What is the anchor of Reality? Why is All irreversible?

My wife was cooking in my mom’s kitchen, knocked something over or did somthing, and in a flash a small ceramic ladle holder was destroyed. This bothered her quite a bit, even the object was of no great monetary value.

She can be quite insightful at times. She said, “That thing getting broken was just like a person dying.” The irreversibility of it.

Death, indeed, is the ultimate teacher of Time’s Arrow. That which was alive a moment before is not now, and there is not a power in the Universe that can bring it back. And in the case of an accident, a quick and arbitrary death, the enormity of the change is so great that it can barely be faced.

But the Universe provides counterexamples. We arrange the chairs in the room and put them back. We battle entropy, constantly cleaning and repairing our personal environments. The power of the body to heal cheats death continually, so long as that final blow or illness prevents it. Yet the objects around us that have the appearance of solidity and permanence (“Oh yes, that chair that’s always there in the corner”) are at every moment bombarded by matter and energy, flaking, eroding, dissolving despite our desire not to notice it.

Things are in flux. Change is constant. But, having noticed this obvious fact, I can’t help but ask too contradictory questions:

What causes Reality, once it has taken a new path, to stay on it?

and, the corrollary

What causes Reality to continue in being at all?

If I put a scratch in my desk, there it is. I cannot reboot the desk, reimagine it, or will it back to its previous state. At the same time, why don’t the atoms that form it simply dissolve? Why does the Universe hold together at all?

The pat response is to say, The laws of Nature are such that things are as they are now. But this is merely to notice the fact without explaining it. And indeed, Big Bang theory avers that there were no laws within the Singularity; all these came into being with the Bang itself. No laws means no laws. Theoretically, there was not even a law to determine what laws eventually would come into being.

I have an answer. It is not a good one. But I see this Universe as ours as being a mathematical construct in which laws and principles have been put into place to foster a certain variety of consciousness. This is not effected by a personal God, but rather by the very principles of pattern and number themselves.

I think this intuition is backed up by the notion of Vishnu the Preserver, or God as maintainer of Reality. We sense that existence is, at some level, an arbitrary construct–it requires someone behind it saying “yes” to it at every moment. But I see the Universe not coming to being in a top-down manner, but rather in a bottom-up manner. Number has built this world, but one of nigh-infinite combinations.

I welcome your thoughts on the matter.

The Big Bang did not “come into being” - there was no nothing-to-something transition or event. The singularity at one end of our universe is timeless. One might say that the universe has always existed.

As to the question “why is the universe as it is?” (inclusive of fine tuning and time’s arrow), I would offer a version of the anthropic principle but widened to apply to the multiverse under M Theory:

The universe as we know it, having 3 dimensions of space and one of time and those specific fine-tuned parameters, is only one region of the greater universe, which has 2 dimensional, 4 dimensional and timeless regions each with differently tuned parameters. Those regions (whether or not they are observable from this) are not suitable for the evolution of stars, crockery or, ultimately, offal-based memory.

Those parameters and dimensions do not change in a given region any more than I suddenly find myself living in Libya.

well, since you’ve already mentioned entropy, i must assume you are equated with the second law of thermodynamics. energy is required to battle entropy, and with a constant amount of energy in the universe across time, everything must tend toward entropy rather than away from it.

on to your comments, then:

i have no idea what you’re really trying to say here. perhaps a clarification of the meaning of your terms would help. what is this “Reality” of which you speak, for example?

i’m not sure that we can do better. in fact, i’m pretty sure we can’t. it is impossible for us, say, to know the limits of the universe, since we would then have to have some knowledge of what lies outside the universe, that we may observe the limits. similarly, in order for something to have an effect on the entire universe, it would have to be independent of the universe, or it too would be affected. in order to have knowledge of that, we would again have to have knowledge of what is beyond the universe, which we by definition can never have.

this is not precisely what the big bang theory concludes. more accurately, we can have no knowledge of what happened before the big bang because there is no link in a causal chain. we can have no knowledge of what occurred in that singularity since it would have no effect on what came after, so it is improper for us to speak about it in a scientific way.

myself, i have to stick with the pat scientific answer. that’s just the way it is, as the song goes. if it wasn’t that way, we wouldn’t be able to talk about it. i see no need for extra-universal causation theories, or gods, or the like. it is probably nonsensical to talk of such things since they can, by definition, have no direct effect on our universe that we can know.

“That’s what facing mortality is all about: realizing that time is the ultimate independent variable.” -my college Differential Equations teacher

There are moments, in any given day, when I cease to believe. And an awareness of the void rains down in a peculiar way. All of the nouns and verbs become arbitrary.

It doesn’t take long before an ordinary demand (a screaming baby, a ringing phone, my own hunger) distracts me, and I resume the burden of safe confinement within my particulars.

One day in college I was walking to class and forgot about my feet. Naturally I fell over, picking up a few scrapes and looking rather silly. I’ve tried to keep my feet in mind ever since. But I imagine one of these days I’ll forget and no one and no thing will call me back.

Just to be clear, you don’t really know that — because it’s unknowable. The reason it’s called a “singularity” is because at that point, the equation is undefined. No statement with a truth value can even be made about the singularity.

To address the OP, the reason why all is irreversible is because all is irreversible. I know that’s a tautology, and probably aesthetically unsatisfying, but epistemologically speaking, tautology is the only truth there is.

Including the statement above.

And the statement I just wrote.

And THAT one too.


Perhaps the Universe is just two giant mirrors facing one another. Nothingness is then multipied into infinite images, feedback then occurs and we percieve (wrongly) that which is actually Nothingness to be Somethingness.

