Starts With A Bang

Ask Ethan: Is the Universe itself alive? (Synopsis)

Images credit: Mark Miller, Brandeis University, of a neuron and connections in the brain (L); Virgo Consortium for Cosmological Supercomputer Simulations, of the large-scale structure of the Universe (R), via visualcomplexity.com and the New York Times.

“Do not look at stars as bright spots only. Try to take in the vastness of the universe.” -Maria Mitchell

The analogies between small-scale, living things and large-scale, cosmic entities are abundant: between a neuron and the Universe’s large-scale structure; between an atom and a solar system; between the stars in a galaxy and the atoms in a cell; between the cells in a living being and the galaxies in the Universe. It makes you wonder if, on a cosmic scale, some portion (or the whole) of the Universe could actually be alive and self-aware?

Image credit: Greyloch / Universal Design of flickr, via https://www.flickr.com/photos/greyloch/11332988225. Eternity is in the middle, under a c.c.-by-s.a. 2.0.

While we don’t yet know how to test for that, what we can calculate is the amount of information that a self-aware being does exchange, and compare that to the amount of information that could conceivably be mutually exchanged by cosmic entities on various scales. The conclusion is that while the entire Universe can’t do it, on timescales much longer than the present age of the Universe, individual bound galaxies, groups and clusters perhaps could.

Image credit: Andrew Z. Colvin of Wikimedia Commons.

Go read the answer to this week’s Ask Ethan and find out all the information!