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Sure, you may just be looking at this column to pick up some sci fi reading tips for the coming week. I get that. But with this week's SEGO comes a little bonus: the origins of everything, the likelihood of there being a god, and the purpose behind human existence.  Really.  Just stick with me for a few paragraphs.

The universe is nicer than it should be
You are here, and that's a massively unlikely thing. For you to exist requires not just that your mom and dad got together on your birthday minus 280 days (más o menos), it requires a little infrastructure, such as a planet that's neither too cold nor too warm, a solar system that's anchored by a stable star, a neighborhood not too littered with planet-busting junk or sizzling with the radiation left over from a nearby supernova. On a larger scale it requires that the universe not be so heavy that it rapidly collapses into a massive black hole, or so young that stars have yet to form. On the finest scale, it requires that the force binding together particles not be too weak for atoms to form or so strong that everything smashes into neutron soup. And believe me, that's just scratching the surface.

Though astronomers often say that our star and its place in the universe are "unremarkable," we are -- in both the classical and technical senses of the word -- in a privileged position. We exist within in a place and with conditions that allow the development of intelligent observers, and the odds are that are really, really quite small. This observation is known as the anthropic principle, and there are several variations.

The weak anthropic principle says that we exist in a privileged position, because intelligent observers can only appear in such a position. Many people have taken a shot at trying to work through this idea (including Darwin's partner in natural selection, Alfred Russel Wallace). However, it was theoretical physicist Brandon Carter, who named and defined this principle in 1973. Carter put the weak anthropic principle this way:

We must be prepared to take account of the fact that our location in the universe is necessarily privileged to the extent of being compatible with our existence as observers.

In other words, if things weren't just right, we wouldn't be here to see it, so of course they're just right. We're looking at the universe only because it is as it is.

Another take on our special spot is called the strong anthropic principle. In this view, we're not just standing in a nice section of the galactic park, but also sort of the point of that park. Carter talked about this idea in his original paper, but it was the book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by John Barlow and Frank Tippler that really pressed the issue home. Barlow and Tippler listed many of the coincidences necessary for humanity to exist, and brought the possibilities down to this:

Observers are necessary to bring the Universe into being

In other words, we're not here because of all those coincidental values, our privileged spot exists for the purpose of holding us. Some versions of this view go beyond this to the idea that, just as observation has an effect on events in the quantum world, the act of observation literally shapes events on all scales. The universe is as it is, because we're looking at it.

Neo universes
This web site isn't a universe all its own, it simply exists within a universe. The same thing can be said of online games, no matter how "3D" their structures may be. If you're playing World of Boredom in which you can walk the halls of a virtual office, log into a virtual browser, and spend your time sneaking peeks at Daily Kos when you're supposed to be working on that virtual quarterly report, it's still not a universe. However, what happens when your session in WOB is so realistic that you no longer realize that you're playing a game?

That idea has been kicking around for a long time in science fiction -- through the use of technology (and perhaps mind altering drugs), whole universes may exist that are in some sense synthetic. There's the virtual universe you can visit -- as in The Matrix -- or the virtual universe that's populated by it's own set of virtual beings. The less popular (but easily as intriguing) film from 1999, The Thirteenth Floor mixes both ideas and takes them to a logical conclusion. In that film, entrepreneurial scientists creating new realities for research and entertainment, find that their own reality is just a virtual creation of some "higher" reality.

If it is possible for virtual realities to be so realistic that they are indistinguishable from physical reality (whatever that means), and for beings to be created with their own intelligence within that virtual reality, then we quickly run into a fairly gulp-inducing conclusion. Since one physical universe could spawn any number of virtual universes, the odds are that any universe in which you find yourself is a virtual universe.

This idea, sometimes known as the simulation argument has been kicked around for some time by both information scientists and philosophers. Nick Bostrom, writing at Oxford University in 2002, brings it down to three possibilities:

(1) The fraction of human-level civilizations that reach a posthuman stage is very close to zero; (2) The fraction of posthuman civilizations that are interested in running ancestor-simulations is very close to zero; (3) The fraction of all people with our kind of experiences that are living in a simulation is very close to one.

In other words, either no civilization survives long enough to reach the stage where it can create intelligent simulations, or we're living in a simulation.

Odds are that we're living in a simulation of the kind of primitive lives that were experienced by the ancestors of future super people. We are trapped in virtual Williamsburg, and there's no getting out.

The universe in my pocket
But suppose a virtual universe isn't possible. So you're not trapped forever going through the routines of your life for the amusement of future fourth-graders studying History of the Second Dark Age.

Does that mean you're safely living in the One True Universe? Not exactly. First off, pretty well every modern physics model includes the idea of multiple universes. So at best you're in one of many, many "real" universes -- though lucky you, this one is kind enough to support intelligent life (see weak anthropic principle). But there's another factor, one that may make this universe about as real as the whale environments at SeaWorld.

In the 1980s, theoretical physicist Andrei Linde worked out an idea called "chaotic inflation" to explain some of the behavior of the early universe. In short, if the universe really did start from essentially a single point and bang into being, it doesn't look like it should. It's not the right size, not the right shape, not the right density. What we have is a bigger lumpier universe than plain old big bang theory would suggest. What chaotic inflation postulates (and believe it or not, this is the simplest way I can find to say it) is that our universe is only one of a near infinity kicked off from the decay of an old multiverse, and that the shape and size of our universe is driven in part by a "false vacuum" generated by dark matter that's constantly tugging the universe apart, and... uh, there's foam. And bubbles. And I don't pretend to understand more than a very little of what Dr. Linde is putting forward.

But I understand this much: chaotic inflation neatly solves several problems in more traditional cosmology, and if it's not right appears to be at least along the right track. Linde's predictions of how matter would be scattered around by chaotic inflation turned out to be dead on with data collected later by satellites. So, that's a big point in Linde's favor. If he's right, chaotic inflation also has a little side benefit. It suggests that creating new universes may be a lot easier than expected.

Sure, our universe looks large and complicated now, but you're seeing it at rather an advanced stage. Once upon a time, back when it was an ensey tensey little baby universe, it not only fit in a lot less space, but actually contained a lot less matter. You don't actually need to gather up galaxies worth of material and pack them into a point. What you need is a little smaller -- something less than the size of a single grain of salt.

Not only does the material needed to generate a universe turn out to be a lot less than expected, but the technology to do so is also not all that advanced. It may be possible, within a very few years, for a physicist working in a lab to take a very small amount of matter and stimulate the growth of a little "pocket" universe, which would then pinch off from our own and grow into its own full-sized universe, totally separate from this one.

And that brings us back to the same conclusion that we ran into up there in virtual reality. If a technological society advances not much further than we are now, it should be capable of building it's own universe. Actually, an infinity of universes.

