Talking (Boltzmann) Heads

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If the universe is infinite in time, everything that can happen will happen over and over again.

  • The ergodic hypothesis

In the black void of the entropy-dead universe, a human head spontaneously forms in the void due to quantum fluctuations, with the discordant memories of a pinecone, a tadpole, a moon, and a pocketknife. A fog. A haze. A murky mist. A memory made of random, non-causal fluctuations. The fantasm ends. The head pops out of existence like a morning dream.

Yotillions of years later, or earlier, and countless high entropy heads later, or earlier

In the black void of the entropy-dead universe, a human head spontaneously forms in the void due to quantum fluctuations, with memories of our current universe up to this moment. Or what it thinks are memories up to that moment. Future memories. Past memories. False memories. There is only the void. It is dark, cold, and pressureless. The head explodes. No memories.

Yotillions of years later, or earlier, and countless high entropy heads later, or earlier

In the black void of the entropy-dead universe, a dozen human heads spontaneously form in the void due to quantum fluctuations, each with memories of a different universe. They perceive one another in the umvelt of their existence but do not have a common basis of communication. The creation of each head is a yotillion in one possibility, and the simultaneous creation of each head is at least one in a trillion yotillion, impossible and yet inevitable. The twelve heads have nothing to talk about. They simultaneously express frustration and anger at one other by racing toward each other at high speed, head-butting each other into annihilation.

Yotillions of years later, or earlier, and countless lower entropy mixed multi-verse encounters later, or earlier

In the black void of the entropy-dead universe, a dozen human heads spontaneously form in the void due to quantum fluctuations, each complete with identical memories up to that moment. They chase each other in a circle, each shouting at the one in front of it, “Only I am me.” Free will. Deterministic will. The illusion of will. They are exact copies of one another until one chooses to stop. The others crash into it and disappear in a cosmic flash. No will.

Yotillions of years later, or earlier, and countless lower entropy same-head encounters later, or earlier

In the black void of the entropy-dead universe, a solar system forms with an Earth-type planet orbiting a G-type star about ninety million miles away. The head of a man and woman appear on a tropical sandy beach. The man and woman drink tropical drinks, kiss, and whisper sweet nothings into one another’s ears. At night, despite memories of a thirteen billion-year-old universe filled with stars, planets, and the moon, they discover an empty night sky. It kills the romantic mood of the evening, but without bodies, there isn’t much they can do anyway. With no moon, there are no tides. With no tides, life in the oceans perish. Life on the land dies soon after. Still, the one sun universe takes another trillion years to reach total heat death.

Yotillions of years later, or earlier, and countless lower entropy one-sun systems with beach days (and horrible days and mostly empty eons) later, or earlier

In the black void of the entropy-dead universe, a super-dense, high energy, low entropy clump forms and explodes. Light emerges within a few million years, and galaxies form. Thirteen billion years later, Boltzmann conjectures about brains spontaneously forming in the entropy-dead universe. In one of the rarest fluctuations, a Boltzmann head appears before Boltzmann. The Boltzmann head asks him, “How can we trust our conclusions when they could be a random fluctuation, too?” After Boltzmann recovers from his initial terror at seeing his own floating, talking head, Boltzmann says, “The arrow of time is causal.” With that, the Boltzmann head falls to the ground with a thud like a guillotined prisoner caught in a trap not of its own making. Scientists argue about Boltzmann brains for eons but dismiss them as not how things are. 

The impossible blip into the low-entropy causal universe ends over a trillion years later. 

Yotillions of years later, or earlier, and countless extremely low entropy causal universes later

A multi-verse transcendent observer says, “If you stick around long enough, you’ll see good things. And bad things. But mostly non-sensical things. And lots of reruns.”

Authors Note: After reading “Existencial Physics” by Sabine Hossenfelder. Images by Craiyon

The Glory and The Whale

Reading Time: 4 minutes
  • “Damn Ye Whale,” Captain Ahab.

Spoiler Alert. Watch the K-Drama “The Glory” before reading any of this. It’s worth the sixteen-episode investment. I will wait…

You came back! You made it through the raw, intrigue-filled K-drama. Although the action can be challenging to follow as it meanders in time and memory, and it is rife with coincidence and questions (like how and why does the blinded guy who just got run over by a cement truck manage to walk up several flights of stairs at an unpopulated construction site with unset cement in the middle of the night). The pace is unrelenting, the performances, particularly of the two lead women, are outstanding, and the dialog is piercing and eminently quotable.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and few do it so delayed, dispassionately, and calculated as Moon Dong-eun, waiting eighteen years to exact her revenge after her antagonists had built successful lives worth destroying. The story is more an execution of her crafted revenge jujitsu than an escalation of her attempts to overcome her now grown-up and successful antagonists, who tortured her in high school. She exploits all the cracks in their mean lives, one metaphorical curling iron burn at a time, depriving them of whatever “Glory” they had accumulated. 

