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Quantum Mechanical Time Machines!

January 13, 2010

Today I’ve been reading a book written by UCLA physicist Fred Alan Wolf called “Parallel Universes:  The Search For Other Worlds”.  I just started on Part V and, after reading the first few pages, I think my mind is about to explode.  Yes, I’m busy scraping my brains off my desk as it exploded all over my desk just a moment ago.  You know what?  I’m just going to type out these last few pages and let you all see for yourself just how crazy this stuff is.

“What did the early universe, the universe that existed before there were any observers, look like?  Since there were no observers at the time of the big bang and since quantum rules run the show, there must, and I emphasize the word must, have been parallel universes occurring then, because all possible scenarios for the big bang must have occurred according to the rules of quantum physics.
Even the conservative Copenhagenists should agree.  The world we see, according to the Copenhagen physicists — who believe that an act of observation rules out alternatives — appears when an observation takes place.  Even they would agree that before the first observation, all we can really say is that the universe was in some superposition of quantum possibilities.
Take, for example, the radius of the early universe.  Did it even have one?  How could it, because according to a quantum picture it wouldn’t have had any radius until that radius was measured?  Who measured it?  When was that measurement accomplished?  Several physicists have addressed these questions and have come to a startling conclusion — one that is nevertheless consistent with the theme of this book:  It is our observations now that are determining the past.

Do Thoughts and Wishes Time Travel?

Thus an observation of an event now somehow sends a message backward in time and “causes” events in the past.  If this is true, then what is really the past?  It would seem that there is no absolute past, because there is always the possibility at any time that some present event will alter it.
A way out of this paradox is found in the parallel universe theory.  Accordingly, there is no fixed past.  The past we believe is the past is what a community of communicating intelligent beings choose to be the past.  Other pasts are out there waiting to be discovered.  In other words, there are parallel pasts — an infinite number of them.  The past that is altered by the present is just one of the many.
Since, according to relativity theory, there is no such thing as an absolute present, then what is present for someone could be the past or the future for another.  Consequently, it would seem that the future also communicates with the present.  But which future?  The future that we believe will be the future is again that which is chosen by a community of intelligent communicating persons.  According to the quantum rules governing parallel worlds there are an indefinite number of futures.  So how can a future that is not fixed communicate with the present?  Which future sends messages back to us?
The only consistent view possible is that all possible futures act on the present.  Viewing the whole scenario of an infinite number of parallel universes as one big continuum stretching from the infinite pasts (actually not so infinite — only about 15 billion years ago) to the infinite futures, the effects of observations propagate in both directions through time — to the pasts and to the futures.  What is future or what is past is purely a personal viewpoint, like being on one of many roads in a gigantic city leading from somewhere to somewhere.
And here comes a surprise.  If the future communicates with the present, and by the same line of reasoning, the present communicates with the past, then it must follow that time is not fixed.  We are not stuck in it like so many flies in a jar full of jelly.  If we are not stuck in time, can we, like the unsuspecting hero of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, become unglued in time?  Is a time machine, a device that can send one backward or forward in time, possible?
With parallel universes appearing as a result of space-time distortion induced by gravity, new effects appear.  For example, assuming that travel to a parallel universe is possible, it is impossible to go to it without traveling in time.  In other words, time travel as described by multitudes of science-fiction writers now turns out to be possible.  Just get near a whopping space-time warp and you have found one of nature’s time machines.
Now the existence of parallel universes is troublesome enough.  Why bring in time machines?  Again the answer is consistency.  As strange as it appears at first glance, time machines — devices that enable a conscious being to travel in time backward or foward — must be constructable if parallel worlds exist.

These are the sort of consequences you run into when you try to fuse quantum mechanics with Einstein’s general relativity.  According to Wolf, every possible existence already “exists” and has always existed.  Atoms, or at least our models of them, are these clouds of potential which can take on any possible existence.  The quantum wave function outlines how all the parallel realities tie together.  It’s a sort of bridge between the parallel universes.  It’s kind of like a navigation tool.  Each decision a sentient being takes “splits” the universe and their consciousness travels to a parallel world.

These sorts of books really make you think, but aren’t necessarily useful.  At least, not yet.

If it’s true that I’m splitting the universe with my every “decision”, whatever a “decision” may be, this still doesn’t tell me how to live my life or help me at all.  To use a computer analogy, it’s kind of like a vendor selling me a new computer yet it has no software loaded on it.  All they give me is a text editor where I can write my own software code.  Then they say, “Look!  You could program this computer to literally do anything!”

I would then tell the salesmen that he’s offering me little to nothing at all.  To give someone everything is the same thing as giving them nothing at all.  People don’t want the ability to do anything.  That’s something you learn in business.  People become perplexed when they’re given too many choices, and they even pay consultants to make decisions for them when things get difficult.  In fact being an individual, and being alive is really the business of making decisions, and choosing your life.

If all parallel universes all exist side by side, and somehow we’re navigating them, then “truth” and learning the story of the “universe”, its past, and its ultimate fate, aren’t really the key issues.  Imagination and deciding where you want to go are the primary factors.

But freedom is useless if you don’t know how to utilize it.  In fact, you don’t even realize that you are “free.”  We all have absolute freedom, in a sense, and that’s why we find this life so miserable.

It’s like being given a brand new car and your parents tell you, “Here you go son!  Take a road trip and see the world!”  Then they don’t teach you how to drive it and when you go to leave the drive-way you slam into the garage door, puncturing the tire.  Then you slam into reverse, tail-spin into a tree, and then roll into the ditch.  So much for the road-trip.  Yeah, you were given the chance but, driving is difficult.   You don’t just give a young child the steering wheel on the interstate, driving at 70 mph, in stormy weather, surrounded by semi-trucks.

