Firestorm in the Wilderness - Creating a Baby Universe in the Woods

Embedding diagram, showing the moment of 'creation' when the 'umbilical' wormhole breaks, and a child universe is born out of a pre-existing parent universe.
From Alan Guth, MIT Dept. of Physics.
See Farhi, Guth, and Guven (
Nuclear Physics B, Volume 339, Issue 2, 30 July 1990, Pages 417-490) for all the detail.

(last updated 23 November 2023)

The simple question to be discussed in this post is this:
(and it is the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION I can think of)

Can a Baby Universe be spawned within our own Universe?

Yes or no.

By the 'Totalitarian Principle' of Quantum mechanics, “Anything that is not forbidden is compulsory.”  If our universe can spawn children, then it is virtually certain that we, ourselves, came from a parent universe, and that our 'Creation Story' is far more complicated and interesting than just a sudden spontaneous random (unguided) expansion from a singularity.

A New Look at an Old Universe

Here I explore this very different perspective on our universe to see what it tells us about physics and cosmology.  

The basic premise is an analogy between the evolution of life and the origin of our observed universe.  It posits that 'reality' did not directly originate from nothing via a highly unlikely but definitely possible quantum event emerging from the vacuum (see further discussion in the Paradox tab), but that that original event brought into being some much simpler 'sterile' universe or font of simple germ-universes (via something like eternal inflation). Then some chance process of universe self-replication appeared.  Parent universes began to produce children, leading to an evolution of increasing complexity.  This picture has the distinct advantage of explaining why our universe is so exquisitely 'fine-tuned.' Our universe achieved its observed state in much the same way that our complex human bodies originated from an original simple single-cell ancestor—a process equivalent to abiogenesis.  This premise necessarily leads to the conclusion that, just as with life, mathematics is far from the most efficient or useful way of describing our universe's morphology and behavior (the 'laws' of physics that govern it).

A.  What we observe did, on first principles, originate from the vacuum (ex nihilo) somewhere in the deep recesses of 'time'; and furthermore, the vacuum remains intimately relevant to our reality—it 'surrounds' us.  We are 'bathed' in it; and its structure still defines much of what we observe.  This is critically important 'news' because it means that (making a parallel with abiogenesis theories), we have both the beginning point (the vacuum—the 'elements') and the endpoint (our universe—a dynamic functioning ecosystem) to study, and it simply remains to examine the physically possible pathways linking one with the other.

B.  It seems very telling (to me) that math-addicted physicists have such a hard time characterizing the simplest thing in the world—'Nothing' (see Wikipedia articles on the quantum vacuum which describes the zero-point energy, or ground-state, of empty space).  What this tells me is that math is just not the most useful tool here.  If math is to be used, let's use it to show how big the difference is between the theoretical prediction for vacuum energy and the observed.  They are different by a factor of 10 to the 120th power.  That is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000!  This has been called the worst theoretical prediction in the history of physics.

C.  Time does not exist.  It is in no way a fourth dimension.  We cannot pick a location in time and go there.  The past cannot be observed at all—no more than the future can be.  There are macroscopic evidentiary remnants of the past from which we can create models of the past using certain rules and assumptions, but this is not far different from the way we create models to predict the future.  What we think of as 'cause and effect' is more fundamentally characterized as 'observation and model'.  The universe originated as a tiny hot ball out of which everything emerged quantum-entangled with everything else; and entanglement is notoriously a timeless state.

D.  And since the subject has come up, the ability to model reality is a distinctive characteristic defining the consciousness of a living thing.  It remains to be demonstrated, however, whether there is any real threshold that defines 'intelligence' and thus separates the human 'soul' from those of any other species.

E.  The speed of light was not relevant in the early universe.  The 'speed' at which 'space' was created was (and may still be) very different.  Whatever the 'force' is that 'manufactures' space, it does not apparently exchange information, but it does profoundly affect the exchange of information.  This 'manufacture' seems to be a process of realizing (making real) a zero-entropy state, which 'then' (or 'instantly') becomes subject to the boiling infinite-entropy state consisting of all possible (quantum) states (laws).  Conceptually, the 'manufacture process' begins with the fundamental ubiquitous superposition of a physical nothing (infinite entropy—the vacuum) with a physical something (a local pocket of zero entropy), and it proceeds across a 'reality horizon' when a pair of 'ephemeral (fleeting)' virtual somethings separate and one of them interacts with (‘observes’) some other ephemeral virtual something during their mutual fleeting lives. This is a thought experiment (a model) involving any sort of fundamental conceptual entities. The 'uncaused cause' (i.e., the ‘first cause’—Time's arrow) emerges here.

