Today, I encountered a blog entry that was posted to /r/philosophy, a community whose standards are so high that anything short of a well thought-out and cleverly argued piece is likely to be rejected. I was going to leave a comment there, but needless to say, the blog entry in question didn’t hold enough water to survive for very long.

Unable to comment on the Reddit post, I went directly to the blog entry and wrote a brief response there. Later on, I checked back to find that my comment had mysteriously vanished without a trace. Technical glitch or someone’s dislike of critique, either way I was miffed enough to bring my response here, where it can’t be deleted.

I simply pointed out that the author’s “DVD theory,” which I henceforth referred to as “cinematic playback theory,” was really nothing more than a variation of Penrose’s cyclic Big Bangs, and thus not terribly original.

In the entry, the author made an argument about each Big Bang cycle commencing from a singularity that was an exact copy of its predecessor singularity, which would result in the same universe being created again and again (i.e., the cinematic playback) ad infinitum:

Considering that it is beginning from the very same starting conditions as it did before, could we not expect that, then, the universe would play out the same way again?
With everything and everyone following the same course of actions, through all of history, again and again and again?

The flaw in that argument is the assumption that singularities in Big Bang cycles would all be identical. What if, I explicitly pondered, one Big Bang’s contraction caused the resulting singularity for the next cycle to be different? Because chaos theory posits a sensitivity to initial conditions, even infinitesimal changes to a singularity would bring about a radically different universe.

Update (December 3, 2017). When the author posted the blog entry to Reddit, it was framed as chaos theory questioning free will (so that a write-up ostensibly about cosmology would have some relevance to a philosophy community). If the cinematic playback theory, as formulated by the author, is true, there’d be bigger things to deal with than free will. For example, if the same universe is played back again and again, and you as a person would be born and die again and again, there’d be questions regarding the self and the value of human existence. Spoiler alert. Kinda like how in the movie Groundhog Day, the everyday experience of Phil (Bill Murray) was devalued because of its exact repetition.

8 thoughts on “A vanishing comment? That’s, that’s chaos theory.

  1. I’m not a physicists; nor philosopher, so for what it’s worth: I think that there had to have been a slight asymmetry after the big bang in order for the universe to get started, so I would think an asymmetry would have to “jump start” each “new” cycle – doesn’t seem likely it would be an identical asymmetry each time. Otherwise “poof” – no asymmetry; no universe.

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    1. Thank you! I was aware of matter winning out over antimatter in the early universe shortly after the Big Bang, but wasn’t aware of the details surrounding the asymmetry.

      To tie this into my post, how likely is it that each Big Bang singularity under a cyclic regime would produce the exact same values for all constants (such as the baryon number mentioned in the second link you provided)?

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      1. Really? You think I know the secrets of the universe? I’m a geologist; I had to pass two semesters of physics. That’s it…LOL I just posted an excerpt from Matt Strassler’s blog (Big Bang not an explosion). He has a fabulous blog site you’d probably love. Check it out.

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