Mayonnaise and dark energy, Bless the Lord! Praise and exalt Him above all forever.

Fluctus et Casimiri Effectus, benedicite Domino!  Laudate eum et superexaltate eum in saecula!

Consider a startlingly unique element of the Judeo-Christian message:

Almighty God, who really is involved, created the universe and all that is in it from nothing.  And God has a plan, for the whole universe, and for you as an individual made in His image and likeness.  He has revealed something of this plan to us.  Even in the details of the mechanics of the universe, He reveals something of Himself.

Now this… from Astromony Pic of the Day:

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

A Force from Empty Space: The Casimir Effect
Credit & Copyright: Umar Mohideen (U. California at Riverside)

Explanation: This tiny ball provides evidence that the universe will expand forever. Measuring slightly over one tenth of a millimeter, the ball moves toward a smooth plate in response to energy fluctuations in the vacuum of empty space. The attraction is known as the Casimir Effect, named for its discoverer, who, 50 years ago, was trying to understand why fluids like mayonnaise move so slowly. Today, evidence is accumulating that most of the energy density in the universe is in an unknown form dubbed dark energy. The form and genesis of dark energy is almost completely unknown, but postulated as related to vacuum fluctuations similar to the Casimir Effect but generated somehow by space itself. This vast and mysterious dark energy appears to gravitationally repel all matter and hence will likely cause the universe to expand forever. Understanding vacuum fluctuations is on the forefront of research not only to better understand our universe but also for stopping micro-mechanical machine parts from sticking together.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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37 Responses to Mayonnaise and dark energy, Bless the Lord! Praise and exalt Him above all forever.

  1. Thank you for sharing this article, Father. One of my sons is a civil engineer and he has had some exposure to this idea.

  2. Supertradmom says:

    Cool and I was just on the space weather site, which is great, looking at another link http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=24761%20Ahau;orb=1

    Wish me happy birthday, and it is my parents, good Catholics who met in the choir, a happy 62nd anniversary of their wedding.

  3. Thomas S says:

    Expand… into what?

    This stuff makes my brain hurt. (In a good way.)

  4. MenTaLguY says:

    Not expanding into anything. Space is expanding like the surface of an inflating balloon.

  5. S Petersen says:

    This jargony science stuff is always finally baloney. Never forget phlogiston and the ether. It’s no compliment to God or the Church to point to one of this lamebrain ambiguities as somehow alluding to Truth. Moreover, “to better understand our universe” is the ungrammatical signature of all the defectively educated enlightenment wannabes who have brought us global relativism and state-sponsored hedonism.

    Bitter Fruit Award

  6. Thomas S says:

    MenTaLguY,

    Analogies don’t work for me in this instance. Balloons expand into space. Space itself expanding is apples and oranges.

  7. JohnE says:

    Fr. Robert Barron had a recent podcast where he briefly mentions dark matter.

    http://wordonfire.org/WOF-Radio/Sermons/2009/Sermon-469-Religion,-Science-and-the-Journey-of.aspx

    “The story of the Magi illuminates important dynamics in the relationship of religious conviction and scientific investigation. There need not be any necessary conflict between religion and science, as wise men of every age are drawn, not only to investigate the wonders of creation, but to draw closer to Christ, through whom all things have been made.”

  8. chonak says:

    Not everyone has the ability to enjoy these things, apparently. If you don’t, it’s better to let them pass in silence rather than complain. Even the color-blind usually don’t grouse with resentment against other people’s “phony” color distinctions.

  9. Jaybirdnbham says:

    *…waits to see if S Petersen gets the sour grapes award…*
    :-)

  10. The particles of space are gradually moving farther apart from each other in all directions, and thus space is becoming bigger. If you have a more descriptive word for this than “expand”, I invite you to use it. Physicists and astronomers will love you and send you cookies and awards. :)

    If Christian use of science to understand God is gimmicky, it’s been gimmicky since the patristic writers, the wisdom books of the Bible, and the psalmist. If you want to tell St. Irenaeus to shut the codex up about what the tides and the Moon tell us about God their Creator, you be my guest.

  11. Random Friar says:

    I don’t know if mayonnaise, qua mayonnaise, can properly give glory to God with all His creatures, as it is a human artifice. ;) [Yah... I thought about that. But in the end, I just liked the combination of words for the entry!]

    But hey, in the end, ALL created things shall give glory to Go: in His Love, in His Mercy and even in His Justice. Even squirrels — although Fr. Z might have them giving glory to God in His justice with the fallen angels…

  12. Supertradmom says:

    As to mayonnaise, are we not made in the Image and Likeness of God and then capable of mimesis, if not poesis? Therefore, all creations give glory to God, if intrinsically good, including what we make with our hands. I do not think God is offended by the mayonnaise reference. Happy, happy new year.

