To quote the great Rowan Atkinson:
- “There certainly seems to be a certain amount of uncertainty about, of that we can be quite… sure”.
Indeed. Surely the most famous example in Physics is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle (HUP). In a nutshell, he states that the more accurately we know about one aspect of something (for example its mass) the less accurately we’ll know something else about it (for example its speed). Plenty of people laud this Quantum Mechanics rule of his because it ‘leaves room for God’. In other words, however clever Man may become, he’ll never know everything about anything. Instead, he will only ever be able to know something about everything. God can still perform his magic ‘miracles’ because there’s a bit of room left in the Universe for Him to ‘play dice’.
However, there’s another example of uncertainty that I like. One of the many things that stayed in my mind since I first read about it (many years ago) was the following. There are several theories on when/how/if the universe will end. We all know that we started off with ‘The Big Bang’. If there’s enough mass in the universe (or the universe is expanding slowly enough), then we’ll all attract each other enough to pull the expanding universe back again to a little ball once more. That’s known as ‘The Big Crunch’. If there is not enough mass (or the speed is too great) then the Universe will continue expanding forever. In other words, there’s a ‘tipping point’.
- So which will it be? Expanding forever or Le Crunch?
All we need to do is measure how much mass there is in the Universe, and measure the speed that the Universe is expanding. Great, let’s do it. OK, I have the results now. Hmmm, quick calculation and…
- …hold on. My estimate for mass and speed is pretty accurate, but there’s a small margin of error. Well, would you believe it? The ‘tipping point’ is inside our margin of error!
That’s a bit of a coincidence eh? The tipping point is exactly inside the small margin of error that exists in our answer. What are the chances of that eh? Goes to show that this God bloke likes a mystery. He’s let us know where we came from (Big Bang) but made sure that we’ve no idea what’s going on now (HUP) or what’ll happen in the future (Big Crunch or heat death via ever expanding universe).
What’s that I hear? You want to know what Roger’s view is on all of this? Well I’ve always rather liked the idea of the Big Bounce, where the Big Crunch is followed by another Big Bang, Crunch and so on (ad infinitum). No idea if that’s currently popular with physicists, and (frankly) I don’t care. It sounds nice to me, so that’s what I’m going for. Prove me wrong…