to the 1930s, when Caltech astronomer Fritz Zwicky noted that some galaxies seemed to be orbiting each other so fast that they should be slowly separating—each galaxy remaining discrete and intact, but the distances among them opening wider and wider. In the 1960s, the Carnegie Institution’s Vera Rubin and others realized that something similar ought to be true within individual galaxies—that they were whirling so fast they should rip themselves apart. And by the 1980s, astronomers were forced to accept the idea that the gravity from some mysterious, invisible form of matter had to be holding them all together.”

In Genesis and Genes, we also considered Dark Energy. I wrote

To complicate things further, throw in some dark energy. This is not techno-speak from a Star Wars film. It is a phenomenon, discovered in the late 1990s, which appears to cause the universe’s expansion to accelerate… The 2011 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a trio of astronomers for their discovery of this phenomenon. Adam Riess, Brian Schmidt and Saul Perlmutter were also acknowledged by the journal Science, which named their findings the Breakthrough of the Year in 1998. The problem is that nobody knows what this force could be. According to cosmologist Michael Turner of the University of Chicago, quoted in the January 2006 issue of New Scientist, “Cosmic acceleration is the biggest mystery in all of science.”

I pointed out what seems to be an obvious point:

Needless to say, if there is a force which is accelerating the universe’s expansion, and especially if its strength is varying, attempts to estimate the expansion of the universe in the past – and thus to infer its age – are enormously complicated. It may well be impossible to do so. Professor Kaler again: “But we have even less of an idea where this [dark] energy comes from than we do about the nature of dark matter. So to dark matter, add dark energy. Either that or something is terribly amiss with our concept of gravity.”

Here is what the recent TIME report had to say on the subject:

Dark energy is something entirely different—indeed, in some ways it’s the exact opposite: it’s a still-unknown force, discovered in the 1990s, that makes the universe expand faster and faster all the time. (Einstein originally came up with this idea, but eventually abandoned it). You can think of dark energy as a type of antigravity, but exactly what type — whether it fluctuates in strength over time, for example — is yet to be determined.

Finally, TIME tells us about what the new research program is meant to accomplish:

Euclid will tackle this problem as well, by looking at the distances among tens of millions of galaxies at many different stages of cosmic history—with objects more distant from Earth representing images that come to us from earlier in time. Using measurements of the primordial light left over from the Big Bang, theorists can predict how those distances should change as the universe evolves, both with and without dark energy in its various possible forms. By comparing the theories with what Euclid actually sees, they’ll be able to get a handle on which theory matches what’s happening in the cosmos.

***

 There is a lot for informed consumers of science to chew on here. Let’s begin with the last paragraph above. It gives a hint of something that most members of the public are unaware of – that cosmology is mostly about theory. Of course, it starts with various observations, but then there is a wallop of theory, inference, statistical analyses and more. One should be parsimonious when using the word proof in the context of cosmology. 

TIME refers to dark energy as a “still-unknown force”. Readers of Genesis and Genes will recall what I wrote about Peter Tait, one of the leading physicists of the late 19th century and a colleague of Lord Kelvin: 

Tait’s lectures were based entirely on Kelvin’s arguments. He examined each in turn and admitted that the results drawn from them depended upon the twin assumptions that science knew all of the physical laws now in operation and that these laws have remained unchanged since the Earth was formed. He saw no reason to doubt either assumption.

 The arguments advanced by Kelvin and Tait turned out to be wrong largely because they were unaware of radioactivity, a phenomenon unknown to science until the end of the 19th century. I made the point in Genesis and Genes that neither Tait nor Kelvin displayed even basic prudence about their calculations. For example, Tait, writing in the North British Review in 1869 asserted that “there was not the slightest possibility of error” in extrapolating back to the beginnings of the Earth and Sun on the basis of their thermal loss [and thus calculating their age to be, at most, 25 million years]. 

Dark matter and dark energy should give pause to those who accept uncritically all the absolutist statements about cosmology and cosmogony that emanate from PBS, National Geographic, Carl Sagan-wannabes and the general media. If we don’t know what 96% of the universe is made of, is it not a little premature to state the universe’s age, complete with a decimal point – 13.7 billion years? 

Is it only religious fundamentalists/fanatics/obscurantists/biblical literalists who should harbour scepticism about claims that have to do with the ancient past? 

References:

 [1] Caleb Scharf, Cosmology: Plucked from the vacuum. Nature 481 (26 January 2012), page 440. doi:10.1038/481440a.

 [2] http://science.time.com/2013/02/20/telescope-to-hunt-for-missing-96-of-the-universe/

Retrieved 4th March 2013.

