The Freeze-frame Universe

A new description of reality that fits the deepest findings of science

8th Edition. Copyright © 2021 by David Stringer.

(1st Edition published 2010)


While science is the right place to look for all the information we need to understand what exists, science itself does not actually answer that question. Scientists tend to build their understanding of the universe from the bottom up, starting with data obtained through rigorous experiments, analysing the data with sophisticated mathematics and then seeking consistent patterns of cause and effect. This scientific method is amazingly successful and has brought us all the wonders of modern technology and medicine. Scientists, quite rightly, don't stray from this method. But the bottom-up strategy has its limitations. The problem is that different theories can lead to different pictures of "what exists" and the differences are too profound for them all to be right. What is needed is a more speculative top-down strategy that constructs a big-picture view of the universe but, crucially, one that is consistent with all the theories of science. What follows is my attempt, pursued over more than fifteen years, to do just that.

I have studied science all my adult life, professionally and as an amateur. I have worked through the difficult mathematics of quantum theory and relativity to be sure that I grasped the fine details that science has so successfully discovered. I came to the conclusion that the inconsistencies that exist between the different world-views that science provides are not due to any flaws in the theories. Thus any big-picture view must be a Kuhn-like paradigm shift. Its purpose is to put the deepest findings of science in a new light that changes our understanding of existing theories without changing the theories themselves.

There are five major enigmas which, I believe, point the way to a new understanding of what exists. The concept of active matter must be rejected but even space, time and consciousness turn out to be something different from what we think they are. In the next section, I discuss each of these enigmas and explain how they steered me towards the development of a new ontology: The Freeze-frame Universe.

At the heart of the new picture of the universe lies a process. We think of the universe as a volume of space in which things (stars, rocks, people, atoms, electrons) continually exist and continuously move smoothly from one location to another. We think of any interactions among these things as events that happen to the things. Things are real; events are abstract. This idea needs to be turned completely on its head. The process produces events. Events are real; things are abstract; space and clock-time are abstract. There is a real concept of time which is the rate that the process produces events. One batch of new events is one new moment of real time. Be reassured: the process is not some mystical thing about which we know nothing. On the contrary, I believe I can show that classical, quantum and relativistic physics beautifully describe the process of the Freeze-frame Universe. What is more, they all make much more sense when seen as features of a process that produces events than they do when thought of as the intrinsic behaviour of active matter.