The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes - ah, that is where the art resides! - Artur Schnabel

In a moment of grace, we can grasp eternity in the palm of our hand. That is the gift given to creative individuals who can identify with the mysteries of life through art. - Marcel Marceau

It’s a charming theory, but not universeally accepted. Haw haw, pun intended! :smiley:

This theory is convenient for materialists, too. Hey, consciousness and crap like that is just a coincidence! It has to happen somewhere in this big new crazy brane-y universe we’ve thought up.

But it may be so. Still, the question remains, why is the universe you describe above the way it is?

And even if all that is true, what anchors even a single atom’s existence somewhere therein? It’s not as though there are signs posted, “Do Not Disintegrate.” What causes the rules?


Anyway, just so you know, “No statement with a truth value can even be made about the singularity” is not a statement about the singularity. It is a statement about statements.

Not capitalizing your words is a capital crime! :smiley: Just joking! It’s a lowercase crime. Hey, I’m joshing you! :wink:

By Reality I mean, basically, the Universe.

I don’t agree with some of what you said. We certainly do understand a lot about the Universe without having the ability to stand outside it, as it were. We know how fusion works in the sun, for instance. We know that neutrinos are produced. It all adds up quite neatly; intellects say “hmm” and are satisfied.

But an infinite number of questions remain: Why does gravity accelerate objects at that particular rate? What “causes” gravity, anyway? What “causes” the Universe to “be” in a particular state after a particular action (i.e., why is the ladle holder broken instead of not broken)?

Why is the universe reality? It is nothing more than a probability distribution.

I believe that other worlds exist in which time functions in a completely different fashion, and the irreversibility we see here does not exist.

But for the sake of this argument, the Universe works for me.

You seem to agree that the foundation of Reality (not just this material Universe) is pattern and number, no?

Shouldn’t such a profound discussion of opinions be in IMHO?

An acquaintance from a rural county of a southern state related the following true account of a mountain church revival. The announcement was made that at the end of the Thursday evening preaching that they would raise the dead. My friends brother, accompanyied by a sheriffs deputy went to the church before starting time. The deputy walked down the aisle to the coffin set up at the front with a sallow corpse resting serenely. He asked the preacher if this was the corpse they were going to raise from the dead. The preacher replied “Yep, it sure is.” Again the deputy asked , Is he dead? Again the preacher replied “Yep, he sure is.” Yet again the deputy asked, “Are you real sure he’s dead, and again the preacher replied “Yep, he sure is, he was shot with a .45 in an accident.”
In such a setting it is difficult to distinguis between fantasy and reality.
The deputy unsnapped the holster at his side, slowly pulled out an old .45 acp and slowly and deliberately pulled back the slide to cock and load it as he released the slide and said, " Well since he already has one slug in him a second won’t make it any harder to raise him now, would it?”
No sooner said than the “corpse” jumped out of the casket and streaked out the side door as fast as he could go.
The raising was just about an hour or too ahead of schedule!

Fitzgerald’s translation of one quatrain.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

In other words , “Time Marches On”


Oh yes, I forgot that GD is purely for politics and discussions of the age of consent.

Philosophy is out of place here. My bad.

Ah, a fellow being! Reality guides your thoughts. Life is very strange, and confusing. The vast majority of people (it seems) refuse to think the thoughts you expressed, for various reasons. Reality is very disturbing to our primitive minds, even though men from thousands of years back have been asking the same questions.
You are right (I think) in thinking things are from the bottom up. For example, the thing we call our ‘consciousness’, most people regard as the thing that controls everything else. The opposite is true! Our awake minds are the result of everything else - from the unaware-part of our minds, from the rest of our highly complex body (a guarguantan drugs-machine etc), from the rest of life and everything else! Free will a total myth, though please don’t think I am socialist, for they are the greatest denyers of truth of all.
Of course, we are little beings, who hardly know anything, but your post is brave and true, and I salute you.

we certainly do understand a lot about how things work in parts of the universe. we can never understand the entire universe without stepping outside it, however. for example, we could never know if we were in fact observing the entire universe, since we can’t by definition perceive its limits.

well, the old answer to these questions is still the second law of thermodynmaics, which sort of dictates cause and effect. however, quantum mechanics makes things a whole lot weirder and more interesting, introducing as they do the possibility (and therefore necessity) of uncaused events.

in general, my response remains that there are a lot of questions that it makes no sense to ask (not just that we don’t have an answer, but that the questions themselves are meaningless given our understanding of the universe). as far as numbers and patterns, those are human constructs which we assign to the the world to try to make what we observe more predictable and understandable.

Yes, but I don’t think it’s necessary to step outside the universe to understand its properties. If we know how gravity works in the vicinity of the Earth, then, presumably, we would know how gravity works on the other side as well. In any case, there is still left the question as to why the properties of the universe are as they are and not otherwise. Simply saying, Well, we’re on one part of a brane, and the properties could be different elsewhere, still doesn’t explain why the properties vary, or why the whole system of branes or what have you doesn’t just dissolve in an instant.

well, the old answer to these questions is still the second law of thermodynmaics, which sort of dictates cause and effect. however, quantum mechanics makes things a whole lot weirder and more interesting, introducing as they do the possibility (and therefore necessity) of uncaused events.

Understanding laws is important. My real question is what anchors those laws. Noting that there is an arrow of time doesn’t tell us WHY there is an arrow of time. In some ways, the arrow of time is counter-intuitive. We design our own systems that we create (one simple example being a resettable video game) to be reversible.

Can’t buy that, as it’s a contradiction. We would have to understand it in order to know it’s beyond our understanding. I have little doubt that many things are beyond our understanding, but we are unable to specify beforehand what they would be.

I’ve debated this point heavily before. Any argument that pattern and number are mere human constructs and not the Truth is a blatant self-contradiction, inasmuch as modus ponens/tollens or some kind of logical/mathematical principle must needs be invoked in order to make the argument in the first place.