On September 19th, without breaking a sweat, Professor Kocevski managed to condense 13.8 billion years of universal evolution into a brisk 75 minutes (a 1/96,776,640,000,000 reduction). This is no easy feat for the average human. However, astronomers like Professor Kocevski have a number of tricks up their sleeve, which he kindly enlightened us on.
Astronomers are in the unique and fortunate situation that they can gaze back into time, simply by observing the night sky. The further away they set their scopes, the further back into our universe’s evolution they see. A single snapshot (a slight understatement perhaps), can capture billions of years of universal history. Professor Kocevski explained how observing the Doppler shift of known absorption lines in the spectra of distant galaxies leads us to know the rate of our universe’s expansion, which in turn allows us to estimate the age of our universe. He also explained how the discovery of cepheid variable stars permitted us to measure distances to objects far beyond the capabilities of stellar parallax measurements.
Most importantly, Kocevski explained that the cosmic microwave background (CMB) represents the furthest we can see back into time. Formed at roughly 378,000 years after the Big Bang, the CMB is the earliest form of radiation we can detect. Prior to its creation, photons were unable to travel freely in the dense proto-universal plasma soup. Our understanding of the laws governing our universe enable us speculate on events prior to the CMB’s creation, enough that we can explain our universe’s development up until a split second after the Big Bang. At this point, our understanding of physics simply becomes insufficient.
Up until this point, questions have been met with solutions and explanations. No matter the complexity of the problem, an astronomer could make their way to an answer in an orderly progression. Professor Kocevski certainly embodied this idea with his “Try to stump me!” challenge. His grasp of the astronomical domain (excuse the double-meaning) enables him to take logical steps toward an answer.
Once we reach that split second, however, all of our order dissolves. We are simply unable to tame the chaos any longer. Perhaps, order necessitates chaos. Without one, how could we have the other? What is order but the conquering of chaos?
Our species has consistently combated chaos with knowledge, logic, organization, and discourse. All tools which we, as humans, have developed within the context of our own four-dimensional reality. These are all concepts we can fathom, for we have made them, here in our own little bubble of (possibly minuscule) dimensionality. What if our reality, and the chaos that began it, was formed by some event taking place in another reality with a higher dimensionality which we are unable to comprehend or detect.
[A poor example: If I drew a 2 dimensional square on a sheet of paper, the square is unaware that there is a third dimension existing above it. This dimension is inaccessible to it and not a graspable concept belonging to its own reality.]
By this logic, it could be imagined that our reality could simply be a product of a higher reality. The simulation hypothesis echoes this notion. If our descendants should ever reach a post-human state (one with technology enabling them to run high-fidelity ancestor simulations), there is would be an almost certain probability that our reality could simply be an experiment in simulation [according to Nick Bostrom’s trilemma].