Who is that in the other universe?
Who is that in the other universe? Charles Mudede

Here are two future possibilities. One, scientists in 2050 began to explore a parallel universe that was first discovered over Antarctica in 2016 by a huge balloon loaded with various detection instruments. This other universe has time that moves in the opposite direction of the familiar one, where time keeps on slipping into the future. This Antarctica discovery will be for that distant year (2050) what the discovery of the cosmic microwave background in 1964 is for the present.

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That is one possibility. But here is another one.

In 2030, cultural theorists examine the explosion of tweets on May 21, 2020 about a parallel universe "discovered by NASA" to understand the "structure of feeling" of a society, a nation, a world undergoing lockdown due to a pandemic. ("Structure of feeling," which roughly means "a shared way of life," is an expression popularized in the 1970s by the British cultural theorist Raymond Williams, who extracted the concept from the work of the American anthropologist Ruth Benedict, particularly her 1934 book Patterns of Culture. But I use it to mean a culturally formed (and therefore historically determined) social affect.)


I want to ask you, dead reader, which do you really think is more likely? Possibility one: Scientists making sense of a really real parallel universe where time runs backwards. Possibility two: A plethora of cultural studies dissertations that unfold and explain the pandemic zeitgeist from tweets, blogs, emails about a parallel universe. I rest my case.

But before closing this post, I do want to point out that I by no means believe that the universe we see is the whole one. Most of it is being pulled apart by an energy that is unknown, and much of it is held together by particles that weirdly do reflect light. We are only familiar with about 5 percent of the universe were are in. But the idea of a parallel universe (as opposed to multiverses) seems all wrong because it does not answer any question. What I mean by this is that science, as a project—the science that gave us Darwinian evolution and the Standard Model—has been driven by a logic that is unmistakable and repeatedly successful. This is the unification of phenomena that appear to be very different and have little in common.

Just think of it. Until a few hundred years ago, the sun was this one thing, and the stars were something else. Scientific progress was made when the two were unified: the sun is a star. The heavens are made of the same stuff of the sublunary world. Earth goes around a large body like the moons go around Jupiter. Or motion and rest are the same (this is the foundation of modern physics). Or when Darwin unified all of life with the tree of life. Or when all living things were found to use the same materials of reproduction. The deeper we dig into the reality around us, the more unity we find. This is why the unity between the world of visible objects and the invisible quantum realm is of the greatest importance. Why should unification stop here when it has been found everywhere else? So, my question is: What does a parallel universe bring together with the universe we know? Also, I will never fuck with the second law of thermodynamics. Time, which I believe is more fundamental than space (read Fotini Markopoulou brilliant paper "Space does not exist, so time can"), only goes in one direction. Into the future.