CELEBRATE KNOXVILLE – It’s National Star Wars Day, and Celebrate Knoxville spent a little time on the phone today with UCLA researcher and astrophysicist Dr. Jeff Zweerink to discuss his recent book, “Whose Afraid of the MultiVerse?” Written in easy-to-read style, with illustrations from popular culture including Star Wars movies, the book explores ideas about space, time, matter, and energy.
CK: Thanks for talking with us on National Star Wars Day, Dr. Zweerink!
JZ: Glad to do it. I didn’t realize that was today.
CK: Is most of your work analyzing data or do you actually get to do experiments with gamma rays?
JZ: About 40 percent of my time is spent on experiments. We’re currently building a balloon that (once we get the funding) we will send out to collect data.
CK: When you talk about The Big Bang in ‘Whose Afraid of the MultiVerse?’, why do you use the word ‘inflation’ and not ‘explosion’ to describe what happened?
JZ: It’s a scientific term to describe the expansion of the fabric of space.
CK: As a layperson, it makes me think that the universe took a breath, like lungs filling up. Doesn’t using the word ‘inflation’ imply that something was sucked in from somewhere else, and what would that substance be?
JZ: I can see what you mean by that. Scientists use this word to describe one possible (scenario) that is like a balloon with dots on it. When the fabric expands, the dots move apart.
CK: On page 14 of your book, you said ‘the only real controversial aspect of the level one model (of the universe) is its spacial extent, or size.’ Are there really scientists out there in California that think the universe has a finite size, like a box, or like the earth is sitting on the back of a tortoise (to use Native American mythology)?
JZ: You can think of the universe as flat, in three dimensions like a piece of paper, but there are other ways to think about it. In a closed model, like the one on page 11 of the book, the universe would be ball-shaped with closed geometry.
CK: In your introduction, you inform the reader that you are a scientist with a Christian world view. Do you think that God placed the planets in such a way that it models sub atomic particles and helps us understand the nature of the unseen?
JZ: I think that there are signs both in the way the universe has been presented and in what we know about quantum physics that reveals the designer, creator, God. Whether they are exact mirrors of each other, I can’t say.
CK: I love how you use illustrations from popular movies like Star Wars, The Matrix, and Back to the Future, to help people understand some of these interesting but complex scientific ideas. Have you ever seen the television series, Lost?
JZ: I have.
CK: Do you think (as an astrophysicist who is also a Christian) that the story is a good example of a shared consciousness, and that we, as believers, are co-creating Heaven, a shared consciousness, with God?
JZ: There are some serious (mainstream Christianity) theological issues with that point of view, especially about the soverignty of God. He doesn’t need our help.
CK: But we do co-create with Him when we pray, right? We make things happen that otherwise might not have happened unless we were involved?
JZ: Yes, we do. That’s an interesting point. Not certain that applies to Heaven, though. Would make some interesting further discussion. When I first became a scientist, I thought that science and faith were enemies. Now I have come to understand that revelations from both science and faith (Scriptural revelation) will inform the other and both will agree.
CK: In your book you said that “Scientists are aware that their equipment selects what data they measure.” How does that relate to changes made by the Observer in quantum physics?
JZ: That’s one of the philosophical questions discussed in the book–in having the point of view as the universe being designed by a Creator to support life, we ourselves are Observer and are working within the realm we’re working to describe. We can’t argue for a universe that does not support life, since we are here and we are alive.
CK: That’s the topic of a new book?
JZ: Yes, my new book is about Exoplanets, planets outside our solar system, exploring questions about the possibility of life out there.
CK: And if there is life out there, Jesus died for them too, and would not have to be born on their planet to (provide spiritual revelation) enlightenment?
JZ: If they are human. Jesus being born as human, the incarnation, is crucial.
CK: But what is human? Scripture says God created man from dirt. And any other planet out there would have dirt of some kind, right? Or are you saying in the case of life not being carbon-based…
JZ: Well now we’re talking about the same kinds of issues with the multiverse, where we have infinite possibilities in infinite time…
CK: And I love how in your book, you say that Marty McFly’s time line where he does not go back into the future still exists!
JZ: If the multiverse exists.
CK: And would you say that if the multiverse does exists, the life, death, resurrection of Christ is the only event that does happen without change, and is central to all other events, which could and would be free to happen any number of ways and still be meaningful?
JK: If the multiverse exists, that would have to be true. You know there is a group that meets in Knoxville that discusses these kinds of questions, and is open to all people interested in science, regardless of world view.
CK: I saw that. We actually have several science-related Meet Up groups in Knoxville. And of course Knoxville is a college town with the University of Tennessee, so there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with scientific studies there too. So fun! For my last question, how can people get a copy of “Whose Afraid of the MultiVerse?” or find out more about your work?
JZ: Send them to the web site, Reasons.org.