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Astronomer: The Star Wars we grew up with are over. The real universe is lonelier

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Christopher Graney at the Vatican Observatory Foundation Blog offers some thoughtful comments on the relationship between the Star Wars we all grew up with and the actual universe we are learning about now:

Star Wars: On the Wrong Side of History & Science – Episode One:

Star Wars is set in a wonderfully imaginative universe that features a profusion of cool planets, cooler alien life forms, and the coolest space ships. But that universe, with Tatooine, Dagobah, Naboo, Jakku, Endor, and all their fantastic creatures and “people”—even the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks—is a well-worn idea, and an idea whose time has passed. Science and history are twin Dreadnoughts closing in on and crushing the Star Wars universe like the First Order picking off the last remnants of Princess/General Leia Organa’s little fleet (for those who have not seen the more recent Star Wars films, the First Order is the new version of the Empire). This is the first in a series of posts (click here for the series) that will argue that science and history strongly suggest that the universe seen in Star Wars—a universe full of intelligent, technologically advanced extraterrestrial life; that is, full of “Space Aliens”—is simply not plausible. Science and history strongly suggest that intelligent, technologically advanced extraterrestrial life is rare within the real universe that is the home of we Earthlings—rare enough that we may very well be “functionally alone” or “sensibly alone” (that is, far enough separated from any Space Aliens that we will never know that they exist, and they will never know that we exist). More.

Episode Two:

The fact is that a couple centuries ago the conventional wisdom was that there was a “Plurality of Worlds”. In other words, the conventional wisdom was that the planets were much like Earth and the stars were much like the sun, and the planets orbiting those suns were like the planets orbiting our sun—and all those planets had life, and intelligent life. Given that it was broadly thought that life was spontaneously generated from inanimate matter (click here), why would they not?

That universe of two centuries ago, the universe of the Plurality of Worlds, is the universe of Star Wars: It is a universe full of other Earths, full of intelligent beings. President John Adams would not have found Jar Jar Binks, or Jabba the Hutt, or Maz Kanata surprising at all.

The idea of the Plurality of Worlds is an idea of universal homogeneity. Everything is like us: planets are Earths; stars are suns; planetary systems are solar systems; life is everywhere—just like Earth. Does that really make sense? Can we assume that just because planets are round, orbit the sun, and rotate, that therefore they have sailing ships and rope for them, because, well, why would Earth be the only place to have sailing ships and rope? But such homogeneity was assumed. More.

It didn’t used to be cool to say this stuff.

Here are Graney’s comments on further episodes.

See also: Catholic astronomer on Canada’s government’s universe of randomness (“Stuff happens.”)

and

What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

3 Replies to “Astronomer: The Star Wars we grew up with are over. The real universe is lonelier

  1. 1
    Aeneas Pietas says:

    As a fan of Star Wars, I was surprised to find out how exciting scientists find the discovery of extra-solar planets. It never would have occurred to me (or to anyone who grew up watching those films) that ours was the only star in the entire universe that has planets.

    Oh, and at the risk of starting the sort of debate that makes intelligent design v atheistic evolution look like a tea party, the prequels were great.

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Although Dr. Graney does a fine job from science and history establishing the fact that earthlike planets which are able to support life are not nearly as common in the universe as has been presupposed, (apparently for centuries), what Dr. Graney fails to realize,,,

    Star Wars: On the Wrong Side of History & Science – Episode V! – March 24, 2018
    Excerpt: “Back in the day” of the Copernican Revolution there were people who for any number of reasons liked an Earth-centered universe; they were vested in the idea, and they did not want to see it go. They did not cotton to new evidence mucking about with their world view, which often was grounded in the established science of the time—the science of Aristotle. Today there are people who like the Plurality of Worlds, who are vested in that idea now, who will not want to see it go, and who think of their view as being grounded in science. Think of the number of times you have heard or read about the Earth being just the third rock circling an insignificant star in a run-of-the-mill galaxy, etc., followed by pronouncements on our cosmic insignificance, references to Giordano Bruno, etc. To date, when a revolution in science undermines a longstanding worldview, there is push-back from that worldview’s staunchest adherents; and there is no reason to think this Revolution will be any different.
    http://www.vofoundation.org/bl.....er-graney/

    ,,, What Dr. Graney fails to realize is that our best science from General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics has now also overturned the Copernican Principle.

