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February 24, 2020


Don Z. Block

The possibility of an oscillating universe makes me preach to my colleagues not to negotiate in the next 1980 a contract that lowers everyone's pay (my teachers' union actually did that) and not to vote Republican in the next 2016 election. We all need second chances. Check that: we all need another chance to get it right. Who knows if it will be the second?

Jim Holt's book on this subject, "Why Does the World Exist?" discusses how some of the greatest minds on this earth have grappled with this question: Roger Penrose, Adolf Grunbaum, Steven Weinberg, even John Updike, who explored it in "Roger's Version," to name a few.

Of course, even if there is a Big Crunch, it does seem clear that everything will be completely different, and that reality will be comprised of life forms we cannot even imagine in those Crunch-created universes capable of sustaining life. The trillions and trillions of particles that make us who we are are not likely to find each other and be reassembled.

Holt concludes his chapter on Weinberg by quoting Weinberg's conclusion to "The First Three Minutes": "The effort to understand the universe is one of the very few things that lifts human life above the level of farce, and gives it some of the grace of tragedy." Noble words, but I still find myself drawn to one of Woody Allen's takes on death: "I don't mind dying. I just don't want to be there when it happens."

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