F.  Quantum Field Theory (just now celebrating 100 years since its earliest origins), is the best mathematical 'story' we have describing the small-scale landscape of the Universe.  However, given the large number of conventionalist assumptions* that underlie it, there is a lot of 'wiggle room' in characterizing the evolution of the Big Bang. The behavior of a putative grand-unified 'substance' (probably preceding the 'inflaton field'/false vacuum or its equivalent) will probably point to a much more complex pathway for the growth of our 'embryo' universe from that single cell that came from the parent universe to all the various specialized 'cells' required for a 'mature' universe to support life—the zoo of particles and forces that we observe today.  Intriguingly, the original field or fields that preceded the process that physicists characterize as 'inflation' could have had even smaller energy than the roughly 28-gram mass equivalent that Guth calculated as the pre-inflation size of the universe.  This seems to allow the possibility that initiating the process of universe replication could be within reach of today's technology or could be a common naturally occurring phenomenon. 
*One key example is Renormalization, which says “let's only look at the behavior of a system in a range of parameter space that we physically understand.

G.  The following declarations are proposed, based on Occam's Razor (see I. below):  

i.  Flatness is a fundamental constant.  Omega equals exactly one. 

ii.  However, the 'local' portion of the universe that is observable is not likely to be precisely homogeneous or isotropic.  The original 'Creation' is a lot bigger than the part we can observe.  That conclusion seems to be mandatory for the reality we experience.  The original processes are now manifest on such large scale that we cannot observe a statistically significant sample.  Because we obviously need matter in order for life to exist, we happen to be in a 'zone' of slight Baryon asymmetry—more matter than antimatter.  But on the largest scales there is no reason for such an imbalance.

iii. Space, although 'real', is an emergent property that provides the 'currency' and 'scaffolding' of observed reality.  Evidence suggests that it is surprisingly complex.  It has been customized by the process of universe evolution, and is intimately tied with matter/gravity, with dark matter and dark energy, and probably with hidden 'strings' of higher dimension (or some other form of quantum weirdness) where the 'DNA' carried by the 'grand unified' original 'substance' (acquired from the parent universe, subject to quantum mutations) is probably coded.  Using math to describe space will prove to be as hopeless as using math to explain the growth of the human body from its original fertilized egg cell.

H.  Having abandoned math as a useful tool to describe space, it seems natural to extend this perspective to the Standard Model of Particle Physics and to the Lambda-CDM model of the cosmos.  They provide broad-brush answers to many of the most fundamental questions that were plaguing scientists during the years when I was growing up; but, as they say, The Devil is in the Details.

I.  Occam's Razor is an intuitive guideline that says that the preferred explanation of a phenomenon is the one which is constructed with the smallest possible set of elements.  Math-oriented thinking would use Occam's Razor to reject the 'evolution of universes' conjecture laid out here.  However, from a Holistic perspective, the two-element 'mother-child' relationship may be the most fundamental and essential causal dynamic process that exists.

J.  Why would a universe 'want' to reproduce?  What purpose is served?  

i. First of all, we need to acknowledge that our own universe is a proven end-point of any Creation process.  Our universe has life, whether that was the purpose of Creation or not.  Life formed as a statistically preferred response to the destructive forces of naturethe inexorable increase in entropy.  Universe self-replication would be favored for the same reason.  Those universes that failed to replicate are gone.  Those that reproduced have proliferated.  The purpose is existential.  Survival is favored over indifference.  That simple emergent purpose is an intrinsic attribute of reality.  

ii.  So ... what characteristics must a universe have in order to self-replicate?  We'll dismiss the Eternal Inflation multiverse predictions for three reasons:  1. Most fundamentally, creation of a multiverse from a single inflation field is not a reproductive process.  It does not address the issue of how one bubble therein can, itself, reproduce.  2. The evidence is pointing to the need for Inflation theories to have fine-tuned initial conditions.  3.  It has been shown that the nucleation of individual universe 'bubbles' cannot originate from random fluctuations as was originally expected.  We will, however, point with delight to the current 'Inflationary Schism' that points to the failure of math-based analysis and the preference for using the tools of life-sciences-style analysis.*
*Here's a direct quote from that Inflationary Schism article (Ijjas, Steinhardt, and Loeb: Physics Letters B 736 (2014) 142–146) A paradigm ... with initial conditions yet to be determined, with complex potentials consisting of multiple fields and parameters, and, then, with the freedom to select the measure a posteriori cannot have generic predictions. In fact, observations cannot falsify post-modern inflation – failure to match observations leads instead to a change of measure [gkn14]. This places postmodern inflationary cosmology squarely outside the domain of normal science. Linde concurs [3], quoting Steven Weinberg [15], “Now we may be at a new turning point, a radical change in what we accept as a legitimate foundation for a physical theory”.  Exactly.  Life sciences uses the end-point as the natural measure.  The complex human body is no unique prediction of abiogenesis.  No life scientist would even think of attempting such a prediction.

