Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Stuff

[[If you can't view the images in this post, then you are likely reading it on a phone or in Internet Explorer. Don't worry, they're not integral to the experience.]]

 The universe is mysterious. It's filled with secrets and strange things such as dark matter and black holes. I find existence to be just as puzzling, and one of the things that I find most puzzling is time. People generally seem to be in agreement that there is a "now" and that time is constantly hurtling us into the future. Here we will be talking about two things: time and matter. I have serious questions about both subjects. Primarily I'm confused by the fact that stuff exists.

So the prevailing understanding of time is like watching a VHS tape, it's always moving forwards to the next frame/moment (I prefer the more analog VHS analogy to anything else). If, like a VHS tape, some outside observer could rewind it to see what had happened in the past, there are two options as best as I can tell.

Definite Beginning

When rewinding the tape of the universe in this scenario, it will eventually stop, because there is nothing prior to that point. No matter. No energy. Literally nothing existed. The idea of this feels weird to me. That there could be a point in time for which nothing preceded it. If there were some sort of spontaneous genesis of all energy and matter in the universe, then I'd have to ask, "How the hell did that happen?" Is it possible for nothingness to create something? I don't personally feel like it is.

The only way that I could see this happening for us is if there were some sort of creator, separate from our universe, that had the power to create a universe. Or maybe we're the dream of some greater entity, like the Wind Fish in Link's Awakening. Even with that, that creator would itself belong to its own universe for which the question would repeat itself.

No Beginning

In this scenario, time and matter precede every other moment in time. People may see this and respond with "But the Big Bang!" but I would remind them that the Big Bang was not necessarily the beginning of time. This depends on how you feel about the cyclic model.

I'm more fine with things extending infinitely backward than everything coming into being ex nihilo. However, this model isn't without some weirdness. It has to do with the idea of "now". The idea of having a constantly-moving-forward state of "now" doesn't work with this model.

 If time extends infinitely to the past, yet "now" is always moving towards the future, then it could not be "traveling" at a constant speed. It, in essence, would never have reached what we would call "the present". The idea of having a "now" that is constantly traveling into the future relies on having a specific point to be the beginning of time.

So maybe it's the idea of a "now" that's flawed. Maybe the timeline of the universe is just laid out and my consciousness has just been dropped into my body to fulfill its role? Or to observe but without realizing it has no control? At that point, the universe and it's timeline become less like a real thing with uncertainties and and change, but instead more like a fact that my consciousness can only see part of [tries to put in another quarter to buy more time].

I'm not in love with either of these scenarios, and I can't think of an alternative that's any better. A spontaneous genesis either makes no sense or relies on a creator for whom the question repeats itself. A timeline that extends infinitely into the past is better, but I'm still not fully sold on the idea.

Regardless of how I feel about timelines and the idea of "now", it doesn't solve the weirdness that I feel about the fact that matter exists. This is the most bothersome thing in the world to me. Matter exists. Why? The alternative (that there would be and never had been nor will be anything) seems far more reasonable.

I think, therefore something is, and that bothers me.

What do you all think?