On this basis, we can now answer most of the big questions:

Is this the "real" universe? That is, are we living in the original universe, the true universe, the Ur universe from which others might spring? The odds are fantastically against it. Whether it turns out that our universe is a simulated reality or a physical reality, odds are very, very high (astronomically high doesn't even really begin to cover it) that this is an artificial universe.

Is there a creator? Once we’ve established that this universe is most probably an artificial construct, it pretty well goes without saying that someone swung the cosmic hammer to build the place. God the computer programmer, or god the experimental physicist, you can take your pick. Personally, I’m going with god the 11-year-old girl who just got a “make your own universe” kit for her birthday.

What is the purpose of human existence? So, you’ve just discovered that you’re living inside an artificial construct put together by an unknown being. Welcome! You probably want to know what you’re doing here. Fortunately, there’s a pretty good answer for that one that’s implicit in the situation. Communication between universes is theoretically impossible (so once Katie dropped in that mote of dust and watched it pop out of existence, the rest of the experiment was likely quite boring). However, physicist Linde (and lots of earlier folks, including Carl Sagan) have suggested that there is a means of communication with the creator, even though she now lives in another universe from our own. It goes back to all those numbers we talked about in the anthropic principle discussion. All of those numbers, from gravitational constants to electron mass, seem to be more or less arbitrary. So maybe the creator has scribbled down some notes for us a trillion digits or so into pi. We may already have the complete crib notes of creation, if we only knew where to look and how to get started figuring it out.

But there’s an even bigger message written into the universe, one that doesn’t require a decoder ring. If this is an artificial universe, then the creator crafted it with some care so that we can exist. The coincidence of all those nice numbers very likely isn't a coincidence at all. This universe was knowingly and purposely built to produce intelligent life. Did the creator have the fine control to place Earth among the stars or design DNA? Unlikely (at least with what we know at the moment), but more than likely the value for many of those vital numbers was in her control. Likewise, we don’t know how closely we are modeled on that creator’s own existence. Still, if this is a constructed universe, then intelligent life was very likely the point of its construction. With that in mind, we can get a fairly good idea of what we do from here.

Make more universes.

As it turns out, intelligence is the seed from which universes reproduce. We have it in our capacity, if we don’t destroy ourselves in the near future or so fundamentally wreck this planet that advancement becomes impossible, to create our own new universes.  We are the germ cells of infinity, created for the purpose of becoming creators.

Q.E.D. Put a nice bow on it. God + meaning of life: check. This doesn't make the kind of "intelligent design" put forward as an alternative to evolution one whit less idiotic, nor does it change one thing about all the science you know. It only makes it cooler. Now, let’s all read some good books and see if we can nurture this civilization past puberty, OK? Katie would want it that way.

Contact by Carl Sagan
As long as we're talking big, big concepts and we've already mention St. Carl, we might as well start here. Contact is (no surprise, considering the title) a novel about first contact between human beings and alien intelligence, but the questions it raises go considerably beyond just seeing if the creatures next door have two eyes or three. First contact is initiated when astrophysicist Ellie Arroway picks up one of our own broadcasts being bounced back to us from a point several light decades away. The discovery of other intelligent life among the stars is enough to send society reeling, but a closer look at the incoming message reveals something else hidden in the fine detail -- the plans for a fantastic machine. Sagan had a singular genius for not just understanding extremely complex concepts, but relaying them to folks without his innate grasp of the implications. That skill is obvious in recordings of his television show Cosmos and in his fine nonfiction work, but it was never more clear than in this novel. Sagan delivers a book that is realistic, hard-nosed, and still as uplifting and fundamentally optimistic as the man was himself. If you made it this far in this week's essay, and you haven't read this book, don't proceed before getting a copy.

Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
When building the list for each week's SEGO, I try to make a habit of avoiding those works that have topped the "100 best works of science fiction" lists for decades. There are a lot of books that are worthy of a lot more attention than they've received, a lot of works to be discovered, and a lot of writers who could really use that $0.13 in royalties. But now and then, I can't avoid going back to the big list, and this is one of those times. Arthur C. Clarke holds a firm spot in the pantheon of science fiction. For general audiences, he's probably best known as the guy who penned the book behind 2001: A Space Odyssey. For engineers he's the guy who worked out the math that keeps DirecTV satellites (and thousands of others) perched above above the same spot on Earth. But if you're interested in the Big Questions, then he's the guy who wrote Childhood's End. A big fleet of alien space ships descends unexpectedly and park their frightening and mysterious bulk over our cities. Sound familiar? Yeah, that's because everyone stole from Clarke. However, the rest of the story isn't as simple as whether the aliens come to help, to conquer, or Serve Man (on toast points). Instead, the aliens are here to nurture humanity toward a goal that is at once awesome and frightening. Too often Clarke's novels were victims to his own knowledge of physics and hardware, which he felt compelled to explain. This novel shows off Clarke's imagination, which has rarely been matched.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Phillip K. Dick
All right, I suppose it's officially classics night at SEGO. But once I was thinking about artificial realities, I couldn't kick that bastard Palmer Eldritch out of my head. For my money, you can keep the sheep, stick that man back in his high castle, and store your scanner in the closet -- this is the ultimate Dick novel: creepy, ironic, and mind-bendingly weird. Like so much of PKD's work, the questions here are ones of where reality stops and construct begins. The agency of trans-universe travel in this novel isn't a computer link or a starship, but a pill. Digging among the strangeness, you might draw some parallels between Perky Pat fetish dolls and the avatars of modern video games, or find hints of cyberspace novels to come in the pathetic attempts of authorities to restrain the reality-twisting drug "Can-D." Any attempt to summarize the plot (or hell, to discover the plot) is bound to end badly, but if you take this trip, you'll find the answer to one question: once you've gone down the rabbit hole, can you ever be sure that you've found your way out?

Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
What makes a god? If it's abilities beyond those of "normal" human, or extremely long lives, or power to control the course of societies and civilizations, then the gods of this novel quality. Only as the story unfolds -- running back to front then back again -- it becomes clear that what separates these gods from the people around them is mostly the application of exclusive technology and the experience delivered by centuries of existence. The style and timeline changes can make this book difficult to follow early on (which is purely intentional) but stick with it as the narrative slowly picks up steam and transitions from disconnected stories into a single thread and you'll be rewarded. Even as the "gods" are cut down to size and the not particularly Hindu backstory of their Hindu-esque society is revealed, the main question fueling the war in heaven becomes a bit less black and white than it first seems. Along the way you'll see Zelazny masterfully weave together all the pieces of a complex narrative and demonstrate a love for his characters and craft that shines through. Here's one creator whose intentions are never in doubt.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:16 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I can name that tune in 2 words. (12+ / 0-)

    What is the meaning of life?

    Forty Two.

    What do I win?

    "Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists" - President Obama, March 31

    by justmy2 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:20:29 PM PDT

      •  If you really want to know more (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sherri in TX, ginja

        about all this, you should get in touch with Seth, through Jane Roberts's books.  "Reality" is so much, much more than we can fathom, let alone experience through our senses.

