May 7, 2013
Was The Universe Designed For Black Holes?
[ Listen to the Podcast Series: How Stars Die And Black Holes Form ]
John P. Millis, Ph.D. for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Scientists have debated the merits of the anthropic principle — the notion that the universe is somehow fine-tuned for life, or vice versa — and its variants for decades. The search to understand the nature and evolution of the universe is what plagues the fields of cosmology and astrophysics.
Are we here because we happened upon a universe set up for life, or was the universe compelled to spew forth life? Since we are, in fact, here after all, we are biased in our assessment; since we don´t know the nature of other universes, or even the nature of other life, we have nothing to compare against. All we know for sure is that the universe exists and we exist in it.
But a team from Oxford University is applying aspects of evolutionary biology to the problem. Evolutionary theorist Andy Gardner and theoretical physicist Joseph Conlon used an algorithm from evolutionary genetics known as Price´s theorem to investigate whether the manifestation of black holes in our universe is the result of the natural course of evolution, or if we simply got lucky.
Black holes may seem an odd choice for investigating the anthropic principle, but modern cosmology views the densest objects in the universe to be lenses into other, alternate universes. And if a multiverse view of existence proves to be correct, then the proliferation of black holes, and therefore life baring universes, may not be random at all. Rather, the same principles that guide biological natural selection may play a role in the establishment of new universes.
According to Dr. Gardner of Oxford University's Department of Zoology, and lead author of the paper, “This idea of cosmological natural selection is controversial, and physicists have pointed out all sorts of problems with it. But we were interested in seeing if its basic evolutionary logic actually works.”
In their report, published in the journal Complexity, the team makes the case that the application of Price´s theorem can explain how the universe has evolved to become efficient at creating black holes, in much the same way that birds have evolved to fly.
“We found that a general equation from evolutionary genetics, Price's theorem, can help us to model how selection can work not only at the scale of genes and organisms but also at that of something as unimaginably vast as multiple universes.” Furthermore, Dr. Gardner explains, “Our model uses maths similar to the mathematical theory underlying Darwinian adaptation in biology, which explains how the dynamics of natural selection leads to organisms appearing designed to maximize their fitness.”