by Paul Ratner
nature of reality...
Boltzmann Brains are hypothetical disembodied
entities with self-awareness.
It may be more likely for a Boltzmann Brain to come
into existence than the whole Universe.
The idea highlights a paradox in thermodynamics.
The paradox of the
Boltzmann Brain can really pull the
rug from under you if you follow it to all of its logical and
This mind-churning idea
proposes that the world is quite possibly just an effect of your
disembodied consciousness and doesn't really exist. And your sense
of self is just a statistical fluctuation.
It's something that is
more likely to come into existence by chance than the
Universe that would have had to produce it.
So are you really a Boltzmann Brain? Let's look at the underlying
Our Universe is extremely vast and complex, still filled
with as much of the unimaginable as what we have already figured
It has laws like an arrow
of time that seems to be flowing only in one direction. It's got
planetary bodies of various shapes and sizes. It also has us,
humans, nature's supreme creations (at least according to us).
But all this amazing
amount of varied matter is also very hard to pull off, requiring a
tremendous amount of energy.
We know that generally
things tend to fall apart and decay.
What the influential Austrian physicist
Ludwig Boltzmann (1844-1906),
one of the founders of the field of thermodynamics, hypothesized is
that while the entropy of a system (its measure of disorder) always
increases (moving towards disorder), there is some tiny possibility
that a fluctuation can bring a system from disorder to order.
Thus it would decrease
entropy, moving it further away
From the physicist's work it follows that it would be more likely
for random quantum fluctuations in nature to create something
simpler than our astounding Universe - for example, a self-aware
entity that believes it is a person in a world full of people,
history, and particular physics.
But such a person - let's
say you - is only full of all the knowledge and experiences because
you are made that way by the fluctuation that created you.
There is nothing really
there but your self-awareness.
These types of entities have been
dubbed "Boltzmann Brains" by modern
physicists Andreas Albrecht and Lorenzo Sorbo.
They did not claim to
such brains really being in existence but rather used the idea to
point out the absurdities and limitations of taking the idea of
thermodynamic fluctuations to their extent.
Boltzmann Brains have also been criticized as philosophical
paradoxes that are experientially unprovable.
The Caltech theoretical
physicist Sean Caroll called them,
unstable: they cannot simultaneously be true and justifiably
believed" in his 2017 paper "Why
Boltzmann Brains Are Bad."
Debates of the idea
persist, however, especially as it is hard to disprove.
After all, if you were a
Boltzmann Brain, everything that you could come up with to prove or
disprove it would likely be because of the hallucinations your
consciousness is having.
Other types of solipsistic thinking have also entered our culture.
Case in point - the notion that we may be living in a simulated
reality, propagated by luminaries
like Elon Musk and Neil