July 19, 2019

Is There Such a Thing as "Now?"

“One afternoon some years ago, I was walking through the snow thinking about other universes. More specifically, I was turning over in my mind the fact that the hospitality provided by our universe depends on many extremely special things. For example, if the electric repulsion between protons in the nuclei of atoms were just a bit stronger, then those atoms, and hence chemistry, and hence life itself, could not apparently exist. And there are many other such ‘coincidences’. I had convinced myself that there were four – and pretty much only four – possible explanations for the fact that the laws of physics seem to be carefully chosen to allow us living, conscious beings to be here.

First, perhaps the laws of physics really were designed for us: when the universe began, it (or some superbeing that created it) had us – or at least life – in mind. Second, perhaps it was just an immense coincidence: there was one ‘roll of the dice’ that specified, among other things, the force between protons, and we just got colossally lucky. Third, it could be that many ‘universes’ exist with different laws of physics, and we are perforce in one of the universes that allow life. Fourth, perhaps the coincidences are illusory: perhaps life would somehow find a way to arise in any universe, with any possible set of physics.

A feeling grew in the pit of my stomach that the Universe really is a pretty mysterious place. The mystery is not about why the Universe has some particular properties rather than others, but about the connection between those properties and our very existence as living, conscious beings contemplating those properties. Not only are you intimately connected to the Universe on the largest scales, you are central. This is not to deny that you are in some sense an infinitesimal arrangement of dust on one small planet out of billions of trillions in our observable universe, which might well be one of many universes. But you are also a giant: a thinking, conscious being responsible for giving meaning, and even existence, to the universe you inhabit.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Daily Picks

"The likely successor to British Prime Minister Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has plans to subsume the government department overseeing development aid into the foreign office, effectively eliminating it. That will destroy a post-Brexit United..."

"Gerard Baker, editor-at-large at the Wall Street Journal (no reflexively anti-Trump publication) recently wrote a piece decrying Donald Trump and his foreign policy as a fount of erratic unpredictability. This essay will give the counter view...."

"On Wednesday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar announced that she will be visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in the coming weeks. Omar will be accompanied by Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The two freshman congresswomen have become a focal point of..."

"Netflix may have lost US subscribers for the first time since it began making its own shows, but that didn't stop the streaming giant from dropping new figures about how many people are sucked into its Adam Sandler vortex. (Spoiler: More than..."

"A few years ago, Amy Balliett, CEO of a Seattle-based design and marketing firm, noticed that as the work week slogged on, her employees’ energy and productivity wilted. “That would slump to such an extent that the same task on Monday would..."

"Over the last few days the #faceappchallenge has taken over social media. This “challenge” involves downloading a selfie-editing tool called FaceApp and using one of its filters to digitally age your face. You then post the photo of your wizened..."

"Although there are plenty of irrational aspects to life in modern America, few rival the odd fixation on lawns. Fertilizing, mowing, watering — these are all-American activities that, on their face, seem reasonable enough. But to spend hundreds..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"It’s our job to let kids know we see and hear them, but we’re not necessarily going to solve siblings’ conflicts for them (or else they never get the practice). When squabbles start, imagine you’re a sportscaster and describe what you see in..."

"Magali Trejo-Martinez, a 22-year-old living in Salem, Oregon, recently went on a date that was rather uninspiring. “I had dinner, had a couple margaritas, and then went home,” is how she recapped the evening. This outcome wasn’t entirely..."

"The first lunar landing was many things — a D-Day-like feat of planning and logistics, a testament to the power of man's will, an ostensible propaganda coup for NATO. It was also, I think, one of the most misunderstood events in the history of..."

"THE FIRST TIME Bernie Sanders ran for president, he didn’t talk much about being Jewish. In fact, he didn’t talk much about himself at all. His 2016 primary campaign, like his whole political career, was relentlessly focused on one topic: income..."