God’s Bath

As I’ve said before (with apologies to Peter Cook) I coulda been an ‘ard SF writer, but I never ‘ad the maths. I love a good analogy, but equations just seem to slide off my brain. How much of this tendency is down to my mild dyscalculia (if the condition can be said to apply to not-real-numbers) and how much to my lazy disposition I really couldn’t say, but the result is that my science reading tends towards books with brightly coloured covers and internal illustrations as sold in WH Smiths.

I’m currently enjoying Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Impossible, a book in the tradition of the best-selling The Physics of Star Trek. I do have a couple of personal quibbles: his ultra-rational approach means he’s somewhat leery of areas where science and technology abut softer questions (the implications of teleportation for a possible human soul warrants only the briefest of footnotes, for example) and his general knowledge of areas outside his remit can be somewhat patchy. (On the other hand he has a fondness for parenthesis that I can relate to.) But overall I’d say this is a better book that Physics of Star Trek, with a far wider brief and an easier-to-read style, as well as being more up to date.

I’m about half way through and I’ve already taken several pages of notes, but in the way of such things, my reading has also sparked thoughts at something of tangent to the subjects I’ve been reading about. Specifically, I’ve been considering the multiverse.

When I was a little girl I decided, until a better model of reality came along, to think of the universe we live in as a goldfish bowl. It’s a sphere full of stuff, looking out from inside isn’t really practical, and an outside observer can see in pretty clearly. This bowl was in God’s front room (obviously) and it was possible that God, being God, had more than one fishbowl-universe around the place. (My analogy fell down if I gave any thought to what might be outside God’s front room, because that would be a house, a street, a town, a country, a planet, a universe … oh pants.)

At university, in my mercifully ‘equation-lite’ astronomy lectures, I learnt about the ‘bubble’ universe theory, when during the inflationary period very soon after the big bang other universes might have been budded off. I think my lecturer even used the analogy of soap bubbles at the time.

One of the reasons I was taking the time to catch up on the latest pop-science was to help me get a better handle on ‘my’ universe (or rather multiverse) before I delve much further into the Hidden Empire. I’d already decided to accept universes-as-bubbles as a premise, and this morning, over tea and strawberry shortbread, I worked out what they were bubbles in. And the answer is …

God’s bath.

The water in the bath, in which said bubbles are suspended, is, of course, shiftspace. The analogy does require a caveat, in that the universe we live in would actually have to be smeared across the inner surface of a bubble as that’s the only way to make shiftspace the means of non-linear travel between points in our universe. And I know our universe has more than 2 dimensions, but I’m keeping my analogy nice and simple …

(I’m not saying, by the way, that there is necessarily a ‘God’ in the conventional sense of the word in my invented version of reality … or in anyone else’s.)

However, this line of thought, whilst useful to me for my stories, and probably an improvement on the ‘goldfish bowl model’, does still leave one important question unanswered: What’s outside the bathroom?

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