Einstein famously said, “Only two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity.” Then he added, “And I’m not so sure about the universe.” And it’s true, there’s a realistic possibility that the entire universe is finite; it’s mathematically and physically possible.
There was a period of time in my research when I was obsessed with this idea. I was fixated on the implication that you could leave the Earth and travel in a straight line to a planet in a distant galaxy on the edge of the observable universe and realize the galaxy was the Milky Way that you had left behind you, and the planet you had landed on was the Earth. There were also weirder possibilities that the Earth was reconnected like a Möbius strip — if you took a left-handed glove on that same trip, it would come back right-handed.
The hazard for a scientist working on something so esoteric is the possibility that it just might not be true or it might not be answerable. I felt myself kind of navigating this precipice between discovery on the one side and obscurity on the other side. At the time I was working at Berkeley, living in San Francisco. I would spend a lot of time in the coffee shop across the street from my apartment. I was trying to find some kind of tangible connection to a more earthbound reality. And it was there that I met this guy named Warren.
Warren came charging past me the first day I saw him and pinned me with his blue eyes and said, “You’re the astrophysicist.” Which I knew. And then he had so much momentum after having built up the nerve to say this to me that he kept walking; he didn’t wait for my response. He went right out of the coffee shop and down the street.
And so it begins…
…full extract on Brain Pickings here.
by Janna Levin from The Moth