Science, physics especially, is driven from the exploration of one frontier to the next, with all the intervening space in between being thoroughly mapped out before the next frontier can even be seen. The last major frontier in physics was in 1900, with Max Planck proposing an effect that could not be explained by science up until then, and Albert Einstein thinking about what it would look like to travel at the speed of light.
These two discoveries unfolded into quantum mechanics and special relativity, leading to massive paradigm shifts in how we see and understand our Universe. They also led to our being able to map out our Universe from the smallest scales to the largest, and producing whole new avenues of scientific and technological enquiry.
Now, we are approaching the end of the exploration of this frontier. This isn’t to say that there will be no more discoveries, no more surprises. There will be. We don’t know everything, not even close. And the big paradigm shifting discoveries always come up unforeseen. But at the moment there are not many major discoveries. The biggest results in physics in the last few years was the discovery of the Higgs Boson and measuring gravity waves. Both of these were proving theoretical ideas that were thought up a few decades previously.
We’re in a similar state to the situation in the late 1800’s. There is a lot of work being done at the boundaries of the various disciplines, changing parameters to see what happens, putting a fresh spin on a previously determined law, or creating a new theory to explain some related phenomena. There will probably be some surprises, some effects that turn that field on its head, but nothing that will fundamentally change how we understand our world.
Now that doesn’t mean that we have to wait for the next frontier to magically appear from some unexplained research result. I think it’s already here. And it comes in two parts. I think we will move from exclusively studying the world around us and we will turn inward and look at the nature of consciousness itself and how it imprints upon the Universe. At the same time I think we will start to look outside our Universe entirely and try to see what is going on out there, as I suspect that these two phenomena might be linked.
Here is why. Quantum mechanics could not be explored through the methods and formalism of classical physics. They started out approximating things with classical methods, but the more they discovered, the more they realised it was insufficient. It ultimately required a completely new way of looking at the world, a way driven by uncertainty and probability, not certainty and linearity. We might be able to start approximating consciousness and its effects on the Universe with quantum mechanics, but it will ultimately require a paradigm shift.
So how does this relate to that which lies outside our Universe? First, that which is outside can’t be explained with the physics we use to explain what is inside. There is a boundary where our laws stop working. Interestingly, this also occurs in a few places inside our Universe, such as inside black holes and our own consciousness.
With regards to consciousness, there are three possibilities for how it works. First, it is an emergent phenomena, arising out of the fabric of our Universe through mechanisms as yet unknown. Second, it is an integral building block of our Universe, as much as quantum mechanics and electromagnetism is. Third, it is a property from outside our Universe and in some fashion overlays and imprints itself on our Universe.
The first idea lends itself to the point of view that life is a transitory experience, once it’s done it’s over, for good. The last two fit more in with the various ideas around souls and reincarnation, this is all presuming that consciousness is the representation of the soul in the matter of life.
The first two possibilities only speak to the structure of our Universe, nothing else. Should the third possibility be the one that is found to be true, that will give us an avenue to exploring outside our Universe. It will show that the structure of reality is a lot more interrelated and interconnected than we previously thought. The main consideration from this is that we would no longer be thinking of the outside as a separate entity from our Universe, but instead as another aspect of a larger whole of which our Universe is just a small part. If we can understand how the energies from outside imprint and interact with our Universe, we have a means of understanding the nature of our Universe at a much more fundamental level.
This is exciting stuff to think about.