 This report is also interesting:

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2113093,00.html

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22 Responses to “Missing Mass”

  1. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    Yoram,

    You have an internationally distinguished Jewish astrophysicist right there in South Africa named David Block. Perhaps he would be able to elucidate these questions:

    http://www.davidblock.co.za/dbcv.htm
    ekblock@iafrica.com

  2. David I. Waxman Says:

    Must be a conspiracy!

  3. Matt Says:

    “Of course, it starts with various observations, but then there is a wallop of theory, inference, statistical analyses and more.”
    >>

    This is a tremendously ignorant statement, Yoram. That “wallop” of theory, inference, and statistical analysis is where the meat is and you have just glossed over it.

    >>
    “One should be parsimonious when using the word proof in the context of cosmology. ”
    >>

    This is my field, and I’ve never herd the word “proof” used in any context except perhaps colloquially. There are no “proofs” in science (I think you are thinking of pure mathematics). You are trying to attribute claims of certitude to subject matters that cosmologists do *not* claim certitude.

    >>
    “If we don’t know what 96% of the universe is made of, is it not a little premature to state the universe’s age, complete with a decimal point – 13.7 billion years?”
    >>

    *No one* is saying this 13.77 billion-year figure is the final word. And, I agree with you that any informed consumer of science should take that *single* measurement with a grain of salt, as any cosmologist would agree.

    Unfortunately for you, we can completely disregard that measurement and there are still many thousands of complementary measurements that do not make any cosmological assumptions and yet give coherent results of an age greater than a few billion years. You cannot say that the uncertainties from this particular cosmological approach apply carte blanche to the astronomical, nuclear, gravitational, geological, radiometric, stratigraphic, biological, chemical, etc techniques that consistently show the universe to be many billions of years old.

    >>
    “If we don’t know what 96% of the universe is made of, is it not a little premature…”
    >>

    Let me ask you a question: Does the fact that I don’t know the floor plans of 99% of the houses in my neighborhood cast any doubt on my ability to say that there is indeed no pink elephant in my own living room?

    As little as we know about dark matter, we know ordinary matter *very* well. More importantly, our measurements place strong limits excluding the possibility of dark matter even impacting ordinary matter, except gravitationally and on galactic size scales. Believe me, we are trying *so hard* to find evidence of new matter, but it’s not in our living room. Dark matter is called “dark” because it is almost entirely decoupled from ordinary matter. So I can make definitive statements about ordinary matter, even if I know nothing of dark matter. Most estimates of the age of the world are based on properties of ordinary matter. So you are just obscuring the discussion by focusing on this one cosmological aspect.

    >>
    “Is it only religious fundamentalists/fanatics/obscurantists/biblical literalists who should harbour scepticism about claims that have to do with the ancient past?”
    >>

    As always, you’re pulling a bait-and-switch. You are taking legitimate scientific skepticism about a single cosmological measurement and trying to use it to support a much broader and far less tenable position. “We can’t know for sure that the Universe is 13.77 billion years” is fair to say. “We can’t know with a high degree of uncertainty that the Universe is older than 6000 old” is a nearly impossible claim to sell, short of evoking intentional deception on G-d’s part. There are many scientists who don’t accept the claim of 13,770,000,000 years as being settled, but I think it is safe to say that “religious fundamentalists/fanatics/obscurantists/biblical literalists” are the only people who doubt the world to be more than 6,000 years.

    • Marc Says:

      Matt, I am a spectator here but I must say that I think you have lowered the level of discourse with some of your recent replies. You have attacked on a personal level as well as accused Yoram of dishonesty, let’s have a look:

      “tremendously ignorant statement”, [Personal attack]

      “You are trying to attribute claims of certitude to subject matters that cosmologists do *not* claim certitude.”, [Accusation of dishonesty]

      “you are just obscuring the discussion”, [Accusation of dishonesty]

      “As always, you’re pulling a bait-and-switch.”, [Accusation of dishonesty]

      “but I think it is safe to say that “religious fundamentalists/fanatics/obscurantists/biblical literalists” are the only people who doubt the world to be more than 6,000 years.” [Personal attack]

      You could have argued your points just the same without all the venom. Notice that Yoram has not attacked you personally or accused you of dishonesty, please Matt, do likewise.

      • Matt Says:

        Marc, I do appreciate the perspective. Frankly, I need to stop coming to this blog. It is too frustrating. I do admit to anger in my tone and it is not constructive.

        I take issue with my colleagues being called “Carl Sagan wannabes” and subjects that I am passionate about being off-handedly dismissed as a “wallop of theory…” without any effort made to represent that “wallop” substantively.

