Dear Professor Cox
I’m preparing a talk for an upcoming conference and it’s going to center around the Universe and the Web, two things I’m incredibly passionate about.
The web side of things I’m pretty solid on… after several years working in it you would hope I could at least grasp a few of the semi-difficult concepts. The Universe on the other hand, that’s a whole other thing. While I’ve kept up a keen interest over the years through a bit of reading there are still some basic concepts (like the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics) that I keep having to remind myself which is higher and which is lower (like a child remembering their left from right).
To help me with this I’ve reached out to my favourite person in this field, Professor Brian Cox in a rambling contact form through his website. I can only imagine a LOT of people contact him about random thoughts and ideas… hopefully mine will strike a chord with him.
Hello Professor Cox (or Brian – which ever you prefer),
My name is Justin Avery and I spend a lot of time working on the web. Before I fell into working on the web I became incredibly interested in Space & the Universe. The first book that really started wrapping my head around things was called “Frozen Star” by George Greenstein. It was written in 1984 so by 1995 when I was reading it I’m sure a few further discoveries had been made, but it certainly provided a great launch pad to understanding (or wanting to understand further). These days my involvement is limited to re-posting NASA photos onto Facebook which has most of my friends and family from Australia asking if I’ve actually started working at NASA.
For the past 2 years I’ve been wanting to tie these two passions together – the Universe and the Web, and present it to people in a way where they learn amazing things about both fields… but remaining the same lesson for each.
This year I’ve been very fortunate to be asked to speak at a few Web conference events including Mobile UX in Berlin and an Adobe Conference in the U.S. and I’m working on possibly tying these two things together in a presentation finally.
First of all, my theory isn’t anything ground breaking. I’m not proposing a new bubbling/expanding multiverse, I don’t have anything that breaks up strings into fibers, and time continues to run in the one direction (that’s right isn’t it?)
My concept/theory is that man made design always follows nature. Gaudi was famous for this with his huge columns ridged and slightly twisting as they “grew” upwards to support the ceilings. I think the web is following the laws of the universe. I LOVE the description you give of Entropy in the BBC series, and I think that the web has done this over time. Our web pages now need increase their entropy. The previous web pages we have made have been rigid, like the sandcastle example you used, but with the many many devices in todays world our webpages need to be able to adapt… they need to naturally form themselves again given a new context. Like the sand in a sand pile can be reorganised in many ways and still produce the same thing, so too do websites need to be able to arrange themselves given the many different viewport/device/screen/assistive technology they are rendering upon. The web and it’s webpages need to increase in Entropy over time… just like the natural order of things.
So that is one point. I want to draw other parallels between the vastness of the universe and the vastness of the web. I want to point out that the web has a massive advantage over what the Human Race can achieve in space. If you likened plants, stars, constellations, galaxies to page elements, web pages, web sites, (think of Facebook, Twitter, Google, as galaxies for example) then the web has a massive advantage in that we already have instant interstellar travel capabilities. The coordinates or our destination is the URI (this is incredibly important for the web) and the method of hyper-travel is the hyperlink. I then go into the performance of websites and how that can make it seem like travelling light years if the website is slow, and then also into the physics of actually requesting a web page on a cellular network from across the globe and how some delays are unavoidable.
Hopefully you can see where I’m going with this, even more hopeful is that you like where it’s going.
I can imagine you’re incredibly busy, but it would be amazing if you would be able to spare some time to either:
– write back with a “this is stupid” or “this is awesome” or something in between
– read over the draft presentation and point out any flaws (or bits I might have missed altogether)
– jump on skype for an hour for a podcast chat about the concept (I run a series of podcasts at https://responsivedesign.is/podcasts)
– catch up for a coffee to discuss the same thing if you’re ever in London
In exchange I’d be more than happy to make a few updates to this site to increase it’s Entropy (am I even using the term in the right way?) – basically make it easier to use on mobile devices. If you’d like a bit of a design refresh as well I’m also happy to help out.
I didn’t mention it to begin with, but I’m a huge fan of yours. After long conversations with my wife about physics concepts I usually find a youtube video of you explaining it much better… so thanks for that ;)
Thanks for reading and I hope it all makes sense. I look forward to hearing back from you.