Saturday, 16 March 2013

The Augustinian Age

" a universe of normal entropy, the monobloc is intolerable and must explode; in a universe of negative entropy, the heat-death is intolerable and must condense." (James Blish, The Triumph Of Time, London, 1981, pp. 510-511)

So, if entropy periodically reverses, can each universe cyclically become the other?

"And out of one universe might come the other..." (p. 510)

However, Blish immediately seems to contradict this:

"What the visible, tangible universe had been like before the monobloc was, however, agreed to be forever unknowable." (p. 511)

He quotes St Augustine's joke. What was God doing before he created the universe? He was creating a Hell for people blasphemous enough to ask such questions! The joke has a point. If our universe is the first, then, by definition, there cannot be any record of anything previous to it. Again, if our universe is not the first but if the process of cosmic destruction and re-creation involved the reduction of mass and energy to their most basic components, then there cannot be any organised state of mass or energy that would constitute a record of previous cosmic states. So, although there are no questions that should not be asked, maybe there really are some that cannot be answered?

But we can still speculate that, before the monobloc, there was a negative entropy universe winding down.

I have not reread this far yet but, at some point, Blish's characters posit that each of them might be able to survive the cosmic collision in an isolated, sensorially deprived, bodiless form. This strikes me as both impossible and undesirable. Then they seem to forgot this idea and plan for something else. Some of the discussion is not meant to be understood by the lay reader. It simply shows us that those of the characters who are scientists are grappling with their task. But there are other times, like this, when the discussion seems to me to be internally inconsistent.

Another example: the Hevians first think that continuous creation seems to prove divine creation although Fred Hoyle, who originally postulated it, did not think that. However, the Hevians have a history of religious speculation so it is comprehensible that they would see it that way.

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