Friday, April 06, 2007

The Mathematical Universe

After 11 years, the brilliant Swedish cosmologist Max Tegmark, has produced a follow-up to his seminal paper, Is 'the theory of everything' merely the ultimate ensemble theory? His latest paper, entitled The Mathemaical Universe, concludes with the following crescendo:

Since our earliest ancestors admired the stars, our human egos have suffered a series of blows. For starters,we are smaller than we thought. Eratosthenes showed that Earth was larger than millions of humans, and his Hellenic compatriots realized that the solar system was thousands of times larger still. Yet for all its grandeur, our Sun turned out to be merely one rather ordinary star among hundreds of billions in a galaxy that in turn is merely one of billions in our observable universe, the spherical region from which light has had time to reach us during the 14 billion years since our big bang. Then there are more (perhaps infinitely many) such regions. Our lives are small temporally as well as spatially: if this 14 billion year cosmic history were scaled to one year, then 100,000 years of human history would be 4 minutes and a 100 year life would be 0.2 seconds. Further deflating our hubris, we have learned that we are not that special either. Darwin taught us that we are animals, Freud taught us that we are irrational, machines now outpower us, and just last year, Deep Fritz outsmarted our Chess champion Vladimir Kramnik. Adding insult to injury, cosmologists have found that we are not even made out of the majority substance. The [Mathematical Universe Hypothesis] brings this human demotion to its logical extreme: not only is the...Multiverse larger still, but even the languages, the notions and the common cultural heritage that we have evolved is dismissed as `baggage', stripped of any fundamental status for describing the ultimate reality.

6 comments:

Susan, L'Americaine said...

Omigod! Jim Carrey's doppelganger is a cosmologist! (I'd have thought a cosmetologist, maybe....)

Gordon McCabe said...

What's a cosmetologist?

Incidentally, Susan, Max used to be at the University of Pennsylvania before he moved to MIT.

Susan said...

Cosmetologist: Fancy name for a beautician (someone who works in a hair salon, usually).

But his unified theory drops us humanoids right out of the equation. I know we're just specks of carbon dust, but still.....

Susan said...

Oh yeah, one last thing: "Cosmos" is to "cosmology" as "cosmetics" is to "cosmetology."

Geddit?

Gordon McCabe said...

Ah, ok. Presumably cosmeticology would be too much of a mouthful.

Here's another one:

In astrology, cosmecology is a science that considers the Earth in relationship to the universe and its celestial phenomena.

Susan said...

Yes, as Yeats said, its "disheveled stars."