Dong-eun pursues the victim’s “Glory.” She says, “Among the things that victims have lost, how many things do you think they can reclaim? It’s just their own glory and honor. Nothing more. Some regain those things through forgiveness, while others regain them through revenge. Only then can they reach the starting point.” Like Captain Ahab, her path is not one of forgiveness but vengeance. Unlike Captain Ahab, revenge is her glory, not her demise. Ahab’s madness destroyed his ship, crew, and himself. Dong-eun redeems her co-victims and co-conspirators, bringing back their honor, even in death. It is her redemption, not her destruction.

Dong-eun doesn’t have the misbelief of a protagonist to battle. She has to hang on to her hatred, not overcome it. She says, “I’d like to stay faithful to my rage and vice.” She doesn’t grow as a character, but that is the point. She has been on the same path for the last eighteen years. Her life stopped at nineteen. She would effectively be nineteen years old if she ever started over and could put the past behind her. But that isn’t her expectation. She says, “I wish to be happy enough that I could die. I want to be happy, just by that much.” That’s a hell of a minimalist starting over point or maybe a foreshadowing of the endpoint, her high school abuse having robbed her of any chance at life. 

The one obstacle Dong-eun has to overcome is her crazy orange-haired mother, Jung Mi-hee. It is Dong-eun’s one emotional outburst in the whole series. Mom has to set Dong-eun’s apartment on fire before Dong-eun can finally take the steps necessary to overcome her mom’s hold over her. 

The psychiatrist diagnosing Jung Mi-hee for commitment writes IED for “Intermittent Explosive Disorder” in his notebook as the mom rages, curses, and shouts incoherently. The same note would apply to any of Dong-eun’s antagonists, to the point where they all act as if having a perpetual psychotic break from reality and each other. There is nothing likable about the five tormenters. They are sadistic and cruel. They are barbaric to their victims and vicious to one another. 

Perhaps the series would have benefited from more toned-down but impactful scenes like Yeon-jin’s (her chief assailant) final weather report to a prison audience rather than her prime-time audience, having completely lost her glory, with a tear streaming down her eye. “Is she crying at the weather?” asks one of her uncomprehending cellmates. Yeon-jin finally knows. It’s her one moment of powerless self-realization. The other moment might have been begging her utterly indifferent mom for recognition in their mutual prison, but her mom was so corrupt it hardly seemed like a punishment. 

What the antagonists overdo in unbridled emotion, Dong-eun makes up for in cold-blooded minimalism, giving only the faintest smile as her tormentors fall, with taunting daggers like, “I hope that in the end, whether I’m in the world or not, your world will be full of me.”

One wonders if there is anything worth starting over for in this world filled with only two kinds of people: past, present, and future victims and their psychotic perpetrators. Once Dong-eun achieves her “Glory,” Dong-eun is about to commit suicide. Is she happy enough to die, or does she have nothing to live for, not even her love interest, go teacher, and “headsman,” Joo Yeo-joeng? 

Yeo-jeong’s mother conveniently shows up on the rooftop of the old school building at the pivotal moment. She talks her down, giving Dong-eun new purpose in assisting Yeo-joeng with his desire for vengeance against his tormenter and killer of his father. Dong-eun finds purpose in plotting another revenge, pursuing it with the same cold, ruthless efficiency as her own revenge, switching roles with her “headsman.” Unlike poor Captain Ahab, whose obsession dragged him to hell’s heart at the bottom of the ocean, Dong-eun’s retribution leads to revenge as a lifestyle choice and maybe another season for the series.

It seems like an odd note to end the series on. But after thinking about it, I warmed up to the ending. Despite Dong-eun’s claims of self-corruption and emptiness, “I don’t plan on being a better person. I’m becoming worse everyday,” she is the moral center of the story. She brings honor to Yoon So-hee in death, finds honor in at least one adult in her childhood (grandma), saves the innocent children and Mrs. Kang, delivers absolution to other victims even if it serves her purpose, and destroys the villains in the most punishing way imaginable. She may be stabbing at her white whale from hell’s heart, but if hell has a moral high ground, Dong-eun has found it.

Dong-eun’s mother and others ignored or stood by while she was tortured and did nothing. But something is changing. Dong-eun told Yoon So-hee, “I was thinking I’m the only victim that mattered.” She acknowledges decency in some adults. Grandma saved her life when Dong-eun was at the depths of her despair after her abuse. She says, “There was a time when I used to think, what if someone had just helped me? If someone, somewhere, had been there for me?” She steps off that ledge because her death will kill someone she cares about. “And when you said we should die in spring you meant that’s when we should bloom.” So maybe she does grow in the end, seeing beyond herself and finally caring for someone, even if she still chooses a path of revenge and not forgiveness. 

“Damn ye whale! And all whales like you.”

Image by craiyon