The Proton Crisis
and the Heat Death of the Universe
Biology extends the life of the universe by recycling black holes into
new protons (through a technology sufficiently advanced as to be
indistinguishable from magic).
nuclear organisms that populate the sky—the stars—take an interest in human
Or, at least that is what some ancient peoples believed. Any stellar interest in humans, however, is going to be a self interest.
Stars count on biological organisms—star larvae (including humans)—to help solve
a crisis. The crisis is a food shortage, specifically a shortage
of baby food. Stars need technologically advanced civilizations to manufacture protons, so that new generations of stars can be fed during their infancy.
own picture of humanity today finds us just about to step out from
amongst the pieces of our just one-second-ago broken eggshell. Our
innocent, trial-and-error-sustaining nutriment is exhausted. We are
faced with an entirely new relationship to the universe. We are going
to have to spread our wings of intellect and fly or perish; that is,
we must dare immediately to fly by the generalized principles governing
universe and not by the found rules of yesterday's superstitious and
erroneously conditioned reflexes. And as we attempt competent thinking
we immediately begin to re-employ our innate drive for comprehensive
tends to hold that stars will become extinct and that the universe will expire
from a "Heat Death," after stellar metabolisms have fused all available protons
into various atomic nuclei. When that occurs,
the last generation of stars will flicker out, and the universe will descend into entropy.
The universe will die, essentially, according to normal science..
This far-off fate does not evoke much sense of urgency
from a fresh brood of star larvae, such as us humans, because it looms so remotely in the future. But the billions
of years that will pass before the problem becomes acute must seem proportionately
less remote, and hence of greater urgency, to the stars themselves.
Researchers conclude that star production peaked billions
of years ago and that galaxies already are running out of gas.
After completing a survey of distant galaxies in 2011, Robert Braun,
chief scientist for astronomy and space science at Australia's CSIRO
institute, says bluntly, "Our
result helps us understand why the lights are going out. Star formation
has used up most of the available molecular hydrogen gas." The
death of the universe is inevitable, according to normal science, because
only a limited number of protons (hydrogen nuclei) precipitated out of the Big Bang.
And only individual protons can be made to fuse—and
deliver new stars—at
the relatively low temperatures and pressures that characterize stellar
particle clouds, or stellar nurseries, within which new stars condense. Protons fused into atomic nuclei by previous generations of stars do become
incorporated into new stars and participate in nucleosynthesis, but
they are too massive to initiate nuclear fusion. For that,
kindling is needed, in the form of individual protons.
Gravity Solution to Recycling Protons
perfection on earth is relative to the universal soul of the world.
There are three atmospheres in which souls can dwell. The third leaves
off where the planetary attraction of other worlds begins. Souls which
have reached perfection on earth depart for another station. Having
visited the planets, they go to the sun. From there they rise to other
universes and begin again their evolution from world to world and from
sun to sun. Within the suns they remember all; upon the planets they
Nonetheless, it would seem that a fresh influx of protons could extend the life
of the universe by extending the generations of stars. The manufacturing
of new protons, then, would seem to be the missing link in the stellar
life cycle. Science already
has identified the raw material from which new protons could be manufactured.
It resides at the interface of two phenomena that physicists have been
trying to integrate into a Grand Unified Theory. These are (1) gravity,
including the intense gravity of black holes and (2) the indeterminate
behavior of matter-energy at the quantum level. These two phenomena
might cooperate to recycle old mass into new mass, the fresh stuff potentially
taking the form of new protons.
When a large
star exhausts its nuclear fuel, it collapses, creating a
concentrated point of mass. If sufficient mass is sufficiently concentrated, goes
the theory, the result is a black hole. Black holes are "black" because
not even light can escape their intense gravity.
