Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Strange Lodgings

with 10 comments

infinite_hallway

“Imagine yourself waking up in a strange and unfamiliar room. Too much to drink maybe, some medical crisis, who knows … there you are. To compound your difficulties, you have amnesia, and can’t for the life of you remember anything about your life before you awoke in the room. It’s a normal enough looking room as far as you can tell, reasonably furnished, but with no sign of its purpose, or why you happen to be there.

You get up to explore. The room has doors, four of them, one on each wall. Upon inspection, each door leads to a featureless hallway, with a door at the other end. Well, there’s no choice but but head down a hallway. At the end of the hallway, there is another room. Upon inspection it’s the same size as the first room, but furnished differently. It too has four doors. And each door leads to a hallway. You continue on. Through another hallway. To another room.

And another, and another, and another. Room after room after room. Each room similar, but no two alike. Your needs are met at least, many of the rooms have the means to support life, food, water, etc. Even to make life pleasant, some rooms are quite enjoyable. You sometimes linger awhile, days or weeks, but eventually you head on, looking for a door outside or even a window. On and on and on.

It gets worse. Eventually you are sure you have sometimes come back to a room where you’ve been before. You test your theory, you head off in a  straight direction, always exiting the opposite door you entered by. Finally, after traversing seemingly endless rooms, you notice that at least one thing has changed, the hallways are getting longer. Eventually, you open a door … and are back in the very first room you started from so many years ago.

Unquestionably the same room, unchanged in any respect except for dust. And the hallways leading from it are longer than they were those long years ago. Years of exploring, years of pondering, and it still doesn’t make any sense. And yet, it is what it is. What the hell is going on here?”

What is going on here?  I wrote the above because I kept seeing people in Yahoo Answers ask the question “If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?” This means that a lot of people are unclear on exactly what is meant by the “expanding” universe. Even worse, a lot of the answers to the question were gibberish or so technical as to be effectively gibberish. And a lot of the analogies people came up with to explain the universe weren’t as helpful as the authors might have supposed. A wise woman (no, she wasn’t a Latina) once said to me that if you can’t explain something to a five year old, you probably don’t understand it yourself. A test I no doubt fail on many an occasion, but I keep trying.

In any event, the above analogy is the universe as we know it. An enormous (but not infinite) number of rooms slowly getting further apart, with never a door or window to anything else. Think of the rooms as galaxies if one wants, as far as our best and brightest can currently tell, our universe is just like my hypothetical nest of rooms. It doesn’t have an edge, there are no boundaries, there is no way out. And the distance between every point in the universe is getting greater, but nothing new is being added. And of course it doesn’t make sense, if I am getting to any sort of point with this post it’s that what scientists observe about the universe isn’t subject to our notions of what “makes sense.” It’s reality that makes sense, not our conception of it.

I know what I would wonder if I found myself in the above situation. I’d wonder who made the rooms. It wouldn’t be a crazy thing to wonder, would it?

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is being used in accordance with the copyright holder’s requirements. It is not being used for profit. Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leted/ / CC BY-NC 2.0 It’s a hallway, what else can I say? I thought it was a good image to illustrate the post with. “Every exit is an entrance somewhere else.” — Tom Stoppard.)

Written by unitedcats

July 17, 2009 at 8:32 am

10 Responses

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  1. I and other positively sane people have experienced this, but outdoors- some on a country road, some on a city street.
    We walk towards a destination which we know by heart and yet end up where we started.
    Anyway, I see and agree that your point is about reality. And I’m impressed.
    Would you like this essay reposted at WP Writers Group at pochp09.wordpress?

    pochp

    July 17, 2009 at 9:47 am

  2. I never heard of that, but sounds good to me, thanks for the compliment. — Doug

    unitedcats

    July 17, 2009 at 12:17 pm

  3. Fascinating, and very true! I still wonder how it is that things that we are supposed to be seeing as they looked at the beginning of the universe don’t, in fact, appear to be right on top of us?

    I left that same comment on WP Writers Group. I came here to see the photo. It is fascinating too!

    Would you agree that the scientific method can be defined as ‘the method by which we adjust our perceptions to match reality’?

    izaakmak

    July 18, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    • Maybe you hit it Mak.
      The spiritual, not scientific, method which I believe works like this:
      We get rid of perceptions and ‘connect’ so we can rightly deal with reality.

      pochp

      July 19, 2009 at 8:08 am

      • Sounds nice, but I’m suddenly having a non-perceptual connection to a big ol’ can-o-worms. :-)

        izaakmak

        July 19, 2009 at 8:30 am

  4. […] some of these topics before, or at least the basics of them by discussing the Big Bang theory, Strange Lodgings, The Axis of Evil, and Dark Flow. And now that everyone understands the Big Bang theory … […]

  5. How can you posit a question such as “who made the rooms” and in your next stride vilify anyone who could possibly believe in God? The Big Bang Theory is perfect in what it can explain and greatly deficient in what it can’t. If someone were to subscribe to the many worlds theory, dark flow, or the axis of evil articles which you have posted – the least one could do is concede that our Universe (or at least what we understand about it) is under the direct influence of something we cannot perceive or understand.

    In addition, some of histories greatest minds (Da Vinci, Aristotle, Einstein, Hawkings) have all speculated and generated theorums of this reality that are still full of holes and indeed, we may infact be no closer at all to understanding.

    It’s possible that the concept of a creator is entirely hokum, but it’s also possible that it isn’t. If there’s anything that could be said, it’s that just because a theory doesn’t make sense to you now, that doesn’t mean it never could.

    I think stating that religious people are ignorant to empirical evidence and will believe what they want to despite said evidence is a narrow minded point of view. You yourself have stated that some of histories greatest scientific revelations were once thought to be nonsense, due to lack of supporting evidence. Much of these revelations have garnished a positive following and have begun to show supporting evidence years later. Furthermore, some theories which were once thought to be absolute in truth are now beginning to fill with holes.

    Even the most stubborn of believers that only the big bang theory could have created what we can perceive as our Universe as a whole would have to concede that if such a creator exists – his knowledge of science and reality would far outweigh the collective knowledge of the entire human race since it’s inception.

    What I’m saying is that in as much as you profess to know little about our reality, our perception of it or what could possibly be out there, it seems very unrealistic the deny any possibility of a creator.

    Matthew

    October 10, 2010 at 11:52 am

  6. After re-reading this, I feel that I should follow up with stating that this isn’t meant to be taken as an attack – simply a refuting argument from an endless debate.

    I believe neither wholly in religious concepts nor entirely in scientific but I do believe that the truth of everything that we know will eventually be found somewhere as an amalgamation of the two.

    I think at times both sides can be shockingly unrealistic and zealous in their pursuit of what they believe and close their minds to a concept of any other kind. In addition, religion has destroyed much and is a constant source of war and suffering. In light of this, I do believe that a lot of people develop a bad taste in their mouth towards the concept of a God, deity or presence who I believe – has nothing to do with these menial and irreverent wars anyways.

    I appreciate the hard work you pour into these articles and am always inspired to discover more every time I read one.

    Matthew

    October 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    • No offence taken, my posts are meant to stimulate thought and discussion, and even when people disagree with me or point out where I have erred, that’s what discussion is all about. Thanks and BB. —Doug

      unitedcats

      October 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm


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