Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Big Bang: Are We Missing Crucial Pieces?

In the last three blog posts I have discussed some of the details still being investigated about the big bang and subsequent development of the universe and our solar system. Some of these issues are used by young earth creationists who claim the universe is only a few thousand years old in an attempt to discredit the big bang. I have addressed (1) poor strategies used to cast doubt on certain scientific discoveries, (2) issues with the formation of our solar system, and (3) fine tuning observations that are addressed by cosmic inflation. These particular subjects were brought up by a reader of this blog who asked about them and directed me to a few videos by young earth creationists. The list of questions asked by this reader have all been answered except for two: what about the missing antimatter, and what about the missing population III stars? Let's try to determine whether these are truly missing and, if so, what does their absence say about our understanding of the origin of the universe.

According to current scientific ideas about the origin of the universe, in the very early moments of the universe there were 10,000,000,001 particles of matter for every 10,000,000,000 antimatter particles as I discussed in a previous blog post. That article discussed in some detail what we know and don't know about the difference between matter and antimatter. We know that matter and antimatter annihilate each other when they collide and their mass transforms into energy. If the early universe had the above distribution of matter and antimatter, for every 10,000,000,000 collisions which would destroy 10,000,000,000 pairs of matter/antimatter particles 1 matter particle would remain. Those 1 out of 10,000,000,000 particles would be the matter that our current universe is made of. For all of this to have occurred as scientists think it did, there would have to be a measurable difference between matter and antimatter. And, in fact, there is.

The "missing antimatter problem" is only a problem if matter and antimatter behave exactly the same. Then the big bang would have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter and they would all have annihilated leaving only energy in the universe and no massive particles at all. But, scientists do know that matter and antimatter interact differently so there should be an imbalance leading to a universe that does have some left over matter after all the antimatter has annihilated. However, there is still somewhat of a problem because the difference in matter and antimatter that we have measured is not enough to produce the amount of matter that we observe in the universe. So it seems to be more a problem of degree rather than a fundamental problem of possibility.

The fact that we have actually discovered a difference between matter and antimatter in a process called CP (charge-parity) violation is quite amazing. It's original discovery in 1964 was unexpected and led to Nobel prizes for James Cronin and Val Fitch. The amount of CP violation discovered so far does not account for the amount of matter we observe, so we continue to look for other mechanisms that differentiate matter from antimatter. Since we know that such differentiation is possible and has been observed, it doesn't seem unreasonable to assume that future scientific investigation will find enough difference between matter and antimatter to account for what we observe in the universe.

Population III stars are supposedly the very first stars that were formed after the big bang and should be composed of the only elements created in the first moments of the big bang: hydrogen and helium (with a few other trace elements). Although we have not directly observed any population III stars, there is some indirect evidence that they may exist in distant galaxies. In addition, there are some theoretical calculations that indicate these population III stars would have been so massive that they burned out very quickly and consequently, we should not see any at all. Other theoretical ideas don't predict that same result. But if all population III stars do follow the large-mass theory, we would expect to see very few, if any, of them.

So the brief answer to the question of whether or not there is really any missing antimatter or population III stars is, "yes" for antimatter but only in degree since we can account for some matter, and "maybe" depending on the mass and lifetime of population III stars. The fact that there may be some missing pieces simply means that all the details about the origin of our universe are not yet understood. It is quite remarkable how much we do know about the origin and 14 billion year old history of our universe. A few missing pieces doesn't mean the whole puzzle is incorrect.

Also, as I stated in my previous blog post, none of these scientific issues that are still being investigated should be used by young earth creationists to discredit the big bang. If God created the universe in a big bang, he could have easily created enough matter to account for what we see and could have easily created the stars we see. If a young earth creationists claims that God supernaturally made the universe 6,000 years ago then God could have done the same thing 14 billion years ago. If a young earth creationists argues that God created a universe that circumvented the laws of physics to make it mature then God could have certainly circumvented the laws of physics to make enough matter and stars.  That could have occurred 6,000 years ago or 14 billion years ago. Although that is not the scenario that scientists (Christian or non-Christian) postulate about the big bang, the young earth creationist is being inconsistent if he or she applies one set of rules to how God could create 6,0000 years ago but a different set of rules to how God could create 14 billion years ago.

In reality, the fact that science has discovered that our universe had a beginning, so the cause of the universe must be transcendent, is extremely powerful evidence for God. If a divine being wanted to give us objective evidence of his existence, one of the best things that being could do is create a universe in which its origin can be observationally determined by the beings that occupy that universe and have the observations be such that they require a transcendent cause. That is exactly the case in our universe. The big bang origin of the universe is among the most compelling evidences for God that could be imagined.


2 comments:

  1. Were all the known physical constants of physics set at the time of the BB as seems necessary if the laws were always followed in forming the universe we see. How much say could h change in % and still have our universe?

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    1. We don't know how the constants of nature were set, but almost certainly from the moment of the big bang. Most have tolerances of a percent or so.

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