The Boltzmann Brain conundrum, named after physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, holds that it’s possible for an entirely fully conscious mind, a Godlike Superintelligence, or even a new Big Bang to randomly appear in the cosmos via spontaneous particle entropy decrease given enough time (10^10^50 years to be exact). The conundrum, in short, is the idea that our dying universe in the far future will eventually produce either a new singularity or an infinite amount of singularities by extensive trial and error of particle density arrangements. That if you wait long enough statistically speaking, then quantum fluctuations will inevitably appear in the same infinitely dense region of space and create new big bangs through quantum tunneling and spontaneous entropy dipping.
This may sound absurd given the phrasing, but when broken down piece by piece it starts to make more sense statistically and scientifically:
Entropy is the number of ways in which a system can be arranged. It is a measure of how far from equilibrium a system is and how likely you are to find “order” in said system. If you count up all the possible arrangements of particles in our high-entropy universe, there would still be a tiny proportion in highly ordered arrangements in temporary low-entropy situations:
For example, tiny localized dips in entropy may very have made evolution possible in a universe where the 2nd law of thermodynamics doesn’t favor ordered systems like “self-replicating DNA molecules”. But given enough time, these dips in low-entropy can create almost anything…
THE BOLTZMANN BRAIN
Firstly we have to ask, is the universe infinite? Because if it is, then ANY non-impossible event you could ever think of, no matter how improbable, will eventually happen with 100 percent certainty. Whenever you talk about infinity, a lot of strange ideas come into play. Infinite space would essentially guarantee that even new big bang singularities would appear by spontaneous entropy decrease, it would just be a matter of time. But what if the universe is NOT infinite?
Even if space isn’t infinite the Bolzmann Brain can still be created. Our universe may not be infinite in quantity of matter, but it is most certainly infinite in time. As we speak, the universe is accelerating indefinitely thanks to the momentum from dark energy. In terms of the finite, there is a very tiny statistical chance that all the atoms in your living room could spontaneously shift their position and move to one tiny corner of your room.
The chances of this happening are so small that the last star will die long before it happens. However, the vast majority of our universe’s life will take place not before, but AFTER all the stars have died.
You can imagine a situation, an incomprehensible amount of time, where quantum fluctuations spontaneously produce a molecule of water, even more unlikely, a glass of whiskey. Even perhaps, given enough time and space, quantum tunneling would randomly produce a brain with the exact memories and consciousness that I currently have now. The time it would take for this to happen would outlive the existence of stars, even the existence of black holes. But eventually nonetheless, these quantum fluctuations would pop a mind just like mine into existence, or anything for that matter, perhaps even a copy of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundations” trilogy. All it would take is time, enough time to make it statistically likely.
When we have a fabric that includes every possible expression of matter and energy, that must mean there are many expressions approaching something that approximates a mind, biological or not. This leads to the idea that within our universe, or even a possible multiverse, there could be all these God-like minds floating around, perhaps more intelligent than humanity could possibly conceive of. Sentient beings birthed into a dying universe through the pure statistical randomness of quantum fluctuations and interactions. Of course, they would not necessarily be physical brains, but rather configurations of particles that have randomly produced intelligence.
Overall, things will come and go, but the only way this phenomenon could create something permanent is if it were to create a new singularity, a new big bang, a new universe from inside the dying one…
THE BOLTZMANN UNIVERSE
One day the universe is going to die. In 1 trillion years, star formation will end and dark energy will have pushed all the galaxies away from our observable horizon. In 1 quadrillion years all the stars will die. In 10^106 years even all the black holes will eventually decay. But the good news is that subatomic particles will be around hauntingly long after that. Given INFINITE time, any non-impossible arrangement will inevitably happen.
The estimated time for a Boltzmann brain to appear in the vacuum of space via spontaneous entropy decrease is 10^10^50 years. A self-aware conscious entity floating around suddenly appearing in a completely empty cosmos where all the stars have died, contemplating the nothingness. Of course, it wouldn’t be able to survive the vacuum of space, but maybe a Boltzmann Solar system would. You’ll need the fluctuations to randomly create stars and planets to support these new beings, just tack on a few more zeros to the end of that previous number.If you waited long enough, there’d be enough large fluctuations to form an entire galaxy.
In fact, if you keep rolling the dice long enough, you’ll eventually get enough particle arrangements to produce a big bang or another universe just like ours. Imagine you took all the particles in the universe popping in and out of existence and seeing them all randomly appear in the same location, this arrangement would be a singularity…
There’s a chance that all of those particles could appear in an infinitely dense region of space and undergo a rapid expansion, this would create a new Big Bang! Meaning a whole new universe could instantaneously appear in an infinite or extremely large amount of time (given enough quantum fluctuations).
But how long would this take? Theoretical Physicist Sean Caroll has worked out the number of particles and permutations to produce a big bang singularity from entropy dipping. You would need to wait for 10^10^10^56 years for it to happen. It’s a horrifyingly long time but it’s not forever.Around this vast timeframe, quantum tunnelling in any isolated patch of the vacuum could generate, via inflation, new Big Bangs, giving birth to new universes. However, if the universe IS infinite, then you’ll get an infinite amount of big bangs happening all the time in an infinite universe.