        We're here to learn how to handle energy.  However many existences in the "physical" system that takes... Then we move on...

        It is true that "things" are changed by our observation of them.  But then, those things are created by us in the first place.

        Don't usually bring this stuff up here, because... well...

        Kick apart the structures.

        by ceebee7 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:42:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The MInute You March Off Into Soliphism You Lose (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplyhere, libertyvalence

          Since there's not the slightest evidence that we're inhabiting a simulation, such speculations are largely useless.

          Stick to the facts:

          1. The fundamental physical laws of the Universe seem balanced to an arbitrarily fine degree such that even tiny variations in them (strengthening or weakening the nuclear force, electromagnetism, or gravity by 1 part in a million) leads to a Universe where life as we know it could never have evolved.
          1. There is no theory, no logical reasons why the universal forces should have the values they do (e.g. gravitation inversely proportional to the distance between the attracting bodies instead of, say, the cube-root of the distance or some other value). They just do.
          1. You can either conclude from this we just happen to inhabit an Universe so unlikely that no odds can easily express it (weak anthropic principle) or else there's a conscious design to the Universe (God, self-aware Universe, Strong Anthropic principle) and the fundamental laws are somehow chosen so as permit observers.

          Weak anthropic principle = "we're here because we're here" (to observe). Strong anthropic principle: God did it or "the position of the observer is central." Take your pick.

          1. If there were only 1 Universe and not many, and if there are no successive periods of expansion and contraction of the Universe (i.e. we inhabit an open rather than a closed universe as scientists now believe) then it's hard to fathom a universe based on the weak anthropic principle. (Extremely unlikely).
          1. But, if there are an infinite number of universes, all with different laws (the "many universes" theory proposed by some scientists and familiar to all Star-Trek fans), then we just happen to inhabit the one out of countless where the physical laws permit intelligent observers to evolve.

          There is no evidence of other universes where different physical laws exist, but at least development of quantum theory may permit us to decide whether such "alternative universes" are permitted.

          It at least has the virtue of making sense of the universe we live in (it's just the one out of countless others where the physical laws permit us to exist).

          It's difficult to see how you could ever decide if you were in a simulation so perfect as to be indistinguishable from reality though. Ergo: pointless to speculate about it.

          •  Don't know what "soliphism" is... (0+ / 0-)

            Did you mean "solipsism"?  I assume so.

            Claiming to be even a novice at understanding the material I'm digesting these days would be a gross exaggeration.  Nevertheless, Seth's teachings are the only thing that has resonated as reasonable explanation for the many apparent paradoxes, inequities and coincidences one experiences during the several physical lifetimes we inhabit.  Reincarnation clearly is a certainty.  The dream state is just as real as our "conscious" state, in fact more real, in that time as we understand it does not (seem to) exist there.  Dreams are not something conjured up by our mind during sleep; rather, they exist in another system, to (and through) which we all travel while asleep.

            You speak of "evidence."  The only evidence referred to in this (physical) plane is that which has been gathered by instruments of some kind, or produced by theories, based on, at some point, the same physical evidence.  Not to say that our physical lives are not real; they are, but only on the physical plane, one of many -- indeed an infinite number of -- planes which we ultimately will be able to "visit" and whose "realities" will be perceptible to us.

            So, this life is not a "simulation," it IS real... to the extent our ego-driven and protected "lives" are real...  My point is that this is just a "warm-up," so to speak.  True reality awaits us when we have left the physical plane for good, at which point we will have learned how to handle energy.  

            Not one iota of the foregoing is "provable" by science's methods.  What is significant to me, among many other things, is when Seth makes fun of science's attempts to travel within our known universe, since we all have the ability to do so without "space ships"... it's just that such abilities have not been developed yet.  Ah, but they will, they will.

            Thanks for your response.  If you really want to learn more, you should read the Seth books, beginning with "The Early Sessions."

            Kick apart the structures.

            by ceebee7 on Sun May 16, 2010 at 11:14:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Fair critique (0+ / 0-)

        I will have to settle for a consolation prize. Good article my friend.

        "Ultimately, we need to move beyond the tired debates of the left and the right, between business leaders and environmentalists" - President Obama, March 31

        by justmy2 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:59:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  funny thing is how many people (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnG, justmy2, BachFan, anotherdemocrat, brein

      add 42 to their names on the internet.

      "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

      by Greg Dworkin on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:25:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  42 is the answer to the ultimate question. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      The ultimate question is "what is the greatest achievement?"

      I agree with the answer.

      I'm no Nate Silver, TomTech, or VoteforAmerica ("WineRev" Eeman, Recounting Minnesota)

      by Tomtech on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:47:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Life is but a dream-sha boom sha boom (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Angie in WA State

      If you want to get biblical- Adam fell into a deep sleep, no where in the bible does it say he woke up.

      Today's problems are yesterday's solutions. Don Beck

      by Sherri in TX on Sun May 16, 2010 at 04:46:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  re:'universe is nicer than it should be' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, anotherdemocrat

    I don't think that's compensated for in the Drake Equation.

    [jes sayin]

  •  thank you for Zelazny (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IM, OHdog, anotherdemocrat, Tonga 23, JenS

    I am partial to Nine Princes in Amber but what a writer he was.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:26:23 PM PDT

  •  we only have a very limited time (as humans) to (5+ / 0-)

    deal with this universe, so it doesnt matter if it's "natural" or "artificial".
    instead of worrying about a lucid dream, enjoy it.

    "teabaggers say: i want my country back. well, i say: i want my country forward! ... " (bill.maher)

    by CoEcoCe on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:26:32 PM PDT

    •  Clocks Exist...Time Doesn't (4+ / 0-)

      If everything wasn't just as it is, it would be different. White Castle restaurants began in 1923 in Topeka, Kansas.

      •  i think we experience time, and that it does (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        mcartri, CathodeRay

        exist. time is everything, including sentimentality.

        "teabaggers say: i want my country back. well, i say: i want my country forward! ... " (bill.maher)

        by CoEcoCe on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:43:09 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We experience cycles, not time. (8+ / 0-)

          Day and night, the 4 seasons, etc.  

          Human beings are the only beings on earth to use this concept of linear time. The Animal, Plant, and Mineral Kingdoms do not know time. They know cycles.  The time is always now.  No past, no future.  Animals get it.  We humans have a much harder time of it.

          •  Most animals don't have a memory. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mcartri, CathodeRay, JenS

            Their behaviors are hard coded into their DNA.  Even some of the higher order of animals have such a limited memory that the concept of a past can seem foreign.

            It's our memory that allows us to form the concept of time.  That being said, it SHOULD also give us a better concept of cycles and it doesn't seem to.

