Friday, 15 March 2013

The Nursery Of Time

In Chapter Three, "The Nursery of Time," of James Blish's The Triumph Of Time (IN Cities In Flight, London, 1981), his characters discuss cosmology.

When the moving planet, He, stopped in intergalactic space to repair one of its "spindizzies," its faster than light antigravity drives, Hevian instruments detected hydrogen atoms beginning to exist, implying a non-cyclical steady state universe. However, listening more intently, the Hevians also detected anti-material hydrogen atoms arriving and being annihilated.

The astronomer Jake postulates a system of at least sixteen dimensions within which the matter and anti-matter universes are approaching and will annihilate each other. The Hevians refer to this imminent cosmic collision as the end of time but, for no reason that I can see, the philosopher Gifford Bonner instead describes the universes as colliding midway between the monobloc and the heat death. He says that several myths and philosophies allow for "'...such a break or discontinuity right in the middle of the span of existence...,'" adding that, "' Scandinavian mythology it was called the Ginnangu-Gap.'" (p. 515)

But it wasn't. Scandinavian mythology moved from the void of the Ginnangu-Gap in the beginning to the  destruction called the Ragnarok at the end. That end was followed by a new beginning but the Ginnangu-Gap had been the old beginning, not a midway point. Despite this, Blish's characters come to name their coming cosmic collision after the Ginnangu-Gap.

Bonner, a philosopher, not a physicist, asks whether the transformation of matter into energy will not be accompanied by a comparable transformation of energy into matter, followed by a recession of the universes. The Hevian Retma, having spoken earlier of the end of time itself, now wonders why a creation-interdestruction-destruction cycle "'...should have this ornamental waterspout of continuous creation attached to it...'" (p. 515) Why indeed? The speculation is interesting but difficult to follow.

Some of the discussion, for example about " '...t-tau relationships...t-time and tau-time...' " is too technical for me to follow. (p. 517) Is this tau the same as Poul Anderson's in Tau Zero?

Lastly (for the present), what a long way we have come from the near future speculation of They Shall Have Stars to the cosmological speculation of The Triumph Of Time.

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