April 8, 2011

Billy Pilgrim Was Right

Let me back up for a moment for those of you who have not read Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughter House 5. The central character of its story is a WWII vet by the name of Billy Pilgrim. During the war Billy becomes "unstuck" in time. He starts flashing between the various points of his life, much like everyone's favorite button pushing brotha' Desmond. Billy flashes between the war, his bearable married life, his daughters wedding, and his abduction by the Tralfamadorians.

The Tralfamadorians are aliens who not only see the three dimensions our eyes see but also a fourth, the dimension of time. They don't see individual moments. They see time as we might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, always there and unchanging.

Billy eventually takes this information, combines it with his own time traveling experience, and he begins speaking to people trying to convince them that if time is eternal then everyone lives forever, in some form or another, reliving the moments of their time.

Now, there's some doubt's as to the truth of many of Billy's claims but his facts of time and the "eternal" life are scientifically sound principles thanks to Einstein's Theory of Relativity. In a very simple sense what the Theory of Relativity says is that Observers (Me and You) moving relative to each other, have different conceptions of what exists at a given moment, and therefor they have different conceptions of reality. That's mind blowing! My reality is different than yours, and Steve's is different than either of ours because where we're physically standing and the speeds we're travelling are different. At normal, everyday speeds here on Earth this is incredibly minuscule difference which is why we never notice a disconnect. But on an intergalactic scale...

Pictured: Master of the Universe
I want you to imagine NOW. This moment of NOW. Not just what exists in the immediate area of you in this slice of time, but the entire universe. Every planet, every micron, everything in the universe that is.

At the same time,  Chewbacca is on his home planet of Kashyyyk far, far away. Roughly 10 billion light years away. And he, like you is sitting still, not moving in any direction picturing NOW. His NOW encompasses everything that yours does at that moment. Because neither of you are in motion relative  to each other your slices of NOW are exactly the same. Once Chewie stands and starts walking away from you at 10 miles an hour (He's a Wookie, he can walk as fast as he feels like damn it!) it means that his position in Spacetime will shift, and because of the vast distances between him and you his slice of NOW will shift as well. Because of his direction, speed and distance, the time on Earth that is a part of his NOW are events from 150 years ago to us. He would considers the Civil War as a contemporary event.

Chewbacca being an amoral scoundrel.

Chewie now spins (he forgot his keys) and starts walking back towards you at the same speed. The future events of 2161, when the crab people will rise up again, events that seem to be unknowable to us, will be a part of his NOW slice. As solid fact as the computer in front of you.

Ceremonial "I blew your mind" face.
Why doesn't he intervene you say? Why, if he is now experiencing the assassination of Lincoln, doesn't he stop it? Well, 1st of all he's a Wookie and doesn't care about any one who's not an amoral scoundrel. And 2nd, because that would be a paradox, and the universe hates paradoxes with a passion and it built a fail safe: the speed of light. Because the speed of light is is a set constant it will take the light carrying Lincoln's assaisnation billions of years to reach Kashyyyk and only Chewie's descendants will see it, much to late to act.

So if you accept that reality consists of the things in your frozen slice NOW, and if you agree the your NOW is no more validate than someone else's NOW who can move freely, than reality encompasses all of the events in space time. At all times. For as Einstein said, "For we conceived physicists, the distinction between past, present and future is only an illusion, however persistant." 
And you my friend will live forever in the light of the universe. 

Whoever said that science denied the afterlife?

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