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The Design of the Universe


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Title: The Design of the Universe

The Design of the Universe
Spiral galaxy M100 from my driveway
  • Lecture Fourteen, Feb. 17, 2003

Course Project
  • Project background (3-5 pages) Mar. 28, 2003.
  • Project (10 pages) April 25.
  • Happy to talk to you about your project or
    suggest sources.
  • Popular topics Dinosaurs, Mars, Movie
    Armageddon, Big Bang
  • Adding source suggestions to web site.

Tree of Life
  • Organisms with nearly the same 16S ribosomal RNA
    are closely related and nearby on the tree.

Last Time Information Content of Life
  • Each rung of DNA can be one of four bases.
  • Need two bits to specify which of 4 bases. 224
  • A Gene is a functional length of DNA about 1200
    base pairs long, that codes for a specific
    protein. A gene has about Ngene2 x 1200 2400
    bits of information.
  • This information is copied when DNA replicates
    and is used when messenger RNA is made.

Information Content of Organsims
  • Virus 50 genes 50 x 2400 120,000 bits.
    Note, a virus is often not considered alive
    because it needs a host to function.
  • E. Coli 2500 genes 6 x 106 bits 0.75
    Megabytes (1 byte is 8 bits).
  • Man 35,000 genes 35,000 x 2400 8.4 x 107
    bits 10.5 Megabytes.
  • You can fit main part of DNA blueprint of Man on
    8 floppy disks.

Earth Life
  • Uses only 20 different amino acids (simple
    molecules with amine (N) and acid (COOH) groups.
  • These are strung together amine to acid group in
    long chains to make complex proteins.
  • Information to do this is stored in DNA.
  • Random errors in DNA copying leads to mutations
    which are tested by survival of the fittest and
    this causes life to evolve.

Nonscientific Alternatives to Evolution
  • Creationism Bible is literally true. Earth is
    only 6000 years old (not 4.6 billion years old).
    Organisms dont evolve, they were created,
    complete, by god.
  • Lots of evidence that Earth is much older then
    6000 years and you can watch organisms evolve in
    the laboratory.
  • Example god created that rock only 6000 years
    ago but he made it look old and put that very old
    looking fossil in it.

Intelligent Design
  • Acknowledges that earth is billions of years old
    and that organisms change with time. But claims
    that the astounding complexity and beauty of the
    earths plants and animals could not have just
    happened through natural selection.
  • In short, evolution happened as scientists say,
    but it happened because the hand of god was
    behind it.

What was intelligently designed?
  • Man (of course)
  • Monkeys?
  • Corn?
  • Amebas?
  • Slime mold?
  • E. Coli?
  • Life!

What about inanimate objects?
  • Was earth intelligently designed? It is
    remarkable how stable the climate and how
    hospitable earth is.
  • Was solar system intelligently designed?
  • Sun puts out enough light that earth can be a
    safe distance away. But sun still lasts a long
    enough time for evolution.
  • Jupiters gravity deflects many comets /
    asteroids to keep earth safe.

Was Universe Intelligently Designed?
  • Laws of physics allow stars to make chemical
    elements and shine at an appropriate rate.
    Gravity does not collapse universe to quickly
  • Was the diamond in my wifes wedding ring
    intelligently designed? How about the snow
    flakes outside

What is designed?
  • If science discovers something ugly, it is just
  • If science discovers something beautiful (read
    Man), it is because of intelligent design.
  • How do we tell if something is too complicated
    for evolution alone?
  • Is intelligent design a testable theory? It
    appears not.

What do I think?
  • Intelligent design is not science and many of its
    proponents appear to underestimate the
    extraordinary power of the blind survival of
    the fittest algorithm.
  • Nevertheless, I completely agree with many of
    these proponents that Man and many of gods other
    creations are extraordinarily complex and

I Concentrate my Wonder in Three Areas.
  • The universe we live in. Many of its properties
    appear to be just right to allow intelligent
  • The origin of life. This is such an
    extraordinary event and achievement. Perhaps
    life is so complex that the origin of life is a
    lot less likely than we think. This is testable.
    As we search the universe we may be unlikely to
    find even primitive life.
  • The origin of intelligence. Perhaps primitive
    life may be common in the universe but
    intelligent life very rare. This is the position
    of Ward and Brownlee in their book Rare Earth.

