If the Universe is aware, what is it looking at?


I’ve been fascinated with the question, “What is reality?” since I was a teenager. I think I missed my calling in life, perhaps I should have been a philosophy major instead of a communications major. But then again, I have such a goofball sense of humor, no one would have taken me seriously – and philosophy seems to be oh so serious. Better to make light of the question while examining it than bog it down and make it dull. But let me break it down to a simple chain of logic based on what we know from science:

Action at a distance, which is the mind-boggling concept that particles get “entangled” and, what you do to one will affect its entangled partner — no matter how far the distance — implies that the two are actually connected even if they’re on the opposite sides of the Universe. How? It would have to be via dimensions we can’t perceive, and what we think of as two entangled particles are actually sections of the same particle. The two are a single object, but we can’t see the whole object because it actually has more than three dimensions. My conclusion: there are definitely more dimensions than what we perceive.

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal shows us, without any room for doubt, that particles are affected by observation. Matter itself knows when you’re looking at it, and it behaves differently. My conclusion: awareness is built into matter.

These are just two pieces of a vast puzzle, but they’re enough to hint to me (and remember I’m a communications major with a wild imagination, not a scientist) that the Universe is both bigger and more complicated than you’d expect, and it is also self-aware. But not self aware as in how you and I are self aware, but in a bigger, grander, more complex way.

But get this: you and I are part of this Universe. We are not separate from it, we are part of it. We are the Universe and we are aware of ourselves. Hence, even from this perspective, the Universe is in fact aware of itself.

So if the Universe is aware, what is it doing? What is it interested in? If all it does is cosmic navel gazing, what is it watching?

We have strong hints right in front of us. The Universe seems to love beauty. It seems to love conflict. It seems to love drama.

It seems to love a good story.

Look through a powerful telescope and there are stories everywhere. Stories of birth, struggle, death, and rebirth. Stories of power, of gluttony, of conflict, and also harmony and beauty.

Stories of how chaos transforms into order – all by itself.

And all this is at extreme macro levels. Who knows what amazing stories unfold every second at every level in the entire cosmos – just look at all the drama, conflict, and beauty right here on our own little world.

And we see it all, and it interests us – and remember, we are part of the Universe looking at itself. What we see, the Universe sees, and what interests us also interests the Universe.

Evidence that Life Began Before Earth: Good Fuel for Science Fiction

Now, before you get too excited, there are plenty of arguments that this is wrong — but for the sake of Science Fiction let's suspend any disbelief and take this paper by Alexei Sharov and Richard Gordon at face value.

Here's the idea: if you apply Moore's Law to the demonstrated exponential rise in genetic complexity over time, it suggests that life as we know it formed roughly ten billion years ago. This is significant as the current estimated age of Earth is only 4.5 billion years.

Origin of Life (Graph borrowed from a MIT Technology Review)

This suggests all sorts of intriguing possibilities. For one, in this scenario, Panspermia is a foregone conclusion. Life did not form on Earth

Sure this is not a new idea, but now Science Fiction as a genre has some numbers to play with. One of them is the possibility that in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, we're not the backwards baby intelligence in a galaxy teeming with far more advanced races. We could very well be the ipso facto advanced intelligent race.

How so?

Consider this: We've always assumed that it takes at least 4.5 billion years for an intelligent race to develop. Now there's evidence it might take as long as 10 billion years. Sure, we are leaving out a lot of factors, such as asteroid strikes and other mass extinction events – that you'd think would throw off the time table – but we’re not looking at that kind of physical history. We’re looking at the uniform rise in complexity of genetic material.

Information.

The assumption is that it somehow endures through these disasters and continues progress. After all, it somehow migrated through interstellar space through untold and unimaginable disasters – possibly the destruction and reformation of solar systems – to take root on this pretty little blue orb of ours.

And so, this theory argues, thus explains the Fermi Paradox: We’re not hearing from any other intelligent species because they’re either close to, or behind, our own sophistication. That’s why we’re not being invaded by bug-eyed-monsters, or grey hive space aliens, or multi-trunked Pachyderms from Alpha Centari. If anything, we’d be the invaders, a la James Cameron’s Avatar.

But beyond that lies the really intriguing questions:

  • Where, exactly, did life begin roughly 10 billion years ago?
  • Was it localized, as in a star that existed, and then perished, and the material reformed to become our current star and set of planets?
  • Is it spread through our entire galaxy, which means it permeates space and seeds all other hospitable environments such as Earth?
  • Are there other, wholly other alien forms of DNA-like substances which formed in a different time and frame, and that seeds other sections of the galaxy?

The premise leads to endless conjecture – which is fuel for good Science Fiction – but more importantly it gives a more solid jumping off point, as – despite the inconclusive and tenuous evidence – it’s really the best we have right now. It’s something, other than nothing. Because before this paper came out, that what there was: nothing. Wide open nothing.

This gives us something to test. Now, if we do finally find conclusive samples of life beyond planet Earth, we can see if it fits this model.

That’s what science is about.

And that is the best fuel for good Science Fiction.

Sources:

Snake Alley vs. Lombard Street: Which One is More Crooked?

Yesterday, during a meandering and somewhat aimless road trip with my sweetheart, we came across “Snake Alley” in Burlington, Iowa.


It reminded me so much of Lombard Street in San Francisco that I had to do some research. Which came first, and which one is more crooked?

Well, having been built in 1894, Snake Alley existed 28 years before Lombard Street. And below I’ve put together the two using Google Maps images. I will let you be the judge of which one is more crooked.

Perks of a Tech Vlog

One of the perks of having had a viral tech video with over a million views (which by today’s standard is not that spectacular, really) is that you make it onto lists of manufacturers to send you products to review. This means I occasionally get my hands on fun tech toys before they’re generally available. For example, this awesome little Alexa-powered clock:

Studio Quality Video on a Shoe String

A professional video can cost tens of thousands of dollars, or more. Much more. But it doesn’t have to…

This is my latest video for my day job. My equipment and software setup costs were less than half of what you would spend going to a dedicated video production company, and that’s a one time expense.

Being that digital marketing is now mostly about video, and your best strategy is to pump out constant (relevant) video content, producing them yourself is the only real choice for a lot of small and midsized companies.

The right computer, software, camera, microphone, an iPad-based teleprompter, a few lights, and a green screen is all I used to make what looks like a full studio production. None of them are what you’d consider “pro” equipment.

When in doubt, add a cat

I always want to add an entertaining element to my videos, but was a bit challenged when it came to making a video about this speaker. The serendipitous solution was my cat, Peeps.

That’s Why They’re Called Spirits

A bit more fun from my Flash Fiction website:

Kevin died suddenly. It took him a while to realize it, because he thought he was dreaming. Walking along in wintry downtown Chicago, his feet crunching in the snow, there was a few minutes of discontinuity and then suddenly he realized he was floating. Several feet below him was a prone figure surrounded by…

read the rest at Afterlife Kahlua — Character.City