iii. Given the need for specific precursor information to drive 'inflation', and probably a set of multiple precursor fields, the question arises (thought experiment): Can a universe in its 'information epoch' (perhaps also characterized as the 'grand unification epoch'), prior to what we identify as 'inflation,' reproduce?  Is it necessary? [This is the equivalent of asking if a week-old embryo in the womb can reproduce.]  If not, then we can restrict consideration to post-inflation 'mature' universes, which are amenable to observation.  Universe replication can then involve mass.  That's nice, because all the test-tube or laboratory universe creation mechanisms that have been proposed involve mass, and if these mechanisms are indeed possible, they may be sufficient.  

iv.  If mass is assumed to be the seed of the child universe, then a mechanism wherein areas of Baryon asymmetry can be maintained (so there can be 'lots of mass' in the parent universe) ought to be statistically favored, and that suggests a universe that has barriers to the exchange of information produced by that process that we call 'inflation'.  Already, we have a pretty complex universe, for it to manifest these characteristics.*
*How did such a complex universe evolve prior to its capability to reproduce?  One answer that comes from Quantum mechanics and from study of brain function points to the phenomenon known as 'Strong Emergence' which is defined as an irreducible, supervenient [i.e., additional, extraneous, or unexpected] downward causal power that is not due to the aggregation of the micro-level potentialities.  Through the evolution of countless generations of universes that contained life, life has affected the inorganic realm—its environment.  The process of universe reproduction was systematically altered to improve the prospects for life to thrive (see next paragraph).  I call this extraneous additional downward causal power 'Wielding' and attribute it directly to quantum fluctuations stimulating the receptive observer—one predisposed to some purpose/goal and capable of acting to advance it.

v.  It could be argued that life is merely a byproduct of the complexity of the universe, and that the formation of self-replicating life has nothing to do with universe self-replication.  However, “what is not forbidden is compulsory in a quantum universe.  It is doubtful that it is forbidden for life to find mechanisms whereby it works to enhance the processes that lead to universe creation/reproduction.  Ultimately, life may find a way to be in charge of the show.  That could manifest itself in myriad ways.  I'll just mention a few examples.  Perhaps advanced intelligent beings learn how to create universes in their laboratories as Alan Guth proposes.  Perhaps some as-yet unrecognized process is producing child universes without advanced technology.  Maybe every time we create a Higgs Boson a new universe forms.  Here, I need to mention the 'Fecund Universes Theory' proposed by Lee Smolin, in which the trigger mechanism for the quantum-tunneling formation of the child universe takes place naturally as a Black Hole collapses toward its classical singularity.  Black Holes certainly concentrate energy.  If this is the source of the 'germ', then universes that create black holes would be evolutionarily favored.  Smolin claims that this prediction has testable/observable consequences.  The quantum bounce that results in the formation of the universe in his theory has no direct connection with the suitability of the universe for life.  As Smolin views it, life is a mere byproduct.  Maybe this is an unnecessary bias. Stay tuned. In more far-reaching speculation, maybe some exotic form of life deep inside the interior of the hottest stars (let's call them magnetic worms) feed off the energy released when a new universe is created, and so they have evolved to grow universes in their gardens.  Going the direction that Metaphysics believers could latch onto (but denying any and all supernatural processes), there is the possibility that some highly 'excited' mental state (e.g., a bio-electro-chemical state in a neural network of an advanced creature's brain, or perhaps a similar energetic state within a super-computer) could provide the 'spark' that can quantum-tunnel to become the child universe.  Maybe advanced single-cell carbon-based organisms are all that are needed to create such an 'excited' state.  This is the route that my visionary, speculative hard sci-fi novel Eden's Womb explores, and so I won't elaborate here.

