Sunday, January 18, 2009

"t" Equals Zero

A direct link to the above video is at

For the last 100 years of so, there has been much debate over whether our universe is eternal, or whether it could be cyclical-- now that we know our universe is expanding, some have suggested that perhaps there will be a time in the future that expansion will slow down, stop, and eventually the universe will collapse back in upon itself, creating new conditions akin to the big bang ( this concept is referred to by some as the "Big Bounce"), in which case our current universe would be only some place on a gigantic timeline in a potentially endless series of expansions and contractions.

One might expect that expansion/contraction debate to be over now with the 1998 discovery that the universe's expansion is accelerating. Nonetheless, in the last six months or so there have been a number of articles in magazines like New Scientist reporting on new theories that once again put forth the idea of a cyclical universe. While these theories are being advanced by serious scientists with reasonable explanations, there is also an emotional reason for us all to not want to believe the universe will endlessly expand: because, as the cover story of last March's Scientific American explained, if it does then that means our visible universe will eventually be empty, as everything accelerates faster and faster away from each other, and the ultimate destiny of the universe will be a meaningless and empty nothingness.

There is a solution, though. That solution does provide us with a cycle, but that cycle happens outside of time and space, in a place where everything happens simultaneously, and, as Gevin Giorbran described it so well, where Everything is Forever. Nutty new age mumbo jumbo? Not at all. This time around, I'd like to discuss a book by physicist John W. Moffat, called Reinventing Gravity. To quote Dr. Moffat:

... there is no actual singular beginning to the universe, although there is a special time equal to zero (t=0) as there is in the big bang theory. But in my Modified Gravity Theory (MOG), t=0 is free of singularities. The universe at t=0 is empty of matter, spacetime is flat, and the universe stands still. Because this state is unstable, eventually matter is created, gravity asserts itself, spacetime become curved and the universe expands. In contrast to the big bang scenario, the MOG universe is an eternal, dynamically evolving universe--which may have implications for philosophy and religion as well as astrophysics and cosmology.
What does Dr. Moffat mean by this? Isn't he proposing another scenario where the universe ends in a meaningless heat death of maximum entropy, or the Absolute Zero of the "Big Freeze", or is torn apart to nothingness by the "Big Rip"? Here's his explanation, which ties very nicely to blog entries of mine like "Scrambled Eggs" and "Time in Either Direction":
An interesting feature of the MOG cosmology is that at t=0, entropy can just as easily increase toward negative time as positive time. Then entropy will continually increase into the infinitely distant past or negative time. Thus t=0 in MOG is a special time when the universe can expand both into positive time and into negative time. Because there is no singularity, the infinite past can be joined to the infinite future; a singularity would cause an obstruction between the past and the future.
What Dr. Moffat is proposing, then, is that there is a place at the "end of time" for our universe or any other, regardless of the "direction" of time that a particular universe is experiencing, where everything fits together within timelessness.

Persons familiar with my book and this blog will recognize this as one of the central ideas behind my project, but to be clear, Dr. Moffat's proposal still disagrees in one important way: in my model, what Dr. Moffat is calling "t=0" and what he is referring to as the infinitely distant past or future are all the same thing. While it's visually easy to imagine a donut ("torus") shape that joins the infinite past to the infinite future (the hole in the middle is t=0, and the outside edges of the donut are the infinite past and future states) I want to be clear that at this point there is still this divergence between Dr. Moffat's Modified Theory of Gravity and the intuitive way of visualizing reality that I have come up with in my project.

As I've mentioned before, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek also has a new book out called The Lightness of Being, which proposes that there is an underlying state from which all other possible universes or patterns of information spring. In my model, that is the tenth dimension in its unobserved state, and in Dr. Moffat's model that is t=0. I believe that all are different ways of thinking about the same thing: the enfolded whole where everything fits together. I've talked in more detail about these ideas in blogs like We Start With a Point, A Point Within the Omniverse, and Imagining the Omniverse. To close, then, here is my song about that idea of an enfolded symmetry state where every possibility exists simultaneously, and which is like a pencil balanced on its tip, always ready to fall one way or another and create a new pattern or a new universe: Everything Fits Together.

A direct link to this video is at
Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

Next: Going to the Light

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