  13. rakesvines says:

    That Psalm eludes me right now. And mayo must be 1st declension vocative – mayonesia.

  14. robtbrown says:

    This jargony science stuff is always finally baloney. Never forget phlogiston and the ether. It’s no compliment to God or the Church to point to one of this lamebrain ambiguities as somehow alluding to Truth. Moreover, “to better understand our universe” is the ungrammatical signature of all the defectively educated enlightenment wannabes who have brought us global relativism and state-sponsored hedonism.
    Comment by S Petersen

    It is error to think that moral relativism is somehow the consequence of attempts to explain the Cosmos. This is as much true for Contemporary Physics as for Newtonian Mechanics.

    The theories of Ether and the Phlogiston were attempts to explain phenomena. For understanding the epistemological status of various scientific explanations I recommend Maritain’s Degrees of Knowledge.

  15. robtbrown says:

    As to mayonnaise, are we not made in the Image and Likeness of God and then capable of mimesis, if not poesis? Therefore, all creations give glory to God, if intrinsically good, including what we make with our hands. I do not think God is offended by the mayonnaise reference. Happy, happy new year.
    Comment by Supertradmom

    Does that also apply to Miracle Whip?

  16. Supertradmom says:

    especially Miracle Whip. But, then, I am not a theologian….

  17. Random Friar says:

    Is “Miracle Whip” a miracle?

    Material cause: mayonnaise and spices.
    Formal cause: Kraft recipe.
    Efficient cause: some lady in an assembly line with a hairnet.
    Final cause: make a tasty BLT for me.

    As we can see, “Miracle” is only analogous to a true supernatural miracle. Although the final cause is similar: that which may leads us from the blandness of this life so that we may enjoy the fullness of delight in God in the next.

  18. Random Friar says:

    S. Peterson:

    St. Albertus Magnus, teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas tells us, “In studying nature we have not to inquire how God the Creator may, as He freely wills, use His creatures to work miracles and thereby show forth His power: we have rather to inquire what Nature with its immanent causes can naturally bring to pass.”

    My attempt at a plain English translation for everyone: “Miracles and wonders are totally awesome, but just the basic everyday stuff He made is pretty dang cool, too, and worth studying!”

  19. Mike says:

    “will likely cause the universe to expand forever”‘

    Got a problem with that “forever”, that is, without end, a concept beyond the capacity of science (measuring, quantifying) all together.

    Thomists correct me if I err, but the cosmos will not go on forever (“A new heavens, a new earth”), but this is only known via revelation…

  20. Random Friar says:

    That is my understanding, although I am on my best days, only a white-belt Thomist. Classical Thomism says there’s no way to definitively assert that the universe is not eternal (always existed, always will exist, got started rolling by a Prime Mover) from natural science alone.

  21. That’s just weird — my pastor back home just mentioned about physics during his homily at Mass (although not about dark matter specifically).

    But you two padres just highlighted an amazing example about what I’ve learned during my days at my science magnet school: science just proves God, not disprove it. And that’s especially true for physics, which has reached the closest to that act of Creation, chronologically speaking. Praise be to God for that!

    Oh, by the way — Random Friar, that was just hilarious about your philosophical deduction with mayonnaise! Indeed, that was probably the last thing I’d expect from this column.

    But then again, when Fr. Z mixes mayo and dark energy together, no one knows what going to happen, right? :-D

  22. catholicmidwest says:

    Everyting gives glory to God because everything has a design given it by Him. This is the stuff that makes scientists!!!

  23. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m a chemist. The chemistry behind miracle whip is lovely–and a work of God, even if Miracle Whip itself is nasty (which I happen to think it is).

  24. Father Ignotus says:

    I once heard someone say that Miracle Whip is made of equal parts of WD-40 and Baking Soda. Sounds about right.

  25. robtbrown says:

    Mike and Random Friar,

    You’ve raises some good questions. If I might offer a few comments:

    1. St Thomas speaks of the possibility of the existence of the universe ab aeterno, that by reason it cannot be known that it necessarily had a beginning in Time. There would always be a prior moment. NB: This has nothing to do with his quinque viae for the existence of God, which depend on the ontological priority of God not on a priority of duration.

    As noted above, STA thinks that it can only be known by Faith that the universe had a beginning in Time.

