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Physics 101: To Infinity and Back

By Rachel Hamburg

Time. What a strange, intriguing concept. Scientists tell us that time is the fourth dimension, and in that respect, it seems almost tangible. It flows by us all of our days, like water through a tunnel, and even when we’ve passed away, it continues. It’s even more interesting because our God is eternal and transcends time, yet He created days, months, years, and agricultural cycles for us to live by. To me, at least, it seems like time is somewhat important.


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Isaiah 46: 9-10 – “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

It’s generally agreed that the laws of physics apply everywhere. Whether on Earth, in the Andromeda galaxy, or at the center of a black hole, the laws of physics hold. Mathematically, they may look different in those different places, as Einstein’s theory of special relativity proved, but the fundamental principles still apply. This fact in itself appears to be a signature of the Almighty. Because science is the same everywhere, we have the ability to study the entire universe. In other words, our Father enabled us to search out the treasures of His creation both far and wide. Not only is that a blessing, but it’s a privilege to seek out His Mighty Hand. Indeed, our understanding of His work only becomes more interesting when you add Time to the picture.

There’s a theoretical principle in the field of particle physics called Time Reversal Symmetry, or T-Symmetry. Now we all know what symmetry is. Hold out your hands, palms up. Your hands have the same shape but are flipped and mirror each other. Well in physics, symmetry describes two principles or objects that are similar but flipped. For example, there are really small particles in the universe called protons and electrons. They both have the same amount of mass and charge, but protons are positive and electrons are negative. They’re the same but opposite. They’re symmetric. In fact, many scientists believe that symmetry is an underlying building block of the universe, meaning that all physical laws have symmetry, whether mathematically or just how they appear in nature. Pretty interesting, I think…but I digress.

T-symmetry is the symmetry of scientific laws with respect to time. In other words, a scientific law is only considered T-symmetric if it seems to work the same way going forwards in time as when going back in time. You’re probably thinking: “Going back in time? How can scientists can go back in time?! They can’t do that!” Well, in a way, they can—and here’s how: math and video cameras.

For example, we could test the law of gravity. You could watch a video of a man throwing a ball straight up in the air. You could also watch the video in playback mode and see the ball falling from the sky into the man’s hand. If you didn’t know which video was being played in reverse, you might not know which video was in “real” time. Gravity, as you perceived it, would be working the same in each video. The man could be overcoming gravity to throw the ball up in the air, or he could be catching the ball as gravity pulled it down. Either way, your perception of gravity wouldn’t change. The time changed, but gravity didn’t. Since you couldn’t tell which video was real and which was reversed, scientists would say that according to this experiment, gravity was time symmetric.

Now this is a really simple example, but it illustrates the concept. However, scientists find T-symmetry only in the really, really small world of protons, electrons, etc. In our world of people, cars, and buildings, it only occurs in extremely rare instances—such as in our previous example. But in almost all cases, when scientists experiment with time in our world, the laws of physics “change.” To prove this would take a little more time than I want to spare, but I encourage you to research T-symmetry, reversible computing, Maxwell’s Demon, CPT symmetry, and other related topics.

Anyhow, what I’m trying to stress is this: T-symmetry does exist. Just not in our everyday life. And do you know what plays a factor in that? The second law of thermodynamics.

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Loschmidt’s Paradox

Habakkuk 2:3 – “For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”

As I mentioned in another post, the second law of thermodynamics is closely connected with entropy and the increasing decay of the universe. As time moves forward, entropy increases. In other words, the second law of thermodynamics is time-dependent. The further we go in time, the more disorderly and decayed everything is, but the further we look back in time, the more orderly and perfect everything is. (That shouldn’t surprise us because that’s precisely what Scripture says.)

In other words, the second law is not T-symmetric. If it was symmetric, then entropy should increase, as time goes backwards, as well decrease. Does that confuse you? Well, it confuses me too. We have to remember that time is a dimension and that T-symmetry is all about perception. Because the second law is not T-symmetric, it’s hard for us to comprehend it any other way. Anyhow, this is all very important because scientists have a question: If we know that time is symmetric in the really, really small world, then why isn’t it in our big world?

Let’s rephrase that question to sound just a tad more scientific. “How can we detect a thermodynamic arrow of time (entropy) when our universe is fundamentally made up of time-symmetric laws? Obviously, time is moving in only one direction and entropy is only increasing. Just as observable is the fact that time is symmetrical (in a transformation known as CPT symmetry) in the subatomic world. Why is the big world so completely different from the small?

And that’s the paradox. Loschmidt’s Paradox, actually. Scientists have proposed a variety of answers, but none are entirely satisfactory. They’re still researching. It’s an important question, though, because it tests the fundamental nature of our universe. In their minds, the universe could have formed any which way it chose. We could’ve “evolved in reverse,” meaning we could’ve steadily become more perfect over time. But we didn’t and we don’t. So why was our particular situation “chosen by the universe?”

