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Spooks In Space

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Sun, 19 Aug 2007 22:29:13 -0400
Archived: Sun, 19 Aug 2007 22:29:13 -0400
Subject: Spooks In Space

Source: The New Scientist - Sutton, Surrey, UK


August 2007

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Spooks In Space
Mason Inman

Magazine issue 2617

POP. What are the chances that an everyday object - a rock, a
chair, you name it - could suddenly appear out of thin air? Not
zero, surprisingly. In fact, given enough space and time, it is
conceivable that a conscious being could arise, even if only for
a microsecond.

OK, such an event would be incredibly unlikely, but not
impossible - at least in theory. Physicists have dubbed such
hypothetical beings "Boltzmann brains", after the 19th-century
Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, a pioneer in thermodynamics
and statistical mechanics. Boltzmann posed the question of
whether the universe could have arisen from a thermal
fluctuation; his work presaged the idea that a fluctuation could
also give rise to a conscious entity that sees the universe. In
this regard Boltzmann brains are not necessarily actual brains,
but rather are a metaphor for observers of the universe that
might appear spontaneously.

The idea sounds absurd, but it is helping cosmologists grapple
with models of the universe, and our place in it. Cosmology,
indeed most of science, assumes that we humans are typical
observers in the grand scheme of things. Ever since the 16th
century, when Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus argued that
the Earth is just a rock orbiting the sun, we have been
dethroned from a unique position in the cosmos. The laws of
physics seem to be the same in our neighbourhood as in the rest
of the visible universe. So the idea has been enshrined that
unless we have reason to think otherwise, we should assume that
we are typical. "This assumption is very essential to everything
that we do," says Alex Vilenkin of Tufts University in
Massachusetts. "If we don't assume that our observations are
typical of observers, we wouldn't be able to conclude anything."

That's because if we aren't typical, then whatever we see is not
representative of the universe at large. So here's the problem:
some well-established cosmological models predict that,
trillions of years in the future, Boltzmann brains could vastly
outnumber "ordinary observers" like us, who depend on aeons of
evolution and life support. If that is true, ...

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