            •  Even bacteria have a memory. They know that the (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              annetteboardman, mcartri, CathodeRay

              direction they are traveling in has either more or less of the nutrient they need. That's only possible if they remember what the concentration was a few seconds ago. So a 10 second memory in their 20 minute life before they disappear into two new bacteria is like 6 months to a person who will live to be 60.

              Lighting one candle in the darkness gets less attention than lighting one stick of dynamite.

              by OHdog on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:34:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  I disagree that animals have no memory (8+ / 0-)

              Having done animal rescue a good portion of my life, I have run into plenty of animals - particularly dogs and cats - who definitely remember me. I had an old cat that would come out of her (my) bedroom to see my dad when he visited. She did this for no one else.

              My dad was at a genius-level IQ and as a child when I asked him if animals could think he said exactly what Dawn said (above). I knew then, what has been proven many times since - of course animals can think, and remember, and dream. Have you ever seen an animal dream? You have to have a consciousness and the ability to think, and of course a memory, in order to dream - and it doesn't take a scientist to know that!

              Go look on Huffington Post at the gorilla reunion (with a human), if you are a doubter.

          •  Great. Let us know when you see entropy reducing. (0+ / 0-)

            I'd be all for it, but it ain't going to happen.
            Until then, there is a thermodynamic "arrow of time". Cycles are a subset within it.

  •  Kind of how I was feeling (19+ / 0-)

    Landing into the wind

    First there’s the universe, which is surely doing something. Expanding or contracting, it’s big: that’s a lot of movement there. So you have that.

    Then there’s local space if you care to call it that. Our galaxy is moving at about 287,000 miles per hour relative to the other local galaxies, and who knows what they’re doing.

    We are on one of the beautifully curved arms of the Milky Way spinning at 153,000 miles per hour around the central disk. For simplicity we will not even consider what it means that a black hole may be hidden in there.

    I’m beginning to get a little sketchy on how fast we are up to. We have yet to include our solar system’s movement in its own local space: it’s certainly not just sitting there.

    The Earth is revolving at an angular velocity of 66,705 miles per hour about the Sun.

    The field I am standing at the edge of, along with everything else at this latitude, is rotating about the Earth’s axis at around 1,041 miles per hour.

    Yet right now the air is perfectly still. I have not been able to find one leaf or dried weed stem that is moving at all. Not one.

    I even see clouds passing overhead! But here: perfect, impossible stillness!

    The really amazing thing is, I’ve seen it before. It’s not that rare.

  •  More seriously, I hope that if extra-terrestrials (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    do visit, they have a "Prime Directive" that keeps them from just flushing us as some sort of troublesome and potentially dangerous 'infestation'.

  •  I read about a month ago (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OHdog, Ezekial 23 20

    that scientists think that we are a "reflection" of ourselves actually living on the other side of the universe... still trying to google the right wording, but hoping someone else saw that too!

    •  i think 'free will' negates that concept ?.. (0+ / 0-)

      "teabaggers say: i want my country back. well, i say: i want my country forward! ... " (bill.maher)

      by CoEcoCe on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:32:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Only if free will actually exists. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ginja, CoEcoCe, CathodeRay

        While you can claim 'free will', there's no way to prove it, barring time travel that goes back and changes something.

        You do whatever you do, and there's no way to have 'done' the thing you didn't do, so you might as well say you were fated to do every single thing you did.

        You were fated to write that comment, I was fated to respond, etc, etc etc.

        I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. - Oliver Cromwell

        by Ezekial 23 20 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:48:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Everything that happens is a direct result... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CathodeRay, libertyvalence

        ....of whatever happened before it.  Like a domino that only falls when the one behind it falls and always causes the one in front of it to fall.

        The number of variables is astronomical, but all action occurs as a result of an "equal an opposite reaction" to SOMETHING.  If all variables were duplicated identically (mirror image) then all consqeuences and all results would also be identical.

        I think.

    •  Found it - (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      hyperstation, brein, Ezekial 23 20

      And it appears to be more than a year old, but I do remember reading about it only this year.

      Hologram Universe Theory


      The Universe as a Hologram

      •  Hindu theology has an explanation of the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        universe existing as a hologram like existence. Indra's Net as explained here first came to my attention through Alan Watts' book "The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are"  but the linked explanation is more relevant to this discussion.

        Far away in the heavenly abode of the great god Indra, there is a wonderful net that has been hung by some cunning artificer in such a manner that it stretches out infinitely in all directions. In accordance with the extravagant tastes of deities, the artificer has hung a single glittering jewel in each "eye" of the net, and since the net itself is infinite in all dimensions, the jewels are infinite in number. There hang the jewels, glittering like stars of the first magnitude, a wonderful sight to behold. If we now arbitrarily select one of these jewels for inspection and look closely at it, we will discover that in its polished surface there are reflected all the other jewels in the net, infinite in number. Not only that, but each of the jewels reflected in this one jewel is also reflecting all the other jewels, so that there is an infinite reflecting process occurring.

        So like a hologram the closer you look the smaller part of the whole you see that each piece of the hologram and each jewel in the Net contain all of the reality of that image it is necessarily one aspect or reflection that is different from all other parts of the hologram as each jewel seems to be different from all others based on what part of the reflections you observe including infinite reflections of reflections.

        Lighting one candle in the darkness gets less attention than lighting one stick of dynamite.

        by OHdog on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:03:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  How can you possibly post the Anthropic (11+ / 0-)

    Principle without mentioning Terry Pratchett?

    The entire Purpose of the Universe is to make possible a being that will live in England, an island off the coast of France, and spend his time writing Discworld novels.

    Doncha know anything, Devilstower? :)

    proudly Excluded from Cliques of Online Advocates; still twittering RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:32:03 PM PDT

  •  Could we have a citation (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for Carl Sagan suggesting "a means of communicating with a creator"?

    I've read just about everything by him, and he's an atheist.

    •  Sagan was by all means an atheist. (17+ / 0-)

      But if you'll pick up your copy of Contact and turn to Chapter 24 (titled "the artist's signature") you'll find that Ellie makes a surprising discovery after returning from her trip.

      To me, there's a great deal of difference in saying that this universe was created by someone, and "bow down." I think Sagan appreciated that difference.

    •  Don't confuse Creator with God (4+ / 0-)

      It's possible, considering the theoretical mindfuck we just read, to believe that this universe was created by something much more advanced then we are.  That doesn't necessarily mean that thing is God.  There could be an infinite number of creators and not a single God.

      An agnostic not because I don't know if there's a God, but because I don't care.

      by filmgeek83 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:38:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The scary thing... (6+ / 0-)

        is that it's likely our universe was created by something not much more advanced that we area.

        Think on that if you really want to sweat.

