The hypothesis that the Big Bang came out of a quantum fluctuation from a very specific prior state opens the door to more questions. If timelessness involves an infinite timeline or an endless bouncing process, why does our brain only make sense of boundaries? Mine feels the reach of its own limit and hesitates to jump ahead. A system may be symmetric to the extent that it is made of one part moving forward, the other going backward. What remains confusing to me is whether a time divide lies inside the box crisscrossed by circles or lines of past and future subsystems or outside in a larger timeless state. New pocket universes are brought into being while chains of events happen both to the past and the future, either in a multiverse or a subsystems-made universe.
When it comes to time’s arrow, we tend to look for answers “into the box and not out into the Universe.” We know its shape and its age, but what we know of its size is limited to what we are able to observe: 46.5 billion light-years in radius, which is 93 billion light-years in diameter. While knowledge increases with time and new technical capabilities, the Universe will continue its expansion as if to stay out of our reach. Unable to explore its boundaries, we assume its existence to be unaffected by ‘exterior’ influence. In the realm of analogies, the brain is an entryway between what is and what is not in a similar way, I feel, that the Big Bang is a phase through which the universe passes.
This past October, I asked to be corrected when I wrote that “our present is as much part of the past as it is part of the future for the observer who would look out into space from the other side of the Universe”. As far as they can determine, both observers think of each other as living in the “past.” Today, we have detected the most distant quasar yet known J0313-1806 as it would have appeared more than 13 billion years ago. Its collapsed structure contains a supermassive black hole that came into being just 670 million years after the Big Bang. We have also discovered the protocluster LAGER-z7OD1when the Universe was only 770 million years old.
Let’s imagine a second that an observer stargazes from their end in their own future— whether it be a disembodied brain or a celestial object endowed with a soul. They would see what was anterior to the Earth, three billion years before Gaia-Enceladus dwarf galaxy and the progenitor of our Milky Way collided. They would catch a glimpse of the reign of bubbles during cosmic reionization.
The epoch of reionization is a bridge between the cosmology that we can theoretically calculate from first principles and the astrophysics we observe today and try to understand.
By the end of the year, the James Webb Spatial Telescope, our latest time-machine, will finally be launched. It will be operational by mid-2022. In our mind, a clear milestone in the macroscopic nature of spacetime is the unveiling of the first lights. If there is a Janus Point, the universe on the other side isn’t an “exact mirror reflection,” Barbour stresses. There is a single past for two distinct futures emerging from it. We live in a universe that is time-symmetric on ultra-large scales. What we see in those early structures is a mirroring image of ourselves, a fractal memory. Quasars and dwarf galaxies played an essential role in the build-up of massive galaxies and the reionization process. The initial conditions surrounding the formation of the first celestial objects bring back in my mind the image of dwarf galaxies that have been observed to be moving out of the Local Void.
If inflation is to play a role in explaining the initial conditions of the universe, we need to understand how it arises from some specific condition, rather than simply appealing to randomness.
But then, if the Big Bang isn't a unique event, how to reconcile eternal inflation or bounce cosmology with a reversed arrow of time? The Universe hasn’t followed a path of unitary evolution. I suppose it is unlikely that it could recollapse into the exact shape of its initial conditions. Janus-point systems may not be subject to recurrence — they are not in a ‘box’. The arrows exist “not because of statistical fluctuations but because of dynamical necessity.”
Information flows drip by drip into my brain as I attempt to reach the far edges of the unknown. I thought I would roam between stars. I swapped them for concepts instead. On the outskirts of the solar system, a planetoid labeled 2018 AG37 stands four times farther away from the Sun than Pluto. Its nickname Farfarout appears to be coming out of the Shrek Universe. Although it depends on its one-thousand-year orbit, which takes it from time to time closer than Neptune to the Sun, it has become the last frontier of the solar system along the rim of nothingness. Spotted for the first time in 2018, it unseats Farout, aka 2018 VG18.
I wish nicknames to convey a poetic, historical or cultural message. I hope for names like Oumuamua and Arrokoth and wonder whether the next minor planet will be dubbed Farfarfarout. If indeed, as Kepler suggested, there exists a bond of sympathy between heavenly and earthy things, Farfarout might know best how the Earth feels about the relentless environmental degradation that its two-legged tenants impose on the planet.
Holding my notebook in which I write a neverending list of whys, I wish to ask an alien lifeform on an interstellar spacecraft passing nearby. I would not refrain from reading aloud my latest rant on infinite ways to explain hows. I would take a leap of faith, drawn by eerie sounds of resonance orbits from the faraway system TOI-178 in the Sculptor constellation. Could human anguish be caused by our greatly elongated form stretching even more over the spatial-temporal grid?
Stars and galaxies are seen as exaptations – structures that have found a use other than that for which they were originally developed by evolution.
The word 'conundrum' isn't music in my ear, but it describes how I feel as I move forward. Crawling through Barbour’s book, I circle back into the intricacy of entropy. Within the observable patch, what is measured as the entropy is dominated by photons and neutrinos. An increase in the entropy, I gather, relates to photons and neutrinos energy distribution. Barbour explains that “the direction of entropy increase is the direction of time.” They are one and the same. “A single direction had been mistaken for two.”
Julian Barbour, The Janus Point