    Copernican Principle, Agent Causality, and Jesus Christ as the “Theory of Everything”
    https://uncommondescent.com/philosophy/from-philip-cunningham-copernican-principle-agent-causality-and-jesus-christ-as-the-theory-of-everything/

    Contrary to what is popularly believed, (even among Christians), the fact of the matter is that both General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics have themselves now overturned the Copernican principle and/or the principle of mediocrity as being a valid principle in science.

    Particularly, In the 4 dimensional spacetime of Einstein’s General Relativity, we find that each 3-Dimensional point in the universe is central to the expansion of the universe,,,

    Where is the centre of the universe?:
    Excerpt: There is no centre of the universe! According to the standard theories of cosmology, the universe started with a “Big Bang” about 14 thousand million years ago and has been expanding ever since. Yet there is no centre to the expansion; it is the same everywhere. The Big Bang should not be visualized as an ordinary explosion. The universe is not expanding out from a centre into space; rather, the whole universe is expanding and it is doing so equally at all places, as far as we can tell.
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/.....entre.html

    ,,, and since any 3-Dimensional point can be considered central in the 4-Dimensional space time of General Relativity, then, as the following articles make clear, it is now left completely open to whomever is making a model of the universe to decide for themselves what is to be considered central in the universe,,,

    How Einstein Revealed the Universe’s Strange “Nonlocality” – George Musser | Oct 20, 2015
    Excerpt: Under most circumstances, we can ignore this nonlocality. You can designate some available chunk of matter as a reference point and use it to anchor a coordinate grid. You can, to the chagrin of Santa Barbarans, take Los Angeles as the center of the universe and define every other place with respect to it. In this framework, you can go about your business in blissful ignorance of space’s fundamental inability to demarcate locations.,,
    In short, Einstein’s theory is nonlocal in a more subtle and insidious way than Newton’s theory of gravity was. Newtonian gravity acted at a distance, but at least it operated within a framework of absolute space. Einsteinian gravity has no such element of wizardry; its effects ripple through the universe at the speed of light. Yet it demolishes the framework, violating locality in what was, for Einstein, its most basic sense: the stipulation that all things have a location. General relativity confounds our intuitive picture of space as a kind of container in which material objects reside and forces us to search for an entirely new conception of place.
    http://www.scientificamerican......nlocality/

    How Einstein Lost His Bearings, and With Them, General Relativity – March 2018
    Excerpt: Einstein’s field equations — the equations of general relativity — describe how the shape of space-time evolves in response to the presence of matter and energy. To describe that evolution, you need to impose on space-time a coordinate system — like lines of latitude and longitude — that tells you which points are where.
    The most important thing to recognize about coordinate systems is that they’re human contrivances. Maybe in one coordinate system we label a point (0, 0, 0), and in another we label that same point (1, 1, 1). The physical properties haven’t changed — we’ve just tagged the point differently. “Those labels are something about us, not something about the world,” said James Weatherall, a philosopher of science at the University of California, Irvine.,,,
    The Einstein field equations we have today are generally covariant. They express the same physical truths about the universe — how space-time curves in the presence of energy and matter — regardless of what coordinates you use to label things.,,,
    as Einstein discovered,,, the universe doesn’t admit any one privileged choice of coordinates.
    https://www.quantamagazine.org/how-einstein-lost-his-bearings-and-with-them-general-relativity-20180314/

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Einstein himself stated, The two sentences: “the sun is at rest and the earth moves” or “the sun moves and the earth is at rest” would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS [coordinate systems].”

    “Can we formulate physical laws so that they are valid for all CS [coordinate systems], not only those moving uniformly, but also those moving quite arbitrarily, relative to each other? […] The struggle, so violent in the early days of science, between the views of Ptolemy and Copernicus would then be quite meaningless. Either CS could be used with equal justification. The two sentences: “the sun is at rest and the earth moves” or “the sun moves and the earth is at rest” would simply mean two different conventions concerning two different CS.”
    Einstein, A. and Infeld, L. (1938) The Evolution of Physics, p.212 (p.248 in original 1938 ed.);

    Fred Hoyle and George Ellis add their considerable weight here in these following two quotes:

    “The relation of the two pictures [geocentrism and geokineticism] is reduced to a mere coordinate transformation and it is the main tenet of the Einstein theory that any two ways of looking at the world which are related to each other by a coordinate transformation are entirely equivalent from a physical point of view…. Today we cannot say that the Copernican theory is ‘right’ and the Ptolemaic theory ‘wrong’ in any meaningful physical sense.”
    Hoyle, Fred. Nicolaus Copernicus. London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd., 1973.