K. Do universes compete with one another the way living organisms do?  Can they interact with one another at all?  If the answers to the above questions are both yes, then what, if any, are the limiting resources that such a competition would center on?  The means of interaction, and therefore competition, that physicists have explored at some length, occur via traversable wormholes, such as the Ellis Drainhole, which appear to be valid solutions to the equations of General Relativity as augmented by aspects of Quantum Field Theory.  We will take that as a 'yes' to the answer to the first two questions.  Eden's Womb proceeds from here by positing a hyper realm, called Flat World, in which universes exist in community.  They can better themselves via the exchanges that take place through the wormholes.  This would be a sort-of sex between universes.  Similarly, one can visualize (conceptually) a more powerful predator universe 'sucking the life' out of another simpler form of universe through the wormhole link (effectively eating it).  Given this picture, which certainly has yet to be proven to be forbidden, the full analogy between an ecosystem of living organisms here on Earth and the putative 'Flat World' arena where a highly diverse ecosystem including many different 'species' of universes, which co-exist and interact, seems robust.  Has anyone studied the problem of traversable wormholes between universes with different laws and constants?  Perhaps such studies would help to distinguish between the cooperative/mutually beneficial exchange of information (sex) between similar universes (same 'species') and the predatory exchange (war/theft/murder) between dissimilar ones or rivals.

L.  Repeating the opening question: can a Baby Universe be spawned within our own Universe? Are mainstream physicists prepared to give a firm answer to the question?  Waffling (or the classical 'shut-up-and-calculate' denial) gets us nowhere.  The 'truth', in this case *IS* binary.  Either we are the descendants of an evolving linea genealogyof universes, or we are not.  If we are, then the consequences point to a merger of the techniques of the Life Sciences and Physics, as applied to Big Bang Cosmology, and the result could be revolutionary.  If not, then what are the alternatives that physicists have looked at?  I'll mention a few that I know about.  Proposals involving one eternal cyclic universe exist and could be considered a version of 'cloning' in the life sciences.  Though they could be incorporated into an evolution-of-universes proposal, they seem destined to play a limited role.  String theorists work in this field (called Cosmogeny) but the variations on the theme seem to mire these proposals in a field of weeds of detail.  Nevertheless, elements of these theories seem amenable to the 'big picture' evolution-of-universes concept.    Meanwhile, more conservative 'traditionalists' prefer to stick closer to what is known and tend to describe the root of our universe as a 'singularity' (mathematically intractable) or some sort of random fluctuation that is, perhaps, made of whole cloth from the start, and therefore much closer to the raw Chaos of the vacuum.  These scientists are usually content to calculate what they can while leaving many questions unanswered.  They tend to classify them as 'unanswerable'.  This is the 'ostrich' perspective (“put your head in the sand and the problems go away”), and it is not productive.  So ... what other proposals exist that offer start-to-finish closure on the questions of our origin? Outside the realm of myth, I have found none; but I would eagerly welcome the opportunity to learn about any that do exist.  The process of learning and questioning does not have an end point.  It is like the flow of a Great Stream.

F.I.T. Wilderness

Speaking of myth (or, more accurately, mythopoeia), here I offer a creation tale that is far briefer than the 650,000-word Eden's Womb novel.

It is an adaptation of a poem titled Becoming, written in 1969, that won an award (including a cash prize) and was published in Pivot, (1969: v.5 No. 20, p. 93; The Pennsylvania State University).

                 * * *

Soon the twilight’s ashes
will filter down from the audience of dungeon mountains
to settle here 
where boulders churn the sea eternally.

The fugue of darkness swells.
The choir close their books and take their seats
a soft shuffling in the balcony
like leaves in the wind on a sunny isle.
The flutter of butterflies of light.

. . .

out in the dark ... 
the restless froth ...
cares not ...

. . .

A nervous cough, a soft eh-hem ...
the murmurs hush.

Expectant stillness.

Echoing off the chancel dome,
the fading sough of their last noble hymn
shrivels away into the hiss of silent space ...

... and a once-majestic cause heaves its final sigh.

. . .

out in the dark ...
great vaulting waves dance and writhe ...
the seething froth consumes all meaning ...

. . .

Dissolved? Engulfed …

... into the swollen void.

. . .

Here is the ancient nimble ballet
where the wind organ's trembling pipes in thund'rous discord
fuses rock with mind and water.
The raging litany,
The roiling dirge,
The surging chant of conquest.

Virtual Ghosts writhe in the Chaos
looming like fiends before a barren face
that will not blink in the stunning gloom.

Memories of flop joints roar
as pungence oozes to the whizzing neon streets.

And out of that torpid stench
a courageous soul takes a stand.

She lifts her voice in pure clarion song
a beacon of light, a trumpet herald.

. . .

Her breath fills all space
like a sudden gasp.

“Hear me!”

The Death Wind parts.
A blinding flash.
White boiling flame.

“Firestorm in the Wilderness!”