        •  I think that is true (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Day to day I'm an agnostic, but at times I'm a pensive deist. I don't see anything inspiring about the religious narrative, but two pieces of evidence worry me that a rather cold blooded god might exist.  The first is the aforementioned changes caused by observation at the quantum level, I don't see any reason for that as a matter of chance.  The second is that I became aware some twenty years ago that there is a small minority of families who believe themselves to be hereditary telepaths (not mine, though).  I know that to be physiologically impossible, but any agency that can consistently fool people into believing that might as well be considered to have the powers of a god.

        •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

          Let Us make man in Our image

          Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza describe su amigo Gabriel García Márquez así:

          Seguramente Descartes no habría sido buen amigo suyo (Rabelais sí pero no Descartes). El cartesianismo le incomoda como un chaleco muy ajustado. Aunque tiene excelentes amigos franceses, empezando por el presidente Francois Mitterrand, la lógica que todo francés recibe ya con su primer biberón, acaba por resultarle limitada; la ve como una horma donde no cabe sino una parte de la realidad.

          Aparte de su viejo terror por micrófonos y cámaras, esta es la razón por la cual no suele dar entrevistas para la televisión francesa. Preguntas tales como: "¿Qué es para usted la literatura?" (o la vida, la muerte, la libertad o e amor), que los periodistas franceses, familiarizados desde la escuela con conceptos y análisis abstractos, suelen largar con una alevosa tranquilidad, le ponen los pelos de punta. Internarse en este tipo de debates resulta para él tan peligroso como caminar por un campo sembrado de explosivos.

          Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza: El tratamiento de la relaidad en tus libros, especialmente en CIEN ANOS DE SOLEDAD y en EL OTONO DEL PATRIARCA, ha recibido su nombre, el de realizmo magico. Tengo la impresion de que tus lectores europeos suelen advertir la magia de las cosas que tu cuentas, pero no ven la relidad que las inspira...

          Gabriel Garcia Marquez: - Seguramente porque su racionalismo les impide ver cque la realidad no termina en el precio de los tomates o de los huevos. La vida cotidiana en America Latina nos demuestra que la realidad esta llena de cosas extraordinarias... [pp 47-48]

          Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

          by stonemason on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:21:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I wonder though about the idea... (0+ / 0-)

          ....of the universe itself being alive, would intelligent life be a mechanism of progenation?

          What's the point of creating universes if they are no more than the sum of their parts?  What if the universe itself is a living being and our world, or even us as individuals) is simply a single cell in a larger organism?

          •  I've been toying with the idea of (0+ / 0-)

            God being the Big Bang.  The creator IS the point of singularity and thus really is in everything because everything is the creation. Infinite because past and future are the same. If you look at the edges of the universe you are looking at the distant past, but you are also the distant future compared to that distant place.

            I like the idea of this universe being suited to us. Imagine what the universe would look like if our vision was different or based on something besides what we term visible light.  What does the universe look like to an Xray machine?

        •  Well, they got their math right, (0+ / 0-)

          that's the important thing.

          "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

          by Bob Love on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:22:42 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Does that make us Sims or Sea Monkeys? (0+ / 0-)
      •  Are You saying Sarah Palin May Be a God? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        If she were dyslexic, would she be a DOG?

      •  Which is why 'Elohim' is plural (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        annetteboardman, CathodeRay

        In any event, an intelligent (as in pretty dang smart) creator(s) would model the experiment first. On a computer.

        And the better the model, the better the chance of it working in 'real life.'

        How would one do it? With an initial set of parameters. How to get from single-celled organisms to "intelligent life"? Via evolution.

        Once you have your model working tip-top, well what's the difference between what's going on in the model and "real life"?

        Not much, except with a computer model you have far more control. What's the smart move? Keep improving the computer model and call it day.

  •  That was one hell of a read (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DawnG, marsanges, RLMiller, ursoklevar

    I need a very stiff drink.

    Those that are most threatened by us are those that are most unsure of themselves.

    by Steven Payne on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:33:47 PM PDT

  •  I always liked the idea... (10+ / 0-)

    ... that "everything that can happen does happen, to everyone, an infinite number of times."

    And oh yeah, time is the fourth dimension, but what we perceive as serial time is actually a direction in space like the first three dimensions. In eternity, the universe is a four-dimensional solid, but because of the limitations of our nervous systems, we're forced to navigate that solid one slice at a time.

    Nothing is moving; The universe has already happened.

    (This pot is pretty good.)

    Think of all sentient beings as Buddha, but keep your hand on your wallet.

    by CathodeRay on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:34:48 PM PDT

  •  Proof that God has a sense of humor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    anotherdemocrat, ontheleftcoast

    We are here

    "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen" Hebrews 11:1. Keep the faith

    by Tonga 23 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:37:55 PM PDT

  •  Devilstower, are you a Spinozist? n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Civil and productive arguments among citizens are impossible if they take place on alternate planes of reality

    by grinning dog on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:39:38 PM PDT

    •  I'm an agnostic... (6+ / 0-)

      I think more or less in the way that Darwin was. That is, I'm inclined to believe in a creator, less inclined to believe in a creator who takes personal interest in me, and completely disinclined to believe in a creator who would practice "eternal damnation."

      But my understanding of Spinoza (whose work I haven't looked at in years) is that he thought of god as not much more than a concept. I don't think I'm quite ready to go there.

      •  This is why i've learned to read the comments (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        first before spouting off. I was going to ask if you had cleared this diary with Dawkins. ;}

        Seriously though, my synaptic firings went off on a similar tangent this morning. I'm happy you fleshed yours out and committed to type.  Thanks for returning me to this theme (much more pleasant).

        BTW Never could push through strong anthropic principle, always ran into a chicken or egg blind alley.

        Welcome to the Corporate States of America ®, give us your money, then die quietly.

        by geez53 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 09:01:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Rediscovery of Man (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Devilstower, brein

    Based on a recent recommendation here I picked up Cordwainer Smith's The Rediscovery of Man.  I was already familiar with Scanners Live in Vain from a random anthology.

    It has been entertaining and definitely has some unusual perspectives and thought provoking ideas.  My only quibble so far is just that each story seems to be about 20-30% too long.  YMMV, but thanks for the tip. is America's Blog of Record

    by WI Deadhead on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:41:12 PM PDT

    •  Is that a collected works anthology? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WI Deadhead

      Or merely one in his universe?  I seem to remember I've got a copy of Norstrilia and another, lesser work whose name eludes me, but I thought there might be a complete set published about the Instrumentality.

      I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. - Oliver Cromwell

      by Ezekial 23 20 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:59:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Small correction (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Devilstower, science
    '...a "false vacuum" generated by dark matter that's constantly tugging the universe apart...'

    That's actually dark energy. Always easily confused with dark matter, a different thing.

    I don't think chaotic inflation is necessary to describe the physical attributes we can measure. I believe there are other inflation theories where quantum fluctuations in the potential that gives rise to the vacuum energy can account for the mass distribution we see.

