LHC, Higgs, Hicks, Asimov, Creation and Entropy
Yesterday I blogged about one of my favorite stories, "The Last Question" by the late great grandfather of Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov, which raises the question whether or not entropy can be reversed.
The word "entropy" is derived from the Greek εντροπία "a turning toward" (εν- "in" + τροπή "a turning"), but it's a slightly different matter than the virtual world of Entropia we're talking about here (but may have been their inspiration). What we're dealing with here is:
"As a finite universe may be considered an isolated system, it may be subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, so that its total entropy is constantly increasing. It has been speculated that the universe is fated to a heat death in which all the energy ends up as a homogeneous distribution of thermal energy, so that no more work can be extracted from any source.
If the universe can be considered to have generally increasing entropy, then - as Roger Penrose has pointed out - gravity plays an important role in the increase because gravity causes dispersed matter to accumulate into stars, which collapse eventually into black holes. Jacob Bekenstein and Stephen Hawking have shown that black holes have the maximum possible entropy of any object of equal size. This makes them likely end points of all entropy-increasing processes, if they are totally effective matter and energy traps. Hawking has, however, recently changed his stance on this aspect." [wikipedia]
In Asimov's story, all energy is consumed at the end, time no longer exists and the universe is once more cold and void, as it was in the beginning, Creation has expanded untill it could no more and returned to it's cradle. This is why the story came to me after first blogging the LHC testrun.
The LHC, or Large Hadron Collider is supposed to simulate what that 'cradle' looked like, how the universe looked like just after the 'big bang' (if you buy that stuff - I'm more a Creationist), hence I wondered if the LHC would answer Asimov's question: What happens when the lights go out, how do you turn them back on? Surprisingly, Asimov an immensely laureated scientist and outspoken atheist gave the answer, using the words of Divine Creation:
"Let there be light - and there was light."
I decided to ask Dr. Kenneth Hicks from the Ohio University (a well respected scientist, yet humble enough to point out it's the Higgs Particle we're dealing with, not the Hicks particle):
"Regarding Asimov's short story, The Last Question, this is a great one to think about. While the LHC will not answer all of our questions about the Big Bang and the eventual fate of the universe, the LHC's results will get us a
little bit closer to a fundamental understanding of what happened at the earliest moments of the Big Bang.
Actually, Asimov's story is much more relevant to the people who study black holes, such as Stephen Hawking, who at one time claimed that some entropy was lost near a black hole (later, it was shown that entropy is still OK even in the highly distorted space-time of a black hole).
Progress in sience is slow when it comes to answering the big questions, like those posed in Asimov's story. Still, it's a great story to read, and very thought-provoking."
Whatever happens when the LHC is fully up and running, it won't produce a functioning red button that says: 'Switch light of the universe back on', but maybe bring us a wee bit closer to understanding how this magnificent universe works.
For now, I think I've said enough on the LHC (or Doomsday Device as you like) and the Higgs particle. Thanks to Dr. Hicks for his immediate response. Perhaps I'll return to Asimov's "Last Question" once more as I'd like to see how Asimov's Biblical conclusion to the story (let there be light) holds up against these hardcore scientists. Finally, again, the link to the online version of Asimov's short story at Multivac.