Finding Infinity

PSI Blog 20190501 The Discovery of Infinity

The question has been asked: “How did you first get the idea the universe was infinite?”

That is something most scientists seldom think about. I was no different. From 1962 to 1976 I mostly concentrated on laboratory experiments and field observations in soil science, geology, and chemistry. I did have a propensity for emphasizing logic[1] and a distaste for contradiction.[2] Always being curious, I tried to keep up with the latest developments in science. I read American Laboratory and Industrial Research, free magazines in which scientists sometimes were allowed to present articles outside the party line. One particularly influential article even dared to contradict Einstein, suggesting space was not perfectly empty.[3] New Scientist was a big influence, getting me out of the box in which specialists generally find themselves.[4] Some of the articles inadvertently made me aware of the numerous contradictions and paradoxes in physics and cosmogony.

Of course, reading a few “broadening” articles was nice, but not enough. It seems one does not switch beliefs overnight. I have to admit that as late as 1978[5] I still was a Big Banger, although not a very good one. I remember drawing little diagrams in which the stars at the end of the supposedly finite universe gave off light into the “empty space” of the great beyond. I imagined “photons” from two or more of these stars would crash together, somehow forming matter once again. This was a desperate attempt to get away from the contradictions on the other end of the Big Bang stick: the rumors of “heat death” and the ultimate demise of the universe that were being promulgated at the time.

Philosophies Change with Crisis

Little did I know the key was to switch from finity to infinity. I have been trying to pin down exactly when that happened. It turns out that philosophies seldom change unless there is a crisis. In 1976, despite my general affability, things were not going well at work. On July 4th I became so discouraged that I faced off a guy who obviously wanted the campground and its swimming hole to himself. He pointed a 32-special revolver at me saying he was the Zodiac killer and planned to kill me and everyone in the campground. He asked a crucial question: Do you believe me? The correct answer was “I don’t know.” Turns out he was only kidding—so he said.

Traumatic events like that can get your attention. Being well-trained academically, I tried to figure out my discouragement by putting my thoughts together in a book. The first attempt was entitled “Motivation: What it is and how to get it.” A second was “Power Position and Power View.” A third was “The Chemical Meaning of Life.” This last was a vast generalization on what I had learned as a lab rat. The basic mechanism was “environmental determinism.” That was not original, but it did fit my predilection to be on the deterministic side of free will arguments and to acknowledge the importance of the environment. After all, “environmentalism” had become all the rage after “Earth Day” in 1970. People were once again showing signs of leaving their myopism behind.

Still, I had a vague feeling something was missing. Wasn’t the thing itself just as important as its environment? I remember sitting next to a tall pine tree at Showers Lake in the Sierras thinking: How come that tree is not a mile high? Why does it stop growing just in time to survive the 199-mph winds that would take it down? Neo-Darwinism, of course, had an answer: Genes. Neo-Darwinism supposedly was the mechanism of evolution. But I was a geoscientist; I wasn’t really satisfied with that. Everything around me was evolving. With a little rainfall, the minerals in rocks formed under high temperature and pressure were transformed into minerals stable at ambient temperatures. Mountains turned into valleys and valleys turned into mountains. The Sun, Moon, and the planets were evolving. There was more to evolution than just genes and natural selection. Little did I know at the time that my search for a more general mechanism for evolution would lead me down the path to infinity.

The search was futile. There was no universal mechanism of evolution. Environmental determinism was not it either. That was akin to the one-sided view proposed by Darwin as “natural selection.” Mendel’s remedy—genetics—might work for the pine tree, but was woefully lacking for the evolution of anything without genes. I needed a word describing the combination that included the thing and its environment. I discussed the problem at the dining room table with Elizabeth Patelke, a long-time friend and a student of language. We came up with the solution: “univironment.”[6] I quickly and bravely anointed the result: “univironmental determinism,” as the universal mechanism of evolution. It was so all-inclusive that it became the basis for the scientific worldview.[7]

Developing my Own Philosophy

With that focus, one begins to think more about the insides and outsides of things and how those two portions of the universe interact. We make mistakes when we overemphasize one or the other. Systems philosophy, considered the “scientific world view” at the time, tended to overemphasize the insides. That’s what the finite universe idea of the Big Bang Theory was all about.

The univironmental idea does not necessarily get you forthwith to infinity. As in Newtonian mechanics, just because the insides and outsides of things produced results did not mean that the insides and the outsides had to contain anything. After all, Einstein had proclaimed that his light particle was “massless” (i.e., there was nothing inside it) and cosmogonists implied the finite universe was expanding into empty space (i.e., there was nothing outside it).

