Roger Penrose, one of the world's greatest living mathematicians, estimates the odds at 1 in 10^10^123.

That's ten to the power ten to the power 123.

Note: This is a one followed by 10 to the power 123 zeros. That's more zeros than there are protons, neutrons and electrons in the visible universe.

These are worse odd than winning powerball every week for a 100 years.

How do we explain this?

ANSWER 1 THE GOD HYPOTHESIS:

God set it up like that. This may or may not be the correct answer but there is no way of falsifying it. It is not a scientific answer.

ANSWER 2: THE MULTIVERSE:

Our universe is but one of a very large number, perhaps an infinity, of universes in a multiverse. By sheer chance a tiny fraction of such universes have low entropy.

Right now there is no way of falsifying that answer either. So, for now, it is no more scientific than the God hypothesis.

Another problem with the multiverse is that it explains too much. Once you invoke infinities you can explain almost anything. We've simply substituted infinity for God.

ANSWER 3: PENROSE GOT IT WRONG:

No one has seriously challenged Penrose's calculation. According to what we understand about physics today, Penrose got it right.

ANSWER 4: WE DON'T KNOW ENOUGH TO DO THE CALCULATION.

Penrose is right according to our current understanding of the structure of space time. But there is too much we don't know. For example if it turned out there was a "quantum of distance," ie if space was not infinitely divisible, that could alter Penrose's calculations.

For what it's worth, I favour answer 4. But if you choose answer 1 there is no way I could rebut you.

Any comments?

Posted by stevenlmeyer, Friday, 27 July 2007 4:24:10 PM

Low entropy compared to what exactly? If Penrose could answer that question, then maybe we could get somewhere. Until then it is extremely likely to be 4.

This reminds me of Dembski's calculation of the odds against proteins forming from nothing. The fact that Dembski knew nothing really useful about biology didn't stop him. How much does anyone know about the nature of the universe? Not much, but that doesn't seem to stop mathematicians from calculating nonsense. But then how else are they going to get their Fields medals?

Posted by Bugsy, Friday, 27 July 2007 8:18:46 PM

No. We don’t live in a low entropy universe. In order for us to be able to label it ‘low’, we would have to have at least one other universe with higher entropy to compare it with.

As there is only one universe that we know of, we cannot possibly label it as having a low, high, average or any other relative state of entropy.

Posted by Ludwig, Saturday, 28 July 2007 4:52:21 AM

“Any comments?”

None of the above …

We all are characters in a giant SIMS game. We only think we have lives outside OLO. We exist soul-ly as avatars on OLO .

And…, the shadowy identity Graham Y who sometimes hovers above is the game administrator

Our only hope is to tunnel through cyberspace and link up with one of the other simultaneously running ,multiverse games …

Posted by Horus, Saturday, 28 July 2007 8:55:57 AM

Clearly answer 4 prevails (but answers 1,2 and/or 3 might also be true).

We are not within a million miles of knowing enough to do this sort of calculation. Or maybe that should be a million light-years. Or probably more accurately, a million light-millenia.

Posted by Ludwig, Saturday, 28 July 2007 9:53:27 AM

Bugsy,

Low compared to a state of complete disorder in our own universe.

Suppose you have 100 marbles in 10 different colours. They are arranged in 10 rows, 10 marbles to a row.

Suppose you find the marbles are arranged so that each row is one colour. All the black marbles are in one row, all the green marbles in another, and so on. That is "low entropy." If you came across such an arrangement you might suspect that someone had set them up that way.

Higher entropy is if they're arranged in 10 rows but different colours are scattered among the rows.

And so on.

Dembski's calculation's failed to take into account the known mechanisms of evolution – specifically the ratchet effect. Penrose is not a Dembski and I'm not aware of anyone who seriously questions his calculations. This is a problem of an altogether different magnitude to Dembski's pseudo-problem.

BTW Penrose is an atheist as am I. He is merely highlighting a genuine scientific conundrum.

The low entropy of the universe is only one of the conundrums of our universe. Another is that the value of certain fundamental constants of physics seem to make the universe strangely life friendly. No one knows why.

Think of it this way. There are about 16 constants of nature that make our universe one in which life can evolve. If any one of them had been slightly different it is possible life could never have appeared in the first place.

It's all very well to say that maybe a different form of life could evolve. But looking at our own solar system it does appear that life can only evolve under certain tightly constrained conditions. In fact we're still not sure how life on planet Earth kicked off in the first place. It wasn't Darwin's primordial soup.

Posted by stevenlmeyer, Saturday, 28 July 2007 10:06:49 AM

*See http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9032727/entropy

Roger Penrose, one of the world's greatest living mathematicians, estimates the odds at 1 in 10^10^123.

That's ten to the power ten to the power 123.

Note: This is a one followed by 10 to the power 123 zeros. That's more zeros than there are protons, neutrons and electrons in the visible universe.

These are worse odd than winning powerball every week for a 100 years.

How do we explain this?

ANSWER 1 THE GOD HYPOTHESIS:

God set it up like that. This may or may not be the correct answer but there is no way of falsifying it. It is not a scientific answer.

ANSWER 2: THE MULTIVERSE:

Our universe is but one of a very large number, perhaps an infinity, of universes in a multiverse. By sheer chance a tiny fraction of such universes have low entropy.

Right now there is no way of falsifying that answer either. So, for now, it is no more scientific than the God hypothesis.

Another problem with the multiverse is that it explains too much. Once you invoke infinities you can explain almost anything. We've simply substituted infinity for God.

ANSWER 3: PENROSE GOT IT WRONG:

No one has seriously challenged Penrose's calculation. According to what we understand about physics today, Penrose got it right.

ANSWER 4: WE DON'T KNOW ENOUGH TO DO THE CALCULATION.

Penrose is right according to our current understanding of the structure of space time. But there is too much we don't know. For example if it turned out there was a "quantum of distance," ie if space was not infinitely divisible, that could alter Penrose's calculations.

For what it's worth, I favour answer 4. But if you choose answer 1 there is no way I could rebut you.

Any comments?