June 9, 2008


Mankind 'shortening the universe's life' (Roger Highfield, 21/11/2007, Daily Telegraph)

Forget about the threat that mankind poses to the Earth: our very ability to study the heavens may have shortened the inferred lifetime of the cosmos.

That does not mean the field of astronomy does direct harm. A universe with a truncated lifespan may come hand in hand with the ability of astronomers to make cosmological measurements, according to two American scientists who have studied the strange, subtle and cosmic implications of quantum mechanics, the most successful theory we have.

Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.

But there is an odd feature of the theory that philosophers and scientists still argue about. In a nutshell, the theory suggests that quantum systems can exist in many different physical configurations at the same time. By observing the system, however, we may pick out one single 'quantum state', and therefore force the system to change its configuration.

"Odd feature" is a quaint appellation for the point at which Natural Science proves Supernature.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2008 6:53 AM

If this is true, and we have this power, then it also implies that there aren't any other civilizations out there, as wouldn't they have the same effect? Or if there are many civilizations, then the observer effect has already been taken into account, and cosmologists should adjust their theologic dogmas accordingly.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at June 9, 2008 9:25 AM

The odd, but interesting Sci-Fi novel Quarantine is written on this premise (and the aliens' reaction to it, and the humans reaction to that...).

Posted by: Mike Earl at June 9, 2008 10:54 AM

It implies something far simpler if you believe in time: it began when the Observer collapsed the wave function.

Posted by: oj at June 9, 2008 10:55 AM

They lost me at Big Bang. That theory hasn't been widely held by scientists for years.

Posted by: Jay at June 9, 2008 1:38 PM