        Yoram spends the entire article talking about dark matter and ends the article asking with incredulity “isn’t it premature to state the Universe’s Age…?”. These are two separate points. It is unfair to those who spent years and decades on the measurements and calculations behind that 13.77 billion year estimate to merely dismiss it with a rhetorical question, when the literature provides a very detailed answer. No attempt is made to accurately represent where that 13.77 billion-year estimate comes from, what assumptions underly it, and what work was done to consider how factors such as dark matter can (or cannot) confound the calculation. Instead Yoram sardonically dismisses it as a “wallop of theory…”. I said that his dismissive *statement* was ignorant, not that he was ignorant. There is a difference.

        Science is my profession and my passion. Forgive me if I take the misrepresentation of my field personally. I can’t help it. You were right to call me out on my tone. It was biting. Nothing productive will come out of my commenting on this blog and I’m trying to avoid visiting it, for fear of getting sucked back into this.

        I only ask that you apply the same scrutiny to Yoram’s tone. Call him out when he broadly and vaguely accuses academic communities of “absolutism”, calls them “Carl Sagan wannabes”, when he off-handedly dismisses entire fields of study as “a wallop of …”. In the “Blowing Hot and Cold” post (flattering title there) he speaks of the “giant lacunae” of modern cosmology or the “shilly shallying” of climatologists. He accuses scientists of lacking “even a modicum of science history” (to name a few examples). This is not right either.

      • marc Says:

        Matt, you make some very interesting points regarding the applicability of our lack of understanding of dark matter to our ability to accurate determine the age of the universe.

        I understand what you are saying about the ‘Carl Sagan Wannabes’, however to criticize or even attack a field of study is one thing, to personally attack someone is another.

        Also remember that you and I are just names (maybe not even our real names) and the Carl Sagan Wannabes are nameless, no one knows who we are. Yoram on the other hand is a identifiable public figure and we should be extra careful not to attack ‘real’ people even though it’s only the internet. I got the impression that you consider yourself an Orthodox Jew – me too, so let’s keep it very civil and not come into the parasha of loshen hara.

        I think you have made some interesting points, which I firmly believe, if stated without the anger and perhaps with a bit more specific detail would illicit an interesting response which would benefit spectators like me!

        Marc (real name – sort of)

      • Matt Says:

        Hi Marc: I do appreciate your point. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. How I found this blog is an interesting story in its own right, but it is only part of the story. Yoram often alludes to what it means to be an “informed consumer of science”. A while ago, I began writing a book on that subject. In parallel, I’ve been involved in several email correspondences and blog postings. I’m thinking or starting my own blog as a way to channel this work constructively into one source: to talk about science and science history in the positive, rather than to rebut and react to others. I’d also like to create a space that is not hostile to those who take a very literal pshat stance on Bereishit. My point has never been to argue against that (though I don’t believe it myself). I merely want to represent the science accurately and fairly.

        I believe very strongly in the academic values of good science. I feel that many of these values are Jewish values. And I want more people in the frum community to understand how those values really work. With Yoram’s permission I will post the link if I get it off the ground.

        Thank you for holding me accountable to my tone, and in the spirit of a bit of self-deprication:

  4. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    Matt,

    Your comments are very intriguing. I would like to ask you a couple of questions:

    1. Is it possible that the Universe is simply the mask on God and has in fact existed eternally, exactly as religious folks claim about God? What is the evidence that the Universe had a finite starting point?

    2. On pages 103-104 of Yoram’s critique of the book by Dr. Schroeder, he quotes Rabbi Gottlieb about entropy. Gottlieb poses the question of how we can be sure that entropy was not higher in earlier periods of the universe. Is such a presumption even logical? Why would we think entropy would have been higher earlier on? I thought that the 2nd law of thermodynamics states that entropy increases steadily as a function of time? (See this lecture for example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki0QB5i_gkg&list=PL0D517848921A08EB&index=9)

    Here is Yoram’s Rabbi Gottlieb quote:

    https://ohrrabbiohrrabbi.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/genesis__the_big_bluff6.pdf

    3. Entropy. The universe shows constant increase in entropy from
    a past of lower entropy. It was recognized that since any time other
    than our own should have higher entropy [because states of higher
    entropy are much more numerous than states of low entropy], it
    needs to be explained why our past had lower entropy. Here is one
    recognized explanation: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/statphys-statmech/:

    • Matt Says:

      Hi Menacham,

      First off, I liked your earlier comment about reaching out to a local astrophysicist. I urge all of the readers of this blog not to be afraid to seek out a scientist and ask questions. We can be pretty busy, but we like hard questions. Let me first say that I am a particle physicist, not a cosmologist. I study the state of matter as it exists today, and mostly in our immediate neighborhood. I do not purport to be an expert on early Universe cosmology. But, I can certainly provide you with basic answers, and consult with a colleague if necessary.

