The designs currently in the Cosmic Vertigo series recalls the excellent Cosmic Vertigo podcast series with Dr.s Duffy & Baur. Cosmic vertigo is that feeling you get when you realise the implications of something at the scale of the infinite cosmos for our terrestrial life.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilt by all those grand emperors so that in glory and triumph they can be the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.”

Carl Sagan


  • A Quantum Bubble of Death?

The first design was influenced by Dr Katie Mack’s cheerful recent book “The End Of Everything”. We don't know if the vacuum energy in our universe is a true ground state or just metastable. If it is metastable, there could be a bubble of space with altered physics. We certainly got cosmic vertigo when Dr Mack covered this intriguing notion that the Universe may be consumed by such a quantum bubble expanding at the speed of light … so at least we wouldn’t have time to see it coming!

IF it is metastable, there could be a bubble of space with altered physics (that might be incompatible with life) expanding outward at the speed of light. Listen to Katie’s gleeful description of the implications of such a metastable Higgs field and a consequent bubble of true vacuum expanding throughout the universe on The Numberphile podcast (about 4 min from the end).  In this scenario you are first incinerated as the bubble wall hits you and then inside the bubble your molecules and very atoms don’t hold together as particle physics is totally different AND THEN the space inside gravitationally collapses so you effectively turn into a black hole! And the best bit – because it’s a quantum event you can’t tell if and when or even where its going to happen! Astrophysicist Paul Sutter also covers the vacuum state and bubble nucleation with a great explanation in his Ask A Spaceman podcast.

  • Infinite Possibilities For A Spacefaring Humanity?

The second design recognises that the cosmos gives us Boltzmann’s infinite possibilities to aspire to.

“Ludwig Boltzman who spent his life studying statistical mechanics died in 1906 by his own hand. Paul Erhenfest carrying on his work died similarly in 1933. Now it is our turn to study statistical mechanics”

Professor Whiteson of “Daniel & Jorge Explain The Universe” podcast fame recalling the introduction of a statistical mechanics textbook.

The importance of equal opportunity to fulfil those possibilities is a wicked problem that has been with us always but we must do better if we are to stop wasting or misdirecting the talent that is here - how many Einsteins or Noethers have we failed to nurture. Think education is expensive? We see and experience the much larger costs of ignorance and the neglect of human talent everyday. Lets get better at expanding, sharing and applying knowledge.

"Much learning does not teach understanding” Heroclitus

  • Me, My Boltzmann Brain … & You?

Joan Armatrading’s “Me, Myself, I” self-assertion anthem was an easier and more popular lyric but the third design riffs on the Boltzmann brain idea. Is the probability of a universe popping into existence more or less likely than a brain filled with false memories popping into existence? Is our “real” life a simulation or a creation of our brain seeking a quantum of solace in an infinite cosmos?  The third design was also prompted by cosmologist Katie Mack’s "The End of Everything" book and a “Daniel & Jorge Explain The Universe” podcast giving a very accessible introduction to the Boltzmann Brain thought experiment and its rationale.

Listen also to Robin Ince on the BBC’s podcast on the Science of Cooking (about 42 ½ min in) hoping that his Boltzmann’s Brain gets to eat mangoes from a golden spoon before dissolving into the void.

Ask us about our upcoming fourth design!

What is your favourite cosmic vertigo thought :-)