The startling discovery of modern science is that our physical universe is actually finite. Scientists now acknowledge that the universe had a beginning. They call the singularity from which it all began the "Big Bang."
While the details among the many variants of these theories remain quite controversial, the fact that there was a definite beginning has gained widespread agreement.1 This is, of course, what the Bible has maintained throughout its 66 books.
From thermodynamic considerations, it also appears that all processes in the universe inevitably contribute the losses from their inefficiencies to the ambient temperature, and thus the universe ultimately will attain a uniform temperature in which no work - all of which ultimately derives from temperature differences - will be able to be accomplished. Scientists call this ultimate physical destiny the "heat death."
Mankind, therefore, finds itself caught in the finite interval between the singularity that began it all and a finite termination. The mathematical concept of infinity - in any spatial direction or in terms of time - seems astonishingly absent in the physical macrocosm, the domain of the astronomers and cosmologists.
In the microcosmic domain, there also appears to be an even more astonishing boundary to smallness. If we take a segment of length, we can divide it in half. We can take one of the remaining halves, and we can divide it in half again. We naturally assume that this can go on forever. We assume that no matter how small a length we end up dealing with, we can always - at least conceptually - divide any remainder in half. It turns out that this is not true. There is a length known as the Planck length, 10-33 centimeters, that is indivisible.
The same thing is true of mass, energy, and even time. There is a unit of time which cannot be subdivided: 10-43 seconds. It is in this strange world of subatomic behavior that scientists have now encountered the very boundaries of physical reality, as we experience it. The study of these subatomic components is called quantum mechanics, or quantum physics.
The startling discovery made by the quantum physicists is that if you break matter into smaller and smaller pieces you eventually reach a point where those pieces - electrons, protons, et al. - no longer possess the traits of objects. Although they can sometimes behave as if they were a compact little particle, physicists have found that they literally possess no dimension.
Another disturbing discovery of the physicists is that a subatomic particle, such as an electron, can manifest itself as either a particle or a wave.
If you shoot an electron at a television screen that has been turned off, a tiny point of light will appear when it strikes the phosphorescent chemicals that coat the glass. The single point of impact which the electron leaves on the screen clearly reveals the particle-like side of its nature.
But that is not the only form the electron can assume. It can also dissolve into a blurry cloud of energy and behave as if it were a wave spread out over space. When an electron manifests itself as a wave, it can do things no particle can. If it is fired at a barrier in which two slits have been cut, it can go through both slits simultaneously. When wavelike electrons collide with each other they even create interference patterns.
It is interesting that in 1906, J. J. Thomson received the Nobel Prize for proving that electrons are particles. In 1937 he saw his son awarded the Nobel Prize for proving that electrons were waves. Both father and son were correct. From then on, the evidence for the wave/particle duality has become overwhelming.
This chameleon-like ability is common to all subatomic particles. Called quanta, they can manifest themselves either as a particle or a wave. What makes them even more astonishing is that there is compelling evidence that the only time quanta ever manifest themselves as particles is when we are looking at them.
The Danish physicist Niels Bohr pointed out that if subatomic particles only come into existence in the presence of an observer, then it is also meaningless to speak of a particle's properties and characteristics as existing before they are observed. But if the act of observation actually helped create such properties, what does that imply about the future of science?
Anyone who isn't shocked by quantum physics has not understood it. Niels Bohr
It gets worse. Some subatomic processes result in the creation of a pair of particles with identical or closely related properties. Quantum physics predicts that attempts to measure complementary characteristics on the pair - even when traveling in opposite directions - would always be frustrated. Such strange behavior would imply that the particles would have to be interconnected in some way so as to be instantaneously in communication with each other.
One physicist who was deeply troubled by Bohr's assertions was Dr. Albert Einstein. Despite the role Einstein had played in the founding of quantum theory, he was not pleased with the course the fledgling science had taken.
In 1935 Einstein and his colleagues Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen published their now-famous paper, "Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?"2
The problem, according to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The instantaneous communication implied by the view of quantum physics would be tantamount to breaking the time barrier and would open the door to all kinds of unacceptable paradoxes.
