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Mysteries of the Multiverse

Name: Assif Khan
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Subject: PCS-181

The term multiverse has many nicknames including but not limited to quantum universes, alternate universes, alternate realities etc. But, what is the multiverse? If one was to look up the meaning of the word, the definition that is provided in the Oxford Dictionary states “a hypothetical space or realm consisting of a number of universes, of which our own universe is only one”1. The use of the term multiverse or its other moniker parallel universe, has been used in cosmology, physics, and philosophy to perhaps more prominently in science-fiction literature and movies for decades. Ever since Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is expanding in the 1920s, there have been questions regarding the possibility of there being more than one universe. However, there has been no evidence to support the existence of multiverse. Interestingly, despite us humans being inherently logical beings, we still entertain the notion of multiverse which someone has yet to discover or observe. Why should the notion of having more than one universe than our own be any more valid than other scientific idiosyncrasies? As it turns out, the existence of parallel universes was not readily acceptable to physicists either. However, Eternal Inflations theory, String theory; which predicts the possibility of the existence of more than trillions of universes within multiverse as well as there being more than three dimensions that us humans perceive, echo the existence of multiverse which caused physicists to pay more attention to this notion.

An American philosopher named William James used the term “multiverse”, to explain a theoretical, unseen but moral and just universe different from ours, in his essay “Is Life Worth Living?” published in 1895 2. However since then, physicists have used the term to refer to the hypothetical existence of actual universe other than our own. Out of them, a prominent physicist Max Tegmark, divided the existence of multiverse in four levels numbered I to IV 3. The concept of Level I multiverse entertains the notion that if universe is infinite, there should also be more than one universe with similar Hubble parameters. In other words, an infinite universe will contain infinite amounts of planets and some of them will experience similar events as we do on our planet. The prediction of this level is better accepted in the scientific community, however, it is though Level II, where many become more skeptical as it relies on metaphysical notions of the origin of our universe and thus create philosophical differences between many physicists. There are more than one theory coming from cosmologists and particle physicists that explains this phase including the Inflationary theory3, Oscillatory theory3 and many more. Inflationary theory predicts that Level II multiverse has areas that constantly goes through inflationary phases and as such, the space between our universe and that universe is expanding faster and faster, resulting of them being completely isolated from our universe. It also suggests when inflation starts, it creates numerous universes. On the other hand, Oscillatory models predicts a single universe goes through phases of expansion and collapse. Level III multiverse or quantum multiverse is probably the most well-known level of multiverse. On this level, we are constantly in connection with this universe yet we can never contact it, and every single decision and choice we make, we cause a different version of ourselves living out that choice to an infinite number of future selves each unaware of the existence of the other. Finally, there is Level IV multiverse which is possibly the strangest of them all. This level is governed by the idea that any mathematically possible universe that can exist, does exist. This level of multiverse is populated with universes that have different mathematical laws of nature than the universe in which we inhabit which causes more skepticism among physicists regarding its nature of existence.

As a result, many physicists are not convinced about the existence of multiverse. Though existence of multiverse has not been proven to be a fact as of yet, the primary concern regarding the validity of multiverse theory is the fact that the existence of multiverse is not observable nor scientifically testable. Science is based on validity, reproducibility and the pursuit of truth. However, how does one prove the existence of something, if it is purported to exist outside of our visual horizon? Unlike distant stars, we have yet to see light, emitted from a parallel universe through a telescope. So, the argument against multiverse theory is that it is a belief, rather than a proven scientific fact and it is hypothetical in nature. And prioritizing hypothesis over observational confirmations is a mistake that scientists are not afforded to make. George Ellis4, Professor of mathematics from University of Cape Town supports this view by suggesting that even if there were infinite number of universes, infinite is a mathematical entity rather than a physical one and therefore, we could not count the infinite galaxies in a finite time and thus, it is impossible to prove the existence of infinite universes through mathematical tests and observations. And if it cannot be tested, why should it be any more scientifically valid than metaphysics or astrology?

But, defenders of multiverse theory point to Kant and his speculation regarding some nebulae being “island universes” 5 similar to our Milky Way, almost 200 years prior to the actual discovery by Edwin Hubble regarding the expansion of the universe and the existence of more than one galaxy. There are other cosmic elements such as black holes or dark energy that we cannot do tests upon yet they hold great validity in scientific circles. If scientific experimentation is held as the passing bar for something to be valid, then astronomy by this logic becomes invalid as one cannot do experiments with stars and nebulae. Bernard Carr 5, of the Astronomy unit of Queen Mary University of London, suggests that since there are billions of objects in galaxies, through observations, we can see nature performing experiments on these objects on behalf of us. Ultimately, a more accommodating view should be held regarding multiverse theory instead of holding the degree of falsifiability for it so high and running the risk of giving multiverse theory the same legitimacy as astronomy.

Multiverse theory has been debated over not only in scientific community but also in science fiction. There have been numerous television programs like Fringe, Star Trek as well as books and movies based on the existence of multiverse theory that has captivated and entertained people of all ages for decades. One of the prominent use of the multiverse theory in fiction is to invalidate the grandfather paradox of time travel 6. Though the popularity of multiverse theory in fiction does not do anything to validate the hypothesis, it is nevertheless an interesting concept. The laws that can be used to describe our observable universe does leave room for unobservable parts as well. After all, the Higgs Boson particle was just a theory until very recently when it was discovered by Cern scientists in 2012 7 through the use of the Hadron particle collider. It is hard for us to prove the existence of multiverse currently, but in the distant future, we can look forward to uncovering a lot more about these parallel universes that allegedly co-exist with us right now.
1. Anonymous, www document, ( 2. T. Wilkinson, The Multiverse Conundrum, www document, ( 3. G. Ellis, Astro. Geophys. 49 (2), 2.29 (2008) 4. G. Ellis, Astro. Geophys. 49 (2), 2.33 (2008) 5. G. Ellis, Astro. Geophys. 49 (2), 2.36 (2008) 6. N. Effingham. An Unwelcome Consequence of the Multiverse Thesis, www document, ( 7. N. Wolchover. New Physics Complications Lend Support to Multiverse Hypothesis, www document, (…...

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