      1.) Speaking, not as a scientist but as a Jew, I certainly believe it to be the case that the Universe is a mask of sorts. That said, I think it is hard to interpret the Age of the Universe as evidence of G-d’s eternal nature. The difficult part is that this “old age” not only comes from grandiose cosmological arguments. It also comes from more mundane, physical realities such as hundreds of thousands of years of stratified layers of annual ice in the arctic and tens of thousands of years of tree ring records. Moreover, even an old Universe is a finite Universe…On the other hand, many cosmologists have presented suggestive models where our Universe is not born out of “nothing”, but rather part came from something larger (eternal?).

      Here are some explanations of evidence that the known Universe has an origin:

      A tutorial by the group that made the 13.77 billion year measurement:
      http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/

      A more thorough tutorial/FAQ by one of the scientists from that collaboration:
      http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/cosmology_faq.html

      Some nice slides I found that might be hard to follow, but they have some fun plots that drive home key ideas:
      http://www.astro.virginia.edu/class/whittle/USEM/Week2/BB_evidence_col.pdf

      2.-3.) Much as I don’t recommend Gottlieb or Yoram as authorities on thermodynamics, they are correct on this point. One cannot say that the past Universe had less entropy, purely on the basis of thermodynamics alone. The “2nd Law” is a consequence of statistics. Dynamic systems tend towards the most probable configuration. So, we know that if there is a more probable configuration than our present state, we will (*very*) probably move in that direction. However, the second law only makes sense if we run it forward in time; It is more difficult to run it backwards. I can say that we are heading towards a more probable configuration than our present state, but it does not necessarily follow that we came from a less probable configuration in the past. Additional information is necessary to explain the low-entropy initial conditions from which the 2nd law has played forward. This additional information comes from cosmological and astrophysical observations (see my references for #1).

      The youtube video you linked to presents painfully naive and wrong-headed characterizations of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The statement that “entropy increases steadily as a function of time” is more subtle than that. Because it is a statistical property, local entropy can fluctuate up and down (depending on the time scale and distance scale). In open systems, entropy need not increase at all. There is a lot to unpack in that video, but to the extent that there is any physics at all, it fails to hold up to the level of an advanced undergraduate in terms of conceptual accuracy.

      • Yoram Bogacz Says:

        This is what Professor David Block has to say on the subject:
        “If I have not been fascinated by Magritte’s works, I would never ask questions such as: What is a galaxy? The truth is, nobody knows. We see representations of a galaxy, but never the galaxy itself. Multitudes of galaxies contain dark matter, but nobody knows what it is. The Universe is filled with dark energy. No one knows what that is either. Magritte is a truly a great master in helping my team and I approach such subjects with a mindset so far removed from traditional ones.” See http://www.wits.ac.za/newsroom/newsitems/201204/15768/news_item_15768.html

      • Matt Says:

        Hi Yoram: You misunderstood Menacham. He suggested that you *ask* Professor Block what he thinks about your arguments, not fish for quotes by him.

        We all agree that nobody knows what dark matter and dark energy are. My problem is not with your premise, but with the unsupported inferences your draw from it. I also take issue with your ignorant dismissal of cosmology as a “wallop of theory, inference, and statistical” without any substance to back that claim up.

        Again, why don’t you directly ask Professor Block what he thinks of your arguments and settle this matter? Are you afraid he’ll discredit them?

  5. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    Thanks Matt for your reasoned comments. Not sure they are reasonable, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt. : – )

    Here are some more Qs from a neophyte:

    1. If you are a particle physicist, do you perhaps know of Burton Richter, former director of SLAC and Nobel Prize winner in particle physics? He is a relative of mine!

    2. I don’t understand why, if we assume entropy increases as we move forward in time, why we cannot assume that it was lesser as we move backward in time?

    3. Do you seriously propose that entropy was NOT lesser moments after the alleged Big Bang?

    4. Is it possible that entropy functions only here on earth, and is a function of what the bible calls the fall of man (where death and other negative principles were introduced into the world) but the universe as a whole is constantly being recreated at every moment by Divine Fiat?

    5. Are you aware of the thesis of Francisco Ayala, outspoken Catholic evolutionary biologist? In his book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Gift-Religion-Francisco-Ayala/dp/0309102316/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363032306&sr=1-1&keywords=ayala+darwin
    Darwin’s Gift: To Science and Religion by Francisco Ayala (Apr 23, 2007)

    he implies that the story of eating from the Tree of Knowledge may actually be a sophisticated evolutionary parable. Ayala puts together the following information:

    (1) Man is the only animal with awareness of death, evidenced by his burying his own kind.

    (2) This awareness is a product of his huge brain size that has resulted from purely arbitrary evolutionary dynamics.

