Ever Expanding Horizons

Tribal Era

tribalera200Imagine the human world tens of thousands of years ago.  A tribal community lived together, farming, hunting, trading, and taking care of each other.  There was plenty of land to support the community and as long as there were no strong forces driving them to move, they stayed where they were, content.  As far as they knew, “all that there is” was just that community and the land that was required to sustain it.  We might call this the Tribal Era.

Continental Era

continentalera200But, at some point, for whatever reason – drought, restlessness, desire for a change of scenery – another tribe moved into the first tribe’s territory.  For the first time, that tribe realized that the world was bigger than their little community.  In fact, upon a little further exploration, they realized that the boundaries of “all that there is” just expanded to the continent on which they lived, and there was a plethora of tribes in this new greater community.  The horizon of their reality just reached a new boundary and their community was now a thousand fold larger than before.

Planetary Era

planetaryera200According to researchers, the first evidence of cross-oceanic exploration was about 9000 years ago.  Now, suddenly, this human community may have been subject to an invasion of an entirely different race of people with different languages coming from a place that was previously thought to not exist.  Again, the horizon expands and “all that there is” reaches a new level, one that consists of the entire planet.

Solar Era

The Ancient Greek philosophers and astronomers recognized the existence of other solarera200planets.  Gods were thought to have come from the sun or elsewhere in the heavens, which consisted of a celestial sphere that wasn’t too far out away from the surface of our planet.

Imaginations ran wild as horizons expanded once again.

Galactic Era

galacticera200In 1610, Galileo looked through his telescope and suddenly humanity’s horizon expanded by another level.  Not only did the other planets resemble ours, but it was clear that the sun was the center of the known universe, stars were extremely far away, there were strange distant nebulae that were more than nearby clouds of debris, and the Milky Way consisted of distant stars.  In other worlds, “all that there is” became our galaxy.

Universal Era

universalera200A few centuries later, in 1922, it was time to expand our reality horizon once again, as the 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson revealed that some of those fuzzy nebulae were actually other galaxies.  The concept of deep space and “Universe” was born and new measurement techniques courtesy of Edwin Hubble showed that “all that there is” was actually billions of times more than previously thought.

Multiversal Era

multiversalera200These expansions of “all that there is” are happening so rapidly now that we are still debating the details about one worldview, while exploring the next, and being introduced to yet another.  Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, a variety of ideas were put forth that expanded our reality horizon to the concept of many (some said infinite) parallel universes.  The standard inflationary big bang theory allowed for multiple Hubble volumes of universes that are theoretically within our same physical space, but unobservable due to the limitations of the speed of light.  Bubble universes, MWI, and many other theories exist but lack any evidence.  In 2003, Max Tegmark framed all of these nicely in his concept of 4 levels of Multiverse.

I sense one of those feelings of acceleration with the respect to the entire concept of expanding horizons, as if our understanding of “all that there is” is growing exponentially.  I was curious to see how exponential it actually was, so I took the liberty of plotting each discrete step in our evolution of awareness of “all that there is” on a logarithmic plot and guess what?

Almost perfectly exponential! (see below)


Dramatically, the trend points to a new expansion of our horizons in the past 10 years or so.  Could there really be a something beyond a multiverse of infinitely parallel universes?  And has such a concept recently been put forth?

Indeed there is and it has.  And, strangely, it isn’t even something new.  For millennia, the spiritual side of humanity has explored non-physical realities; Shamanism, Heaven, Nirvana, Mystical Experiences, Astral Travel.  Our Western scientific mentality that “nothing can exist that cannot be consistently and reliably reproduced in a lab” has prevented many of us from accepting these notions.  However, there is a new school of thought that is based on logic, scientific studies, and real data (if your mind is open), as well as personal knowledge and experience.  Call it digital physics (Fredkin), digital philosophy, simulation theory (Bostrom), programmed reality (yours truly), or My Big TOE (Campbell).  Tom Campbell and others have taken the step of incorporating into this philosophy the idea of non-material realms.  Which is, in fact, a new expansion of “all that there is.”  While I don’t particularly like the term “dimensional”, I’m not sure that we have a better descriptor.

Interdimensional Era

interdiensionalera200Or maybe we should just call it “All That There Is.”

At least until a few years from now.

Things We Can Never Comprehend

Have you ever wondered what we don’t know?  Or, to put it another way, how many mysteries of the universe are still to be discovered?

To take this thought a step further, have you ever considered that there may be things that we CAN’T understand, no matter how hard we try?

This idea may be shocking to some, especially to those scientists who believe that we are nearing the “Grand Unified Theory”, or “Theory of Everything” that will provide a simple and elegant solution to all forces, particles, and concepts in science.  Throughout history, the brightest of minds have been predicting the end of scientific inquiry.  In 1871, James Clerk Maxwell lamented the sentiment of the day which he represented by the statement “in a few years, all great physical constants will have been approximately estimated, and that the only occupation which will be left to men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of decimals.”

Yet, why does it always seem like the closer we get to the answers, the more monkey wrenches get thrown in the way?  In today’s world, these include strange particles that don’t fit the model.  And dark matter.  And unusual gravitational aberrations in distant galaxies.