In the 1970s
the British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking refined the theory of black
holes in a way that suggests such practical applications as are proposed here. In his best selling
Brief History of Time Hawking
included a chapter called, "Black holes ain’t so black." There he describes a phenomenon that has come to be called Hawking
radiation. This radiation consists of particles emanating from black
holes. The particles do not escape
from the interiors of black holes, but rather appear spontaneously
just beyond the boundary of a black hole, straddling the so-called event horizon. In Hawking's
conjecture, these particles begin life as virtual particles—particle-antiparticle
pairs—called virtual because they exist only for
a fraction of a second. Typically the members of a virtual particle
pair collide soon after they pop into existence, annihilating one another—end
of story. But atypically, when this process occurs at the edge of a black
hole, the outcome takes a different turn.
When a particle-antiparticle
pair appears at the event horizon of a black
hole, the members of the pair can become separated before
they annihilate one another. One member will be pulled into the hole, leaving
its partner alone in our universe—but virtual no longer. In the Scientific
American book, "A
Journey into Gravity and Spacetime," physicist
John Archibald Wheeler describes this peculiar phenomenon,
these quantum fluctuations, pairs of particles appear for an instant
from the emptiness of space—perhaps an electron and an antielectron
pair or a proton and an antiproton pair. [. . . .] Under the conditions
at the horizon [of a black hole], a virtual pair becomes a real pair.
[. . . .] In the Hawking process, two newly created particles exchange
energy, one acquiring negative energy and the other positive energy.
The negative-energy particle flies inward from the horizon to the point
of crunch; the positive-energy particle flies off to a distance."
selection may account for the fact that our universe has the necessary
constants, dimensionality and laws to last for a long time. . . , long
enough to spawn daughter universes (and INCIDENTALLY long enough to
breed life). But Smolinian selection cannot account for the fact that
our universe is specifically congenial to life, or to intelligent life,
or to us. My negative conclusion would break down only if life itself
is in the habit of engineering the spawning of daughter universes.
As far as I am aware, this hasn't been suggested, but it is, I suppose,
a theoretical possibility that daughter universes are generated as
a consequence of the fooling around of highly evolved physicists."
wizardry of Hawking radiation, our universe converts the mass of black
holes into new particles. If the appearance of particle-antiparticle
pairs could be influenced, then the Hawking process potentially can
be used to manufacture certain kinds of particles preferentially. If the process can be skewed to produce protons preferentially, then
the generations of stars might be extended and the Heat Death of the
By engineering and implementing such a selective process, the universe would
exhibit another characteristic of living organisms. It would heal itself, by manufacturing essential microcomponents
of its body, just as biological organisms manufacture essential microcomponents
of their bodies.
protons from the quantum fluctuations of spacetime, humankind’s
extraterrestrial descendants not only will do nothing particularly
innovative, according to the star larvae hypothesis, rather, they will be playing
their assigned role in the regularly scheduled program. Which is already
urbanites en masse already are locked into symbiotic relationships
with their manufactured environment, at least in the first world. They are as much effects of
the power plant and the automobile as they are causes. The contemporary
urban scene of what Aldous Huxley called "motorized sitting
just one example of Marshall McLuhan’s general observation that, as they fashion technologies to satisfy their needs, human beings re-fashion themselves to accommodate the needs of their technologies.
This is an underappreciated dimension of humankind’s intensifying
symbiotic relationship with its own inventions and illustrates niche construction.
larvae hypothesis takes the extrapolation from current trends a
In light of the hypothesis, the manufacturing of stars becomes analogous to
the caterpillar manufacturing in its chrysalis factory the butterfly
that it becomes. Is the butterfly the transformed body of the
caterpillar or a Frankensteinian artifact of caterpillar technology, one
that consumes its creator? A human baby, by metabolizing raw
materials into its own growing body, manufactures, according to a teleological, genetic plan,
the adult that it becomes. The making of it and the becoming
of it are indistinguishable. The
Medium is the Message.
the star larvae hypothesis proposes, humankind’s extraterrestrial
descendants will manufacture and become stars. The process could
be characterized as either one of manufacturing or one of metamorphosis (or both).
Either way, the conjuring of protons from spacetime
to extend the generations of stars will require that humankind's descendants invent and apply a technology sufficiently advanced as to be indistinguishable
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