    (3) The death that resulted from the Tree of Knowledge is not a punishment but a tragic result of man’s self-awareness, alone of all creatures.

    (4) The subsequent “punishments” listed in Genesis 3 are not a consequence of any disobedience but simply the result of tragic self awareness facilitated by man’s newly evolved enormous brain. Thus the painful birth is a direct consequence of the fact that the cranial size evolved faster than the size of the female pelvis. But not due to any “sin” on the part of the woman. And the curse of laboring for food is not a punishment but a result of our greater biological refinement forcing us to eat more refined foods rather than directly from the earth like lower animal forms.

    I wonder what you think of these ideas?

    Thanks for you willingness to discuss!

    • Matt Says:

      Hi Menachem: I’m a little to overextended to respond to all of your points.

      1) I of course know who he is, but sadly don’t know him personally. He discovered a particle called the J/Psi which played a role in my dissertation research :).

      2) This is a really subtle question, and one that does not fall into my own expertise, though I will look into it more.

      3) Just to be clear, I never said that entropy was greater in the past. I merely suggested that the same probabilitic arguments used to show that it is greater in the future cannot necessary be extrapolated backwards and that our understanding of entropy in the early Universe comes from astronomical observations in addition to the thermodynamics.

      4) Interesting idea. Have to think about it…

      5) Haven’t heard of Ayala. But, I’m a big fan of another Catholic biologist, Ken Miller. His Templeton essay is a fav of mine: http://www.templeton.org/belief/essays/miller.pdf

      • Menachem Mevashir Says:

        Matt,

        Thanks for your replies. Of course I understand that your time is scarce, so I appreciate all you are able to contribute.

        I will make many comments here, but do not feel obliged to respond to any.

        First, I wish to thank Yoram for operating a fascinating blog. As way of introduction, I was raised as a secular American Jew. My father is a renowned research pathologist and my uncle is Prof. Richter mentioned before. However, although I was one of the top students in my high school I tanked in college due to my immaturity and exposure to the pervasive climate of unbelief and skepticism there. I found myself gravitating to both Judaism and Zionism, and two years after my graduation in 1980, I moved to Israel and entered an ulpan program on a secular kibbutz. There through awesome divine providence I met some students of Rabbi Nachman Bulman zatzal who were acting like Jewish “missionaries” touring the region and giving lectures on gematria, pirkay avot, and other things to whet our appetites for spiritual ideas. After visiting these people and their families over Shabbat, they persuaded me to leave the kibbutz and check into Yeshivat Ohr Samayach. Although initially I was skeptical of this, since it reminded me of my college years, I decided to stay and learn. It ended up being the best period of my life. I was there for 3.5 years, married a wonderful girl from Nevay Yerushalayim, and thrived under the tutelage of such excellent teachers as Uziel Milevsky (zatzal), Yechezkiel Auerbach, Naftali Kaplan, and many many others. I became one of the best students in yeshiva as well. I thrived in the all male environment, with considerably reduced stress from having to impress females as in college.

        After I married on Christmas Day 2005 (yes, I got a heter since it was the evening of Dec. 25 and not XMas eve per se), I attended kollels of Moshe Meiselman and then the Bostoner Rebbe in Har Nof, to where I had moved. Problems began for me on two fronts: my wife’s family began pressuring me to contribute to parnassa and I wanted to be a kollelnik (a desire my rosh kollel encouraged in me); and two the terrible schism between Orthodoxy caused by the formation of rival Orthodox political parties into Agudah and Degel haTorah. During this time I spent a year studying the Steinsaltz edition of Brachot by myself. I kept a notebook and was pleased to see that many of the questions I would jot down were repeated by the Acharonim in the back of the gemarah. But despite this, by the end of the year I was burned out from being alone with my studies.

        To make a very long story short, after traveling to Crown Heights to meet the Lubavitcher Rebbe and then discovering a group of Breslovers in Har Nof, I became inflamed with Messianism and gravitated in that direction. I got involved with the Na Nach cult and helped to write and translate a number of books by that group of people. Rabbi Odesser frightened me, but he did seem to be a tzaddik with God in the palm of his hand. He seemed to me perfectly righteous. After his death in October 1994, our group disintegrated into rivalrous factions. I found myself slipping between the cracks, and eventually after a long period of growing dissatisfaction with Orthodox life, I met some South African missionaries operating in Israel and they convinced me to get baptized, which I did in June 2000. After that I moved to South Africa, where I married a girl from the fellowship in Israel, and we lived in Alberton for five years. For a variety of reasons this marriage did not work out and I returned first to Israel and then to the USA where I have been since January 2006.

