The Objective World: Just An Illusion?

“The objective world simply is.” This unassuming sentence jumped out at me during a reading binge yesterday, which made me wonder: what the heck is objective in a world which no-one fully understands? Delve into the rabbit hole of science just an inch and you’ll soon be facing an existential crisis.

Consider the mind-bending (and time-bending…and space bending) consequences of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Einstein showed that the speed of light within a vacuum is the same regardless of the speed at which an observer travels. The consequence? Space and time are interwoven into a single continuum known as “spacetime”. Events which occur at the same time for one observer can occur at different times for another.

Thus, we can’t even say for sure what happens in the “now”, since it’s completely relative. Relative to what? Where you are in space, your velocity and which direction you’re moving in. We don’t notice this here on Earth since we can’t travel fast enough or get far enough away from each other for these effects to be visible.

Skipping the complexities of time to look at its good friend “space” only leads to more confusion. Space is the most elusive thing of all – and yet it encompasses everything and is the fabric holding our universe together. How the seeming “nothingness” (ha!) of space works is still largely not understood.

Take gravity, for example. According to the rules of gravity, the expansion of the universe should be slowing down, while in actual fact it’s accelerating. The acceleration of the universe’s expansion is not due to the planets and stars moving apart, but due to the accelerated expansion of space itself.

Science refers to this mysterious force as “dark energy” (or “repulsive gravity”) and we still have very little understanding about how it works. If it continues, the entire universe in billions of years will rip apart into pieces. Yay!

If the universe confuses you, too, I have some good news!

Recent studies on black holes have led some physicists to theorise that the universe as we experience it could be just a hologram, with “reality” being 2D information coming from the boundary of the hologram. I’m ok with being a hologram, but what lies beyond the boundary?

In a world where we can explain very little: time is relative, space is mysteriously expanding and this whole experience is possibly an illusion, what the heck do we know about objectivity?

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