Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Location: Rochester, United States

Chronically curious モ..

Friday, March 07, 2008

The day before Genesis

That's the title of a scientific article in Discover of April 2008. And, given the current extra-curricular readings in Buddhism, it comes almost as a pleasant shock. Several times I've heard or read, how Buddhism views the Big Bang. Their argument is pretty simple: nothing can be causeless. This is one(?) way of deriving the first of the Noble Truths, that of Suffering. So, for example, Matthieu Ricard, in The Quantum and the Lotus, explains that from the Buddhist view point, there cannot be A beginning, out of nothing. What this article does, is to examine the view of some main-stream physicists who would like to know, what came before the Big Bang? The article describes three main ideas:
  1. The idea, originating in string theory, that this world is a 3D brane embedded in a higher dimensional "bulk". This theory makes testable predictions about how gravitational waves should look like, if we could measure them.
  2. The question of time: why does it always move 'forward'? Turns out, you can have models where it does actually move backwards. For this, you need multiple Universes embedded in a multiverse, and so the Big Bang comes out of a background "foam", which holds its cause.
  3. The end of Time. This is an idea from 'rebel' physicist Julian Babour, which is just too similar to Buddhist notions. The basic idea is that 'time' is an illusion, all there are are endless successions of Nows. Strikingly, each Now is a state of the entire universe. Pretty much the same idea as in Buddhst thought.
Taken together, it seems clear that at least some parts of modern physics are remarkably congruent with the kind of things that the Dalai Lama or monks like Matthieu Ricard talk about. It's almost time to re-visit the misgivings about the relation between science and buddhism again.. ;)

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