Boggling Boltzmann Brains

From New Scientist :

POP. What are the chances that an everyday object – a rock, a chair, you name it – could suddenly appear out of thin air? Not zero, surprisingly. In fact, given enough space and time, it is conceivable that a conscious being could arise, even if only for a microsecond.

OK, such an event would be incredibly unlikely, but not impossible – at least in theory. Physicists have dubbed such hypothetical beings “Boltzmann brains”, after the 19th-century Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, a pioneer in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. Boltzmann posed the question of whether the universe could have arisen from a thermal fluctuation; his work presaged the idea that a fluctuation could also give rise to a conscious entity that sees the universe. In this regard Boltzmann brains are not necessarily actual brains, but rather are a metaphor for observers of the universe that might appear spontaneously.

The idea sounds absurd, but it is helping cosmologists grapple with models of the universe, and our place in it. Cosmology, indeed most of science, assumes that we humans are typical observers in the grand scheme of things. Ever since the 16th century, when Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus argued that the Earth is just a rock orbiting the sun, we have been dethroned from a unique position in the cosmos. The laws of physics seem to be the same in our neighbourhood as in the rest of the visible universe. So the idea has been enshrined that unless we have reason to think otherwise, we should assume that we are typical. “This assumption is very essential to everything that we do,” says Alex Vilenkin of Tufts University in Massachusetts. “If we don’t assume that our observations are typical of observers, we wouldn’t be able to conclude anything.”

The way I understood quantum mechanics is that since universal particles and their inherent building block particles and their building “strings” all buzz around back and forth in different energy states, thus there always is a small probability, no matter how small, that if you start crossing the road to check your mail (yeah, you might get hit by a truck) you’ll dissolve and rematerialize in another part of the world, or Universe for that matter. This idea posits that the longer the Universe exists, because of increasing random fluctuations in thermal radiation of the expansion, the chances of these “Boltzmann Brains” show up to be dominant observers of the Universe. Ludwig Boltzmann is the father of this concept and you can read his Wikipedia profile here.

Professor Leonard Susskind in 2002 hypothesized that entities could arise from the thermal fluctuations in the Universe:

Spikes in space-time

There is another way to think about why our universe began in a highly
ordered or “low entropy” state. In 2002, a group of physicists led by
Leonard Susskind at Stanford University in California proposed that
entities capable of observing the universe could arise via random
thermal fluctuations, as opposed to the big bang, galaxy formation and
evolution. This idea has been explored by others, including Don Page
at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. Some researchers
argue that under certain conditions, self-aware entities in the form
of disembodied spikes in space-time – “Boltzmann brains” – are more
likely to emerge than complex life forms. Because they depend on
fluctuations of particles, Boltzmann brains would be more common in
regions of high entropy than low entropy. If the universe had started
out in a state of high entropy, it would be more likely to be
populated by Boltzmann brains than life forms like us, which suggests
that the entropy of our early universe had to be low. As a low-entropy
initial state is unlikely, though, this also implies that there are a
huge number of other universes out there that are unsuitable for us.

More philisophical debating about existance and the Universe, I love it!

Next up, Are We Living In a Computer Simulation?


9 responses

  1. Anyone care to take a swing at this?

    C’mon, it’s simply outrageous!

  2. Uber Highwayman | Reply

    How in the bloody hell am I supposed to get anything done on my blog when you keep putting out these mind-benders, Marine? You know old farts like us can’t but solve one problem at a time, per week! 😆

    Well, congratulations! Now you’re sliding down the same slippery slope I did when I was searching for the meaning of life. (Outside of Monty Python!) It was getting so complex, with so many different theories floating around out there, I finally threw up my hands and exclaimed: “Hell… why not! Everything else exists… why not God?!”

    How complex does an organism need to be before it becomes self-aware, I think is the main question, here. Where does consciousness depart from pure and raw instinct? Can something come from nothing? It would give the evolutionist better leverage if that were true!

    The Good Book asks; “Who by searching can understand God?” If elemental string consciousness can “observe” anything, perhaps it would be on the level of pure instinct… and then where did that come from? Is it something that can just happen or be infused, meaning there has to be an infuser of some type.

    I think, after watching an old episode of “Time Tunnel” last night, maybe our definition of what constitutes time might need rethinking, and then perhaps we might understand how something or someone can exist “forever.”