Because the total number of ways in which all the subatomic particles in the observable universe can be combined is 10^10^115 (calculated here) which, when multiplied by 10^10^10^56 (calculated here) disappears into the rounding error, this is also the time required for a quantum-tunneled and quantum fluctuation-generated Big Bang to produce a new universe identical to our own, assuming that every new universe contained at least the same number of subatomic particles and obeyed laws of physics within the range predicted by string theory (paper found here).
If you really think about it, a finite universe with infinite time could still yield an infinite amount of Bolzmann Universes popping up an infinite amount of times. Whether or not it would depend on how long it would take for every kind of particle in the universe to decay. But given sufficient time, in principle, it would create universes within dying universes within dying universes. An endless cycle of death and rebirth where a starless mother universe becomes the progenitor for many new universes as its particles decay and it nears the end of its life.
THE BOLTZMANN PARADOX
If you waited long enough, anything can happen statistically speaking. The observable universe we live in now could be nothing more than a Boltzmann fluctuation with nothing beyond it but an empty void. However, this phenomenon also has frightening philosophical implications.
Since it it is much more likely to get a random human from small fluctuations (a tiny bit away from thermo equilibrium) than it is to get a random galaxy (from a much larger fluctuation) where randomly generated humans could survive. This it means more humans will be born suffocating in the decaying vacuum of space than humans born in human-friendly environments. A horrifying consequence to think about. If you wanted to get a human being, you wouldn’t NEED to randomly generate a whole galaxy to get one, you’d only need to fluctuate out one small human brain with already pre-formed memories/experiences…
Here is the philosophical twist; This is means that it is far mores statistically likely for us to be living at the end of the universe as randomly generated Boltzmann Brains than it is to live in the beginning of the universe where we actually had those memories and happen to us. If you can’t seem to decide whether you are actually you or just randomely fluctuated Bolzmann Brain in a randomely fluctuated Galaxy cluster, then you, dear reader have stumbled on the Bolzmann Conundrum…
What if what we see as the observable universe is ALREADY a Boltzmann Brain? Why collapse a whole universe worth of particles when a single galaxy should be enough? Surely such systems should massively outnunumber the larger big bang collapses, as do the conscious observers that evolve in them? Even then, why not just have particles converge directly into a single human brain in exactly the right arrangement to have an illusion of memory that duplicates our current experience exactly?
This suggests that the vast statsitcal MAJORITY of consciouss experiences that occur in any given universe are randomly generated Bolzmann Brains, not evolved organisms. It is more statistically unlikely for a brain to arise through millions of years of evolution than for a brain to just pop into existence anywhere in a decaying universe. This is the conundrum of the Boltzmann Universe.
1) The False Vacuum Hypothesis – 10^10^120 years is the high estimate for the time for the Universe to reach its final energy state, even in the presence of a false vacuum. This will happen far sooner than the 10^10^10^56 years needed to create a Boltzmann Universe, by then the universe may have already moved to a lower energy state
2) Particle Decay – there is much debate over whether or not Absolute Zero can be reached, but if such a state is possible then quantum fluctuations won’t be.
3) Occam’s Razor – the Boltzmann Paradox is arguing probabilities before even understanding the prior assumptions. In this case, there’s no evidence that the big bang arose from a random fluctuation. Pondering the cause of the extremely low entropy big bang is probably no less futile than wondering if we existed a second ago.
4) Burden of Proof – The hypothesis is unfalsifiable, and unfalsifiable hypotheses aren’t scientifically valid. This may be a reason to reject it. In this sense, the Boltzmann Paradox is already starting to sound like the Simulation Hypothesis…
This means that we can debunk the Boltzmann Paradox in the same way we debunk the Simulation Hypothesis. Physicist Sean Caroll argued that if you consider yourself a Boltzmann brain, then you have admitted that you don’t have the capacity to deduce nature and your observations are not to be trusted. It would mean there is no point for you to even bother trying to deduce the origin of your existence if you yourself can’t trust your surroundings.
As with proponents of the Simulation Hypothesis, the premises of the very topic would make the entire conversation futile, so why even bother bringing it up? Why are you arguing with what you believe to be a simulation programmed to pretend they are not a simulation, is it not a waste of your time? Why would a Boltzmann Brain argue with what he believes to be another Boltzmann Brain?
Surely it’s simpler to accidentally manifest a brain with an instantaneous delusion about it’s ability to understand the world in complex ways, then it is to assemble one with true intelligence that can trust its own conclusions? Conclude that you’re a bolzman brain and you must deny your capacity to reach that conclusion. That is the solution to the Boltzmann Paradox.
It’s not known whether OUR big bang would have originated as a series of quantum fluctuations accidentally occupying the same space, but however it happened, we could never know. The Boltzmann Paradox hypothesis is also impossible to prove wrong, every experiment I do may be the randomly assembled delusion of a Boltzmann brain that happened to come into existence of the memory of trying to prove it isn’t a Boltzmann brain.
While the Boltzmann Paradox does not make a very strong argument, the statistical probability of Bolzmann Brains and “New Big Bangs” appearing at the end of the universe does seem to make a convincing case.
At best, it takes the pressure off that perhaps the universe as we know it won’t end after, reborn again an infinite amount of times in its dying host…