The more we learn about the universe, the more we discover just how diverse all its planets, stars, nebulae and unexplained chunks of matter really are. So what is all this matter doing in our universe, other than just floating in space?
Well, it just so happens that there is a theory that gives a kind of raison d'etre to our universe and all the objects flying through it. If true, it would mean that our universe is nothing more than a black hole generator, or a means to produce as many baby universes as possible. To learn more, we spoke to the man who came up with the idea.
In his book, The Life of the Cosmos, Smolin proposed that Darwinian processes still apply at the extreme macro-scale and to non-biological entities. Because the universe is a potentially replicative unit, he suggests that it's subject to selectional pressures. Consequently, nearly everything the universedoes is geared toward replication.
Of cosmological singularities and baby universes"Everything that falls into a black hole doesn't just hit the cosmological singularity and just stop evolving so that time simply comes to an end," he says, "Time continues and everything that fell into the black hole would have a future where the singularity was, and that region is what we call a baby universe."
A Darwinian modelFor example, if the cosmological constant and speed of light were slightly tweaked, or if the law of gravity became too weak or strong, the new universe could be suboptimal in its ability to make massive quantities of massive stars. In such a universe, matter might not be able to coalesce into stars, or galaxies might be unable to form.
Life as epiphenomenon?Similarly, philosophers like to talk about the Anthropic Principle — the notion that any analysis of the universe and what happens within it must must take into account the presence of observers (i.e. intelligent life). We're subject to an observational selection effect, they argue, which means we can only ever observe a universe that's friendly to life.
"My impression is the idea has not been refuted even though several people have tried," he told us. "It doesn't mean the idea is true, but the idea has stood up to attempts to falsify it."