                 * * *

Creation is a story told in myriad different ways in different times and different cultures.  Most of us subscribe to one that comes to us from a trusted source and leave it at that.  A few of us are seekers—pathfinders, who like to explore many options.  My 55-year-old poetic version is one such exploration.  It begins outside the frame of reference that modern science is currently able to describe, and some of it seems to be talking about disembodied conscious entities—the realm of religion.  But none of it is meant to be a myth or a fantasy, and the expectation is that it is not supernatural.  It is actually a modern objective, though speculative, way of looking at our real-world Creation.

Discovering Creation is not optional.  Creation confronts us all; and it is only left to us to decide what to make of it.  There is a philosophical point-of-view that says that nothing beyond the individual mind can be proven to exist.  (I think, therefore I am.)  Each of us is locked inside a prison called our physical bodies, and the only way to interact with the 'outside' is through the electrical signals that reach our brain.  In that sense, Creation is a new event that happens within our mind as the information is fed into it.

That's actually not a very practical point of view.  When our consciousness kicks in as children, we are met with parents, teachers, sages, elders, friends, and a complex natural world that is feeding us information at a breakneck pace.  The fact that the information is consistent and coherent for the most part suggests that it was 'prepared' in advance.  And the complexity and depth of that information suggests a mind-boggling degree of preparation—maybe even too much to be satisfactorily explained by the limited time and space contained in the observable universe.

“Firestorm in the Wilderness!”

Since I was born (only in the last several decades) Science has converged on a description of Creation that says that our observed universe began as a tiny ultra-super-hot ball of fire known as the “Big Bang.  This is their best guess.  It is still just a guess—a hypothesis—since nobody was there to see it; but it is a pretty well-supported one because we can see the afterglow of the firestorm wherever we look in space—in every direction.  It is called the 'Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation' (CMBR) and it was discovered in my lifetime—actually around the time I started thinking about writing my epic distant-future hard sci-fi novel Eden's Womb—on 20 May 1964.

“Hear me!”

Does the CMBR carry a message from 'beyond'?  PhD Theoretical Physicist and science writer Zeeya Merali in her 2017 book A Big Bang in a Little Room: the quest to create new universes discusses that possibility.

***This is a post in progress -- to be continued***

Covers of Zeeya Merali's 2017 book on universe creation and Alan Guth's 1997 book to which Merali refers frequently.

to be discussed:

1. The Totalitarian Principle applied to our universe as a whole implies, with near certainty, that we are not unique.  The Copernican Principle joins it in telling us that our particular universe is not at the center of 'Creation'.  It is, rather, just one representative on a vast phylogenetic tree.

2.  The signature of universe creation happening within our observable universe (e.g., the breaking of the umbilical in the image up top) ought to be a detectable phenomenon.  It should be affecting the observed nature of the vacuum, which is ubiquitous and independent of time and space, (because those emergent properties are not general, but specific only to our reference frame).  The vacuum must provide clues to every step of our evolution, but is weighted toward the general state that contains signatures of all possible other universes as well.  What is exciting to me is that the Vacuum is the elusive 'Most Recent Common Ancestor' that is missing from the phylogenetic tree of life.  Both the beginning point, and the end point of the cosmological evolutionary tree are accessible to us. 

3.  Our current ability to scientifically (mathematically) answer the question posed near the top in bold orange letters is obviously limited.  Perhaps the demand for a binary 'yes or no' answer needs to be parsed into something like: Are there any models/calculations that say no?  What assumptions limit the models that say 'yes'? etc.

4.  Quantum physics provides us with a number of counter-intuitive 'surprises' that must guide any search for our origins.  They can be summarized in seventeen words:

Reality is subjective.
Reductionism fails.
All meaning is emergent.
A Superposition of contradicting premises
underlines every inquiry.

The fundamental nature of reality seems to be embedded only in 'fields', which are partially, selectively, and always imperfectly sampled by observers, and which cannot be turned into physical reality without observers.  That points to the importance of mind in the description of reality itself, and yet, as I said much earlier, in no way does that support Solipsism.  Nor does it imply the dominance of logic despite the fact that our brains are built like biological computers.  Yes, reality is fundamentally mental (i.e. information), and any non-mental reality is merely a model created by mind.  The rules of quantum mechanics sampled above must guide that model building.  (Key, to me, is the treatment of contradictory premises, which must not be thought of as roadblocks to understanding, but as the very pathways to it.  They most often occur in pairs and are the direct equivalent of pair production of virtual particles.)

Yes, the Creation that greets us when our individual consciousness emerges out of its womb is very well prepared indeed.  It simply remains for us to decode it.

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