From the June 2016 issue

Time for a trade-in?

Alternative cosmological models if space and time don't exist.
By | Published: June 27, 2016 | Last updated on May 18, 2023
T he universe has been screwy for a long time. It’s big-time illogical. Everything popped out of nothingness one Saturday morning? Sure, solid evidence points in that direction. But that doesn’t mean we can go, “Oh, yeah, that makes sense!”

Such are the issues under discussion in our new book. Our beloved Astronomy editor, David J. Eicher, was generous enough to review it, and he didn’t conclude that I needed psych meds. (If he’d written that, the publisher wouldn’t have put his words on the back cover.) Instead he said, “This intriguing and provocative book will push you into rethinking your view of science, all the while entertaining you with a fast-paced, exhilarating narrative journey.”

We paid him a lot of money to say that. But who is this “we” exactly? My co-author is Robert Lanza, who recently made Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. He’s renowned for his work on stem cell research. Together, we feel that a boatload of science points toward the cosmos being correlative with life. Let me explain.

First, physicists increasingly see the observer critically affecting the observations, as with the famous double slit experiment. That’s why noted physicist John Archibald Wheeler said, “No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.”

Second, we’ve known for a long time that the Sun’s warmth and an object’s colors occur strictly within our minds. There are actually no colors “out there.” Photons are oscillating electrical and magnetic fields. On their own, they have no brightness. So the observed universe occurs solely within our consciousness. Our minds’ algorithms create our perceptions. Ignoring this means we blind ourselves to a big part of what’s going on.

Third, our cosmological models are based on space and time. We all picture ourselves in a galaxy widely separated from others, with causations rooted in the ancient past. This is accurate, but only on a relative level. Einstein taught us that neither space nor time has any absolute reality. Each warps according to local conditions like gravity and speed. Distances mutate like smoke in a dream.


Time, too, changes its rate according to local circumstances. Quantum mechanics fully agrees. It shows that on some level, there is no separation between objects. When an electron leaves its blurry “wave function” state to become an actual entity with location or motion, its entangled twin instantaneously assumes its role as a complementary particle. Their actions disregard distance and light-speed restrictions. They behave simultaneously as if time doesn’t exist. The connection holds even if they are separated by the width of the universe.

So we know that neither space nor time has any absolute reality. We create this spatiotemporal scaffolding ourselves. They are tools of animal perception. We carry around space and time like turtles with shells. Thus, they form an inadequate framework for modeling the universe.

Fourth, it isn’t just the Big Bang that’s bathed in mystery. Thanks to space’s large-scale flat topology, we know that the observable universe, bounded by galaxies receding at light speed, represents only a fraction of reality. The actual cosmos may be infinite in both size and inventory, but even if not, our data’s sample size is currently too minuscule to be trustworthy.

And what does lie within view is a conglomeration of mostly poorly understood components, like dark matter and dark energy. Our ignorance of the overall cosmos is profound — including basics like what it is, how it started, whether it is infinite, its destiny, what it’s composed of, and the relationship between the living and the nonliving. Since standard explanations leave us in a murky place, it may be time for a revision.

Care to explore models that much better fit the science of the past half-century? The book is titled Beyond Biocentrism: Rethinking Time, Space, Consciousness and the Illusion of Death (BenBella Books, 2016). Yes, as a bonus, you get to see why you don’t actually die.

If, after looking at the evidence, you decide it’s cow fertilizer, tell me so on one of our astronomy tours. I won’t get mad. All this is less important than having fun and liking each other and being blown away by the northern lights.

I won’t even bring this up again on this page. This is cosmology only. Whatever your worldview, it has no effect on 99 percent of astronomy. We’ll still study galactic evolution and planetary geology. We’ll still obsess over the latest gadgets and optics. The rapturous celestial beauty that is the sine qua non for observers remains untouched. So if you decide to retain the existing model, fine. But it’s good to be aware that some heavy hitters agree: Cosmology is begging for a reboot — one that brings life into the equation.

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