People already know that life is insanely complicated and that their every decision influences where they end up in life.  We’ve always known this.  What perplexes us is that it seems there’s so many decisions which take us in directions we don’t want to go.  We don’t know the consequences of our decisions.  That’s the problem.

In a way, thinking about what’s in this book is painful.  I start thinking that there’s a parallel world where all my decisions went how I wanted them to.  I’m sitting in my chair, writing on my cherry desk, working on my physics and other studies.  I have all the books and materials I need for my theoretical research.  I’m free from all toilsome labor, am never bothered with “projects’ and “work”, and am able to research everything I’m wondering about.  I’m married to my beautiful dream girl, my business endeavors all went beautifully, I live in a home which was designed to my every specification, I’m adored by everyone… Yeah, I suppose I can imagine such a world, and according to Wolf, it actually exists in some parallel potential universe, and if I would’ve made all the proper decisions I would be experiencing that world right now.

But to be fair, this stuff he’s talking about is backed by real science and is deeper than that.  It’s not something to be dismissed as mere vapid speculation, and just because it’s not useful right now doesn’t mean it won’t be one day when we learn more.  When the Greeks were researching conic sections they didn’t have any idea what they could be used for.  They ended up providing a mathematical framework to chart the heavens, plot trajectories of all sorts in physics, and became extremely useful in all sorts of engineering problems later on.  Who would’ve known.  Who could’ve?  This stuff may be the same.

I think we’re just now starting to realize the mechanical structure running the universe.  It’s mind-blowing when we begin to realize that nature’s “constraints” aren’t really constraints at all.

Makes me think of John Mayer’s song Gravity “Gravity, is working against me.  And gravity, wants to bring me down.” Einstein and many other physicists don’t believe this at all.  Gravity is a warping of space-time due to matter, and this warping is not only how time itself takes place, but is probably the key to how we’ll be able to navigate between parallel universes.

Gravity is like the car example I gave earlier.  We don’t understand it, therefore we crash in the driveway.  But later, when we learn to “drive” gravity, we’ll probably be able to travel to any time, any place, and possibly live any life we can imagine.  When we come to understand it more, I think we’ll fall in love with it.

Gravity is not some force that’s hell bent on pinning us down to Earth.  It’s actually a time warp.  Time slows down under the influence of gravity.  Science experiments have been done, placing clocks both in the basement of a building, and on top of of high towers.  The clocks in the basements actually run slower than the clocks way above the ground.  In areas of high gravitational concentration, such black holes, time and space do weird things.  They rip the space-time fabric open, and provide doorways to parallel worlds.  A spinning black hole is actually a doorway to infinite parallel universes!

And yes, they’re building small black holes in labs today!  I don’t think people realize it but humanity is on the verge of an explosion of progress.  Things people have never dreamed possible.  Time travel.  Immersion in parallel worlds which are nothing but vast amusement parks.  Genetically modifying our bodies.  Materializing food out of raw energy, like seen in Star Trek.  It’s getting closer day by day.  It’ll probably all happen too.

If this stuff is all true, and my research keeps telling me it is, death is an illusion.  I’ll always exist.  You’ll always exist.  The parallel universe where I exist, and you exist, and every possible way we could’ve interacted will always exist.  It’ll also always be there for us to experience, together.   Like energy, it can never be destroyed.  The world only changes because we navigate between the worlds by our decisions.  I also see no reason why my “consciousness” is confined to this body, or why yours is confined to yours.  I may end up living life as you, and you as me.  Maybe “I” already have.  That’s what’s strange about all this.  Identity is also an illusion.  It seems this physics is telling us we’re all one – literally.  Or it’s all confused thinking.  We’ll see.

I will say this though.  Ever since I started seeing the world this way, it has made me far more happy.  I no longer fear death.  There’s no cruel God waiting to throw me in hell.  I’ll never be separated from any of my loved ones.  I’ll always have a chance to meet you, and you, me.  And even if I make a mistake, it’s ok.  It’s no big deal.  The main goal is to skillfully navigate these parallel worlds, and be happy.  We’re immersed in a game of all games, infinite in both complexity and simplicity, with every imaginable difficulty setting to enjoy, or endure, to your heart’s content.  We’re here to let the world awe us with all the different things there are to experience – and somehow, together with friends, overcome the trials of this world and celebrate together.

On the other side of the spectrum, this philosophy doesn’t help me endure problems well.  I find myself asking, “If I could literally be in any possible parallel universe, why am I here?  Why am I working some stupid job?  What does this do for the universe?  For me?  For anybody?”  I see no point in doing anything we don’t enjoy.  It also, strangely, brings both suicidal and joyful thoughts, at the same time.  I find myself screaming, “I want out of here.  Off to something more exciting.  More fulfilling.  Away from idiots.  Away from politicians.  Away from religion.  Away from toil, sickness, starvation, and disease.”

I think it’s  a valid question to ask why reality is so messed up, especially if from a quantum perspective we’re “choosing” this reality.  Who chose this world, of all things?  Who would choose dieing painfully of cancer?  Who would choose starvation?  Who would choose dysentery?  That’s what I need to figure out.  There’s more to this reality than meets the eye.  It’ll take quite the detective to figure out how it’s all working, and I love that role.

*Puts pipe in mouth and takes a puff*

Wait a minute?  Did I just answer my own question?

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