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Beyond the Universe: A Synthesis of Physics and Philosophy



The purpose of this post is to present a hypothesis that was conceived during research into the field of physics. However, in order to understand the hypothesis, a cursory understanding of it's origins is necessary. Some background into the field of physics was necessary in order to elucidate the context of the hypothesis. Though the attempt to keep the background of physics to a minimum was made, the field itself is a very complex one. As such, the post ended up being longer than initially anticipated. Nevertheless, I do believe erudition won out over pedantry in hopes that the reader is able to bear with it and ultimately grasp the concept with perspective.

The scientific field of physics deals with exploring the laws of nature. Physics seeks to understand the mechanics, functions, methods, and nature of nature. From the biggest to the smallest, the seen and unseen, physics is the study of how and why the universe and everything in it behaves the way it does. Since ancient Greece (and probably even before then, in societies whose histories have been overshadowed, wiped out, or undocumented) scientists, physicists, mathematicians, astronomers and even philosophers have theorized about the nature of the universe. Through the centuries there have been a number of models developed and subsequently challenged. To date, the study of physics has all but definitively proven that our universe is not an infinite static expanse of space as Sir Isaac Newton's antecedent widely accepted theory suggested but, instead is a finite and ever expanding universe in which an innumerable multitude of galaxies exist and spread farther and farther away from each other as the universe itself expands. Like a balloon with dots marked on it, as the balloon inflates, the dots move father away from each other; so too, is the behavior of the universe. However, contemporary physicist also generally agree that the universe is not expanding into pre-existing space. What is generally conceived is that beyond the limits of the expanding universe is where all laws of physics and existence breakdown. The theory is basically that there is no space beyond the limits of space but as space expands, space is created. Nevertheless, most physicists also concur, that as regards to what lies beyond the limits of the universe is best left in the realm of philosophy. If all the laws of physics breakdown, there's not much point for physicists to focus any attention on it.

Early physicists from Archimedes to Eratosthenes to Plato all assumed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Their models and publications related to this issue all worked from the basis of this assumption. Centuries later, in the mid 1500's, Copernicus formulated a model that adapted the geocentric model to fit one originally developed by an earlier astronomer named Aristarchus. Known as a heliocentric model, this theory refuted the assumption that the Earth was the center of the universe and instead, placed the sun at the center with the Earth and "other heavenly bodies" revolving around it. Known as the Copernican Revolution, this landmark discovery definitively separated the study of the universe from the metaphysical and philosophical realm placing it exclusively in the arena of science. Ironically, it was a philosopher in the late 1500's named Giordano Bruno who expanded on Capernicus's heliocentric theory by suggesting that not even our solar system was the center of the universe. After much scrutiny and controversy, this model was accepted as conventional wisdom. Then, in the mid 17th Century, René Descartes outlined a model of the universe characterized as a static and infinite universe. However, in Descartes's model, the vacuum of space which the universe was considered to be was not empty, but was filled with matter that swirled around in large and small vortices. His model involved a system of huge swirling whirlpools of ethereal or fine matter, producing what would later be called gravitational effects. In the late 17th century, the father of modern physics, Sir Isaac Newton challenged the Cartesian model and described the universe as among other things, a static, infinite steady state. Until the early 20th century, Newton's model was established as the prevailing conception. Then, in 1915, working from Sir Isaac Newton's model of an infinite and static universe, Einstein's equations lead him to conclude (among other things) that space and time are essentially the same thing. This means that not only is the universe expanding but also, that time travel is possible. Thus, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, better known as E=mc2, is realized. Astronomer Edwin Hubble was able to confirm this when his observations of the cosmos presented to him a phenomenon called "redshift". Redshift is made apparent in the laws of physics through the Doppler effect by which wavelengths of sound and light expand or contract to the observer as proximity to their source changes. A redshift is observed when the wavelengths in light expand as the source moves farther away from the observer. Currently, astrophysicists predicate their theories on the basis that the limits of the universe are, in fact, expanding, and have been so since it's inception.

The study of physics has since branched into fields of specialty. Subjects such as astrophysics which studies the mechanics of stars and space phenomena and thermodynamics which deals with the relationships of heat and other forms of energy, have become topics of exclusive study among physicists. One such branch is that of quantum physics. Quantum physics is the study of nature at it's smallest levels of energy and matter. Quantum mechanics attempts to explain the behavior and relationships of energy, atoms, and subatomic particles such as protons, neutrons, and electrons (the basic elements that make up an atom) and then applies them to an everyday understanding. In 1935, Austrian quantum physicist Erwin Schrodinger conducted an experiment now infamously known as Schrodinger's Cat. Initially, Schrodinger presented this thought experiment in an attempt to point out a flaw in the Copenhagen interpretation of a phenomenon known as quantum superposition. The principle of quantum superposition states that much like waves in classical physics, any 2 or more quantum states, such as an electron, can be added together to create another valid quantum state. Briefly, the Copenhagen interpretation states that each atom exists in multiple states simultaneously and does not commit to any single determined state of existence until it is observed. In Schrodinger's experiment, living cat is placed into a steel chamber along with a hammer, a vial of hydrocyanic acid and a very small amount of radioactive substance. If even a single atom of the radioactive substance decays during the test period, a relay mechanism will trip the hammer, which will in turn, break the vial of poisonous gas and cause the cat to die. During this experiment, the cat is thought of as both alive and dead simultaneously. It is only by opening the chamber and physically observing the cat that it becomes one or the other. The flaw that Schrodinger was attempting to point out is when exactly superposition breaks down. Schrodinger was trying to determine when exactly superposition stops being superposition. What Schrodinger's experiment lead to was what is known as the many worlds interpretation. The many worlds interpretation implies that any and all possible outcomes exist. It suggests that every decision and every result that could possibly happen, does. Our reality is composed of the decisions and results that actuated from every situation. But the many worlds interpretation holds that for every result that did not occur in our reality, an alternate universe exists simultaneously in which they did. This gives rise to the theory that there is a very large — perhaps infinite — number of universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but did not, has, in fact, occurred in the past of some other universe or universes. Every possible decision and outcome represents it's own alternate universe existing separately but simultaneously with our own.


So what if the limits of our ever expanding universe are actually the barriers between alternate universes? What if the laws of physics and existence don't actually break down outside the boundaries of the universe but instead, is, itself, a law of physics. What if crossing over that barrier is the pathway to an alternate reality?

© 2018 Caleb Murphey


myles calladine on November 21, 2018:

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