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The Big Bang(s)

February 1, 2010

Obviously, when I blogged about this topic before, it was from an amateur philosopher’s, rather than a master physicist’s, perspective. Nonetheless, Stephen Hawking and I seem to be in agreement on the beginnings of the Universe and how that relates to the existence of parallel universes, which has made me realize how closely related the two topics are, after a certain point of abstraction is reached.

The theory basically goes like this: the Big Bang literally created an incomprehensibly large number of parallel Universes (limited only by laws of necessity and consistency, sometimes called “the laws of physics” in our particular universe). Those universes have been whittled down to one by the events of history, but only as judged from the observer’s (i.e., your) perspective, again by necessity. All of history leading up to that observation was necessarily distilled into one universe for that observer, while other histories did in fact exist, just not in the same “universe.” The observer’s particular universe has every past possibility determined on the basis of how that particular observation could be made to begin with. This is known as the anthropic principle: the universe you live in is dependent on the fact that you are here to observe it. Correspondingly, the future (from the perspective of the observer, once again) contains as many universes of future possibility as can be consistent with that observer’s universe’s history. Human observers stand on the intersection between the finite and fixed, if not singular, (the past) and the infinite and fluctuate (the future). Physics sure is beautiful philosophy.

But in the first instants of the Big Bang, there existed a superposition of ever more different versions of the Universe, instead of a unique history. And most crucially, Hertog says that “our current Universe has features frozen in from this early quantum mixture.”

Of course, Hawking’s version more eloquently weaves in how such a view reconciles modern problems of quantum mechanics by showing that those little subatomic unknowns are literally that latent potential of the future and the deviations that made up the nearby but not “historical” past.

Perhaps more importantly, Hawking’s work is backed by the beginnings of empirics which I suspect will eventually bear out both of us. I’m just glad to be able to free ride off of his and other estimable physicists’ efforts, though I’m not sure I’ll be able to give them more than my thanks and a minuscule contribution to the public’s understanding and appreciation in recompense. Somehow, I think that’s all they could ever ask for on this question.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 1, 2010 3:29 pm

    This is quite nice. I couldn’t agree more on your final thought! In fact, I would say the great physicists express that exact sentiment, both internally and externally. Great physicists are second to none in their ability to understand just how little we actually know about things. Developing a healthy respect for things as big and powerful as stars gives one a certain understanding that is not acquirable in any other manner.

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