Insane in the Membrane
I’m watching a fish in my aquarium picking up rocks with his mouth, swimming a few inches away, and then depositing the pebble. He is making a space for himself, defining the dimensions of his habitat. You may ask, “How does this relate to anything?” The same way everything relates to everything. Pick any subject, and I’ll tell you how it connects to that fish. “What about cosmology?”, you may offer. I was reading a fascinating summary of a new theory about the nature of our reality, how it may have come into existence, and what may become of the universe we inhabit.
It never began. It will never end. And in a way this makes perfect sense, because having an absolute point marking the ends of things seems unnatural. Apparently, the so-called Big Bang theory is losing credibility because there are too many pieces of observational evidence, such as the apparent hyper-expansion of the early birthing universe which the Big Bang theory can only explain with a strange acceleration of all matter outwards to velocities much greater than the speed of light, and the observed recent acceleration of space which the traditional theory postulates is caused by a mysterious dark matter pulling all the other “normal” star matter like taffy over the great expanses until space someday becomes cold and empty.
The problem with the explanation that the Big Bang model gives for observed expansion phenomena is that it seems like a kludge, or a quick, inelegant, and often temporary solution to a nasty problem that is probably the result of a badly designed system. In this case the system is the Big Bang theory. Having complicated, bizarre stories to make an idea work is a sure sign of having violated Occam’s Razor, a useful principle which states that the simplest explanation is most likely the truth.
Traditional subatomic theory supposes that all matter is composed of discrete particles which are in turn composed of even smaller combinations of particles, all the way down a hierarchy populated by such characters as the atom, electron, proton, and neutron, until you get to the quark, which is the smallest unit measureable and comes in six flavors whose combinations form the basic building blocks of everything. Only, gravity can’t really be accounted for on the quantum level, so the very beginning of the universe can’t be revealed with this way of understanding reality because that was precisely when all matter was supposedly squeezed into a quantum level space, exerting ultimate magnitudes of gravity. Using the current quantum theory, the beginning of the universe is a mystery that cannot be fathomed.
However, using the new superstring model, a few scientists have found a way to describe the origins and fate of our universe in a novel yet intuitive way that completely blows away the Big Bang. Superstring theory is the idea that the basic form of matter is not particulate; everything is made of vibrating loops whose frequency and phase determine what flavor “particle” is perceived. These dynamically rippling loops are what quarks, which were previously thought of as the fundamental building block, are composed of, in locally folded 10-dimensional spaces. In a way, this theory allows us to envision reality as a magnificent musical entity, a song with orders upon orders of harmonies and discords. There is only one thing: the vibe; everything is ringing with tao.
It turns out that superstring theory’s description of our universe as a 3-dimensional membrane suspended in a greater metaspace makes it possible to envision the beginning of our universe as a collision with another universe, similarly suspended within a greater reality, yet perpendicular to our space in a direction we cannot perceive. In fact, this other membrane could be less than a proton’s width away from ours. Scientists studying superstring theory’s implications say that we are locked in a neverending cycle of collisions with another membrane: the spaces attract each other and a universe-wide ekpyrotic explosion occurs as the universes ripple and touch, then all matter experiences a phase-transition resulting in expansion and the formation of structures, and eventually the spaces become cool and empty and attract each other again, and we have another collision with the neighbor.
The beauty of this membrane theory lies in its simplicity; it doesn’t require the hyper-expansion and dark matter kludges Big Bang has demanded. Instead, you must contemplate a higher order of space which we are embedded in, yet cannot perceive directly. Like the fish in my aquarium, we are concerned only with the world we can manipulate, yet the dynamics of the space outside our eight corners has a profound and direct effect on us. We are busy ferrying pebbles back and forth, unconscious of the true depth of our existence, looking but not seeing ourselves in the reflection of our boundaries.