    •  you see the same pattern in much smaller (0+ / 0-)

      scales as well, including the structure of the earth fungus and molecular level, and looks just like a fractal.

      "teabaggers say: i want my country back. well, i say: i want my country forward! ... " (bill.maher)

      by CoEcoCe on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:46:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Love This Stuff (4+ / 0-)

    Better than drugs. Thanks.

    And as the song and dance begins/The children play at home with needles/Needles and pins

    by The Lone Apple on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:41:36 PM PDT

  •  I loved 'Childhood's End" by Clarke. Been decades (3+ / 0-)

    since I last read it, but remember feeling a sense of euphoria at the end, or maybe enlightenment. Think I'll find it and read it again.

    "I should have been a pair of ragged claws.." T.S. Eliot

    by collardgreens on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:43:35 PM PDT

  •  Book recommendation: Fire Upon the Deep (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Philip Pratt Vernor Vinge. It assumes "zones of thought" throughout the galaxy where the level of thinking involved can range from near brain dead to phenomenal superhuman intelligence. Humans evolved in a middling area and were protected from the superhuman "Powers."

  •  If, indeed, we are created in any way like our (0+ / 0-)

    'creator', then the ultimate purpose is likely not creating new universes, but simply serving as voyeuristic amusement, a sort of galactic reality show for a bored would-be demigod.

    I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. - Oliver Cromwell

    by Ezekial 23 20 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:51:39 PM PDT

    •  But if this isn't a virtual reality... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnG, Issek, Ezekial 23 20, CoyoteMarti

      but a physical reality popped off from another, then the creator doesn't get to watch. All the amusement Katie could get came in watching the start-up process.

      So not much entertainment value.

      Which is why she probably likes her sea monkeys better than us.

      •  True, we may not be all we're hyped up to be. (0+ / 0-)

        As you said, she may simply be creating a universe as a high school science experiment, bored out of her skull (or equivalent) and waiting to head back from her teaching pod to grab some sustenance elsewhere.

        I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken. - Oliver Cromwell

        by Ezekial 23 20 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:56:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The purpose of a simulation (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is to predict the future.

      Given the premise of a virtual universe, there's no reason to believe it was done for scientific study of the "real universe," much like climatologists simulate the Earth to determine where and how global warming will play out.

      The premise of a created universe (simulated or not) does not say anything about the reasons. We would be on the inside looking out and thus, projecting our biases into the intent of the experiment.

      Or to quote from the Big Lebowski, "Well, Dude, we just don't know."

  •  Dang, What happened to that old cartoon I had. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Love, ginja, CoyoteMarti

    A Macintosh 128K sprouting feet.

    Caption 'I think. There for I am. Alive with life! Sweet consciousness and Immortal '

    The cord plucks away from the socket.

    "They pour syrup on shit and tell us it's hotcakes." Meteor Blades

    by JugOPunch on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:55:03 PM PDT

  •  Fate of mankind (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bob Love

    While we're on the subject of bizarre existential musings...

    Since technological growth is exponential, I think one of two things will happen in the next century:

    1. Self-annihilation (nuclear war, airborne version of AIDS, etc.)
    1. Technological singularity

    There are some scenarios in which (2) would be worse.

    •  While technological growth is exponential (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Issek, Othniel Kenaz

      over all, it's very sporadic, and is usually checked at some point by wars, plagues and/or natural disasters that set back the technology without destroying the species.

      Thus I believe that annihilation is avoidable under many harsh scenarios (nuclear war, airborne AIDS, catastrophic climate change, etc).

      I'm also not sure I'd bother to distinguish between singularity and annihilation, since so many expressions of the singularity could well be complete in their devastation of humanity or even the planet, like gray goo.

      "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

      by Bob Love on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:50:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Setbacks to exponential growth (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bob Love

        I agree with your statement about annihilation being avoidable in a disaster. It is possible that there will be some terrible disaster in the 21st century that almost but not quite destroys us. Then it will take a long time but eventually we will eventually come back and progress. That is the main flaw in my reasoning above, I think. You might be right to claim it is a big flaw although I had assumed it was small.

        But I do not agree about technological singularity and annihilation. Grey goo is not a technological singularity, it's just annihilation. Singularity is like in The Matrix where non-human intelligence exceeds human intelligence and takes over, although it wouldn't necessarily have to be violent. The possibilities are almost endless and range from "heaven" to "hell."

  •  Star Maker contemplates each of your 3 questions (0+ / 0-)

    by Olf Stapledon

    "There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home." John Stuart Mill

    by kuvasz on Sat May 15, 2010 at 06:55:58 PM PDT

  •  So We're Living in a Fucking Aquarium (5+ / 0-)

    I hope that brat finally gets around to changing the water.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:01:47 PM PDT

  •  Douglas Adams (4+ / 0-)

    Adams is someone who definitely belongs in this discussion; the entire Hitchhiker's Guide series is about the nature of existence and the purpose of the universe. Granted, it puts a very different perspective on the whole 'privileged observer' concept. There's a statement in on of the books which goes, as best as I can recall,

    There is a theory which states that if ever anybody discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:04:02 PM PDT

  •  Try CS Friedman's This Alien Shore (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Devilstower, CoyoteMarti

    She does a nice job with the concept of "brainware" where we are all hooked into the internet via microchip implant things and have instant access...maybe the idiots in VA were onto something when they passed the law outlawing this...

    When the storm blows hard you must stand firm, for it is not trying to knock you down, it is trying to teach you to be strong. Lakota saying

    by dizzydean on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:12:51 PM PDT

  •  Olaf Stapledon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Stapledon was one of inspirations Clarke drew on. His Last and First Men has a staggering sweep, extending into a distant future where the descendants of humanity are only beginning to glimpse the true nature of the universe after aeons of evolution.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:15:01 PM PDT

  •  The fit hit the Shan! (0+ / 0-)


    Certainly, "Lord of Light" is one of my favorite books (along with "Doorways in the Sand"*) and I wonder how you could mention it without explaining the strange case of the Shan of Iribeck and his reincarnation into an epileptic body?

    *"After all, do you brachiate?  Oh, I forgot.... you do."

  •  Okay so....I have a few questions. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is Doctor Who real?  And when do I get my own TARDIS?

    Seriously though I often find myself thinking this is a virtual universe.  For as long as I can remember the real world has seemed...wrong. Contrived.  A fabrication of unknown purpose.  I'm sure there's many people who feel that way, but I may never know the truth of it.

    •  Quite often... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnG, ginja, wmholt

      something comes up in the news that makes me go "OK, now they've gone too far. Surely the aliens in charge of this camp / programmers responsible for this simulation don't expect us to buy this."

      But everyone seems to go along with it.

      •  When I was a kid it was walls. (7+ / 0-)

        I couldn't understand why people built walls.  And then I learned in highschool science about the space between atoms and I couldn't understand why matter couldn't just phase between the atoms of other matter.