        One thing that really encourages me about Yoram is that, up till now, my impression has been that Christians form the vast majority of the Creationist and ID movement. Yoram is the very first Orthodox Jew I have encountered who appears to endorse the YEC position. I find that truly amazing. I have read the works of scientific creationists like Henry Morris, and my impression is that because they tend to be biblical literalists Orthodox Jews do not respect them. So Yoram is a HUGE blast of fresh air for me, a true chiddush!

        This brings me to the point about Ayala. I have noticed that most Christian evolutionary biologists tend to be Catholic. I think their Catholicism makes them uniquely amenable to evolution, since they are NOT biblical literalists and indeed they fiercely oppose the literalism of evangelicals like Henry Morris as simplistic and naive (similar to what many Orthodox Jews might say). Catholics have what they call the three-fold platform, consisting of the Bible, Holy Tradition, and the Magisterium. Holy Tradition roughly corresponds to Jewish Oral Law and the Magisterium is akin to their Sanhedrin. Many Catholic scientists actually embrace evolution since it appears to destroy the credibility of biblical literalism (something they have long fought Protestants over) and empowers the Magisterium to interpret Scripture for the laity.

        Thus in my research into Creationism and ID, I found consistently that most Christians who embrace darwinism whole heartedly are Catholics. They believe that this is true science and they are also happy that it seems to weaken the position of Protestant evangelicals with their “naive” approach of biblical literalism.

        So with regard to all this, Yoram is truly a tremendous chiddush. Tremendously encouraging and I fully support his efforts to broaden the understanding of Orthodox Jews on this topic. My observation is that since many Orthodox Jews lack sophisticated secular education, the arguments of the Creation scientists fly far over their heads and thus Yoram’s efforts are truly invaluable!

        A few more points:

        1. Regarding my Uncle Richter, my involvement with 9-11 Truth and my opposition to nuclear power and weapons have alienated him from me. A number of years ago I met one of his former SLAC graduate students, Dr. Stephen Jones, at a 9-11 Truth Seminar. Dr. Jones discovered super thermite at the WTC site, and published peer reviewed research concluding that the towers had been purposely demolished. This research led to his being disciplined and then fired from his professorship at BYU. When I wrote to my uncle about this, he adamantly denied ever knowing Dr. Jones and ridiculed 9-11 Truth:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_E._Jones
        http://www.erichufschmid.net/TFC/Bollyn-Physical-Evidence-of-Thermite.html
        http://www.bollyn.com/bollyn-and-dr-steven-jones-on-call-in-show/
        http://whale.to/b/911_superthermite.html

        2. Regarding Ayala, please see the following links from a fascinating Turkish Moslem intellectual who is an ID crusader in his country. He tried to speak at a recent Vatican conference on evolution, at which Ayala was an organizer, and was evicted:

        On Ayala in general:

        http://www.counterbalance.org/ctns-vo/ayala-body.html
        http://www.windowview.org/sci/pgs/ayala.html
        http://www.irtiqa-blog.com/2008/05/fransisco-ayala-on-evolution-science.html
        http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2009/02/an-interview-with-francisco-ayala-evolutionary-biologist-britannica-contributor-on-charles-darwin-his-legacy/

        On Harun Yahya’s Challenges to Ayala:

        http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2008/08/22/francisco-ayala-evolution-and-creationism/
        http://harunyahya.com/en/Articles/21634/why-are-darwinists-reluctant-to
        http://www.uncommondescent.com/evolution/harun-yahya-rep-gets-into-it-with-futuyma-and-ayala/
        http://harunyahya.com/en/Articles/13397/douglas-futuyma-flees-in-rome
        http://harunyahya.com/en/Articles/12966/the-vatican-conference-is-anti

        Links about Harun Yahyah’s work on ID:

        http://harunyahya.com/en/Harun-Yahya-Impact/117406/the-theory-of-evolution
        http://www.evolutiondeceit.com/

        Yahya’s Interesting Connection to Jewish Community:
        http://harunyahya.com/en/Other-Talk-Programs/28985/interview-with-dr-oktar-babuna
        http://harunyahya.com/en/Articles/27215/mr-adnan-oktars-interview-with
        http://harunyahya.com/en/Harun-Yahyas-Interviews-and-Conversations/23466/adnan-oktars-live-interview-with

        3. Excellent online Creationist and ID resources:

        http://evolutionfacts.com/Handbook%20TOC.htm
        http://scienceagainstevolution.org/topics.htm

  6. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    http://scienceagainstevolution.info/newsletters.htm
    http://scienceagainstevolution.info/pogge.htm

    David Pogge of Science Against Evolution sent me the following comments:

    The entropy of a CLOSED system increases with time. The increase is not necessarily steady.

    The entropy of an OPEN system varies up or down as energy flows in or out.