Einstein and his colleagues were convinced that no "reasonable definition" of reality would permit such faster-than-light interconnections to exist, and therefore Bohr had to be wrong. Their argument is now known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox, or EPR paradox for short.
Bohr remained unperturbed by Einstein's argument. Rather than believing that some kind of faster-than-light communication was taking place, he offered another explanation:
If subatomic particles do not exist until they are observed, then one could no longer think of them as independent "things." Thus Einstein was basing his argument on an error when he viewed twin particles as separate. They were part of an indivisible system, and it was meaningless to think of them otherwise.
In time, most physicists sided with Bohr and became content that his interpretation was correct. One factor that contributed to Bohr's following was that quantum physics had proved so spectacularly successful in predicting phenomena, few physicists were willing to even consider the possibility that it might be faulty in some way. The entire industries of lasers, microelectronics, and computers have emerged on the reliability of the predictions of quantum physics.
The popular Cal Tech physicist Richard Feynman has summed up this paradoxical situation well:
I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum mechanics... In fact, it is often stated that of all the theories proposed in this century, the silliest is quantum theory. Some say that the only thing that quantum theory has going for it, in fact, is that it is unquestionably correct.
When Einstein and his colleagues first made their proposal, technical reasons prevented any empirical experiments actually being performed. The broader philosophical implications were, ironically, ignored and swept under the carpet.
The ancient Hebrew scholar Nachmonides, writing in the 12th century, concluded from his studies of the text of Genesis that the universe has ten dimensions: that four are knowable and six are beyond our knowing.
Particle physicists today have also concluded that we live in ten dimensions. Three spatial dimensions and time are directly discernible and measurable. The remaining six are "curled" in less than the Planck length (10-33 centimeters) and thus are only inferable by indirect means.3
(Some physicists believe that there may be as many as 26 dimensions.4 Ten and twenty-six emerge from the mathematics associated with superstring theory, a current candidate in the pursuit of a theory to totally integrate all known forces in the universe.)
Fracture in Genesis 3?
There is a provocative conjecture that these ten (or more) dimensions were originally integrated, but suffered a fracture as a result of the events summarized in Genesis Chapter 3. The resulting upheaval separated them into the "physical" and "spiritual" worlds.
There appears to be some Scriptural basis for an original close coupling between the spiritual and physical world. The highly venerated Onkelos translation of Genesis 1:31 emphasizes that "...it was a unified order."
The suggestion is that the current physics, including the entropy laws, ("the bondage of decay") were a result of the fall.5
The entropy laws reveal a universe that is "winding down." It had to have been initially "wound up." This windup - the reduction of entropy, or the infusion of order (information) - is described in Genesis 1 in a series of six stages. The terms used in this progressive reduction of entropy (disorder) are, erev and boker, which ultimately led to their being translated "evening" and "morning."
Erev and Boker
Erev is dark, obscure randomness; it is maximum entropy. As darkness envelopes our horizon, we lose the ability to discern order or patterns. The darkness is "without form and void."
From this term we derive the current sememe for "evening," when the encroaching darkness begins to deny us the ability to discern forms,shapes, and identities.
Boker is the advent of light, where things begin to become discernible and visible; order begins to appear.
This relief of obscurity, and the attendant ability to begin to discern forms, shapes, and identities has become associated with dawn or "morning," as the early twilight begins to reveal order and design. Evening and mornings constituted the principal stages of creation. Six "evenings" and "mornings" became the "days" constituting the creation "week." However, what we know about the physical universe is only from observing the universe after the upheavals of Genesis 3.
July 1998 Personal Update NewsJournal.
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2. Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen, "Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete?" Physical Review, 47 (1935), p.777.
3. Michio Kaku, Hyperspace, Oxford University Press, New York, 1994.
4. Strangely, 26 is the gematria of the tetragamaton, YHWH.
5. Hebrews 11:3; Romans 8:19-23; Psalm 102:25-27; Proverbs 16:33; Ephesians 1:11; Hebrews 1:2-3; Colossians 1:16,17.