Perhaps we need a dose of humility.  Perhaps the universe, or multiverse, or whatever term is being used these days to denote “everything that is out there” is just too far beyond our intellectual capacity.  Before you call me out on this heretical thought, consider…

The UK’s Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees points out that “a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum mechanics.”  Despite the fact that Richard Feynman claimed that nobody understands quantum mechanics, as Michael Brooks points out in his recent article “The limits of knowledge: Things we’ll never understand”, no matter how hard they might try, the comprehension of something like Quantum Mechanics is simply beyond the capacity of certain species of animals.  Faced with this realization and the fact that anthropologists estimate that the most recent common ancestor of both humans and chimps (aka CHLCA) was about 6 million years ago, we can draw a startling conclusion:

There are certainly things about our universe and reality that are completely beyond our ability to comprehend!

My reasoning is as follows. Chimps are certainly at least more intelligent than the CHLCA; otherwise evolution would be working in reverse.  As an upper bound of intelligence, let’s say that CHLCA and chimps are equivalent.  Then, CHLCA was certainly not able to comprehend QM (nor relativity, nor even Newtonian physics), but upon evolving into humans over 8 million years, our new species was able to comprehend these things.  8 million years represents 0.06% of the entire age of the universe (according to what we think we know).  That means that for 99.94% of the total time that the universe and life was evolving up to the current point in time, the most advanced creature on earth was incapable of understand the most rudimentary concepts about the workings of reality and the universe.  And yet, are we to suppose that in the last 0.06% of the time, a species has evolved that can understand everything?  I’m sure you see how unlikely that is.

What if our universe was intelligently designed?  The same argument would probably hold.  For some entity to be capable of creating a universe that continues to baffle us no matter how much we think we understand, that entity must be far beyond our intelligence, and therefore has utilized, in the design, concepts that we can’t hope to understand.

Our only chance for being supremely capable of understanding our world would lie in the programmed reality model.  If the creator of our simulation was us, or even an entity a little more advanced than us, it could lead us along a path of exploration and knowledge discovery that just always seems to be on slightly beyond our grasp.  Doesn’t that idea feel familiar?

chimpscratching185 humanscratching185

Your Universe is Different than Mine

We used to be taught that the universe was everything there is.  But, over the past few years, it is beginning to have a new meaning.  The universe is now meant to be everything that we can possibly see or experience.  Let me illustrate with a story.  Imagine our protagonist Jack happily living in his little universe.  His astronomer buddies have used their most advanced equipment to peer into the deepest depths of space and have detected things a few billion light years away in all directions.  There could be things beyond that “practical observational horizon”, but we are limited by the state of the art of equipment in the year 2010.

However, there is another horizon beyond “a” which denotes the point at which it would be impossible to see beyond, due to the speed of light.  The light from objects at that distance has been traveling toward us since the beginning of the big bang.  This is our theoretical horizon, beyond which we can never see or detect anything no matter how advanced our equipment becomes.  It should be noted, that this statement presumes that nothing travels faster than the speed of light and even if it did, we would not be able to detect it.  Despite a century of hard evidence supporting Einstein’s famous assumption regarding the limitations of the speed of light, there are a number of physicists who don’t rule out the possibility that this barrier could someday be broken.  But that’s a topic for another post.  Setting such arguments aside, there is then a “theoretical observational horizon,” also known as the Hubble Volume, which is generally accepted to be about 42 billion light years in diameter.  But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing beyond the Hubble Volume.  In fact, the inflationary theory of the big bang allows for quite a bit of the material from the big bang to exist beyond that horizon because the inflationary period was superluminal. (We were just saying…?)  But, for all practical purposes, the Hubble Volume contains all that you can ever know about.  By convention, astronomers call that “The Universe.”

By definition, a Universe depends on what is identified to be its center.  So, for example, Jill, standing on a planet 1 light year away from Jack, actually lives in a slightly different Universe.  One which has one horizon one light year further away from Jack’s in the opposite direction and another horizon one light year closer than Jack’s in the direction toward Jack.  So Jack has some stuff in his Universe that Jill doesn’t have and vice versa.


The choice of a light year between Jack and Jill’s positions was arbitrary.  They could be standing next to each other and still have slightly different Hubble Volumes.  In fact, when you get down to it, we all live in different Universes.

First Evidence of the Multiverse

A recent article in New Scientist offers us cosmology enthusiasts an exciting new possibility – evidence of another universe.  It seems that some recent measurements demonstrate that certain clusters of galaxies are moving in the same direction against background space, which violates the idea that the universe should be the same in all directions and instead implies a clump of excess density outside of our observational range.  Like another universe, maybe?

Also known as dark flow, the latest in the series of “dark” monikers, joining predecessors “matter” and “energy,” scientists are baffled at its cause.  Just as Copernicus, Galileo, and Hubble were baffled before us.  70 years ago, Edwin Hubble said “At the last dim horizon, we search among ghostly errors of observations for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. The urge is older than history. It is not satisfied and it will not be oppressed.”

No surprise to us programmed realitists.  As long as our species is blissfully unaware of the big picture, the cosmic programmers must keep at least one step ahead of our best instrumentation and keep us fascinated with hints of what lurks just beyond our horizon.

bubble universes