    “People need to be aware that there is a range of models that could explain the observations… For instance, I can construct you a spherically symmetrical universe with Earth at its center, and you cannot disprove it based on observations… You can only exclude it on philosophical grounds… What I want to bring into the open is the fact that we are using philosophical criteria in choosing our models. A lot of cosmology tries to hide that.”
    – George Ellis – W. Wayt Gibbs, “Profile: George F. R. Ellis,” Scientific American, October 1995, Vol. 273, No.4, p. 55

    As Einstein himself noted, there simply is no test that can be performed that can prove the earth is not the center of the universe:

    “One need not view the existence of such centrifugal forces as originating from the motion of K’ [the Earth]; one could just as well account for them as resulting from the average rotational effect of distant, detectable masses as evidenced in the vicinity of K’ [the Earth], whereby K’ [the Earth] is treated as being at rest.”
    –Albert Einstein, quoted in Hans Thirring, “On the Effect of Distant Rotating Masses in Einstein’s Theory of Gravitation”, Physikalische Zeitschrift 22, 29, 1921
    http://galileowaswrong.com/com.....onference/

    “If one rotates the shell *relative to the fixed stars* about an axis going through its center, a Coriolis force arises in the interior of the shell, *that is, the plane of a Foucault pendulum is dragged around*”
    –Albert Einstein, cited in “Gravitation”, Misner Thorne and Wheeler pp. 544-545.

    Here are a few more references that drives this point home:

    “We can’t feel our motion through space, nor has any physical experiment ever proved that the Earth actually is in motion.,,,
    If all the objects in space were removed save one, then no one could say whether that one remaining object was at rest or hurtling through the void at 100,000 miles per second”
    Historian Lincoln Barnett – “The Universe and Dr. Einstein” – pg 73 (contains a foreword by Albert Einstein)
    https://books.google.com/books?id=Y4njDAAAQBAJ&pg=PT73&lpg=PT73

    Could 80-year-old ether experiments have detected a cosmological temperature gradient? – February 8, 2016
    Excerpt: the 20 or so experiments performed since 1887 seem to have steadily improved the precision in support of the view that there is no ether and no preferred reference frame.
    http://phys.org/news/2016-02-y.....dient.html

    “In the Ptolemaic system, the earth is considered to be at rest and without rotation in the center of the universe, while the sun, other planets and fixed stars rotate around the earth. In relational mechanics this rotation of distant matter yields the force such that the equation of motion takes the form of equation (8.47). Now the gravitational attraction of the sun is balanced by a real gravitational centrifugal force due to the annual rotation of distant masses around the earth (with a component having a period of one year). In this way the earth can remain at rest and at an essentially constant distance from the sun. The diurnal rotation of distant masses around the earth (with a period of one day) yields a real gravitational centrifugal force flattening the earth at the poles. Foucault’s pendulum is explained by a real Coriolis force acting on moving masses over the earth’s surface in the form –2mgvme ´ ?Ue, where vme is the velocity of the test body relative to the earth and ?Ue is the angular rotation of the distant masses around the earth. The effect of this force will be to keep the plane of oscillation of the pendulum rotating together with the fixed stars.”
    (Andre K. T. Assis, Relational Mechanics, pp. 190-191).

    “…Thus we may return to Ptolemy’s point of view of a ‘motionless earth’… One has to show that the transformed metric can be regarded as produced according to Einstein’s field equations, by distant rotating masses. This has been done by Thirring. He calculated a field due to a rotating, hollow, thick-walled sphere and proved that inside the cavity it behaved as though there were centrifugal and other inertial forces usually attributed to absolute space. Thus from Einstein’s point of view, Ptolemy and Copernicus are equally right.”
    Born, Max. “Einstein’s Theory of Relativity”, Dover Publications,1962, pgs 344 & 345:

    Even Stephen Hawking himself, who once claimed that we are just chemical scum on an insignificant planet, stated that it is not true that Copernicus proved Ptolemy wrong,,, the real advantage of the Copernican system is simply that the equations of motion are much simpler in the frame of reference in which the sun is at rest.”