From Scripture, we know that our God is orderly, and that time proceeding forwards just makes sense. We know that God created everything perfectly and that it was only Man’s fault that death entered the world. There is no doubt in our minds about this. But can we prove this using math and scientific jargon? I think so.

We don’t have the answer to this paradox today, but I believe that one day we will. Honestly, I think that may be one of the reasons God created paradoxes—because they peak our curiosity and induce us to seek His Hand. They give us a glimpse into the complex mind of a Brilliant Mathematician who engineered Time and the laws by which it abides. That’s why I think it’s so important to support scientific research. Every piece of true evidence points to our Father and verifies His Word. Aside from the riches of His grace and the fellowship of like-minded believers, what greater blessing can we receive than sharing in the understanding of His creation? All of eternity isn’t enough time to praise Him for His goodness…

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Written by Rachel Hamburg

I'm just a plain old physics student who loves learning about the world around me. I hope to obtain a graduate degree in nonlinear dynamics or a related field and eventually do a bit of research. Although physics is my first love, I also enjoy folk dancing, ping-pong, and reading British literature.

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  1. “That’s why I think it’s so important to support scientific research” Not sure I can agree with that statement. Is it not “Science” that wants us to believe in evolution? Some aspects of science is indeed, intriguing. .However, the Bible does not need scientific endorsement it can stand on it’s own. Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not against science, just blindly supporting it. Just my two kopecks

    • Thanks, David!

      And, Pete, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I certainly don’t want to advance evolution, whether in science, philosophy, or theology. Now the Bible can stand on its own, but when you’re a physics student surrounded by atheistic scientists talking in math equations, it’s nice to see the Bible add up on paper too. I’m not saying we should blindly support “Science.” But we, as creation scientists, need to know about things like t-symmetry and dark energy just as much as they do. Until we have the manpower, interest, and resources, whatever “Science” discovers can only benefit us. However, again, I understand not wanting to support evolution. It’s a big issue, and it pays to be cautious in how we handle it.

  2. Perhaps the reason the second law of thermodynamics seems to follow the arrow of time is because there are an approaching infinite ways to disorder something but only a relatively few ways to order something. If one were to drop an egg in reverse time (meaning the shattered egg is jumping reassembled from the floor to the hand) the enormously disordered state of he egg would have to chance landing on the one most ordered state, the probability of which approaches zero as the number of ways that the egg could be rearranged approaches infinity.

    Am I understanding the question about the arrow of time and the 2nd law of Tdynamics?

  3. Please keep on posting such quality stories as this is a rare thing to find today. I am always searching online for posts that could assist me. Looking forward to another fantastic web site. Good luck!

  4. Rachel,
    Overall an excellent and comprehensive article!!!

    As a retired Mechanical Engineering professional I especially enjoyed the segment utilizing the Second Law of Thermodynamics to explain the irreversibility of time under the physical laws created by God.

    One item you may want to revisit is your statement on protons and electrons: “For example, there are really small particles in the universe called protons and electrons. They both have the same amount of mass and charge, but protons are positive and electrons are negative. They’re the same but opposite.”

    They do indeed have the same charge; however, the electron’s mass is almost 1/2000 that of a proton. The reason they remain in balance is due to the stored kinetic energy in the electron which keeps it in orbit about the atomic nucleus while resisting the electromagnetic attraction between the positively charged proton and it’s own negative charge. Even at the subatomic level the law of conservation of energy applies and the symmetry you reference is maintained. (This is an observation for your edification – not a criticism of your fine article).

    In His Love,
    Dr. Jack L. Burton
    -Hebrews 11:1-3

  5. I want to echo what Dr. Burton said about protons and electrons–same charge magnitude one + and one -, but very different masses. As a public high school physics teacher, I argue against evolution by using the 2nd law of thermodynamics–systems lose useable energy and move toward chaos. This can be temporally reversed if energy is put into the system, e.g. cleaning a teenager’s messy room. However, the system will again lose energy and move into chaos again. T-symmetry may work on a quantum level, but not everything mathematically possible, is possible on a macro level.
    I have used a video a of the ball thrown upward to show the symmetry of projectile motion and that the speed of the ball at corresponding points below its peak is equal in magnitude but opposite in direction.

    I enjoyed your article. Thanks.

  6. Rachel, what a treat it is to find a Christian who know what she is talking about. This symmetry has been proved just recently with China teleporting information via two photons, so called “quantum teleportation”, over 500 miles. Showing that there is true symmetry between two particles. I always have trouble convincing certain creationists that God did not wave a magic-wand to create but after creating matter allowed the natural physical laws to develop the universe. That would be under His control and manipulation of course, through a very accelerated time frame. I wondered what your opinion was of this.

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