Once in a while comes along a book with breathtaking speculation. Marcus Chowns "Dispatches from the frontline of science" is such a book. As Brian May (Queen guitarist) says: "Marcus Chown rocks".
The Universe is a pretty big place and weird things happen out there. Actually, for all we know it is infinite in size. The consequence of this is mind-blowing to say the least.
We assume that the distribution of galaxies, in the observable Universe and beyond, is the result of random processes that went on in the first split seconds after the Big Bang (that created the Universe). This means that all possible arrangements of protons in a volume the size of the observable Universe will in fact occur somewhere out there.
There is only a finite number of ways of arranging protons in a given volumen of space. So, just as it is possible to estimate how many oranges that can be stacked together in a box, it it possible to estimate how many protons you can have in a given volume of space. Because of its quantum graininess, the obervable Universe has "only" 10^118 locations where a proton can be. Each position can either be occupied by a proton or not. This gives 2^10^118 configurations.
Huge, but not infinite. Looking around in the infinite Universe of random distributed protons we will find the same configurations again and again. Actually, if we take a sphere 100 lights years across and centered on the Earth an identical sphere can be calculated to be app. 10^10^91 metres away. Including a copy of the reader.
As planet formation and biological processes might drive configurations in certain directions the nearest copy is probably much closer.
Understanding is compression. We have all these phenomenon out there. An elegant theory, like a computer program, explains something in the most compressed way. In cosmology we have General Relativity for understanding gravity and Quantum Theory to understand things at the level of the atom. However, at the Big Bang the Universe was both very massive, the domain of General Relativity, and very small, the domain of Quantum Theory. One theory deals with certainty the other with uncertainty - Not surprisingly then, you can ask a lot of questions about cosmology which currently have no answer. What is dark energy? What is dark matter? What is vacuum - really? What started the inflation period? (that supposedly smoothed the Universe shortly after the Big Bang) etc.
Ignorance of the outside world is of course ignorance about the human condition. Unless, we think that human consciousness is the only thing that really matters. And how consciousness is connected to the outside world is really just secondary? If we can only know what we can observe, should we then really care about the "true" nature of the world? And how we are connected to that "true" world?
Take our observation of the world. In the case of the eye, light falls on the cells of the retina and changes them - and it is these changed cells the brain senses, not the light itself. We are not observing light directly, but indirectly. It is ourselves that we are observing directly. All observation is self observation. What an observer knows is inseparable from what the observer is.
The Universe out there might be very different from what we think it is. One could then argue that the important thing is how the Universe "really is" or that the important thing is what an observer believes it to be. The stage is now set for Marcus Chown to play around with what the Universe "really is" - and how this affect what humans "really are".
Given the argument that the Universe will repeat itself - there should be plenty of intelligent aliens out there. Yet, we currently see none (See the Fermi Paradox: Where is everybody?). Perhaps, some advanced future technology will be able to spot sophisticated signals collected by the SETI projects (signals, current technology can't pick out). Perhaps astroengineering is occuring right here in our cosmic backyard with stars being setup in certain patterns we have not yet discovered? Perhaps we should look for patterns in the background radiation, for a signature from the creator written in the Big Bang afterglow? Perhaps, this will tell us that the Universe is radically different from what we currently think. Perhaps a super advanced civilisation really made the Universe in some laboratory - somewhere.
Perhaps we are really living in some kind of simulation? How would we know? Could we know? - asks Nick Bostrom:
I.e. will future civilisations have enough computing power and programming skills to be able to create "ancestor simulations"? Will someone be clever enough to do detailed simulations of the simulators' predecessors - detailed enough for the simulated minds to be conscious and have the same kind of experiences we have? Perhaps not now, or in 50 years, but within say 10 million years.
Put another way: If we extrapolate the expected technological advances and think through the logical conclusions we arrive at the the simulation argument .
What we know already is enough to ensure a very weird future. And it could get much weirder: According to an idea from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin the purpose of the Universe is to end in the Omega point. Which for lack of better words is some sort of heaven.
According to Frank Tipler it is all about life making space shrink faster along two dimensions than along a third. In a universe that shrinks this way, the stuff that shrinks fastest - gets hotter than the stuff that doesn't. And this temperature difference just keeps growing. Which enables the possibility to do work and information processing. In the Universe, the ultimate driving force for activity is temperature difference between different regions. Like, between stars like our own Sun, hot, and interstellar space, which is cold.
In Tiplers shrinking universe the energy for information processing goes up faster than the universe shrinks. So, there will be time for infinite processing before the collapse. Time for eternal living so to speak.
With so much computer power available, all types of simulations could be made. But the Omega point is also a point in space and time where light rays from the entire past history of the Universe converges. Light rays that will carry with them the location and arrangement of everything there ever was in the Universe. A super civilisation there is then ready to make a simulation of everything there was in the Universe. Resurrecting everything - everything.
The super civilisation will then not only be omnipotent in its ability to manipulate reality it will also be omniscient in its capacity to see everything.
So people will die, trillions and trillions of years will pass, and then they will wake up in a simulation at the end of time in the Omega point - according to Frank Tipler.
If thats not enough - then read on in Marcus Chowns "The never ending days of being dead".
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Simon Laub--- www.simonlaub.net ---