Our time, our place – 03/18/2023 – Reinaldo José Lopes

Our time, our place – 03/18/2023 – Reinaldo José Lopes

“Everything in Every Place at the Same Time”, this year’s big Oscar winner, is a film with a huge heart and a head a little out of place. What, between us, is not the worst of mixtures — things tend to get much uglier when these factors are reversed. I think it’s instructive to address some of the scientific assumptions behind the Wang family’s adventures in the narrative—not to point out “mistakes” in the story, of course, but because it reveals interesting details about how many people came to metabolize modern science.

The first big goat in the room is, of course, the concept of the Multiverse, almost trivialized after so many Marvel movies hammered the idea. One thing the Michelle Yeoh-starring film doesn’t explain (and that’s okay, because that would be overturning its premise, after all) is that, at least for now, this Multiverse thing isn’t much more than a big stop-gap. , a cosmological and philosophical Band-Aid.

The idea that there are infinite universes out there derives, in large part, from the inability to explain why our Cosmos — the only one whose existence has been demonstrated so far, remember — feels like it’s been “set up” in a very specific way. .

This configuration, which involves, for example, the exact size of the elementary particles that make up everything that exists, allowed the emergence of stars, solar systems and living beings. Since there is no explanation for the origins of this cosmological regulation, the Multiverse is used as a steppe. There would be an infinity of lifeless universes —like the one with the stones with little eyes in the movie, remember?—, and we were simply lucky to be in one of the “fertile” Cosmos. The chances of testing this hypothesis experimentally someday are slim, if not nonexistent.

The Multiverse, however, is just the icing on the cake on a topic that reappears in conversations between mother and daughter of the Wang family. After all, says the daughter, if each new discovery shows how tiny we are compared to the Cosmos (even if it is only one), what meaning does anything we do have?

This type of questioning is common, but it seems to me to lose focus on what really matters. The realization that our Sun is a tiny star in the outskirts of the galaxy ignores the fact that complex and fragile things like multicellular life are only able to arise in quiet and obscure places.

That’s because big stars at the center of a galaxy have short life cycles and are subject to ripping gravitational forces. That is, there is no way for complex life to arise around them, because it needs stability and time — billions of years — to appear. In other words, we are exactly where we should be.

The film redeems itself from its prolonged flirtation with nihilism by positing kindness and the bonds of love as the solution to the Wangs’ dilemmas. And this is where I do my final argumentative pirouette. Call me corny —”mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”—but I’m willing to bet that love is an inevitable phenomenon wherever intelligent life exists.

I say this because intelligences like ours, as far as we know, depend heavily on a prolonged childhood and lasting social ties to evolve. So wherever conditions are right in the Universe (or the Multiverse, for that matter), something very much like human love will be an inseparable correlate of intelligent life. And that, as a wise old man said, is an encouraging thought, for the Wang family and for all of us.

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