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AFTER THE GOLDEN AGE for 07/26/2004
Vol. 2, #133
Ever since the remarkable Stephen Hawking shook up the world of astrophysics with his best selling A Short History of Time, the scientific world has had a more open view of the notion of multi-universes. Hawking, in fact, who holds the chair once held by the great Sir Isaac Newton, claimed that the only way to account for the lost energy of giant stars swallowed up in the powerful gravitational vortices of black holes--was to deposit another universe on the other side of the black hole. It had to be. Energy simply doesn't disappear, whether it's in the form of matter, or gaseous molecules, or any other kind of energy. But--just the other day, after the world of science, not to mention the world of science fiction, had been building all sorts of fascinating conjectures about the many universes on the other side of black holes--Dr. Hawking let them all down with a thud. That's "thud" as in the collapse of an entire gigantic theory.
"I was wrong," confessed the great astrophysicist. In token of which he paid off a bet made to another scientist years ago--with the gift of a book on sports. And left us all in the lurch.
Well, almost all of us.
Of all people neither surprised nor phased by Hawking's disowning of his own theory, I happen to be perhaps the least taken aback. Now while I have no official standing in the world of astrophysics, my standing as a philosopher does, in some quarters, allow me to comment and explain. First, I was never taken in by Hawkins' theory because you cannot make statements about extra universal realities from within this universe. Gödel's theorem will bear me out. More to the point, you can make statements about qualities within this universe from within this universe.
Maybe writing comics for so long allowed me to see it first, but the fact is that multiple universes while questionable when seen as a string of universes exterior to our own, are perfectly acceptable as existing wthin THIS universe. It's a matter of focus, a matter of simply questioning the current dogma that other universes, if they exist, must exist in a place outside our own.
But ask yourself, what place? When we speak of a universe, we speak of a totality that precludes any outside. Anything outside of this universe, our universe, is by definition impossible. A universe has no outside. It is all there is. But, and here's the important factor.
A universe can contain other universes. Now wait, this will sound like a contradiction at first, how can a universe, which is all, be inside another universe? It can, in the sense that the universe, being universal, is, in fact, inside itself.
The concept is a little difficult. Comics have solved it, but I don't think those other comics universes would quite make it into the pages of Nature or Scientific American or such like. Yet, there they are. And they're possible and likely because if the universe is to be really universal, it must consist of all the possible universes, as well as all possible other things.
And is there evidence to support this wild hypothesis?
The other day, in this space, I mentioned the comments of a friend of mine who referred to knowing people not entirely in this universe. Think, if you will, of the universe as layered by our awareness. Some of us are aware of this material aspect, especially in western culture. There are other peoples, some perhaps primitive, as we call them, who live in a universe where the spirits talk to them, where trees have presences and personalities and all things in nature are alive.They do this right alongside our great civilizations that don't see even a trace of what they're doing!
Think too that there is a deeper sense in which we, living in our various civilized group consenses, manage to do so by excluding other kinds of group actions and even senses. For example, most of you who read this don't have conversations with trees or with clouds, don't have conclaves with ancestors, you know, stuff like that. Been going on for thousands of years. They're all stupid, those other guys. Only we have the right information. Trouble with that is, an awful lot of us whom we see everyday at the supermarket or around the water cooler do exactly those kinds of crazy things, but they don't feel free or safe enough to violate the common consensus. And, as I said before, who'd ever give anyone like that a grant?
So what I suggest to you is that while Hawking may have gotten it wrong in one way, in another way, he was right. There are so many universes operating all around and about us it would make your head swim to become aware of them. But I've got a suggestion. Contact me on this site, at the Round Table and get yourself a copy of AN UNLIKELY PROPHET. (Damn, I hate to be pushing my books all the time, but in this case, I don't know a better way of elevating your understanding). I"ve mostly hardcovers left and they cost a little more, but if you want to order one, it'll cost you $35 plus postage. But then you'll know. You really will. I know that because I still keep getting so much mail from people telling me how I've opened their eyes to expanses of reality they never even dreamed about.) But even if you don't buy my book, or borrow it or get a used paperback from Amazon, just reread this column a few times. Then, think about it. You don't have to stay locked into that small space you call your life.
Take it all.
It's there waiting for you.
<< 07/19/2004 | 07/26/2004 | 08/02/2004 >>
Discuss this column with me at my Round Table.
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