Archive for the ‘Cosmos’ Category

Questions of origins play prominent roles in most sciences. Where do economies come from?

September 7, 2007

Questions of origins play prominent roles in most sciences. It would be difficult to imagine modern cosmology without the Big Bang, or biology without evolution.

“Where do economies come from?”

Traditional economic courses begin with “assume an economy.”

The process of economy formation presents us with a first-class scientific puzzle.

Joshua Epstein and Robert Axtell, researchers at the Brookings Institute, decided to conduct an experiment to see if they could grow an economy from scratch. Like biologists trying to cultivate life in vitro in a petri dish, Epstein and Axtell wanted to see if they could spark economic life in silico, in the simulated world of a computer.

They wanted to go back to the very beginning, to a state of nature, and have a model that included nothing more than people with a few basic abilities, and an environment with some natural resources. They wanted to find out the minimum conditions required to set off a chain reaction of economic activity. What would it take to get the system to start climbing the ladder of increasing economic order?

[My Comment] To make a long story short, Epstein and Axtell created a model they called Sugarscape, and the model was successful in spawning economic activity. The thing of interest to me, however, is the notion described in the preceding paragraph – get back to fundamentals, rethinking how we got to where we are now (this applies not just to economies, but to everything), and considering whether we have arrived at a desirable place.

The Origin of Wealth by Eric D. Beinhocker

Is Time Finite or Infinite? Time Before the Big Bang?

July 23, 2007

An examination of the most carefully written scientific treatments of the astronomical evidence, and of the cosmological theory which appears to fit the evidence, will discover that the big bang theory does not posit an absolute beginning of the cosmos — a coming into existence out of nothing — but only an initial event in the development of the cosmos as we now know it, an event that occurred at a time that is estimated as between fifteen and twenty billion years ago.

Our present techniques of observation and measurement, and the technical facilities they employ, do not permit us to penetrate the past beyond the time, some fifteen to twenty billion years ago, when the big bang occurred.

What is being said here is not that past time is limited (finite rather than infinite), but only that our knowledge of past time is limited — limited to a time beyond which our observations and measurements cannot go. Time may extend back infinitely beyond that initial explosion of matter, out of which the present shape of the cosmos has developed, but unless some radical alteration in our techniques and instruments of observation and measurements occurs, we will never be able to penetrate the veil that hides the infinite past from us.

— Mortimer J. Adler