struck me in looking at this graph, in addition to the recency of the
"breakthrough" phenomenon, is how it took off in the late 1990s, only
to decline fairly precipitously in the last few years. Yes some of that
decline had to do with the collapse of the dot-com thing, but I wonder
how much of it has had to with a less talismanic faith in this
ever-near thing we call breakthroughs. And if so, perhaps we are
heading to a healthier place, one where iterative advances, as opposed
to magical thinking, holds more sway. I doubt that, but it's nice to
imagine it might be so.
That's Paul Kedrosky, who also writes: " Deep inside I'm confident that the current experiment in mega-science -- more than 70% of the scientists who have ever lived are alive today -- will pay off, but how long and at what price, I have no idea."
Wired.com: So the Big Bang starts it all. But you theorize that there’s something before the Big Bang. Something that makes it happen. What’s that?
Carroll: If you find an egg in your refrigerator, you’re not surprised. You don’t say, “Wow, that’s a low-entropy configuration. That’s unusual,” because you know that the egg is not alone in the universe. It came out of a chicken, which is part of a farm, which is part of the biosphere, etc., etc. But with the universe, we don’t have that appeal to make. We can’t say that the universe is part of something else. But that’s exactly what I’m saying. I’m fitting in with a line of thought in modern cosmology that says that the observable universe is not all there is. It’s part of a bigger multiverse. The Big Bang was not the beginning.
And if that’s true, it changes the question you’re trying to ask. It’s not, “Why did the universe begin with low entropy?” It’s, “Why did part of the universe go through a phase with low entropy?” And that might be easier to answer.
Wired.com: In this multiverse theory, you have a static universe in the middle. From that, smaller universes pop off and travel in different directions, or arrows of time. So does that mean that the universe at the center has no time?
Carroll: So that’s a distinction that is worth drawing. There’s different moments in the history of the universe and time tells you which moment you’re talking about. And then there’s the arrow of time, which give us the feeling of progress, the feeling of flowing or moving through time. So that static universe in the middle has time as a coordinate but there’s no arrow of time. There’s no future versus past, everything is equal to each other.