Wednesday, June 18, 2003

What-iffing the universe

Arthur Silber talks about the influence of philosophy on science here. In particular, he quotes this:
Prof. Hut is less sanguine about another cosmic puzzle: whether the universe has to be the way it is because the laws of nature can exist only in their current form, or if other physics are possible. Einstein called this the question of whether God had any choice in how he created the world.

Without another world to show us different laws of nature, "I think we can never know for sure if the universe had to be the way it is, or if other laws of physics would allow other kinds of universes," says Prof. Hut.
This reminds me of a book by physicist George Gamow called Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland. In it one Mr. Tompkins, a disgustingly ordinary man, wakes up to the world in which quantities like the speed of light or Planck's constant have been changed to grossly different values. He finds it disturbing - you might find it interesting.

The book is no longer available under the original title, but I understand that "Mr Tompkins in Paperback" contains the same material and another book too.

No comments: