#1 'A Day Without Yesterday': Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang
09-30-2009, 11:51 PM
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- Aug 2005
'A Day Without Yesterday': Georges Lemaitre & the Big Bang
"Georges Lemaitre a Belgian mathematician and Catholic priest who developed the theory of the Big Bang."
In January 1933, the Belgian mathematician and Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre traveled with Albert Einstein to California for a series of seminars.
After the Belgian detailed his Big Bang theory, Einstein stood up applauded,
and said, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of
creation to which I have ever listened.”
In the winter of 1998, two separate teams of astronomers in Berkeley, California, made a similar, startling discovery. They were both observing supernovae -- exploding stars visible over great distances -- to see how fast the universe is expanding. In accordance with prevailing scientific wisdom, the astronomers expected to find the rate of expansion to be decreasing, Instead they found it to be increasing -- a discovery which has since "shaken astronomy to its core" (Astronomy, October 1999).
This discovery would have come as no surprise to Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966), a Belgian mathematician and Catholic priest who developed the theory of the Big Bang. Lemaitre described the beginning of the universe as a burst of fireworks, comparing galaxies to the burning embers spreading
out in a growing sphere from the center of the burst. He believed this burst of fireworks was the beginning of time, taking place on "a day without yesterday."
After decades of struggle, other scientists came to accept the Big Bang as fact. But while most scientists -- including the mathematician Stephen Hawking -- predicted that gravity would eventually slow down the expansion of the universe and make the universe fall back toward its center, Lemaitre believed that the universe would keep expanding.
He argued that the Big Bang was a unique event, while other scientists believed that the universe would shrink to the point of another Big Bang, and so on.
The observations made in Berkeley supported Lemaitre's contention that the Big Bang was in fact "a day without yesterday."
When Georges Lemaitre was born in Charleroi, Belgium, most scientists thought that the universe was infinite in age and constant in its general appearance. The work of Isaac Newton and James C. Maxwell suggested an eternal universe.
When Albert Einstein first published his theory of relativity in 1916, it seemed to confirm that the universe had gone on forever, stable and unchanging.
Lemaitre began his own scientific career at the College of Engineering in Louvain in 1913. He was forced to leave after a year, however, to serve in the Belgian artillery during World War I.
When the war was over, he entered Maison Saint Rombaut, a seminary of the Archdiocese of Malines, where, in his leisure time, he read mathematics and science.
After his ordination in 1923, Lemaitre studied math and science at Cambridge University, where one of his professors, Arthur Eddington, was the director of the observatory,For his research at Cambridge, Lemaitre reviewed the general theory of relativity.
As with Einstein's calculations ten years earlier, Lemaitre's calculations showed that the universe had to be either shrinking or expanding. But while Einstein imagined an unknown force -- a cosmological constant -- which kept the world stable, Lemaitre decided that the universe was expanding.
He came to this conclusion after observing the reddish glow, known as a red shift, surrounding objects outside of our galaxy. If interpreted as a Doppler effect, this shift in color meant that the galaxies were moving away from us.
Lemaitre published his calculations and his reasoning in Annales de la Societe
scientifique de Bruxelles in 1927. Few people took notice. That same year he talked with Einstein in Brussels, but the latter, unimpressed, said, "Your calculations are correct, but your grasp of physics is abominable."
10-01-2009, 12:18 AM
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- Aug 2005
New astrophysical discoveries leave little to no room for Atheism, expert says
Fr. Spitzer explained that, since science is based on a empirical model, it can change at any time. Nevertheless, as science develops and the so called “Big Bang” theory of the origin and existence of the universe becomes more refined, “it becomes less and less possible for other explanations (of the universe) to be scientifically viable.”
The theory, developed by the Belgian Catholic priest and astronomer Georges Lemaître, proposes that the Universe has expanded from a primordial dense initial condition at some time in the past (currently estimated to have been approximately 13.7 billion years ago), and continues to expand to this day.
The model, according to Fr. Spitzer, has been revised, refined and scientifically established to a point that any other theory of the origin and existence of the universe has become harder and harder to defend.
Fr. Spitzer explained that, what we know from the most recent scientific evidence is that “the universe is not the universe of Mr. Newton anymore, it is not infinite, it is finite, it started at some point, and is in constant expansion.”
He then explained the complexity of the universe, saying it is based on “an incredibly delicate balance of 17 cosmological constants. If any of them would be off by one part of a tenth at a forty potency, we would be dead and the universe would not be what it is.”
“Every single Big Bang model shows the existence of what scientists call a ‘singularity,’ and the existence of each singularity demands the existence of an external ‘element’ to the universe,” Fr. Spitzer said.
The priest physicist then proceeded to explain the different, complex versions of the various Bing Bang theories.
He quoted Roger Penrose, the world-famous English mathematician and physicist, who corrected some of the theories of his friend and colleague Stephen Hawkins to conclude that every Big Bang theory, including the one known as Quantum theory, confirms the existence of singularities. Therefore, said Spitzer, the need to find an explanation to the universe’s existence drives us to seek “a force that is previous and independent from the universe.”
Fr. Spitzer also quoted the 2003 experiments by three leading cosmologists, Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, who were able to prove that any universe which has, on average, been expanding throughout its history cannot be infinite in the past but must have a past space-time boundary.
“The concept at this point is clear: nothing is nothing, and from nothing, nothing comes, since nothing is... nothing!” Fr. Spitzer said, to explain the fact that contemporary astrophysics demands “something with sufficient power to bring the universe into existence.”
“It sounds like a theological argument, but is really a scientific conclusion.
“There is no way to ignore the fact that it demands the existence of a singularity and therefore of a Creator outside space and time,” he added.
According to Fr. Spitzer, “this theory has become so scientifically solid, that 50% of astrophysicists are “coming out of the closet” an accepting a metaphysical conclusion: the need of a Creator.”
The Jesuit priest explained that this theory is not what is currently known as “Intelligent Design.”
“Intelligent Design is a biological theory, this is an anthropic universe theory, based on the question: Can our universe sustain forms of life no matter what, without any external energy?”
According to Fr. Spitzer, Professor Penrose “has provided a mathematical model in which the possibilities of a universe that would not be gobbled without the existence of a Creator are simply improvable, to a point of mathematical impossibility.”
“What can we conclude of this? First that the Creator is really smart... and second that it must be a loving one, because He could choose so many more violent and chaotic alternatives, that it really has to make you wonder.”
Fr. Spitzer explained to CNA that “all this information must be conveyed in a simple manner to our seminarians, our college and high school students, who are mostly ignorant of the powerful Theistic message of today’s astrophysics.”
The Jesuit physicist, with the help of some Catholic philanthropists, is working on a project to create a 90-minute curriculum, divided into three 30-minute segments, that will offer the astrophysics-based response to atheism. “It will be a high quality production that will involve 12 physicists, as well as dynamic and engaging graphics,” he explained.
“The idea,” he told CNA, “is to make not only DVDs that can be distributed to all Catholic high schools or Newman centers around the U.S., but to make it available for free via the Internet.”
Fr. Spitzer is working in another three more 90-minute curricula: “The historical evidence of Jesus,” “Suffering and the love of God” and “Contemporary philosophical responses to Atheism.”
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