The Freezing Gaze People
In the New Scientist magazine this week, there’s an interesting article about black holes. Black holes are a fascinating object in the cosmos, being the collapsed remains of giant stars that have gone supernova. Because the stars were so huge, when their material collapses inwards due to gravity, the centre becomes so dense that it can no longer stay as matter and becomes a singularity, a strange theoretical entity. Gravity is so intense in a black hole that if light falls into it, it can’t get out, which is why they’re black.
The problem scientists are finding with black holes is that the physics (and maths) of a black hole doesn’t fit with the physics (and maths) of the universe. These problems are really extensions of a still bigger problem, which is that physicists have developed two important theories to explain reality; Relativity, which explains the largest scales brilliantly and Quantum Physics, which explains the smallest scales brilliantly. The only problem is that the two theories aren’t compatible. Black holes, being a place in the universe where the largest becomes deeply involved in the tiniest, not surprisingly are a source of much consternation; they’re like huge cosmic signposts saying ‘YOU’RE MISSING SOMETHING IMPORTANT!’.
While reading the article, I had an idea which I sent to the New Scientist letters page: “Reading your black hole article in issue 2911, 'Ring of Fire', I thought that several problems in modern physics, such information loss from a black hole, could possibly be solved with a simple change of a fundamental assumption. Physicists currently believe that quantum behaviour is a property of the physical universe, along with relativity, but what if the physical universal, with its laws of relativity, was instead a construction created from the quantum realm? In this scenario, relativity is separate and disconnected from quantum physics and there would be no need to marry the two together. The maths would therefore not be the problem with black hole research but, instead, scientists’ basic assumptions about reality.”
As Bertrand Russell once said:
“In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
To help get such an idea across to a general reader, I’ve come up with this metaphor, which I hope helps make clearer both the Mind Creates Reality idea, espoused by Max Planck and John Von Neumann, and how this might solve the paradoxes of quantum physics and black holes:
In a land, far away, was a foggy lake. Floating on that lake was a huge and majestic building made of ice. In that building lived a race of people whose eyes produced cold rays. They were known by the races around the lake as the Freezing Gaze People. The Freezing Gaze People lived very happily (or mostly happily) in their beautiful ice building. They called it Reality. They were though perplexed about one or two odd things.
For a long time, they’d been confident what Reality was made of. Everything around them was made of ice, that was quite clear. They’d studied the ice extensively and concluded that the fundamental particles of Reality were crystals of ice. If you broke down ice, you got ice. Theoretically, if you kept breaking it down, you’d eventually produce an indivisible crystal of ice, which the Freezing Gaze People called an ice-om.
One day, a particular clever group of Freezing Gaze scientists created something new; a device that could ‘warm’ a tiny portion of ice; a technical term created on the fly that no one outside science really understood. The results were shocking. When the scientists warmed an ice-om, a fundamental ice crystal of Reality, the ice crystal changed; it was no longer proper, icy matter at all and had become what the Freezing Gaze scientists called water. The effect was only temporary. Normal, icy matter rapidly returned, but water was definitely present.
The Freezing Gaze scientists then found another strange effect. When they observed or looked at these ‘drops of water’, they became real, normal ice crystals. This was very odd. How, they thought, could these weird ‘drops of water’ become Real ice-om crystals, just by a person observing them?
The Freezing Gaze scientists used complex science, mathematics and simulations to try and understand how ‘water’ worked. They found that these ‘drops of water’ could spread out, move around; they were ‘soft’, a term also invented on the fly by the Freezing Gaze scientists, as it made no sense outside of this new physics. Even more bizarrely, if they focussed their warming device on the ‘drops of water’ for long enough, the ‘drops of water’ theoretically disappeared entirely! It was crazy stuff. If it wasn’t for the accuracy and usefulness of ‘water theory’, the Freezing Gaze scientists would have abandoned this whole new field of physics. Even then, most of the general Freezing Gaze people gave it little credence, continuing with the common sense view that Reality was icy and that’s all there was. For any scientists still openly perplexed about ‘water’, the establishment response was ‘shut up and do the maths’, since water theory was giving them amazing technology like Pouring and Floating.
Soon after the development of Water Theory, the Freezing Gaze scientists made an even stranger discovery. They knew Reality (their building) was infinite and icy, since wherever they looked, they saw more ice, but, one day, they stumbled on a very strange anomaly. In a remote part of their building, they found a Hot Hole (The Freezing Gaze people didn’t know it but that’s where their building was standing over a thermal spring in the lake). The Freezing Gaze scientists found this Hot Hole bizarre. Reality broke down there. According to the Standard Laws of Iciness, if anything went in the Hot Hole, it would never come back. It was a Melt Horizon. The Freezing Gaze scientists tried to understand the Hot Hole’s behaviour using their new Water Theory. This sort of helped. For example, according to Water Theory, some particles would spontaneously appear back in icy reality. This became known as Hailing Radiation. There was though some gnarly problems. For example, according to Water Theory, no ‘water’ could actually be lost, and yet it was clear that Reality ended at the Hot Hole, so any water passing into it must cease to exist. It made no sense!
At that point, a lone Freezing Gaze person had an idea. He said: ‘what if all of us are collectively constructing icy Reality out of water? Once our icy Reality forms, it has its own Laws of Iciness. The Hot Hole we’ve discovered is therefore not an end of everything, but just an end to our icy construction, our Reality. The larger Watery Realm, from which our icy Reality has been constructed with its Laws of Iciness, is outside of our Reality and not just a strange property of our Reality.
‘Wow,’ the others said, ‘are you nuts!?’
The people around the lake say that the story of the Freezing Gaze People ends here and the outcome is lost in the mists of Time, which according to them, is a strange, fantastic realm where not everything is a shade of blue.
I think the metaphor works quite well, but that’s just a guess. I couldn’t resist the last line of speech, but then again, Bertrand Russell had something to say about that too:
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”