Recordings At The End Of The Universe

To be up front: In all fairness, I am almost certainly misusing this bit of theoretical physics. Just like most people who use “quantum” and then say something that makes you feel better. But it’s a cool thought experiment.

It’s sometimes hard for me to remember how new relativity is to physics, how much our understanding of it has shifted, and how much its insights have become … well, normal. E=mc^2 and all that.

So let’s make it weird again: You are causing small relativistic shifts all the time. The relativistic effects – time dilation, for example – when you move your arm or drive somewhere are just soooooo tiny that they’re effectively undetectable.

But they do exist.

That’s important – in the way that a single bit in ginormous database is important, but important.

See, there’s this thing called the black hole information paradox. In short, it seemed like black holes actually destroyed information from the universe, which shouldn’t happen. (This is separate from and different from entropy.) That’s… kind of depressing.

Which is why it’s so interesting to me that we’re now theorizing that gravitational waves should permanently distort spacetime.

In 2016, Andrew Strominger, a physicist at Harvard University, along with Stephen Hawking and Malcolm Perry, realized that the horizon of a black hole has the same supertranslation symmetries as those in asymptotically flat space. And by the same logic as before, there would be an accompanying memory effect. This meant the infalling particles could alter spacetime near the black hole, thereby changing its information content. This offered a possible solution to the information paradox. Knowledge of the particles’ properties wasn’t lost—it was permanently encoded in the fabric of spacetime.

These two things together – that all motion is relativistic, and that motion is literally encoded in spacetime itself – lead to a staggering realization. That there is – in a very real (though utterly imperceptable to us) way – a kind of record of everything. That encoded somewhere, somehow, in spacetime, is every motion you’ve ever made. Every time you moved your mouth to speak, every time you touched someone you loved, every time you turned in your sleep, is stored in the blockchain of spacetime.

Literally until the end of the universe.

Take that, Ozymandias.

"You are nothing but a distortion of spacetime!" Jack Sparrow: "Ah, but you've heard of me!"

Featured Photo by chiranjeeb mitra on Unsplash