    2. St Thomas only deals with the possible infinity of Time in a certain direction, i.e., backward or forward. If someone insists on the infinity of Time in both directions, then IMHO all moments would exist simultaneously, which is obviously not true. NB: This is most relevant to St Thomas’ tertia via for demonstrating God’s existence.

    3. Time is a measure of motion. There are two types of motion: Linear, in which something moves from a beginning to an end (this applies not only to local movement but also to things coming into and going out of existence). And Circular, which admits of no beginning or end and is infinite.

    Thus we can see that Time, which is a measure of motion, can be said on the one hand, to have a beginning and an end–and on the other, not to have them, i.e., be infinite. In JRatzinger’s book on Eschatology he adverts to such a diptych, referring to the expansion of the universe contrasted with Entropy.

    4. The word forever often means on and on, not necessarily eternal.

  26. archambt says:

    This reminds me of St. Athanasius in de incarnatione, “Perhaps you will say, then, that creation was enough to teach men about the Father. But if that had been so, such great evils would never have occurred. Creation was there all the time, but it did not prevent men from wallowing in error.” He then goes on to talk about how the Incarnation of the Word revealed the Father to humanity. Studying nature without acknowledging the Father seems to lead to paganism (of which the current environmental/green movement seems to be a sub-branch).

    I wonder what Athanasius would say about the eternity/infinity question for the Universe. Since it was created ex nihilo, then it seems as if there was a definitive “start” point for the universe. That is, its not eternal in the same sense as the Father is eternal. Or has it existed with the Father before time? (And my favorite question, does it really matter?).

  27. robtbrown says:

    I wonder what Athanasius would say about the eternity/infinity question for the Universe. Since it was created ex nihilo, then it seems as if there was a definitive “start” point for the universe.

    Yes, but acc to St Thomas it can be known only by Faith not by Reason.

    Or has it existed with the Father before time?

    See my point above. It is obvious that it could not be eternal in the sense that God is eternal.

    NB: St Thomas’ phrase ab aeterno.

    (And my favorite question, does it really matter?).
    Comment by archambt

    Your comments indicate to me that your question should be whether you understand the problem. My response is no.

  28. robtbrown says:

    Knowledge is always important. And it is equally important to be able to distinguish supernatural and natural knowledge, not letting either usurp the other.

    I had a prof at the Angelicum who used to say that the thought of the Eastern Fathers often is vulnerable to Apollinarianism, which says that Jesus did not have a human intellect. The Logos-sarx Christology of Athanasius is a good example: It emphasizes the Divinity of Christ and that the Logos assume human flesh, but says little about Christ’s Human Intellect. He also insisted that this approach is the reason why the Eastern Church is very good on the supernatural and mysticism, but also why it has little to say about science and other natural knowledge.

    IMHO, it is no coincidence that Marxism took root in a nation that was formed theologically by the thought of the Eastern Fathers.

  29. irishgirl says:

    Isn’t God’s creation AMAZING?

    What a cool picture…have to laugh about mayo and Miracle Whip, though…

  30. The Cobbler says:

    “The particles of space are gradually moving farther apart from each other in all directions, and thus space is becoming bigger.”
    I missed where space has particles. Perhaps those who call this “phony” rather than enjoying it merely are pointing out that either scientists are talking nonsense or scientists are keeping us all in the dark, either one of which is not exactly open and honest.

  31. Re: the East and science

    It wasn’t always that way. One of the things Origen did when he taught St. Gregory Thaumaturgus and his brother (whom he converted from paganism through his teaching and holy life) was to insist that they had to study science and math before beginning with philosophy, theology, etc. This would sharpen their minds and powers of logic.

    A lot of the Cappadocian Fathers (and Mothers) seem to have felt the same way, with the addition of feeling that Greek and Roman literature, rhetoric, and grammar were the perfect introductory work before studying the Bible. The trivium and quadrivium of medieval universities came from these same ideas.

    The Muslim countries weren’t fond of science, though; so the practice of science by Christians under their rule tended to die out, also. Math was harder to kill, being something easier to pass along.

  32. Random Friar says:

    The Cobbler: my science is rusty, but think of energy and matter as related (E=mc^2). Or, matter as “condensed” energy that can be converted into energy. We know that even in a vacuum, we seem to have almost infinitesimally small points of energy seeming to fade in and out of existence. “Nothing” is yielding “something” for some reason, even a near-perfect vacuum. It seems that when space-time expands into the void, even without the presence of matter, this energy will appear.

    Really weird, and really cool. Every time that science tries to tell us it’s figured out the cosmos, God manages to throw not only another curveball, but a split-fingered fastball, knuckleball and sinker, all into one.