    If time is just a matter of perception, and is not a viable continuum or spacial dimension, then the prospect of a string-“Boltzmann Brain” or being might be feasible. But, again, where does love come into the equation of a universe based on randomnicity? Where do emotions fit into the evolutionary paradigm?

    Damned useless, they are!

  3. Actually, emotions are pretty important in evolution in that personal attachments are a survival mechanism, protection from enemies and the cold so to speak.

    You’ve argued that if evolution is valid and survival of the fittest is the rule, the NWO must be the pinnacle because of the fact they run the whole planet by running all of the planet’s banks, thus running yet another form of slavery.

    The NWO have been striving for control of human beings for five thousand years, you’ll get no argument from me there. But I say the NWO are not the pinnacle at all, they are like all inbred bluebloods, they’ll simply inbreed themselves out of business. Do they infuse new blood? I’m sure they do. But as a technological Singularity appears to be a very probable occurrence within 10-50 years, the NWO will become irrelevent, no matter how many banks they control.

    The Second Coming, Singularity, Changing of the Age in 2012, what have you, all of these could be the interpretation of the same event. Human beings might individually, or as a group might experience it, no matter what the NWO does. Thus in the end, they lose.

    Boltzmann brains are purported to be momentary “spikes” or “fluctuations” in the fabric of the Universe as it expands and thermal radiation goes up and down because of heat sources spreading further apart. Dark energy seems to be part of the scenario too. As entropy increases, these fluctuations increase also. Soon all of the observers in the Universe would be intelligences like the Boltzmann Brains in trillions of years.

    Actually, I found this article on a lark, but I couldn’t resist posting this as a thought exercise. Plus it was simply too outrageous to pass up! 😉

  4. Uber Highwayman | Reply

    I don’t believe that the NWO assholes are superior intellectually, I just feel that anyone ascribing to power is justified in attaining it by whatever means available to him, in order to survive in the evolutionary paradigm. Morality has no place in a Godless universe by virtue of the fact that morality is attributable to God and His government. Being ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ doesn’t mean squat in the land of tooth and claw… it is a hindrance.

    I would have to concede that these and other theories MAY have some basis in fact where the basic construction of the universe is concerned… I just don’t know! But, perhaps there is an overall ‘presence’ that keeps it all in line, and that’s where the spiritual application, for me, comes in.

  5. In the macro-Universe, there appears to be a semblance of order and would imply God, or a designer at least. But there’s this little thing called “quantum physics” running the micro-universe that runs completely on the laws of probability, meaning dice being thrown trillions of times and that little bit of chaos involved.

    Would God have designed a Universe that has an underlying layer of “if, and/or what”? Maybe, if you use the argument that God being God, could do anything He wanted just to confound the unclean or to bait Satan.

    Anyway, that is the physicists argument for a godless, uncaring Universe, the existence of quantum physics. And entropy.

  6. And the thing I don’t understand about the Boltzmann brains is that how could anyone prove the damn things were intelligent? For all we know, they could be an equivalent of a woodchuck poking his head up out of his hole?

    Does an observer have to comprehend what they’re observing in order to be an observer? 😎

  7. I think that Don Juan, the Yaqui Indian Medicine man, understood a lot about this and he put Carlos Costenada’ through a lot of heavy happenings to enable him to increase his perception. Carlos wrote about it in his book separate realities. No body really percieves the here and now exactly the same and therefore we all have separate realities. Especially when having out of the body experiences where time and space are percieved in a different way. All of us living in three demensions are caught in time and as we progress into the future we take snapshots of the here and now. Pictures that are history as soon as we reflect on them, and we are so busy doing that, that we can’t percieve the timeless existence that exists for some enlightened beings in the universe. Don Juan warned not to astral travel, without a guide, because there are entities on that level, both friend and enemy. There is allready intelligent life in the future that can percieve in four dimensions,but that future exists for us in a different way, because time has a different reality to us. It is all history and we use the swag (scientific wild assed guess) system to think about the future.

    This implies God to me and a universe that has always been here and always will be. Ever changing but with certain patterns that all matter forms within.

    “Does an observer have to comprehend what they’re observing in order to be an observer?” 😎

    I don’t think so. Maybe Darwin had it right. Keep on observing and write it in a diary. And maybe take a few snap shots too… 😎

  8. Much wisdom there G:

    For I surely don’t comprehend.

    And I can’t seem to keep film in the damn camera! 😎

  9. So, guys, is this life real or simply a dream? 😉

    I’ll pinch myself to check and see!

    Great post! 🙂

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