Here is a piece of pseudo-cosmology that I have held to be true for some time. Well . . . possibly true. I have absolutely no qualifications for this. It just pleases me.
It feels to have a certain logic and elegance, like a mathematical equation or a Bach suite. The premise may be faulty, of course, but what if it isn’t?
The solar system is like this. At its centre is the sun, which is a middle-size star. It is spinning like a balanced top, and all the planets, including the Earth, are spinning round it in their similar but different orbits. Most of the solar system is empty space, or dark energy, depending on your cosmology. To all intents and purposes, though, space and dark energy look the same. Dark.
That which is beyond our planet is difficult to know about for sure, and what is beyond our solar system is even harder, though we are fairly sure there are billions and billions of other solar systems. All the countless billions of stars we can see make up all the suns of our galaxy and all the other galaxies, of which there are, I need hardly say, billions, make up our universe.
Beyond the universe, we have absolutely no idea. It is so unimaginable, even to mathematics, that we believe there is nothing else.
We might say this is true by definition, though why we should base our cosmology on the definition of a word, I don’t know.
This is, if you like, the big picture.
Now come back to the tiny picture, to, say, the scale of the virus. This is not the smallest scale, by any means, but get much smaller than this and things start to get seriously weird. At this tiny tiny scale we are in what the scientists call the Quantum World, and here we are as much in the area of the unknowable as we are when considering what is beyond the universe. What is interesting, though, is that we continue to discover smaller and smaller particles. We will probably never reach the end.
How does the universe look to a virus? Or to an electron? Or, for that matter, to a Higgs Boson?
Presumably, the virus in your body is aware, in its own peculiar, viral way, of the relevant part of your body – the intestine, for example. If it has learned to travel in your body, it might have some sort of understanding of you, probably in a purely physical way.
This viral awareness roughly corresponds to our awareness of, and experience of, our planet. Just as we have no concept of what lies outside the universe, the virus has no concept of London or the sands of Arabia. Why should it?
If we could understand what lies beyond the universe, maybe we would just discover the meta-universal London, and it would be no more comprehensible to us than the Gherkin in London would be to a very clever virus.
It is like Russian dolls on a vast scale. Universes within universes, each one incomprehensible to the other, yet dependent on it for its existence, as the Blue Whale is dependent on the plankton, or Shakespeare was dependent on the atoms that made him up.