  33. robtbrown says:

    Suburbanbanshee,

    Although Origen might have insisted on the study or science and math, his method is allegorical, which indicates that he was not especially interested in the relation between Revelation and natural knowledge.

  34. Mike says:

    robtbrown,

    Thanks for the comments…very interesting..

  35. Jordanes says:

    Professor Brown said: 1. St Thomas speaks of the possibility of the existence of the universe ab aeterno, that by reason it cannot be known that it necessarily had a beginning in Time. There would always be a prior moment.

    Physicists now speak of Space-Time, such that if the universe has not always existed but came into being, Time came into being with the universe. Thus in such a physics the universe could not be said to have had a beginning “in” Time, even if the universe has not always existed.

    2. St Thomas only deals with the possible infinity of Time in a certain direction, i.e., backward or forward. If someone insists on the infinity of Time in both directions, then IMHO all moments would exist simultaneously, which is obviously not true. NB: This is most relevant to St Thomas’ tertia via for demonstrating God’s existence.

    Back in 1987, Discover magazine published an article titled, “The Seven Arrows of Time,” providing scientific evidence and arguments that Time moves in only one direction and cannot be reversed, and thus is not infinite in both directions. Essentially what happens if you try to reverse time and make it flow backwards is that you just get it to move forwards in a very slightly different way: your backwards attempt becomes nothing more than another forwards — you don’t see past events happening in reverse, but new events that hadn’t happened before.

    That means traveling back in time will forever be beyond the ability of us mere mortals.

    3. Time is a measure of motion.

    Modern physics holds that it’s more than that.

    There are two types of motion: Linear, in which something moves from a beginning to an end (this applies not only to local movement but also to things coming into and going out of existence). And Circular, which admits of no beginning or end and is infinite.

    No, even circular motion is not eternal, without beginning or ending — circular motion can be started and stopped, and the point in time and space at which it starts can be mapped or pinpointed. Just put a piece of tape on the edge of a disk, and use a stopwatch to measure when your start spinning it and when the spinning stops.

    Yes, but acc to St Thomas it can be known only by Faith not by Reason.

    Creatio ex nihilo seems to be only knowable by faith, but it seems to me that reason and natural science can establish that the universe had a beginning and that God upholds all that exists. That coupled with the revelation that God created all things ex nihilo serves to make the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo “reasonable,” something the human intellect can accommodate even if it cannot know it certainly apart from faith.

    It is obvious that it could not be eternal in the sense that God is eternal.

    IMHO (and utterly inexpert opinion, for that matter), I think it is also pretty clear from what the natural sciences have discerned that the universe could not have always existed.

  36. Maltese says:

    “Professor Brown said: 1. St Thomas speaks of the possibility of the existence of the universe ab aeterno, that by reason it cannot be known that it necessarily had a beginning in Time. There would always be a prior moment.

    Physicists now speak of Space-Time, such that if the universe has not always existed but came into being, Time came into being with the universe. Thus in such a physics the universe could not be said to have had a beginning “in” Time, even if the universe has not always existed.”

    Theology 101: God was before all things and concepts, including time.

    “It is obvious that it could not be eternal in the sense that God is eternal.

    IMHO (and utterly inexpert opinion, for that matter), I think it is also pretty clear from what the natural sciences have discerned that the universe could not have always existed.”

    To even countenance that the world existed before God, even one atom of it, is to reek of Lucretius and the pagan atomists, no less Carl Sagan and his anti-catholic ilk.

    No, no, no, God existed before all time; was the uncreated Creator–was with the Son and Holy Spirit before there were even angels.

  37. TonyLayne says:

    “We are on the wrong side of the tapestry.” — Chesterton

    A good book for the non-scientist to read on the subject is The Science Before Science, by physicist Anthony Rizzi. (If nothing else, it may tell you whether your mind is geared towards either physics or Aristotelian/Thomist philosophy!) Following his work, I get the impression that a couple staples of sci-fi–alternate universes and time travel–are pretty much the result of physicists mistaking formal causes for efficient causes, making their math not just descriptive but prescriptive to boot.

    Every time that science tries to tell us it’s figured out the cosmos, God manages to throw not only another curveball, but a split-fingered fastball, knuckleball and sinker, all into one.–Random Friar

    I believe this is why St. Thomas wrote his arguments towards a First Cause and Necessary Being in such a way that they weren’t contingent on the universe being either infinite or finite, and why the late Mortimer J. Adler cautioned readers not to get hung up on the Big Bang: Why hang a proof of God on scientific “discoveries” that may turn out to be nonsense fifty or one hundred years down the line?