An Infinite Question
Here is a great letter from a very sharp student in England:
Dear Mr. Borchardt,
My name is Meghan Avery and I'm a 16 year old student from the North of England. I'm doing an Extended Project at School (a 5000 word investigation into a topic of my choice) on the concept of Infinity, and the applications of it in Maths, Physics and Philosophy. While researching the question of whether the Universe is infinite, I came across your 2007 paper on the Infinite Universe Theory. I found it really interesting to compare to the Big Bang theory and I was wondering whether you could give me an opinion on my view on Infinite Universes.
Before I started researching the concept of an Infinite Universe, my opinion was that if our universe was infinite, then surely there is an infinite amount of planets, stars and anything you can think of. This means that some planets will be identical to one another, so there will be an infinite number of planets like our Earth in the Universe. However, ever since humans have been on this planet, we have had no known contact with any other life forms from other planets. Surely if there were an infinite number of different planets with human life, we will have had contact with any of these planets, and in fact an infinite number of times?
My opinion is quite based on the theoretical idea of an infinite universe, and I hope it will give you something to think about. I would be fascinated to receive your opinion because I find the Infinite Universe theory really interesting!
Thank you very much and looking forward to your reply,
[GB: Meghan, thanks so much for your question. It is certainly one that many others will be interested in.
It is not possible to prove conclusively that the universe is infinite or finite. No one will ever be able to go to the “edge” of the universe to get a yes or no answer. Today, most cosmologists are cosmogonists. That is, they assume that the universe is finite and must have had a beginning (like all finite things). Although cosmogonists increased the age of this beginning by 100 million years about a year ago, they now believe they know what happened during the first 10-35 seconds (I kid you not). Big Bangers feel that they pretty much have this figured out, although the theory has many obvious contradictions (explosion from nothing, etc.). Some of these have even resulted in speculations concerning “multiverses” and “parallel” universes. Some of the smarter ones are beginning to reach out toward Infinite Universe Theory, which is good even though they have had to use oxymorons to do it. There can be only one universe.
Most of modern physics assumes finity, but at the Progressive Science Institute, we assume just the opposite, infinity, which is the Eighth Assumption of Science (The universe is infinite, both in the microcosmic and macrocosmic directions). Steve Puetz and I used this to good effect in our recent book, "Universal Cycle Theory: Neomechanics of the Hierarchically Infinite Universe."
Now to your question: “If the universe is infinite, why are there not an infinite number of planets similar to Earth, with beings who should have contacted us by now?” Your question is similar to Olbers’ Paradox, which says: “If the universe is infinite, why is the sky dark at night?” Paradox resolution involves the discovery of the erroneous assumption that makes it so. Olbers’ mistake was based on the assumption that light could travel an infinite distance without anything happening to it. The same applies to all kinds of electromagnetic radiation, including the radio waves generally considered necessary for communication with extraterrestrials. Wave motion tends to diminish with distance (that is why you do not feel the seismic waves from our California earthquakes).
Our Milky Way galaxy is finite, but still no word from those folks either. Even so, there are about 300 billion stars in the Milky Way. Current speculation is that there are from 8 to 60 billion associated planets with an Earth-like habitable zone. That is not infinity, but it is quite a few. Either biopoesis (the development of life from inorganic chemicals) is extremely rare, or the transmission is bad. I vote for the latter.
Meghan, sorry you were not able to determine whether or not the universe is finite or infinite. I guess, like the rest of us, you will have to assume one or the other. I hope you choose infinity. We need young folks like you to help us discard the current paradigm, replacing it with Infinite Universe Theory.]