    An accountant can accurately keep track of all the money held by a business, unless money is being embezzled or laundered. In a closed accounting system one can always say the amount of money in the bank is equal to the amount of money received minus the amount of money spent. But, if someone is secretly embezzling or laundering money, the amount of money in the bank has no relationship to the income and expenses. It is foolish to try to balance the books if one knows there is some financial hanky-panky going on. In the same way, it is foolish to try to compute the entropy of an open system if one doesn’t know how much energy is flowing in or out.

    A closed system is one in which heat neither enters from the outside or exits to the outside. Since the universe is, by definition, everything that exists, there isn’t any “outside” from which heat can enter, or to which heat can go. Therefore, the universe has been a closed system since its (finite) beginning.

  7. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    Response from Jonathan Sarfati of Creation Ministries:

    Dear Mr Korn,

    Thanks for writing to CMI. All the same, we tend not to get involved in internet debates—there are so many that we would have no time for anything else.

    With this question, yes, there is no dispute that the second law is a probabilistic law. But the claim that entropy was greater in the past is bizarre. That would entail that something went from a high probability state to a low probability state.

    Now we are certainly aware that there can be small fluctuations just by chance, but they are small. We are also aware of the open system argument, and it doesn’t help the materialists’ case because the universe is an isolated system by definition.

    See http://creation.com/the-second-law-of-thermodynamics-answers-to-critics.

    Actually CMI is producing a new book on the second law; it has already been written so it’s in the stage of final proofing.

    Regards,
    Jonathan Sarfati, Ph.D., F.M.
    Author, Speaker, Head Scientist, CMI–USA (formerly Australia)

  8. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    Information on Dr. Sarfati:

    Jonathan Sarfati ;

    http://creation.com/dr-jonathan-d-sarfati

    Dr Jonathan D. Sarfati B.Sc. (Hons.), Ph.D., F.M.

    Creationist Physical Chemist and Spectroscopist (Australia)
    Biography

    Dr Jonathan Sarfati was born in Ararat, Australia in 1964. He moved to New Zealand as a child and later studied science at Victoria University of Wellington. He obtained a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Chemistry with two physics papers substituted (nuclear and condensed matter physics). His Ph.D. in Chemistry was awarded for a thesis entitled ‘A Spectroscopic Study of some Chalcogenide Ring and Cage Molecules’. He has co-authored papers in mainstream scientific journals on high temperature superconductors and selenium-containing ring and cage-shaped molecules. He also had a co-authored paper on high-temperature superconductors published in Nature when he was 22.

    Dr Sarfati has been a Christian since 1984. He has long been interested in apologetics, the defense of the faith, and was a co-founder of the Wellington Christian Apologetics Society (New Zealand).1 Creation vs evolution is of course a vital area, because of the ramifications for the doctrines of Creation, the Fall which brought death into the world, and their links to the doctrines of the Incarnation, Atonement and Bodily Resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ.

    In August 1996, he returned to the country of his birth to take up a position as a research scientist and editorial consultant for Creation Ministries International in Brisbane. In this capacity, he is co-editor of Creation magazine, and also writes and reviews articles for Journal of Creation, CMI’s in-depth peer-reviewed publication, as well as contributing to CMI’s website.

    In 1999, his first book was published—Refuting Evolution, which countered a teachers guidebook by the National Academy of Sciences, Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, which had been widely circulated and publicized. Refuting Evolution now has 450,000 copies in print. Later that year he was a co-author of the updated and expanded Answers Book [note: now entitled The Creation Answers Book], answering 20 of the most-asked questions about creation/evolution. He later wrote Refuting Evolution 2, countering the PBS Evolution series and an anticreationist article in Scientific American.

    In 2004, he wrote Refuting Compromise, defending a straightforward biblical creation timeline and a global flood, and answering biblical and scientific objections, concentrating on the errant teachings of day-age/local flood advocate Hugh Ross. It has been acclaimed as ‘the most powerful biblical and scientific defense of a straightforward view of Genesis creation ever written!’ See the introductory chapter and some reviews.

    In 2006, he co-authored 15 Reasons to Take Genesis as History with Don Batten, as a concise reference guide for Christians, including pastors and theologians, why Genesis can be trusted as real history of Creation about 6000 years ago and a global Flood.

    In 2008, he finished By Design: Evidence for nature’s Intelligent Designer—the God of the Bible. This demonstrates many examples of design in many areas, shows why chemical evolution can’t explain the origin of first life, and answers many objections to the Intelligent Design movement by invoking the biblical Creation-Fall model. Dr Jonathan Sarfati playing blindfold chess

    In 2010, Dr Sarfati wrote The Greatest Hoax on Earth? Refuting Dawkins on evolution, a response to leading atheopath Richard Dawkins’ latest book The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (see website).

