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The Great Shattering

Speculative physics

I've been very interested in physics most of my life. I studied physics in university to the second year level before I went to live in the woods (another topic :-) I had demonstrated to me the math behind a lot of physics and got to do "experiments" (really demonstrations :-) that convinced me that physicists know what they are talking about.

Since that time my study of physics has been via magazines and books and my own research writing programs that simulate physical systems. I've been interested in how to ground the fact that we can think in physical structures like atoms. And I've got an inkling of the sorts of things that make atoms like quarks And I've got an even weaker inkling of the things that enable quarks - there are competing accounts about that; String Theory and Loop Quantum Gravity.

I admit that the math of vibrating systems has always been hard for me and so I only get string theory via excellent narratives by people like Brian Greene. Neat stuff but I can't get deeper into it than that.

To my surprise I can get somewhat deeper into Loop Quantum Gravity because it conceptualizes reality as being like a huge cellular automaton. And as it happens I've worked with CAs quite a bit Lee Smolin is my goto guy for Loop Quantum Gravity.

But Steve Wolfram went into Cellular Automatons in huge detail in New Kind of Science. He showed (I thought) that CAs could do a lot of things that are similar to the way reality works. A CA is conceptually pretty simple. You have nodes that interact with each other according to a set of rules. Conway's Game of Life is a famous and easy to understand example. And I think that LQG imagines reality to be, at base, something made of nodes that interact according to a set of rules.

All well and good.

Then I think about the Big Bang. It's not that I doubt the idea - it's been well confirmed by many strands of evidence. But then I encounter the idea of an expanding universe and I must say that I really don't understand that; what does it mean for something like a universe to expand?

I pondered that in the context of the nodes in LQG. Perhaps distance is, at base, a count of the number of nodes between one node and another. Hmmm - I wondered - what if one of the properties of a node in LQG is that it splits (after some interval) and then those nodes split and so on. This would kind of be similar to the sort of chain reaction we see with nuclear fission. The result would be that two nodes that started out close together would get farther and farther apart with time - an expansion Time would be the number of splitting intervals between one event and another.

Yeah yeah - this is about as speculative as things get :-)
I call it The Great Shattering.

But let me push the idea a bit further and see if it fits with the idea of a multiverse and darwinian evolution The multiverse idea involves universes with different fundamental parameters just spontaneously popping into existence all the time like particles in a quantum foam in our universe.

So I visualize nodes with various properties popping into existence in the multiverse all the time. Each of those would be a seed for a universe but how it developed would depend on it's properties. Perhaps most nodes don't have the properties required to create a functioning CA - we happen to live in a universe made by a kind of node that does make a functioning CA.

Darwinian evolution involves replicators, variation, and a selection pressure. Dawkins and Dennett spoke about how this amounts to an algorithm that is not limited to the substrate of biology.

So in this context, what's the replicator? I'd say that the splitting node would be the replicator. I posit here that when a node splits each child shares the properties of the parent - but with some variation. If some of the variant nodes were better able to interact with the other nodes in the CA then over time the resulting CA would be more and more stable.

Whew - OK - that's as far as I can push that idea :-)

What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.