Friday, 31 January 2014

A Science Myth

Science has myths as well as fiction. A myth is a meaningful story that recurs in fiction but is independent of any text. Thus, we all know of the Flood whether or not we have read the Biblical account of it. In that myth, the universe was created by separating the waters. The Flood undid the creation and thus was an interval between the Adamic and Noachian universes. A third universe is created in the last Biblical book.

A cyclical universe is a feature of ancient Oriental and modern scientific cosmologies. In the scientific myth, cosmic expansion is slowed, then reversed, by gravity; there is a collapse to a point from which re-expansion begins.

This myth is in at least three of Poul Anderson's works:

in Tau Zero (hard sf), a continuously accelerating relativistic spaceship carries its crew, like Noah's Ark, into the next cosmic cycle;

in "Flight to Forever" (hard sf), a time machine carries its occupant into the next cosmic cycle;

in "Pact" (humorous fantasy, not Anderson's best), a demon compelled by a compact carries an astronomer's soul into the next cosmic cycle.

By "myth," I do not, in this case, mean a falsehood. Thus, the cyclical universe, in Stapledon's, Anderson's and other sf, could remain both a meaningful story and a current scientific theory. However, the cosmic expansion is not slowing but accelerating due to the as yet not understood "dark energy" which has the potential to generate new myths.

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