Answer to The Last Question

November 20, 2016 | 8 Minute Read

This blog-post is about “The Last Question” from Isaac Asimov. The story revolves around a question, the question which asks for the existence of everything around us. One should read the story before reading this blog-post. The questions that I will focus on are below,

  1. Is there any need of some creator(s) to create us with exactly all the validations that we need it to verify for us?

  2. Can we exactly predict the number of space and time dimensions there in Analog Computer’s (Frequently referred as AC throughout the story) hyperspace?

  3. Why anything else does not come, but light at the end of the story? Does light have a general theory?

  4. Can AC create light with its superpowers (Huge trained data-sets) or can it only use light for seeing things down the hyperspace?

The idea, of answering these questions, comes from the theory of Kaluza and Klein. This is like figuring out one solution to Schrödinger’s equations. Just like a solution with boundary conditions or you can say my interpretation of the story. A number of solutions can be derived, no doubt, but this one is one of its kind. The story has several chapters where different forms of the same question are discussed between two people. Disinterested as well as conscious views are put forward in every scene. The base of the question is “Can entropy of the universe decrease?”. From the Multivac era to the era of AC, this was the only question, which is not properly answered. The machine says, “INSUFFICIENT DATA FOR MEANINGFUL ANSWER”. The universe is expanding, humans have developed machines like powerful ACs which can think on their own and find places for the humans as well as for themselves across the universe as well as in the hyperspace. Humans are using the resources of the universe (I will refer this universe of ours as U4. U4 has three space dimensions and one time dimension) and AC helps them use the resources. As the machine becomes more advanced, it is capable of transporting itself to the hyperspace, unlike humans. Humans are still there in U4 as they are pretty much three dimensional in structure and suited for the physical laws present in the U4. Evolution after evolution, humans use the energy of the galaxies, in fact billions of them to survive in U4. Let’s assume the universe where the central AC is present, be U>4.

Certainly, we don’t know the number of dimensions that hyperspace has. We just know the minimum is 5, as it has nowhere been answered by the AC throughout the story. Suddenly a scary yet fascinating thought comes from nowhere. “Can we survive forever?”. Some people are frivolous towards this question and assume the energy content of U4 can never be insufficient. The people who are serious about it, know that they are completely enervated someday as entropy never goes in the backward direction in U4. This was the sole reason humans have been asking the same question to the AC and its predecessors for a long time. Then, the moment comes when the human race realizes that they are completely enervated and U4 has been expanded to its maximum. The last piece of matter has been converted to energy and the entropy is maximum too. This is the moment when the AC is able to gather a considerable amount of data to answer the question in a timeless interval (will come to that in a minute) as well as it is now able to reverse the flow of entropy. Then, it says, “LET THERE BE LIGHT!” and there was light. It reminds me of the Maxwell’s equations written with a caption that says, “And there was light!”.

The theory of Kaluza and Klein is the base of Modern string theory or the Grand Unification Theory (GUT) imagined by Einstein. The conclusion of their work is pretty much logical and aesthetic as well. With Einstein’s general theory of relativity, Theodor kaluza formulated the mathematics for four space dimensions and one time dimension (I will call it as U5, where the 5th dimension is the 4th spacial dimension). He was surprised when he got the Maxwell’s theory of light in the end with the general theory of relativity. Where did that come from? Then, he concluded “Light vibrates in the 5th dimension.” Let’s take an example. The completely two dimensional thing that we observe is shadow, yet we can imagine a two dimensional pond with a fish in it. It has no thickness. It can see sideways, not up above and down below. Certainly, we drop a water droplet onto its surface. The fish cannot observe it while being dropped, but it can observe its gravity after it has been dropped and it can see the shadow of the droplet. What helps the fish observe the shadow? The answer is “light”. How do we know that it is light? Because we just happened to know it. Now, can the two dimensional fish itself is a shadow of something present in the U4? In that case, we can say that the two dimensional fish is just an illusion of some object in U4. Going by the same principle, each and every object that we observe in a grand scale (Galaxies, Stars, Planets) as well as in the quantum scale (particles, subatomic particles and so on) can all be illusions of some things that are present in the U5. That’s why the conclusion was “Light vibrates in the 5th dimension”. However if the process still goes on, we cannot exactly predict where light is created.

Believing in the mathematics of this theory, we can say light must have some unusual behavior that cannot be studied in U4. That’s the reason it has the ultimate speed, nothing can travel faster than light unless we think like some aesthetes who believe the reaction that mothers get when their children are in trouble travels faster than light (Similar to the reaction that an isolated electron gets to reverse its spin when its positron counter part does the same with some external force. Here, the electron and the positron are derived from a single photon of light.). We can’t apparently deduce a velocity greater than light by traveling in the opposite direction of its travel (c + v), as it has the power to retard and advance time for us (relativity). Then again, light has no single theory that has been entrenched into textbooks or research papers. Some say it has particle nature, some say it has wave nature and some say it is all photons with theoretical mass of zero, but still capable of knocking some current carrying particles from atoms. With these ambiguous set of evidence, as laymen let’s consider light vibrates in the 5th dimension, whose exact nature is unknown across U4 to U1 at least. Question three and four in my checklist are answered here. Certainly, we know from the lines “A timeless interval was spent in doing that. And it came to pass that AC learned how to reverse the direction of entropy.” that the AC knows how to reverse entropy. “Timeless” here can be a hyperspace with no dimension as “time”. As the AC can demand light with its trained data-set, we can conclude that the hyperspace where the AC is, has the maximum number of dimensions that are plausible. Then, light creates illusions down the hyperspace from U>4 to U1. The question number two has also been answered here now. It is just greater than 4, no particular number to be specific. The questions two to four are not answered unequivocally here, but with some boundary conditions we can simply deduce the answers.

Then comes the first question. The AC demands light, but it is unknown if that process is spontaneous or the AC itself has done something to produce it. From the trained data-set, it knows now how to reverse entropy. If we remember the big bang and big crunch theory, after a big crunch another universe can evolve from a black hole singularity. That process can be spontaneous, certainly without a creator (this is not an extreme view from my side. I am just figuring out the plausibility of concepts developed by physicists.). If that is the case, we can only say that the AC is demanding light to control the illusions those are needed to create human beings to answer them. To the contrary, if we consider the whole process to be spontaneous, we don’t know the exact behavior of the universe that is going to be evolved from the black hole singularity. Matter can be shaped according to the energy generated from the other side of the black hole explosion. So, the answer to the first question is still unknown, but we can deduce two things that are plausible from our boundary conditions.

  1. The AC creates light as well as runs a program with its trained data-set to reverse the entropy.

  2. The process of recreation was spontaneous. AC demands light to create the illusion to see human beings again in U4 from its U>4 by running a specific program. By doing this, it can answer them how entropy can be reversed.

This masterpiece has a recondite science with so much of philosophy. Pretty hard to relate it to the multidimensional theory of Klein and Kaluza, yet interesting and stubbornly mind-boggling. Views are not dogmatic; No self-righteousness was encouraged; Just a quick solution for the question asked in the story. Awaiting feedback. :)