Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gird Up Your Mind

I've been continuing my reading through Max Tegmark's Our Mathematical Universe these last couple of weeks, picking it up here and there in the evenings as time permits.

It's a chatty and occasionally scattered book, as Tegmark folds himself and his cheery Scandinavian sensibility into his explication of both our time and space and the wild and impossible complexities of multiverse theories.  And really, it's "theories," as he plays his way through the range of different ways a multiverse could exist.

Tegmark presents four distinct theses, all of which are being explored and considered by modern physics.  There's the inflationary "Level One" multiverse, into which a functionally infinite number of universes like our own are expanding.  There's the "Level Two," which is like the "Level One," but includes universes with radically different physics than our own.  There's the "Level Three," in which quantum branching means that every moment creates from itself an infinity of different results, each of which then produces an infinity, and so on.  Then there's "Level Four," in which there exists a multiverse that exists as pure mathematics.  Meaning, it looks more than a little bit like the Platonic realm of forms.

Thousands of years, and we're back to Plato.

It's huge and heavy stuff, and its been slow going.  Tegmark's readable enough, chatty in a late-night-dorm-room sort of way.  He does tend to wander off into math-speak more than folks like Greene or Kaku, but hey, that's the title of the book.

What really slows me down a bit more as delve into this stuff is that it tends to stir futile attempts to imagine it.  I'm a visual creature.  As my mind tries to wrap itself around the impossible churning complexities of this amazing creation we inhabit, it heats up like a laptop running Battlefield 4 with all the stops pulled out.

In one of my last readings, for example, I tried to visualize what is actually happening with our 13.8 billion year old time and space.  When we look out into the depths of our expanding space, what we're doing is not just looking out.  We're looking back.  The further out we peer, the older the universe is.  That I get.  But spatially, we're also looking back at something that is very much smaller.  Those early proto-galaxies were closer together, so it's like we're peering outward and inward at the same time, our view distorted by inflation.

And then I try to visualize singularity falling away from us, or rather, us falling into it, seeing the expansion as an effect less like the universe is growing and more like we're getting smaller and smaller relative to it.

Then, as that dizzying reality comes into mind, realizing that all we can perceive is an infinitesimal point in the churn of the multiverse, taking up no more relative volume than it did when it was a singularity.  Once you layer Everettian Many Worlds quantum branching onto that, it becomes so immense that the mind cannot conceptually track it.  There's just too much there to grasp, more points of data than I have neurons to receive.

Which, frankly, is why I find multiversality to be the best framework from which to approach God's work.  It's just more than we can know, ever, period.

Just what one might expect from a God who arrives in whirlwinds.