A theoretical physicist seeks to explain the low entropy of the universe’s initial state:
A common assumption among scientists today is simply that, for some as yet unknown, possibly quantum-mechanical reason, the universe just did begin in such a state. This is the “past hypothesis.” It invokes the fact that all standard explanations in physics involve both laws and initial conditions: The outcome of any laboratory experiment is determined both by laws and by the conditions under which it is started. The past hypothesis extends this traditional way of thinking to the whole universe. It relies on law and on an initial condition.
But the reliance on an unexplained initial condition to explain two of the most striking features of the universe—the growth of entropy around us alongside the steady growth of structure in the universe at large—leaves Penrose and others like myself dissatisfied. What drives scientists is the desire to explain and understand phenomena. We all want to emulate the way Charles Darwin explained so much with just four words: evolution by natural selection
. JulianBarbour, “The Mystery of Time’s Arrow” at Nautilus
Barbour and his colleagues have come up with
It is interesting that he invokes Darwin, whose theory is based on randomness alone (natural selection acting on random mutations).
Actually, Darwin and his followers simply imposed a vision on the natural world: In their vision, masses of complex, specified information simply arise naturally in the struggle among life forms, though we have yet to identify a single example. (The equivalent of the multiverse in physics?)
Evolutionary biologists are now quick to tell us that Darwinism is passé, even as they continue to pay homage to its enforcers. Darwin’s followers’ real genius has been cultural: They harnessed a social revolution against the idea of cosmic order and called it biology.
Darwinism seems like an explanation because it is an interpretation of life the way adherents understand it—which is a rather different enterprise from an explanation in science.
It will be interesting to see how Barbour’s thesis fares, considering his choice of patron.
See also: Arrow of time points to missing dark matter
Cosmologist tells us how time got its arrow Something is wrong here. Just recording, just recording…
Studying time’s arrow with philosophers
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