The Arrow of Time

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Quotes of the Day

"...a complete explanation of the arrow of time
requires explaining
why the universe started out as it did.
It is a problem in cosmology."
--Stephen Hawking, 1992
It’s not crazy to imagine
A symmetric universe
In which those particles fan out again
Like a reverse Big Bang
This might be the case
If the Big Bang resulted from,
An incredibly improbable,
Universe-sized entropy fluctuation.
There is no evidence that this is true
But, if it were true,
We are presented with a fun scenario;
If entropy increases backwards in time
Before the Big Bang,
Does that mean
that time ran in reverse
Before the Big Bang?
Would that reverse Big Bang
Lead to a Time Reversed Universe?
--Matt O’Dowd, PBS Space Time 2020-11-18, The Arrow of Time and How to Reverse It. Time stamp 9:11 to 9:39

Contemplation for the Day

Let us imagine

You are riding your elephant through the Northrop art gallery in Minneapolis. You are worried that your elephant, with her large mass and size, could accidentally damage the fragile works of art. But the security guards, in their gold uniforms, don't seem worried. You realize that there are very few exhibits in the gallery, so maybe you shouldn't be worried. In fact, there is just one painting. The gallery is dark: pitch black. The uniforms of the security guards glow faintly gold and the painting shines by its own light very brightly. It is a huge painting. It's frame hangs from the ceiling. The top of the frame is high above you and the bottom almost touches the floor. The painting is of a huge explosion, maybe a supernova.

"The Arrow Of Time: ; Northrop Gallery Illustration by Genevieve Townsend Nov 2021

Curious about what makes the painting glow, your elephant tries to walk around behind the painting but a security guard steps forward and stops her, "I am sorry, this is the Northrop gallery; you are only allowed to view the painting from the South and look at its North surface."

Frightened by the idea of getting in trouble for breaking the rules, your elephant retreats from the painting a little. You look back at the painting from a greater distance and notice a bust on a plinth that was invisible in the dark until you saw its silhouette against the brightness of the painting. The bust is facing the painting but is bent forward looking towards the floor, not the painting. Again curious, your elephant approaches the bust. As she does, you see that it is the bust of a man with a large square beard and a stern rectangular face. You recognize Ludwig Boltzmann. You notice that the bust has arms and that one of the arms is extended and is holding a magnifying glass which is focused on a tiny copy of the painting. This tiny copy also shines with its own light albeit much more faintly. As you get closer the bust notices you and looks up to see who you are.

You are more than a little shocked that the bust can move. "What are you doing?" you blurt out.

Boltzmann replies, "I have made this little painting so that I can experiment and determine why paintings only shine from their North surface." He continues to examine the North surface of his little painting.

Your elephant is really incapable of stifling her curiosity. She begins to step gingerly around Boltzmann, so as not to disturb his work, and in order to look at the South side of his painting. Curious as to whether he is correct about it only glowing on its North side. But a security guard steps forward and stops you, "I am sorry, this is the Northrop gallery; you are only allowed to view paintings from the South, and so look at their North sides in this gallery."

So you stop and turn to Boltzmann, "How do you know that paintings only shine from their North surface?" you ask, "Have you ever seen a painting from the North and looked at its South side?"

Boltzmann laughs derisively, "Of course not! It is impossible to look at a painting's South surface. It would be completely dark. Look North, do you see any paintings?"

You look behind you and see only pitch black, "No there is nothing there but surely, if the security guards let us, we could look at either your tiny painting or the big painting from the North and see its South surface."

Boltzmann shakes his head, "Obviously, if we did we would see nothing. There must be paintings to the North of us and yet when we look we see nothing. Paintings only shine from their North side. Our only hope of understanding them is to examine their North sides carefully."

You watch Boltzmann as he continues to examine his little painting. But your elephant gets bored and turns toward the big painting. After a while, curiosity gets the better of her again and she bends down low to the floor in order to look under the big painting and see what she can on the other side. You put the right side of your head against the floor and close your left eye so that you are looking along the floor and under the painting's frame. The brightness of the frame and the darkness beyond make it very hard to see. But after some time, you think you can make out a pair of gold shoe clad feet facing away from you and an elephant, its head on the floor staring back. You are just becoming convinced that you are looking at a mirror behind the big painting when you notice a sign glowing faintly in the distance behind the painting which says, "Southpor Gallery".

Then suddenly the base of a golden throne is blocking your view from directly in front of you. You look up to see El sitting on his Golden throne above you.

"Uncertain One! Anything you saw looking past the painting was probably just your imagination." El says.

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