Nonetheless, I persisted. Everything I had studied always had something inside it. And, now, everything always had something outside it. In chemistry and geology every reaction and every rock starts with something and ends up with something. A chemical equation displays the univironmental interaction between what was and what will be. You cannot change one side of the equation without the other side being changed. Early on, I defined univironmental determinism as “what happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the matter within and without”—no mention of infinity.

While reading up on determinism, I came across a comment that David Bohm had presented a strong case for determinism. I read his “Causality and Chance in Modern Physics,” which presented his “hidden variables theory” in opposition to the solipsistic Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. That was it for me. His logic was impeccable. I had always been puzzled by the fact I always got plus or minus errors no matter how much I tried to control an experiment. Newton’s mechanics taught there were a finite number of causes for any effect. Once you discovered them all, there would be no plus or minus. That never happened. Bohm emphasized this infinite quality, in direct opposition to the Copenhageners, who attributed those variations to pure chance. That preserved the finity assumption of Newtonian mechanics along with Einstein’s assumption space was perfectly empty.

Publishing My Books

Following Bohm’s logic, I assumed both micro (Aristotle) and macro (Newton) infinity in what was to be the Eighth Assumption of Science (The universe is infinite, both in the microcosmic and macrocosmic directions). That appeared first in the 1984 review manuscript of “The Scientific Worldview.”[8] It was reiterated when “The Ten Assumptions of Science” was published in 2004. But its full connection to univironmental determinism was not realized until 2007 when I wrote:

The Scientific Worldview describes how this universe works via the universal mechanism of evolution, “univironmental determinism.” Univironmental determinism is the simple proposition that what happens to a portion of the universe is determined by the relationship between the infinite matter in motion within (the microcosm) and the infinite matter in motion without (the macrocosm).[9]

As you can see, there really was no single Eureka moment for me—there were dozens of them. It took me almost three decades to come up with the all-important statement quoted above. Along the way, I had to discover: 1) the universal mechanism of evolution, 2) the scientific worldview, 3) the Ten Assumptions of Science, 4) neomechanics, which modifies classical mechanics by including infinity, and finally 5) Infinite Universe Theory, which ultimately will replace the Big Bang Theory in a process sure to become the Last Cosmological Revolution. Why so sure about this? Once you fully understand Infinite Universe Theory and its ramifications, the switch from the assumption of finity to the assumption of infinity is irreversible.

[1] Borchardt, Glenn, 1975, Dithionite-citrate-bicarbonate procedure (DCB) for iron removal: Soil Science Society of America Proceedings, v. 39, p. 807.

[2] Borchardt, Glenn, 1978, Catastrophe theory: Application to the Permian mass extinction: Comments and reply: COMMENT: Geology, v. 6, no. 8, p. 453. [10.1130/0091-7613(1978)6<453a:CTATTP>2.0.CO;2].

[3] Dudley, H.C., 1977, The neutrino sea–hypothesis or reality?: Industrial Research, p. 51-54.

[4] Clube, Victor, 1978, Do we need a revolution in astronomy?: New Scientist, v. 80, p. 284-286; Davies, Paul, 1978, Chance or choice: Is the Universe an accident?: New Scientist, v. 80, p. 506-508; Steen, L.A., 1978, A new perspective on infinity: New Scientist, v. 80, p. 448-451.

[5] On 19771217 my notes had a proposed chapter entitled “Universe, origin of.”

[6] By 19780529, an early draft had the word “univironment.”

[7] Borchardt, Glenn, 2007, The Scientific Worldview: Beyond Newton and Einstein: Lincoln, NE, iUniverse, 411 p. [].

[8] Borchardt, Glenn, 1984, The scientific worldview: Berkeley, California, Progressive Science Institute, 343 p. [DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.16123.52006].

[9] Borchardt, Glenn, 2007, The scientific worldview and the demise of cosmogony, in Whitney, C.K., Proceedings of the Natural Philosophy Alliance: University of Connecticut, Storrs, CN, Natural Philosophy Alliance, v. 4, no. 1, p. 16-19 [].

About the Author

Dr. Glenn Borchardt
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Mind Blown: Replaces the Big Bang with an infinite universe
Profession: Scientific Philosopher and Geoscientist
Interest: Spread the word about infinity in science and its implications