Scientists hail evidence of parallel universes

The cold spot: Could the blue area hold the key to understanding reality?

Yet another sign has been discovered that supports the increasingly popular “multiverse theory” — the idea that there is an infinite number of universes. Would that make physics pointless?

The universe. The entirety of time and space and its contents: planets, moons, stars and galaxies. Everything.

But what if the universe is not, in fact, everything? What if there were multiple other universes. Not just multiple. An infinite number of universes each with its own different version of reality, which human imaginations are incapable of perceiving. Sounds mind-bending?

This is the multiverse theory.

And now scientists have discovered another sign that this hypothesis might actually be true.

The evidence comes from the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), which has just published a study on the “cold spot”. This is a particularly cool patch of space seen in the radiation produced by the formation of the universe more than 13 billion years ago.

The cold spot was first glimpsed in 2004, before its existence was confirmed four years ago. Scientists found it extremely puzzling. Various explanations have been advanced and one by one dismissed.

And now the latest study claims that there may only be one credible theory left.

This is, according to Professor Tom Shanks of Durham University, that “the cold spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe.”

In a multiverse, one cannot avoid infinity, and infinity does strange things. Any multiverse, assuming it is infinite, must contain everything that is physically possible. This means, for example, that every Star Wars scenario really exists out there, including those that did not make it into the films and even all those the writers did not think of!

Similarly, as long as there is sufficient space for unending random shufflings of particles there would have to be a sector of space out there identical to our sector of space, with persons identical to us.

The end of physics

If there is a multiverse, scientists will have to accept that the ultimate goal of physics – to explain why our universe is the way it is – could be forever out of reach. The endgame for physics has been to provide the reason why our universe takes the form it does. To do this it must explain why certain fundamental quantities have the values they do. For example: the speed of light, the mass of an electron, the strength of the gravitational interaction. If there is a multiverse, however, that quest could be doomed to failure.

Rubbish, says Paul Steinhardt, Albert Einstein Professor in science at Princeton University. The multiverse idea is scientifically meaningless because it explains nothing and predicts nothing. Also, it misses the most salient fact we have learned about the large-scale structure of the universe: its extraordinary simplicity and consistency when averaged over large scales.

You Decide

  1. Do you believe in the multiverse theory?
  2. Is the thought of infinite universes exciting or worrying?

Activities

  1. Draw a diagram representing the multiverse theory.
  2. Imagine another universe where the fundamental laws of physics are radically different from those in our universe. Write a brief description of what you think it might be like.

Some People Say...

“The meaning of the universe lies outside the universe.”

Jonathan Sacks

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
There are some things we know for certain about our universe. It is at least 13 billion years old. It has a diameter of at least 91 billion light-years and it is constantly expanding. We know that it contains billions of galaxies and that most scientists believe that it started with the Big Bang.
What do we not know?
So much. First, we have no real idea whether the multiverse theory is true, despite the latest research. We cannot be truly sure how it began, or why. We do not know what dark matter, or dark energy, is. We do not know whether life exists elsewhere than on Earth, or whether we really are unique. But perhaps the biggest problem is that the human mind just cannot conceive how different alternative realities might be.

Word Watch

Radiation
The emission or transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles through space or through a material medium.
Puzzling
As Stuart Clark says in The Guardian, “most astronomers and cosmologists believe that it is highly unlikely to have been produced by the birth of the universe as it is mathematically difficult for the leading theory on the origin of our Universe – which is called inflation – to explain.”
Bubble universe
One view of the Big Bang theory involves “eternal inflation” with many universes appearing and growing all the time. Our universe grew like an expanding bubble within a “false vacuum” of space; other bubble universes of “true vacuum” like ours can continue to appear within the “false vacuum”.
Persons identical to us
An individual extra universe is called a “parallel universe”. By the logic of the multiverse theory, there could be an infinite number of universes which could vary from our own thanks to “a single quantum event”.

Subjects

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