Ken's shared items

Monday, July 04, 2011

Something Out Of Nothing That Wasn't Nothing

Something Out Of Nothing That Wasn't Nothing: "

by Zoƫ Pollock

Josh Rothman summarizes the origins of the universe from Peter Atkins' On Being:

The Big Bang merely separated out a uniform state of chargelessness into many individual instances of charge, positive and negative. The same goes for matter and energy generally: the total amount of matter and energy in the universe seems to be balanced out by huge amounts of "dark matter" and "dark energy," which express themselves in terms of gravitational attraction. The Big Bang didn't create all that energy, as such. Instead, it seems to have turned an initial Nothingness into a "much more interesting and potent" Nothingness -- a "Nothing that has been separated into opposites to give, thereby, the appearance of something."

The main point is that the Big Bang doesn't mark, necessarily, the creation of something out of nothing. If that happened at all -- and it may be, Atkins points out, that there was has never been absolutely Nothing, in a total sense -- then it probably happened further back in the pre-cosmological past. Instead, it marks the emergence of texture, differentiation, and particularity out of even, unchanging featurelessness.

(Video: Timelapse from the Atacama Desert, in Chile, that has been digitally rotated so that the stars stay steady while the earth rotates, via NASA.)


Friday, July 01, 2011

A New Set Of Pre-Existing Conditions

A New Set Of Pre-Existing Conditions: "

Ezra Klein contemplates genome-based medicine. Matt Steinglass worries about the health insurance implications:

Part of the logic behind insurance is that it's a risk pool; none of us knows when we're gonna go, so we agree to split the costs. But genetic profiling may increasingly give each of us our own set of pre-existing conditions, good or bad. And that may test people's willingness to chip in for the health costs of their fellow-citizens. When "it coulda been me" turns into "nope, it couldn't", we may start, I was about to say "a breakdown in social solidarity", but then I remembered we're talking about America here. How about "even less willingness to do anything for people who aren't as lucky as you are."