Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Cosmological Koans

A Journey to the Heart of Physical Reality

By Anthony Aguirre

Narrated by Jonathan Todd Ross

Anthony Aguirre (Author, theoretical cosmologist, Presidential Chair for the Physics of Infomration at U of C. in Santa Cruz)

Anthony Aquirre offers a modicum of insight (enlightenment) to the concept of quantum reality.  The use of the word modicum is not to suggest Aquirre’a effort is insignificant but understanding quantum reality remains fragmentary and obscure.

The title of the book is a clue to Aquirre’s fragmentary insight.  To begin with, one must know the definition of koan.  A koan is “a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning with the intent of provoking enlightenment”. 

Aquirre tells a story of a wanderer whose peregrination leads to a meeting with a Jinn who explains life is pre-ordained and cannot be changed because of the laws of quantum reality. 

The Jinn tells the wanderer he can see the wanderer’s future because fundamental quantum particles of his being are known to the Jinn.  The Jinn can see how each particle interacts with the wanderer’s thoughts and action to determine what will happen in the wanderer’s future.  Though there are billions of interactions the Jinn can calculate probabilities of every action the wanderer will take in the future.

Quantum physics is a science of probability that examines the fabric of space-time.  Experiment confirms that infinitesimal quantum particles can be in two places at the same time. 

However, the particles cannot be both measured and located without effecting their path.  If the particles cannot be both measured and located, how can a future be precisely predicted?  Putting aside complexity and the problem of measurement and location to predict the future, Aquirre argues quantum physics has opened a new door to the nature of reality. 

Schrodinger’s cat in the box is either dead or alive but you cannot know without opening the box. 

Aquirre notes humans may see the world as fictive because reality is trapped in one’s mind which cannot see the fundamental particles of nature. 

The example would be “green” as a figment of an interaction of one’s mind with what the eye sees; not the essence of what is identified as color because there is no fundamental particle that is the color “green”.

Aquirre explains the arrow of time can only move forward.  Time travel to the past is science fiction.  Traveling to the past cannot happen based on quantum theory because the past is fixed. 

Aquirre is a cosmologist.  He discusses the ideas of a created and expanding universe.  He refers to the science of Gallio, Newton, Schrodinger, and Einstein.  There is a past and a present, but the past can never be relived, and the present is past as soon as it becomes present. 

There is only a present with a probabilistic future. The future can theoretically be predicted based on fundamental particles of a quantum universe, but it requires the capacity of a mythical Jinn who can compute an infinite number of variables.

Aquirre leaves listeners in Plato’s cave that shows only shadows of reality.

One comes away from “Cosmological Koans” with the belief that reality remains unknown.  Complete understanding of life’s truth (if there is one) rests in the future of science and mathematics, a supercomputer like a Jinn, or God.

Author: chet8757

Graduate Oregon State University and Northern Illinois University, Former City Manager, Corporate Vice President, General Contractor, Non-Profit Project Manager, occasional free lance writer and photographer for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

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