    That year, Dr Sarfati emigrated to the USA with his wife to work in the CMI–USA office as speaker and Head Scientist.

    In 2012, he considerably expanded and updated a classic general apologetics book, Christianity for Skeptics, by Dr Steve Kumar of New Zealand. This presents a positive case for the existence of God, the inspiration of the Bible, and the divinity and resurrection of Christ, and answers challenges from suffering, atheism, Eastern philosophy, and Islam. The update now also contains cutting edge material on design in nature, the Christian roots of science, and answering the ‘new atheists’.

    Dr Sarfati is also a keen chess player. He is a former New Zealand Chess Champion, and represented New Zealand in three Chess Olympiads, and drew with Boris Spassky, world champion 1969–1972, in a tournament game (those interested in the game score can see this chess site). In 1988, F.I.D.E., the International Chess Federation, awarded him the title of F.I.D.E. Master (FM). Dr Sarfati regularly accepts challenges from multiple players where he plays ‘blindfold’, i.e. from memory without sight or any physical contact with the board, so moves are communicated via a recognized chess notation (See an example at the Croydon Chess Club). Twelve is the most played simultaneously to date—see photo, above right.

    Dr Sarfati is married with one stepson and two grand-daughters.
    Education

    B.Sc. (Hons.) in Chemistry (with condensed matter and nuclear physics papers substituted)
    Ph.D. in Spectroscopy (Physical Chemistry)

    Honors/Awards/Associations

    1988, F.I.D.E. Master title, The International Chess Federation

    Hundreds of online articles follow on the webpage.

  9. Menachem Mevashir Says:

    http://scienceagainstevolution.info/

    Another reply from David Pogge of Science Against Evolution:

    This is really a pointless, tedious discussion. I hope this is the last of it. My comments are in {brackets}.

    3. Entropy. The universe shows constant increase in entropy from
    a past of lower entropy.

    {True.}

    It was recognized that since any time other than our own should have higher entropy [because states of higher entropy are much more numerous than states of low entropy], it needs to be explained why our past had lower entropy.

    {That doesn’t logically follow from the previous statement. Any time in the past should have lower entropy. Any time in the future should have higher entropy.}

    Here is one recognized explanation:

    It was Boltzmann who first proposed a kind of “cosmological”
    solution to the problem. As noted above he suggested a universe
    overall close to equilibrium

    {The universe is not now, and never has been, close to thermal equilibrium. It is tending toward thermal equilibrium, but it has a long, long way to go.}

    with “small” sub-regions in fluctuations away from that state. In such a sub-region we would find a world far from equilibrium.

    {One would need to define a very small region (a few cubic meters) very carefully for that region to be in thermal equilibrium. Heat is flowing from hot places to cold places just about everywhere.}

    Introducing the familiar time-symmetric probabilistic assumptions,

    {More than probability is involved. If one builds a sand castle, random processes will cause it to fall apart sooner or later; but gravity is involved, too. That’s why the sand castle will fall down into a flat layer rather than up into a vertical column.}

    it becomes likely that in such a region one finds states of lower entropy in one time direction and states of higher entropy in the other.

    {Total entropy was less in the past, and will be greater in the future. That’s not “time-symmetric.”}

    Then finish the solution by introducing the other Boltzmann suggestion that what we mean by the future direction of time is fixed as that direction of time in which entropy is increasing.

    {It is true that entropy is always increasing; but I’m not sure what his point is. Is he suggesting that in some region of the universe, where energy from an outside source is causing entropy to decrease, that the future can be defined to be the past because entropy has decreased?}

    This requires a very much older universe, and is consistent with a
    universe with no beginning.

    {What? That conclusion would not logically follow from the premise, even if the premise were true.

    {Boltzmann did a lot of great work with fluids (especially gas). Water is easier to visualize than air, so consider this. There is some water in a bath tub. You drop a bar of soap into it, and waves are produced. In some places the water is higher than others. If one cared to (and Boltzmann cared to), one could use probability to characterize the average height of waves.

    {If no energy is lost, then the waves will slosh around the tub forever. Boltzmann realized that theoretically, eventually, all the waves might crash together to form one gigantic wave in the middle of the tub (that is, into one very organized structure) for a brief moment.

    {But, in the real world, energy is lost. Eventually the water in the tub will all be the same height, smooth as glass. No gigantic column of water will naturally form anywhere in the tub, no matter how long one waits.

    {If the universe had existed forever, all the heat would have become evenly distributed throughout the universe by now. Every place in the universe would be the same temperature. This implies that the universe did have a beginning.

    {It does not imply that the universe began 6,000 years ago, or 15 billion years ago, or any other specific length of time ago.}

  10. A Lopsided Universe? | Torah Explorer Says:

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