This afternoon, as I watched an extremely fine sprinkle of snow fall from the muted, grey sky, I wondered what the air above the snow-shedding clouds looked like. Then I wondered what the air above that looked like. Then my mind just kept going upwards, until I was left wondering where exactly Earth sits in the grand scheme of things (and consequently, where we humans are in the grand scheme, what the purpose of life is etc, etc.)
When I let my mind go to this place (where it often goes because of my wish to have the plot for a fantastic sci-fi novel plop gift-wrapped into my head one day), I usually get extremely anxious. But it’s not necessarily a bad anxiety; it’s more along the lines of the night before a big day. An excited anxiety. Because even though it freaks the bajeesus out of me to realize that Earth–and subsequently we–are just the tiniest, little bits of some gigantic…thing that we’ll probably only brush the edges of in my lifetime, it fascinates me to think about where the universe ends, or if it does.
I spent a good portion of the day thinking about it, when lo and behold, it turns out The Atlantic was thinking about it recently, too. Or at least the author and subject of this interview were. It’s about the philosophy of cosmology, which, with a toolkit largely made up of logic and physics, seeks to answer the questions that both fascinate and weird us out about the nature of the universe.
Says Tim Maudlin, “a philosopher of physics” at NYU:
“One common strategy for thinking about this is to suggest that what we used to call the whole universe is just a small part of everything there is, and that we live in a kind of bubble universe, a small region of something much larger. And the beginning of this region, what we call the big bang, came about by some physical process, from something before it, and that we happen to find ourselves in this region because this is a region that can support life. The idea being that there are lots of these bubble universes, maybe an infinite number of bubble universes, all very different from one another.”
Cray cray and cool stuff, right? I am gonna have the weirdest dreams tonight.