The story in Cosmos Magazine, a journal that covers the "science of everything," is that scientists are closing in on the deep mystery of dark energy, an unknown, and probably unknowable force that accounts for 68 percent of the total energy of reality. Dark matter, another unknown force, accounts for 27 percent. And ordinary (baryonic) matter, the stuff we can see and understand and remember, the visible turning of the galactic disco ball, is only 5 percent.
Dark energy, which is stretching out the 5 percent of the observable reality at a faster and faster rate, can only be inferred by its effects on the structure of standard stuff. These effects, we are informed, number two: "First, it deforms galactic architectures through accelerating the expansion of the universe. Second, it suppresses growth in some parts of the cosmic structure." Using special instruments for the detection of dark energy, a team of scientists working in the US, Europe, and South America have apparently determined that a universe cannot exist without dark energy and the universe is spatially flat.
Now, what I want to propose here is that the search to explain dark energy might be hindered or made impossible by the way we presently frame reality, which is as a universe. What I'm suggesting here is that to get a better handle on cosmic developments or evolution, the concept of "universe" should be abandoned as our frame of reality, in the very same way the concept of "God" had to be abandoned in the previous century. The problem is, both concepts contain the notion of what Walt Whitman described in a poem as "the all-alike."
Let's turn to the excellent Online Etymology Dictionary for some history behind the word "universe":
1580s, "the whole world, cosmos, the totality of existing things," from Old French univers (12c.), from Latin universum "all things, everybody, all people, the whole world," noun use of neuter of adjective universus "all together, all in one, whole, entire, relating to all," literally "turned into one," from unus "one" (from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique") + versus, past participle of vertere "to turn, turn back, be turned; convert, transform, translate; be changed" (from PIE root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend").
The one turning. The club and its single disco ball. We even imagine there is a beginning and end to it all. There are many cosmologists (such as Martin Rees and Lee Smolin) who, realizing the oddness of the one, now believe that there are many universes. But the multi-verse, as it is called, is not fully breaking with the universe. It only moves from a monotheism to a polytheism. But what's needed is to abolish one and all gods.
I cannot, to be sure, say how this is to be done. But I do know that the Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli has, in the most dazzling chapter of his book The Order of Time—"The Sources of Time"—presents a way forward. The image that explains his deep idea, are, of course, cards.
Now, let's imagine you open a new pack of cards. They are neatly ordered. But if you start shuffling and dealing them, they become scrambled. This is not surprising and is explained easily by the second law of thermodynamics, which had its mathematical foundations (probabilities—meaning, its more probable for a deck of cards to be a mess rather than ordered, and this tendency can be numbered) determined by a melancholy physicist who should be as famous as Darwin, Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann.
But what Rovelli explains is this: If you see specific cards (Jack of Spades, Queen of Hearts, King of Clubs, and so on) in an ordered pack, memorize them, and then throw them into confusion, you will still see those cards in the resulting mess. This thinking is deep. It means that the reality we do see is the one that can be remembered, and in its development, has the potential (or compossibles, if I may use the language of Leibniz) of generating remembering beings. And so reality, what we call the universe, is visible because it can be remembered. And memory is tied to one of many variables of reality—that which happened to be determined by the movement from low probability (the past) to high probability (the future). That's all. In short, we see this reality because at the very start, this reality had as its property the remembrance of things past.
There, Rovelli, writes:
The entropy of the world in the far past appears very low to us. But this might not reflect the exact state of the world: it might regard the subset of the world’s variables with which we, as physical systems, have interacted. It is with respect to the dramatic blurring produced by our interactions with the world, caused by the small set of macroscopic variables in terms of which we describe the world...
In this thinking, the universe, the god of our times, vanishes. And so does the need for many gods.
But Rovelli is only remixing, if we return to the club metaphor, ideas proposed by Boltzmann, who, as I stated, needs to be regarded as one of the greatest minds that ever walked this earth. Rovelli led me to his work, and what did I find there? The way to a reality without (or talk about) a universe.
Boltzmann wrote the following to another physicist:
One can assume that the entire universe finds itself at present in a very improbable state. However, one may suppose that the eons during which this improbable state lasts, and the distance from here to Sirius, are minute compared to the age and size of the universe. There must then be in the universe, which is in thermal equilibrium as a whole and therefore dead, here and there relatively small regions of the size of our galaxy (which we call worlds), which during the relatively short time of eons deviate significantly from thermal equilibrium. Among these worlds the state probability increases as often as it decreases. For the universe as a whole the two directions of time are indistinguishable, just as in space there is no up or down. However, just as at a certain place on the earth's surface we can call "down" the direction toward the centre of the earth, so a living being that finds itself in such a world at a certain period of time can define the time direction as going from less probable to more probable states (the former will be the "past" and the latter the "future") and by virtue of this definition he will find that this small region, isolated from the rest of the universe, is "initially" always in an improbable state.
If we remove the absolutist language of "the all-like," the universe, we will see not only the substance of this line of brilliant thinking but also the way to abandon the universe itself. It's just not needed.
We may even consider the Big Bang, the memory of which is called the cosmic microwave background (the cards in the deck that we can recognize because in their recognition is the possibility of their recognition), could be less of a creation-event than a galactic spill. If you want your God here (although He, like the universe, is not needed), it's not that He created reality but He dropped it by accident and it spread across the kitchen floor. This is our "cosmic kitchen."