Saturday, March 07, 2015

Brian Greene's "The Hidden Reality": do parallel universes exist?

Author: Brian Greene

Title: “The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos
Publication: Vintage, 2011, ISBN 978-0-307-27812-8, 444 pages, paper, indexed, 11 chapters
Amazon link:   Also available in Kindle
I’ve covered Brian Greene’s work before, on the TV log, with his “The Fabric of the Cosmos” (Nov. 2, 2011) on PBS NOVA.
It’s difficult to summarize everything.  But the gist of his vision is that the cosmos comprises “branes” which are mathematical manifolds in as many as eleven dimensions.  A two-dimensional brane might be an infinite sheet of paper.  When branes “collide”, more or less randomly given placement among extra dimensions, new universes get formed.  Hence we have a multiverse. 

This idea would have consequences for the whole science and religion debate.  Our universe, with all the physical constants exactly right for life, exists because it is one of infinitely many mathematically possible universes (is that infinity countable, like the set of rational numbers?)  That is circular, I exist because I must (anthropic thinking).  I don’t need to hide inside a clam shell.  My own consciousness of self exists because it is one of an infinity of beings, although why it occurred at this time in history is a riddle – but my own life is filled with ironies and riddles that only “I” could have experienced.
Along these lines is the idea that the cosmos is digital, based on “information”, which can aggregate into forming self-aware beings.  This gets into the definition of entropy (link).   Yet entropy is commonly thought of as associated with randomly increasing “disorder”.  Life – consciousness and purpose – counteracts entropy.  So life must reproduce.  But isn’t the formation of stars something like reproduction?
So then you can get into the debates about God, which don’t need to be pressed here.  The Hadron experiments about the Higgs Boson – the “God” particle – were inconclusive, but could have resulted in the idea that we were, or were not, created.  (Movies blog, March 21, 2014). 
But for me the most important chapter was Chapter 9, “Black holes and holograms, the Holographic Universe”.  This gets into the idea that TMI, too much information, can lead to a black hole.  Or, that the total information content related to a black hole is contained on its spherical surface area.  Mini black holes might exist (like inside the Collider) because the extra dimensions (of String Theory) give gravity much more opportunity to become effective (in the normal 3-dimensional sense it is much weaker than the other forces, and related differently to particles and waves).  But mini black holes are probably temporary because quantum effects, leading to Hawking Radiation, leads them to “evaporate” (like snow in the sun when the air temperature is below freezing).  But this whole idea leads to an intriguing idea: the information of someone’s consciousness, after his passing, could be transferred somewhere else on the surface of a mini black hole.  Maybe this could lead to evidence of reincarnation, or of how the Afterlife really works – something the Monroe Institute (near Charlottesville VA) says a lot about. Can “consciousness”, once in existences, really be destroyed, if is just information?  It could be scrambled but still could be recovered mathematically.
But optimism about what Black Holes could do for "the departed" may be softened by the so called "No Hair Theorems", which maintain that black holes, like drag queens, really are "thnooth".

The idea that any reality exists because it is mathematically possible could be dangerous;  "free will" comes with the price that the consequences of actions can be irreversible. 
Here’s a related article from Scientific American in 2012, “Is Space Digitial?” by Michael Moyer, link .You need a subscription to read the entire article (behind the paywall).

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