  • Our place in Space

Formation of Star and Planets
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Andromeda Galaxy with hundreds of billions of
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What is our role in such a grand galaxy and
  • It would be a great waste of space, if we are
    indeed alone.

Hubble space telescope image of many galaxies.
Let There Be Light
Electromagnetic Spectrum
High frequency ? Low
frequency Short wavelength ?
Long wavelength
Eyes are adapted to the Sun
  • Our eyes are sensitive to these frequencies
    because Sun shines brightest here and water vapor
    in atmosphere is transparent at these
  • One can speculate about alien eyes for alien
    stars. Note, stars come in many sizes and colors.

Curve A, Sun, Curve B after atmosphere
Spectral Lines
  • How do we know the composition of distant Stars
    and Galaxies?
  • Each chemical element has a set of unique
    spectral lines. These are particular frequencies
    of light (electromagnetic radiation) that the
    element absorbs or emits.
  • Chemical elements are characterized by their
    atomic number Z. This is the number of electrons
    that orbit the nucleus. Hydrogen Z1, Helium
    Z2, Lithium Z3 Uranium Z92.
  • Quantum mechanics says these electrons can only
    have discrete energies when they are orbiting the
    nucleus. A spectral line is emitted when an
    electron jumps from one energy to another.

Example, Sodium Glows Yellow
  • Spectrum of Sodium shows green, bright yellow,
    orange. and red spectral lines. Light from a
    glowing discharge containing the element sodium
    is split by a prism with short wavelengths (blue)
    on the left and long (red) wavelengths on the
  • Seeing these lines in the spectrum of a star or
    galaxy implies that the distant object contains

Doppler shift of Spectral Lines
  • If an object is moving away from you, the sound
    or light that it emits is Doppler shifted to
    lower frequencies.
  • The lowest frequency visible light is red.
    Therefore we call this a red shift.
  • If the object is moving towards us, the light is
    shifted to higher frequencies and we call it a
    blue shift.
  • Can use the Doppler shift to measure the velocity
    of distant galaxies.

Doppler Shift of Light from Galaxy
  • The top figure compares spectral line (black
    line) from distant galaxy to same spectral line
    on Earth, yellow marks at top and bottom.
  • If galaxy is moving away (middle figure) spectral
    line is shifted to the red. If galaxy is moving
    towards us (bottom), spectral line is shifted
    towards blue.

Hubbles Law
  • E. Hubble found that light from distant galaxies
    was red shifted by an amount proportional to
    distance (from us).
  • The velocity of a distant galaxy v (inferred from
    the red shift) is related to its distance d,
  • vH d
  • Hubbles constant H has dimensions of 1/time.
  • Age of universe is about 1/H. Exact value
    depends on how expansion rate depends on time.
  • This expansion age is about 13 B. years.

Alchemy of The Heavens
View, low in the East, early in the morning of
July 5, 1054 shows the Crab Supernova
  • Lecture Eight, Jan. 25, 2002

Life of a Star
  • Birth collapse of gas cloud forms protostar.
  • Main sequence center of star becomes hot enough
    to burn Hydrogen into Helium. Our Sun will be on
    main sequence for 10 billion years.
  • Red Giant Outer part of star expands and cools.
    Core contracts and starts to burn He into Carbon
    and other heavier elements.
  • Star dies either as a planetary nebula (low mass
    star) or as a supernova (high mass star).

  • Stars with more then 8 solar masses die in
    gigantic explosions called supernovae. Note,
    plural of supernova is supernovae.
  • A single star that explodes as a supernova can
    outshine an entire galaxy (billions of stars).
  • Hard to imagine the violence of the explosion.
  • Core of star imploded to form neutron star or
    black hole.
  • Outer part of star ejected into space with new
    chemical elements.

Life is Old
  • Life arose about 3.8 billion years ago.
  • Clear fossils in 3.5 billion year old rocks.
    Problem, few older rocks have survived.
  • Great bombardment and very hostile conditions 4
    billion years ago and earlier.

For Next Time
  • Read chap. 6 of Text pages 93-109, Origin of
    Life on Earth. Review T.rex and the Crater of
    Doom, pages 59-76 in your course packet.
  • I am happy to answer questions or make
    suggestions for your project.
  • Next lecture, Review.