Saturday, December 17, 2005

The medium (of the universe) is the message

You know we live in a post-modern world when even the serious academic articles start to smack of science fiction.

An article by Stephen Hsu of the University of Oregon and Anthony Zee of the University of California suggests that a putative creator of the universe could have encoded as many as 100,000 bits of information into variations in the cosmic background radiation merely by tuning the starting conditions. The article by Hsu and Zee on goes into much more technical detail. Science has a slightly easier summary blurb as well.

Charles Stross' novel Accelerando talks about
"...waves in the cosmic background radiation (which, it is theorized, may be waste heat generated by irreversible computational processes back during the inflationary epoch; the present-day universe being merely the data left behind by a really huge calculation)."
"... the weirdness beyond M31: According to the more conservative cosmologists, an alien superpower -– maybe a collective of Kardashev Type Three galaxy-spanning civilizations -– is running a timing channel attack on the computational ultrastructure of space-time itself, trying to break through to whatever's underneath."
I wonder whose ideas came first or is it just the convergent evolution of cool ideas.

The description of the creator as a physicist hacker or deity or engineer is somewhat like Robert Sawyer's god in Calculating God. Sawyer's god is not omni-anything really, just very powerful, and it was around before the Big Bang of the current cycle. An alien comes to Earth to find evidence for God. One of the supporting arguments is that several planets widely separated in space have gone through mass extinctions at close to the same times over hundreds of millions of years. Sawyer's God is just a really good engineer that survived the last Big Bang to program the universal constants for the current Big Bang cycle to ensure the creation of life.

The way to know that you are living in a science fiction novel or not is this: In the novel scientists would already have discovered and deciphered the message written into the cosmic background radiation.

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