The “Balloon Universe” and Metaphysics

Serious physicists puzzling over certain serious questions have recently been taking a fresh look at the notion that the Universe is like an expanding balloon. That postulation explains (among other things) how it is that stars and galaxies are somehow all moving away from each other: all matter is on the surface of the balloon.

I like to read articles about the leading edge of physics, and then give some thought to how well – if at all – the revamped scientific theories fit with what I believe I understand about metaphysics. Doing so in relation to the “Balloon Universe” made for a particularly interesting exercise.

To be clear, likening the Universe to an expanding balloon is metaphor (or perhaps simile or analogy; let’s not quibble over which is the more apt expression to use here). But it seems to be a useful one, in terms of explaining things that would otherwise stump our physicists.

As for metaphysics, I remind myself – again – that what lies beyond physics (which is what the domain of “metaphysics” is) will defeat any attempt to explain it in terms of physical matter. Yet, physicists are so often determined to explain our reality in terms of things are that physically measurable. That exercise is doomed to failure as soon as we introduce anything that lies beyond three dimensions of space and one of time. A diehard “materialism” – i.e., the notion that nothing is “real” except matter – has proved a prison from which too many of our best scientists never find an escape. They will not risk the equivalent of gazing directly at the sun by tiptoeing beyond the physical realm.

The notion of “metaphysics” is of course antithetical to materialism. Further, since my musings here are by no means a “scientific” article, no prison confines them.

According to the article I was recently reading, the notion is that the external wall of the Balloon Universe is made up of “invisible scalar fields” (whatever that might be) and particles that “are mere excitations/resonances in those fields”. All matter is within the “3D hypersurface” (again, whatever that might be) of fields that make up the wall of the “balloon”.

Hmm, I found myself thinking. Matter precipitates out of resonances in a “field” – a field that sounds a lot like what I think of as the “Quantum Field”. That makes sense to me. As it would have made sense, I imagine, to Max Planck, who famously said (about a century ago) “I regard matter as derivative from consciousness”.

To explain, the “quantum” realm can be thought of as a world of thought. As any Schrodinger’s cat could tell you, matter and what happens to it somehow and in some manner precipitates out of thought.

Even the phenomenon of “quantum entanglement” is easier to understand if we think of everything inside the surface of the balloon as the world of thought. Everything happening on the surface of the balloon is interconnected through the inside of the balloon. At that level – the quantum level – the instant interconnectedness of the Universe demonstrates itself. Whereas, on the surface of the balloon – i.e., in the world of matter – everything is subject to the “speed limit” that is the speed of light.

I also like the notion that the surface of the balloon is a kind of screen on which 3D pixelated matter is projected – emanating from something “more real” than what is being projected on the screen. (A shoutout is due here to Rizwan Virk for his eloquent description, in The Simulation Hypothesis, of matter in terms of 3D pixels.) In trying to picture that in my mind (again, as metaphor), I find it helpful to think of the iconic Las Vegas “Sphere” (Google that if you aren’t familiar with it), which is a mind-blowingly large, spherical array of connected LED screens.

Consider in this context the maxim “As above, so below” – i.e., the notion that the physical world precipitates out of and aligns to the “Quantum World”. The “below” is the surface of the balloon – i.e., the world of matter; the “above” is what is inside the balloon. (Yes, that is a bit of a plot twist, spatially, but it is easy enough to picture and to grasp.)

More interesting yet is another longstanding question physicists have looked to the Balloon Universe to possibly answer. They can’t seem to find a center to the Universe; rather, everything seems to be moving away from everything else – as opposed to moving away from an assumed center where the Big Bang took place. Their problem, here again, is that they are looking in the material world to find a center to it. Whereas all matter, according to the Balloon Universe, is limited to the surface of the Balloon. The center of the Balloon Universe, therefore, must be other than matter – and thus will have no physical location.

Inside the surface of the Balloon Universe, is the world of consciousness. And at the center (in a metaphysical sense) of all that: God!

Again, not a physical center; let’s not start launching probes with “God or Bust” painted on them. Rather, the creative force behind everything that exists in the Balloon Universe is inside of, at the centre of, and fundamental to the ongoing existence of, the Balloon Universe. I observe, from that perspective, that any inference that “God is Dead” could not be further from the truth.

No, I am not trying to prove anything here, nor do these musings belong in the same conversation as the scientific literature. Rather, what I advocate is an expansion of the conversation, a broadening of the search. All for the purpose of bridging what has long been the gap between the sometimes-too-serious study of physics and the more-serious-than-it-gets-credit-for study of metaphysics.

The gap is narrowing. In every field of study where there are those who will look more closely, and who will dare to allow themselves to catch a glimpse beyond the prison of materialism, we are collectively beginning to build bridges.

So many years ago, I first came across the words “You create your own reality; there is no asterisk, there is no fine print”. Although those words resonated strongly with me, I could not then begin to grasp them as other than a product of some unseen and unknowable magic. Several decades hence, I can see that, someday, the notion that everything in the world of matter precipitates out of the world of thought may be generally acknowledged as a scientifically accurate statement.

Keep exploring, dear physicists; you may stumble upon God yet.