If you like cosmology, or simply having your brain expanded, read this book.
Though I think that Mark did a good job of “dumbing things down”, I have to say that it is not an effortless read. But then again, if you are into these kinds of things, you probably do not want an effortless read.
I like reading about cosmology and the quest for the ultimate answer. As such I have read a lot of books and articles about these things. And not often do I read a book that really introduces new concepts at a level I am actually able to understand (or have the illusion to understand). This book does that.
It starts of innocent enough with talk about level 1, 2 and 3 multiverses. These are concepts that I had encountered before under different names. A level 1 and 2 multiverse is simply a universe so large that a ray of light will never cross it. Resulting in vast regions of space (universes) that are effectively cut off from each other even though there are no clear boundaries and all are in fact in the same overall “space”. The difference between 1 and 2 is that level 1 universes may have been observable in the past or are observable now but won’t always be observable due to expansion.
The level 3 multiverse is what I would consider the more traditional multiverse as depicted in movies: true parallel universes that exists “simultaneously” to our own, but are forever separated by “physical” barriers. Note that the level 1 and 2 multiverses are separated by (expanding) distances. The quotes are necessary because “simultaneously” and “physical” is not to be taken literally. The laws at work here defy a proper description by me.
In his description of the level 4 multiverse things get really weird, though not unbelievable. This where the ‘mathematical’ in the title of the book appears. Mark claims that when we regard the universe as pure mathematics, it allows any mathematical description to be its own level 3 multiverse. So we end up with level 1 and level 2 multiverses inside the multiple universes of a level 3 multiverse, inside the possible level 4 multiverses. A staggering amount of universes indeed. Infinite in fact, if infinite exists at all… which is another new concept that I encountered in the book.
The cream on the pudding is however reserved for the idea of a “consciousness moment” which blew my mind. A consciousness moment is defined by a short period of time in which consciousness exists. The proverbial “now”. We are conscious of ourselves and the world around around us, and our past, NOW. But NOW is another one of these moments. So is NOW. So what proof do you have that the previous NOW exists? None of course, only our memory. Which is just a collection of impulses in our brain, just as our experience of ‘reality’.
Since the movie “The Matrix” we are all familiar with the possibility that our reality is ‘just a simulation’. In fact, we do not need ‘reality’ at all in order to experience a ‘now’ moment if the simulation is good enough. It does not even have to be a simulation, it could just be a coincidental arrangement of particles that creates the NOW experience. That would be some coincide for real! Impossibly so… right?… hm? well, remember the infinite number of universes? each lasting an infinte amount of time? If that is really true, then isn’t it logical that this ‘NOW moment’ coincidence must in fact occur an infinite number of times?
I will be the first to agree that this should not really have an impact on our day to day life. But it is a lot of fun to think about. If you like this kind of fun, … read the book 😀
- Title: Our Mathematical Universe, My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality
- Author: Max Tegmark
- Pages: 398 (paperback)
- ISBN: 978-0-241-95463-8