We immerse ourselves in a bubble of self-importance and vanity. For centuries, humans assumed, and adamantly defended, that the sun literally rotates around our finite material bodies. Both Galileo and Copernicus had to join revolutionary scientific forces to assuage the mental plague inflicted by Literalist thinking.
The good news in this article is that the universe could be far greater than any of us ever could have assumed. The bad news is that there may be many replicas of this universe, making almost every possible fear we’ve constructed into an actual and potential reality. And on top of that, there would be more evidence to assume this Earth is a sheer accident created with as little meaning as the intent behind the conception of a love child.
The catalyst behind these thoughts is no other than the astronomical theory of the multi verse. According to astronomer Stuart Clark in an interview with Business Insider, if a quantum particle changes its state, the laws of physics do not dictate the particular way in which it does so. This idea leads to a myriad of theoretical processes that have helped construct the idea of parallel (multiple) universes contained in the cosmos.
These musings haven’t simply been snatched from thin air in an armchair in Germany (unlike the metaphysical and epistemological thinking of philosophers like Immanuel Kant). There is actual evidence to provide support for multi-verse theory. The most recent supporting evidence stems from The Royal Astronomical Society’s research on ‘the cold spot’, which reported a cool patch of space seen in the radiation produced by the universe more than 13 billion years ago. These observations ruled out the “prosaic explanation” that the cool patch is merely an optical illusion produced by a lack of intervening galaxies.
Infinite Universe Theory is one of many explanations which give rise to multi-verse theory. The shape of space-time is supposed to be flat, rather than spherical, and it follows on from this that it stretches out infinitely. In layman’s terms, if space-time is in fact infinite, it will eventually start repeating itself due to the corresponding finite combinations of particle arrangement in space and time. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that there could be another version of you somewhere out there, a twin who wasn’t actually an accident- or at least no more of an accident than you, me, or the entirety of any of these universes.
In this exact moment in the space-time continuum, your clone could be going on a date with your crush, or even Leonardo Dicaprio. Or they could be doing exactly what you are- reading this article. But, unlike you, they would lack any interest in the topic or perhaps scratch their head at the relevance of it on this blog.
Perhaps they could be sky-diving, dressed head to toe in Supreme and crocs to combine two of your worst nightmares into one not-so-pretty package. In Cady Haren’s words, ‘the limit does not exist’.
Let your imagination stir and you could think yourself into either an existential crisis or anxiety attack simply by pondering the different possible scenarios of how your life could be running its course, a mere trillion light years away from where you’re sitting right now. Drinking tequila on a beach in Barbados or perhaps working in an oil mine, the weight of your illusory fate may provide a paradisaical escape from your desk job or give you nightmares. Psychologists should consider using this as a thought exercise to uncover psychosis and phobias.
What lends its support to the idea of multiple universes? The grandiose theory of ‘Eternal Inflation‘. Dig up your memories of the Big Bang Theory (no, not the series) from your memories of GCSE physics. It is probably buried amidst a sea of repressed thoughts; detentions, acne and other pubescent struggles. But simply think back to the humourless jokes embedded in the margins of the CGP revision guides that taught us more than our own teachers. Eternal inflation, as its name suggests, refers to the prevalent idea that our universe has formed where inflation has ended, giving rise to the formation of stars and galaxies. Yet, it is merely a small bubble in an infinite portion of space, some of which is still inflating while also containing other ‘bubble universes’ that could have vastly different laws of nature.
If I haven’t triggered you enough yet by resurrecting memories of your coming of age and the academic ‘prison’ that facillitated it, the theory of ‘Mathematical Universes‘ also points to multi-verse theory. Whether you’re a humanities student or not, it seems you may have to accept that math is not merely your weaker point but it could also be the fundamental basis of reality. Any observations of the universe are believed by some scientists to simply be imperfect reflections of its true mathematical nature. There may therefore be an infinite amount of mathematical structures that are the objective building blocks of an infinite amount of universes, according to Max Tegmark of MIT.
More traditionally known, Parallel Universe theory lends itself perfectly to multi-verse theory. These are ‘braneworlds’ that hover just out of reach of our own universe because there are more than just three dimensions to space and time. Other three dimensional ‘branes’ of space could possibly float in a higher dimension of space. Columbia University’s Brian Greene hypothesises that these brane universes are not always necessarily parallel to each other. They sometimes gain contact and slam together, causing Big Bangs that press the re-play button on the making of the universe. How many times could this occur? You guessed it, an infinite amount.
The idea of parallel universes is one of the most pertinent aspects of the multi-verse and has been worn out by comic books and sci-fi to the point of creative exhaustion. However, absolutely iconic and riveting movies have indeed been concocted on the basis of exploring this theory. Interstellar follows an aged and surprisingly serious Mathew McConaughey and explores a dystopian future where Earth is, with absolute certainty, heading towards a standstill. They travel through a wormhole near Saturn which opens the path to a distant galaxy in order to find a new planet to colonise and land on planets where time is severely dilated, losing years by the minute/hour- this in itself is nerve wrenching for the audience, who know his children are waiting back home. Long story short, a tesseract (four dimensional cube) incorporates multiple dimensions of space and time into one. I’d spoil the rest but it’s a must watch so reeling you in with teasers will do for now.
Last but not least (because I’m a feminist) is the theory of ‘Daughter Universes’. Quantum mechanics, concerned with sub-atomic particles, holds a mathematical philosophy that describes the world in terms of probabilities, determining the idea that all possible outcomes must occur in separate universes. If you can’t choose whether to wear a nude or a burgundy shade of lip liner, you might think you’re stuck at a fashion crossroads. But there’s no need to fret: there’s one universe in which you’ll wear the nude, and one in which the burgundy wins out. This causes the creation of ‘daughter universes’, suitably named especially for this example.
“And in each universe, there’s a copy of you witnessing one or the other outcome, thinking — incorrectly — that your reality is the only reality. The Hidden Reality.”
If we look at the glass as half full, infinitely full that is, then the possibility of multiple universes could be the solution to solving as wide an array of problems in physical and astronomical science as there could potentially be worlds ( hyperbolic-ally speaking of course). For example, the implications of joining gravity with other natural forces leads to theoretical phenomenons such as string theory which in turn postulates different dimensions of existence. Thus, this theoretical phenomenon could naturally necessitate the existence of multiple universes.
Yet, with a hearty dose of irony, the affirmation of multi verse theory (whether this is possible or not) will mean that the ultimate goal of physics, concerned with explaining how the universe functions and why it is the way it is, will be rendered impossible. This is because the basic laws of physics will be different on different universes, every combination existing simultaneously.
If you’re anxiety is close to triggered, there’s no need to worry. There could be a universe in which you take a xanax to calm down, and there’d also be another in which you take three and miss your girlfriend’s birthday. You could even make that universe identical to this one if you want by doing either option a or b right at this very moment.
Alternatively, there could be a universe in which this article makes you switch from something like sociology to physics and you trace Hawking’s footsteps to become recognised as a leader of science. Perhaps you could even invent a time machine. Either way, you can take comfort in the fact that whether multi verse theory is true or not is completely out of our control. My personal suggestion is to use this philosophical thought exercise to embrace the possibilities realistically open to you. This endless amount of options could motivate you to create more in this world and lifetime if you’re simply willing to open your mind a bit wider. But whatever your choice, please don’t let it be xanax.