        Why couldn't my hand pass through a wall?  Sometimes I would spend several minutes staring at a wall until I had convinced myself that it wasn't there and try and pass my hand through it.  It never worked.

        And sometimes I would get what I would perceive that I had wings.  I could feel the muscles moving but no matter how certain I was, I never had wings.

        And then Chess, I can't grasp chess.  I can't accept the limitations of the peices and realized it was a metaphor for my inability to accept what I was always being told where the limitations of reality.

        And then in high school I would wonder what if I'm nothing more than a brain in a jar and everythign I think I know about the world is a fabrication.

        I'm older, and more accepting of walls and limitations but there's still that burning resentment, like I'm trapped on my own island of Elba, or I'm in an airport waiting for my next flight to somewhere else.  Like I knew of a different existance that I've never experienced in this life and can't understand why the world is as it is now.

        •  I guess I experience this as a longing (0+ / 0-)

          for the Mother Ship to come pick me up.  I can't really be from here. :-)

        •  You just defined the second reason for God(s) (0+ / 0-)

          Whichever thinkers of whatever earlier time hit that metaphorical wall and quit trying to find an answer they knew had to be there.

          First reason, by the way: crowd control.

          Welcome to the Corporate States of America ®, give us your money, then die quietly.

          by geez53 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 09:26:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  uh huh.... (0+ / 0-)

            ...that doesn't quite make sense and greatly marginalizes the ACTUAL great thinkers of the ancient world.  You know the ones that invented Algebra, discovered displacement (Eureka), the 2 stroke engine, knew the Earth was round before we modernists shot into space to see it for ourselves, recognized air was a substance, geometry.

            You know, the ones that built pyramids and aquaducts and monoliths that charted astronomy.  They didn't face a problem and think "eh, the God's will take care of it".  Throughout history there have been people who were not content to know something existed, but constantly tried to explain HOW it happens.

            Give me a break.

            •  I mistated or you misread or both. (0+ / 0-)

              Of course we have found some answers and pushed through some walls such as the physical accomplishments you described. I was speaking to the more metaphysical.

              Welcome to the Corporate States of America ®, give us your money, then die quietly.

              by geez53 on Sat May 15, 2010 at 10:59:34 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Hey, you forgot to mention (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Devilstower, DawnG, ybruti, Don Enrique

    a planet with a spinning iron core, which sets up a magnetic field shielding us from harmful rays from our otherwise life-giving sun.

  •  Hoo man, time for a link (0+ / 0-)

    to a very relevant discussion (including comments) of dreaming in a couple of articles by Dick Cavett here .

  •  Intelligent? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, ginja

    "We have it in our capacity, if we don’t destroy ourselves in the near future or so fundamentally wreck this planet that advancement becomes impossible, to create our own new universes."

    Surely we cannot be that intelligent if the possibility of destroying ourselves exists?

    My brain hurts!

  •  Wow - thanks for this, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ginja, Issek

    Devilstower. Totally agree about several of these and need to track down the others to top the bookpile by the bed.

    Also needed to comment so I can find the story easily for reference.  ;)

    Sometimes it's better to individually address a problem rather than just criticize our politicians for failing to do so.

    by texasmom on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:29:21 PM PDT

  •  Actually one view of quantum mechanics is that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    reality is a superposition of every possible state.

  •  My take (0+ / 0-)

    can be read here.

    If I may quote myself:

    I find it ironic that some scientists are driven to posit an infinity of unobservables so as to avoid positing one unobservable infinite.

    I mean, if you're committed to verificationism, what's the point of positing a vast number of entities which we cannot observe nor have any causal interactions with? But the point I'd make is that there is no way string physics or any other physics can avoid positing an unobservable, infinite reality of some sort. Let me explain why....

    More at the link above.

  •  Pantheistic Solipsism..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've always been fascinated by Robert Heinlein's "World-As-Myth" idea, which I believe was introduced in The Number of the Beast.

    World-As-Myth postulates that every time someone creates a story, it also creates a separate parallel universe in which the story exists as real as our own world (since we are the creation of someone's imagination too).

    "In the beginning was the word..."

    Gospel of John, Chapter 1, Verse 1

    Stephen King uses the same idea for his Dark Tower series, and Neil Gaiman uses a variation of it in American Gods.

  •  Mmm, Well before these genuises (5+ / 0-)

    all go off to some other universe,
    can maybe one of them figure how to plug an oil volcano?

    The bible says Jeezus rose into heaven proving Gravity is Just a Theory.

    by olo on Sat May 15, 2010 at 07:37:26 PM PDT

  •  pop science religion is funny (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annetteboardman, OHdog, adamsmo

    I mean, you begin the entire diary with a completely unsupported premise and carry it across the hills:

    "You are here, and that's a massively unlikely thing."

    Actually, I would suggest that it's quite likely that we, as biological observers, are here. To presume that we inhabit a privileged position in the universe is just hubris.

    The wildly hypothetical state of current cosmology, which you discuss, is Exhibit A of how close we remain to the primordial slime than to a intelligent understanding of the workings of the universe.

  •  Meaning of life? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    Nothing in the diary implies any inherent meaning or purpose. Assuming everything else in the diary is correct (and I have thought for the last year or so along much the same lines) we are part of the same reality as 'Katie' and 'Katie's universe's creator, with turtles all the way down. And since there is no inherent meaning for the turtles, there is none for us, either.

  •  Another cosmological theory (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "It's strippers and cupcakes, all the way down!"

    --Pam Beesly, The Office

  •  Childhood's End (0+ / 0-)

    I tried to read it in middle school and again as an adult, a few decades ago. I guess I just don't take to Clarke's writing style. (I didn't finish 2010, either and what short stories of his I've read in anthologies were a chore.) I suppose I should check out Wikipedia for the Cliff Notes version.

  •  Back to Roger Zelazny for a second. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    His novel "Doorways in the Sand" is long overdue for a cinematic treatment. CGI can easily handle the minimal effects needed for aliens and ancient artifacts older than the collective of advanced civilizations allowing Earth an apprentice membership.

    Lighting one candle in the darkness gets less attention than lighting one stick of dynamite.

    by OHdog on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:19:00 PM PDT

  •  Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "Light of Other Days" hits on the topic of virtual life as the result of a technological singularity.

    While Clarke's writing style is not great in describing human interactions, his imagination and talent as a futurist are unequaled in my book.

  •  Hmmm .... I think these issues (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, adamsmo

    are for the most part philosophical, and ultimately just linguistic spandrels.

    E.g., the idea that "Observers are necessary to bring the Universe into being" is a set of interesting albeit ambiguous words set in a logical format that doesn't intersect with existence, and thus is of no use outside of fiction.

    Multiverses are another matter, of course, no pun intended.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:19:40 PM PDT

  •  An author (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Who thought deeply and interestingly about such things was Stanislaw Lem. Try "the New Cosmogony", the last piece in his meta-collection A Perfect Vacuum, as well as the novel Fiasco.

