I just found cosmology and astrophysics to be highly amusing. At least as is commonly understood in culture and everyday language and everyday identity. Our idea of the universe as that which is bounded by what we can see when we (our scientists) look the farthest we can into space – which is to say when we piece out the signals from the farthest reaches of space-time that we can.
There are all these signals bathing the Earth all the time. An incoherent jumble. But, like the brain parsing out a visual scene before it, our scientific juggernaut continually sifts and sieves the information into coherent layers, connected and forming a total framework.
What’s so amusing? That we actually think it is likely that our instruments can even see a tiny fraction into the depth of space-time. That we form our big bang theories around the idea that as much universe was formed as we can detect. And I’m not talking about all the dark matter we figure ought to be around based on all that we can detect. That dark matter, as I understand it, is assumed to be some kind of a concomitant to the matter that isn’t dark.
What if really and truly the universe were like a fractal. That the volume we can detect is literally an insignificant fraction of the whole. That even as we peer out and back through time, our tunnel of visibility is like one path through the julia set. Even this post is just a badly worded attempt to express an insight. I think that applying our understanding of space to the “universe” cannot succeed. Not three or four dimensional space.
What I’m really trying to get at isn’t that our scientists are off kilter. They’re on a truth-arriving track. It’s the human brain’s expectation of understanding things in terms of (even our most advanced) felt experiences of space. We have this expectation of objects being containers of an immutable volume that only its constituents occupy. That things “far apart” are indeed far apart. There is no “spooky action at a distance”. That “separateness” exists. That “things” exist. That “time” is something that keeps events apart. That when we look out into space, things are “big” and that is different than how “small” things are in the microscope and beyond.
And it’s not that those feelings and understandings are “wrong”. They’re approximations. Rules of thumb. Our deepest metaphysics are evolution’s rules of thumb. These prejudices are our badges of ignorance and innocence. The palpable “dinosaur within the bird”.