Besides the study of various aspects of the universe, we can usefully study the universe as a whole because the same physical laws apply everywhere. This is not a fact that has always been clear; it is not even a fact that is clear now, at least not to everyone. But it is an interesting proposition, and I take it to be a fact. The study of cosmology is not the same as the study of physics, because it involves not just the universal laws, but identifying the reach of those laws; it is not the same as astronomy, because it is not just about what we see but also about whether that is all there is, or whether there is a true totality.
Between physics and astronomy are the realms of chemistry, biology, meteorology, and geology. None is particularly cosmic in scale, but all have repercussions on our idea of the nature of the universe. All end up discussing whether their disciplines are fully rational or, at some level, accidental, random, or fundamentally irrational; this is their cosmological dimension.
Einstein, LeMaitre, Jaki, and Hawking are some of the big names in cosmology. So are Newton, Kant, Olbers, Michelson, and, to my way of thinking, Petr Beckman.
Here are some thoughts about cosmology.
Much of this material is based on Tom Bethel’s book, Questioning Einstein: Is Relativity Necessary? Despite the title, Bethel and his mentor Beckman both have great respect for Einstein and show that he questioned relativity as much as anyone, and for specific reasons of math and physics, as well as philosophical predisposition. I meant to cover the entire book, but was interrupted. I will resume one day.
- Einstein 101: relativity summarized by Petr Beckman: the watch problem
- Einstein 102: No dice: Einstein didn’t think that a universe run by accident was a reasonable description of our dwelling — or of God’s work.
- Einstein 103: The ripple without the pond: Giving up the ether seemed the only conclusion of the Michelson Morley experiments, but it was problematic.
- Einstein 104: Galilean relativity This is ordinary stuff. Of course your point of view affects what you see! and it’s a little more subtle than that, but still fairly simple. See also:
- Corey’s Bow (part 3): The Jumblies This is actually Galilean relativity at work
- Einstein 105: Swimmer’s Paradox This paradox suggested a way to measure for the existence of ether.
Some basic considerations
- What Is Space? A netword of possible paths…
- Is there a Universe? A totality of material objects: countable, not infinite
- Hawking’s Multiverse The cosmic foam from which bangs, large and small, lealp forth
- Pullman Multiverse A fictional (and bad) suggestion about the possibilities of multiple universes.
- Rare Earth ~ Privileged Planet Reasons for thinking Earth is unique within this galaxy or even this whole universe.
- Deep Space; Deep Time Herschel recognized that deep space implied deep time. 1780’s
- William and Caroline Herschel More about these two and their cosmology
Jaki’s book: Is there a Universe
Jaki is one of my most basic resources. Here are some reflections on this book, not an easy read, but full of unexpected and important considerations:
- A New Science: Cosmology is no more than 400 years old.
- Early 20th Century Cosmology We began the 20th century still centered on the Milky Way.
- Olbers’ Paradox
- Bentley’s Paradox
- An Old Insensitivity
- Most Incomprehensible
- Athanasius on Cosmology
Full Circle from Copernicus
At the CL Summer Education Conference this year (2010) I gave a workshop on the history of cosmology. Later I blogged it in 14 steps:
- Full Circle from Copernicus 01
- What is the Universe? 02
- Copernicus 03
- Bruno & Huygens 04
- Galileo 05
- Newton and the Finite Universe 06
- Kant 07
- Herschel to Bessell 08
- Einstein to Hubble 09
- LeMaitre & Hoyle 10
- Where is Everybody? 11
- Sagan to Brownlee 12
- Hawking vs Gonzalez 13
- Cosmology Today 14