    “So which is real, the Ptolemaic or Copernican system? Although it is not uncommon for people to say that Copernicus proved Ptolemy wrong, that is not true. As in the case of our normal view versus that of the goldfish, one can use either picture as a model of the universe, for our observations of the heavens can be explained by assuming either the earth or the sun to be at rest.
    Despite its role in philosophical debates over the nature of our universe, the real advantage of the Copernican system is simply that the equations of motion are much simpler in the frame of reference in which the sun is at rest.”
    Stephen Hawking – The Grand Design – pages 39 – 2010
    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7lZ7JU-iHeBNllYTVdRS2JjbEE/view?pli=1

    Even individual people, as the following article makes clear, can be considered to be central in the universe according to the four-dimensional space-time of General Relativity,,,

    You Technically Are the Center of the Universe – May 2016
    Excerpt: (due to the 1 in 10^120 finely tuned expansion of the 4-D space-time of General Relativity) no matter where you stand, it will appear that everything in the universe is expanding around you. So the center of the universe is technically — everywhere.
    The moment you pick a frame of reference, that point becomes the center of the universe.
    Here’s another way to think about it: The sphere of space we can see around us is the visible universe. We’re looking at the light from stars that’s traveled millions or billions of years to reach us. When we reach the 13.8 billion-light-year point, we’re seeing the universe just moments after the Big Bang happened.
    But someone standing on another planet, a few light-years to the right, would see a different sphere of the universe. It’s sort of like lighting a match in the middle of a dark room: Your observable universe is the sphere of the room that the light illuminates.
    But someone standing in a different spot in the room will be able to see a different sphere. So technically, we are all standing at the center of our own observable universes.
    https://mic.com/articles/144214/you-technically-are-the-center-of-the-universe-thanks-to-a-wacky-physics-quirk

    ,,, In fact, when Einstein first formulated both Special and General relativity, he gave a hypothetical observer a privileged frame of reference in which to make measurements in the universe.

    Introduction to special relativity
    Excerpt: Einstein’s approach was based on thought experiments, calculations, and the principle of relativity, which is the notion that all physical laws should appear the same (that is, take the same basic form) to all inertial observers.,,,
    Each observer has a distinct “frame of reference” in which velocities are measured,,,,
    – per wikipedia

    The happiest thought of my life.
    Excerpt: In 1920 Einstein commented that a thought came into his mind when writing the above-mentioned paper he called it “the happiest thought of my life”:
    “The gravitational field has only a relative existence… Because for an observer freely falling from the roof of a house – at least in his immediate surroundings – there exists no gravitational field.”
    http://physics.ucr.edu/~wudka/.....ode85.html

    Whereas, on the other hand, in Quantum Mechanics it is the measurement itself that gives each observer a privileged frame of reference in the universe. As the following article states, “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,”,,,

    Experiment confirms quantum theory weirdness – May 27, 2015
    Excerpt: Common sense says the object is either wave-like or particle-like, independent of how we measure it. But quantum physics predicts that whether you observe wave like behavior (interference) or particle behavior (no interference) depends only on how it is actually measured at the end of its journey. This is exactly what the ANU team found.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said Associate Professor Andrew Truscott from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering.
    http://phys.org/news/2015-05-q.....dness.html

    Richard Conn Henry, who is Professor of Physics at John Hopkins University, states “It is more than 80 years since the discovery of quantum mechanics gave us the most fundamental insight ever into our nature: the overturning of the Copernican Revolution, and the restoration of us human beings to centrality in the Universe.”

    “It is more than 80 years since the discovery of quantum mechanics gave us the most fundamental insight ever into our nature: the overturning of the Copernican Revolution, and the restoration of us human beings to centrality in the Universe.
    And yet, have you ever before read a sentence having meaning similar to that of my preceding sentence? Likely you have not, and the reason you have not is, in my opinion, that physicists are in a state of denial, and have fears and agonies that are very similar to the fears and agonies that Copernicus and Galileo went through with their perturbations of society.”
    Richard Conn Henry – Professor of Physics – John Hopkins University
    http://henry.pha.jhu.edu/quantum.enigma.html

    Thus, contrary to popular belief, humans are not nearly as insignificant in this universe as many people, including many Christians, have been falsely led to believe by the Copernican principle. The following video touches on many more evidences that firmly establish the fact that man is not nearly as insignificant in this universe as is commonly believed:

    Humanity – Chemical Scum or Made in the Image of God? – video
    https://youtu.be/ElBWAwjPzyM

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