The Copernican Method

This is without a doubt one of the more interesting things I have come across in the past few years. It is a totally bizarre concept, yet if you give it some thought it is a rather simple idea to wrap your head around and understand.

I am talking about the Copernican Method, that was made famous by Princeton Physicist J. Richard Gott, who is from Louisville, KY, shout out to all my homies! He outlines the basis of this principle in his book Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe. Without getting too complicated the principle states that if any given event is just an ordinary event, there is nothing special about it and that you are an ordinary person, then the event you are witnessing there will be a 75% chance that you are witnessing the event in the middle part of that events life. So for example let’s look at the Eiffel Tower. It was built in 1888, so it has been around for 128 years. The Copernican Method says that the Eiffel Tower’s lifespan should be between 3 more years or 4,992 more years. There is a 95% certainty that the life of the tower will fall within that time frame.

This theorem gained some major momentum when he successfully predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall. From there he predicted the longevity, or lack thereof, of an number of Broadway plays to a 95% correct degree. That is pretty impressive. So I would say that based on those two alone there is some credence that has to be taken into consideration with this idea, and when you really think about it, it kind of seems like common sense to a degree. (Let me state that I am by no means trying to downplay the theory or idea, just saying that while it appears complicated, once you understand the idea, it is simple. As with most things the simplest idea is usually the best.)

What made this method famous was using this idea to come up with the lifespan of the human race which spurred the Doomsday Argument. The Human race has been around for about 210,000 years. So at the lower end of this timeframe the species will only last (210,000*.025)= 5,250 years or at the longest extreme (210,000*39)=8,190,000 years. There is a 95% certainty that the human species will go extinct between that time frame. Which is a far cry from what Hawking claims, saying that we will go extinct in the next 100 years. If you apply the Copernican Method there is less than a 2.5% chance for that to happen.

In fact if you look at the numbers there is probably less than a 1% chance that that happens. But it is important to remember that even though that is a very low percentage it is still a non-zero number so there is a possibility that it can happen, and we could go extinct in the timeframe Hawking speaks of. It is just very unlikely.

The basis is that in any events life time you are most likely witnessing the middle 95% rather than the first or last 2.5%. Basically for any event or anything it can be broken down into 3 sections, the first 2.5% of the things life, the middle 95% (where you are most likely to see it or witness the event), and finally the last 2.5% of its life. For any given thing you are more likely to view it during the middle 3rd for a variety of reasons. Mainly there is only a very small chance that you will see it during its final few years or its beginning few years. Which I think mostly makes sense. The odds are obviously greater that you are just there on a random, nonconsequential, ordinary day of the event, rather than a monumental extremely rare point.

I am sure I am not explaining this very well and I am not entirely sure where or why he used the 1/39 or 39 as the two extremes of the opposite end of spectrum, which constitutes the 2.5% and the 95%. At the basis of this argument is the idea that there is nothing special about you or any even in particular. If that is the case then there is a 95% certainty that you are witnessing the middle 95% of the events life.

I am not entirely sure of the science behind it but at its central core is the fact that nothing is unique, that everything is ordinary and there is nothing special about you or any event that arises while you are alive. Which is kind of a bummer, but he makes a very valid point. Which is why he named it the Copernican Method, as Copernicus stated that the Earth was not the center of the universe, and that there was nothing special about the human species.




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