Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Universal Mind Decoder

Since I reviewed yesterday Caradoc Prichard's "One Moonlit Night," here's an explanation of how we, moon, night, and light all evolved, out of a universe that, contrary to the expectations demanded of Anselm's ontological principle, First Cause and Unmoved Mover apologists, and countless logicians, may exist with no purpose beyond itself, without any Grand Unified Theory except its own. Which, as a few maverick post-modern scholars suggest, may be the best definition of a God who defies our attempt to define Him (Her. It. Them. Us.) after all the anguished centuries of denominations, denunciations, and declamations. The Hindus and Buddhists, apophatic Eastern Christian mystics, "via negativa" contemplatives, and Ein Sof cabalists appear smarter and wiser all the time, compared to the labors and profits/ prophets of most seminaries, madrassas, temples, and megachurches.

Today's NY Times: "Big Brain Theory-- Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs?" Dennis Overbye.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/15/science/15brain.html?ex=1358139600&en=d98a87a871e5263a&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink Excerpts follow:
[START:] It could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science.

If true, it would mean that you yourself reading this article are more likely to be some momentary fluctuation in a field of matter and energy out in space than a person with a real past born through billions of years of evolution in an orderly star-spangled cosmos. Your memories and the world you think you see around you are illusions.

This bizarre picture is the outcome of a recent series of calculations that take some of the bedrock theories and discoveries of modern cosmology to the limit. Nobody in the field believes that this is the way things really work, however. And so in the last couple of years there has been a growing stream of debate and dueling papers, replete with references to such esoteric subjects as reincarnation, multiple universes and even the death of spacetime, as cosmologists try to square the predictions of their cherished theories with their convictions that we and the universe are real. The basic problem is that across the eons of time, the standard theories suggest, the universe can recur over and over again in an endless cycle of big bangs, but it’s hard for nature to make a whole universe. It’s much easier to make fragments of one, like planets, yourself maybe in a spacesuit or even — in the most absurd and troubling example — a naked brain floating in space. Nature tends to do what is easiest, from the standpoint of energy and probability. And so these fragments — in particular the brains — would appear far more frequently than real full-fledged universes, or than us. Or they might be us.

[CONTINUED: The Boltzmann brain model from the 19c next enters, and confuses me more. Cosmological debates ensue, summarized in the original article.]

Astronomers now know the universe has not lasted forever. It was born in the Big Bang, which somehow set the arrow of time, 14 billion years ago. The linchpin of the Big Bang is thought to be an explosive moment known as inflation, during which space became suffused with energy that had an antigravitational effect and ballooned violently outward, ironing the kinks and irregularities out of what is now the observable universe and endowing primordial chaos with order.

Inflation is a veritable cosmological fertility principle. Fluctuations in the field driving inflation also would have seeded the universe with the lumps that eventually grew to be galaxies, stars and people. According to the more extended version, called eternal inflation, an endless array of bubble or “pocket” universes are branching off from one another at a dizzying and exponentially increasing rate. They could have different properties and perhaps even different laws of physics, so the story goes.

A different, but perhaps related, form of antigravity, glibly dubbed dark energy, seems to be running the universe now, and that is the culprit responsible for the Boltzmann brains.

The expansion of the universe seems to be accelerating, making galaxies fly away from one another faster and faster. If the leading dark-energy suspect, a universal repulsion Einstein called the cosmological constant, is true, this runaway process will last forever, and distant galaxies will eventually be moving apart so quickly that they cannot communicate with one another. Being in such a space would be like being surrounded by a black hole.

Rather than simply going to black like “The Sopranos” conclusion, however, the cosmic horizon would glow, emitting a feeble spray of elementary particles and radiation, with a temperature of a fraction of a billionth of a degree, courtesy of quantum uncertainty. That radiation bath will be subject to random fluctuations just like Boltzmann’s eternal universe, however, and every once in a very long, long time, one of those fluctuations would be big enough to recreate the Big Bang. In the fullness of time this process could lead to the endless series of recurring universes. Our present universe could be part of that chain.

[MORE: discussion of the Boltzmann paradox follows. Complications ensue. Universes apparently have come and gone eternally, bubbling up and simmering down. Reincarnation and consciousness may continue forever. No Creator, no Shiva, unless an cycle of recurring universes perhaps remains the only constant inconstant Truth.]

But nobody knows whether dark energy — if it dies — will die soon enough to save the universe from a surplus of Boltzmann brains. In 2006, Dr. Page calculated that the dark energy would have to decay in about 20 billion years in order to prevent it from being overrun by Boltzmann brains.

The decay, if and when it comes, would rejigger the laws of physics and so would be fatal and total, spreading at almost the speed of light and destroying all matter without warning. There would be no time for pain, Dr. Page wrote: “And no grieving survivors will be left behind. So in this way it would be the most humanely possible execution.” But the object of his work, he said, was not to predict the end of the universe but to draw attention to the fact that the Boltzmann brain problem remains.

[CONCLUSION: In which nothing can be concluded.]

In eternal inflation, the number of new bubbles being hatched at any given moment is always growing, Dr. Linde said, explaining one such counting scheme he likes. So the evolution of people in new bubbles far outstrips the creation of Boltzmann brains in old ones. The main way life emerges, he said, is not by reincarnation but by the creation of new parts of the universe. “So maybe we don’t need to care too much” about the Boltzmann brains,” he said.

“If you are reincarnated, why do you care about where you are reincarnated?” he asked. “It sounds crazy because here we are touching issues we are not supposed to be touching in ordinary science. Can we be reincarnated?”

“People are not prepared for this discussion,” Dr. Linde said.

[Blog entry title: 1) instrumental off "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" 1968 LP; 2) 1997 CD by neo-psych revivalists from Boston, Abunai-- reviewed by me on Amazon. Great album cover. Too bad it's out of print. All things must pass.]

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