November 3rd, 2003

breaking bad

The Universe and Everything

It's not available online but I have begun to read the cover story in this week's New Scientist. It is by Leonad Susskind, and you can read a fuller article by him on String theory and the Anthropic principle here. I haven't read this yet because I wanted to post here first. Too impatient you see.

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I do have an opinion on the anthropic theory. I am cautiously confident that when everything shakes down, this is the result which will be generally accepted. I'm going to express it in metaphorical terms, so bear with those, please. (NB reading back through the following I am very unhappy with it, but I can't make it any better).

I think that an unobserved universe exists in a different form to an observed one. It exists as an expanding cloud of possibility, which is never decided, never 'collapsed' into a definite form. At some point this web of possibility includes the possibility of a conscious observing subject. At this point the observer, in the act of observation, collapses the possibilities down. Somewhat like when you bite into a foam of candy floss, and it turns into red jam.

Of necessity this 'collapse' results in a universe where the laws support the existence of this conscious observer.

I also have a hunch that the conscious observer must also influence the observed thing to some extent. That is, consciousness must exist with free will, which alters the universe as it collapses it. Thus we create the universe through which we pass, and we shepherd consciousness through the Universe that we create.

I wonder whether this collapse happened once only, at the point in the universe when the first entity came into existence, and looked about it, and that we live in the aftermath of this once-and-for-all collapse: or whether it happens every instant that we live, and perhaps through all the possible universes where entities may live. My hunch is the latter.