    I always recall the audacious last words of James Blish's Worlds in Flight:

    Creation began.

    Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. -- Ambrose Bierce

    by OkieByAccident on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:21:48 PM PDT

  •  After watching Doctor Who tonight I realized (0+ / 0-)

    those Weeping Angels could defeat the Daleks an Cybermen,also they are creepy.

  •  Props to the diarist for including Lord of Light! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Anyone here not familiar with this Hugo award winning novel should do themselves a favor and pick it up.  As mentioned, it starts off with events already in progress and it takes the reader a few chapters to catch up, but man is it GOOD.  With this one novel Zelazny really laid down the blueprint for a sci-fi epic that is entertaining, comments on society, and explores the human condition.  The best part is that, unlike many sci-fi writers, Zelazny is able to construct characters that are flawed, human, and believable despite the fantastic setting.  It is probably my favorite work of fiction.

    "The more laws, the less justice."

    by Denverlibertarian on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:52:02 PM PDT

  •  I think in order to understand the cosmos (0+ / 0-)

    we have to first understand humanity.

  •  You have seriously bent my brain tonight. (0+ / 0-)

    And touched my heart. This brings back so many fine memories of friends and books and conversations and silent wonder under night skies. Heartfelt thanks.  

    "Liberals want to assuage the problems we have with corporate power. Populists want to get rid of corporate power." - Jim Hightower

    by CoyoteMarti on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:55:33 PM PDT

  •  Orion by Ben Bova (0+ / 0-)

    I am very partial to Orion by Ben Bova. The book is based around the idea of future humans going back in time to create humanity. Cool use of greek mythology too.

    "The avalanche has started, it is too late for the pebbles to vote." Kosh, Believers

    by NuclearJo on Sat May 15, 2010 at 08:57:25 PM PDT

  •  Devilstower: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Devilstower, geez53

    Thanks for this posting.  I haven't logged in for a long time, but I needed to thank you for this post.  It was captivating!

    Just to clear the deck, I don't own any monkeys.

    by Issek on Sat May 15, 2010 at 09:22:07 PM PDT

  •  Starmaker, by Olaf Stapledon (0+ / 0-)

    Good selection but Starmaker by the English writer Olaf Stapledon is less read than any of your classics, largely founded this kind of science fiction, and has (I think) never been equalled.

    Cosmic, nerdilly detailed, thoughtful, heartfelt, completely original, the book is driven by a search for The Meaning of It All, and doesn't blink, at the end you are shown the Meaning of it All, and it ain't particularly comforting but it seems right to me.

    Clark read it, Sagan read it, it's better than either of them.

    Dick, he's in a whole nother domain, where, I agree, Palmer Eldritch is King.

  •  What does SEGO stand for? nt (0+ / 0-)
  •  What a bunch of hooey! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You haven't got anywhere close to establishing that the odds of this universe being "artificial" are significant.

    In fact Linde et al.'s inflation renders your speculation obsolete - according to it the process happens naturally. And if it went on for an infinite time (as Linde suggests, though others disagree), it even takes care of "what was in the beginning?" argument.

    You IDers are all the same with your pseudo-arguments.

    So where's all the outrage against anti-atheist bigotry?

    by skeptiq on Sun May 16, 2010 at 12:18:43 AM PDT

  •  This: (0+ / 0-)

    As it turns out, intelligence is the seed from which universes reproduce. We have it in our capacity, if we don’t destroy ourselves in the near future or so fundamentally wreck this planet that advancement becomes impossible, to create our own new universes.  We are the germ cells of infinity, created for the purpose of becoming creators.

    is more or less the central tenet of Mormonism.

    There are few things more tragic than unfulfilled paranoia -- Kos 13 Mar 10

    by Zotz on Sun May 16, 2010 at 07:14:03 AM PDT

  •  This iis the first time (0+ / 0-)

    that SEGO has featured four SF novels that I have read. Usually, I have read one of them. Roger Zelasny can't be be beat for alternate universes. Also, on a more tongue in cheek level Piers Anthony does a good job with Macroscope and a series where humans take on the forms of other intelligent life forms taking "beastiality"? to heretofore unknown dimensions.

  •  law of large numbers (0+ / 0-)

    I don't really find these arguments compelling or awe inspiring.  I concede that I and every other individual on the planet is very unlikely to have been born, but as long as there was a preceding, fertile generation someone had to be born.  If you represent each member of each generation as a giant spinning wheel with quadrillions of different individuals on it and which ever it lands on is the one that comes into existence, that person could say, "wow it's really really lucky that i exist" and that is true but the fact that a person would exist was never in question, just that only one out of quadrillions of options could exist.
    As to the unique set of circumstances that exist that are required for intelligent life I am reminded of a questionable "study" I once heard about.  Supposed experts claimed to have mathematically figured out that in order for life to exist randomly as "scientists" claim the universe would have to be 300 times older than believed.  I'll dispense with disputing there methods and pointing out that 1 in 300 isn't that astronomical but i'll pose this question.  What if there a billions of universes?  In this scenario what is meant to be a rebuke is actually an admission that if this condition were met, intelligent life would almost certainly exist in this multi-verse probably many times over, but each individual universe containing this life would be cut off from each other and the observable explanation for why they appear to exist against astronomical odds, and therefore would prolly embrace a "purposefully" reason for there existence when no such force exists.  

  •  DT, this was awesome (0+ / 0-)

    Thanks so much for putting it together. I really enjoyed reading it.


    - SS

    On forced conformity - "Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard." - Justice Robert Jackson (1943)

    by Skeptical Spectacle on Sun May 16, 2010 at 08:39:41 AM PDT

  •  Entertaining (0+ / 0-)

    Enjoyed reading your story. Interesting that scientists and philosophers seem to overlook the necessary and obvious condition of humans (observers) that we can only know/understand/observe an infinitely small slice of What Is. You know how, when you multiply a fraction times a fraction, you end up with something smaller... The more we fool ourselves by creating fantasies of understanding the less we actually know. It's ironic.

    All energy is only borrowed, and one day you have to give it back.

    by Audri on Sun May 16, 2010 at 08:51:33 AM PDT

  •  Classics (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Love that you mention all these Sci-Fi classics.  Glad someone still remembers these guys and apparently still reads them. When I was a young reporter two or three life times ago, I interviewed Asimov. It was one of the coolest moments of my life.
    Still, even if "we are the germ cells of infinity, created for the purpose of becoming creators," we will not be aware of our DNA being shot into space and adhering to the next passing comet, so what do we care?  
    If there is a creator, he/she/it does not give a crap about us ants crawling around on the sidewalk of Earth so why should we give any thought or energy to him/her/it? Waste of time in my opinion, but I guess a fun exercise in imagination.

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