Like my cats, sometimes I am deeply suspicious despite the fact that I have no idea what is going on. I have heard there are people whose default mode isn’t side eye and mistrust, but I’m not sure I believe in them. You could call me a pessimist, or a realist, but on good days, when the wind is southerly, I veer towards curiosity and exploration as a result of this outlook.
Today, I learned that our universe is even less known than the cats and I thought, through reading this article in The Atlantic by Natalie Wolchover of Quanta Magazine. It’s called “The Universe as We Understand It May Be Impossible,” a title that aptly reflects my confusion as I try to make coffee before I’ve had coffee every morning.
The article discusses a new paper by Cumrun Vafa et al which hypothesizes that our universe as posited by string theory may be impossible: “…Vafa and his colleagues were conjecturing that in the string landscape, universes like ours—or what ours is thought to be like—don’t exist. If the conjecture is correct, Wrase and other string theorists immediately realized, the cosmos must either be profoundly different than previously supposed or string theory must be wrong.”
I am oddly comforted by the idea that we know so little, at least partly because it prompts thought and discussion. To bookend this first post up with MORE Shakespeare references, the whole thing reminds me of the opening bit in Tom Stoppard’s play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead wherein the titular characters flip a coin supposedly at random one hundred and fifty-seven times over, it comes up heads every time, and at least half of the human characters in the scene are alarmed: “Syllogism the second: one: probability is a factor which operates within natural forces. Two, probability is not operating as a factor. Three, we are now within un-, sub- or supernatural forces. Discuss.”
Guildenstern: “A weaker man might be moved to re-examine his faith, if in nothing else at least in the law of probability.”