Sunday, May 24, 2009

Does the Multiverse Really Exist?

A direct link to the above video is at

(the above image comes from the New Scientist article "How to Map the Multiverse")

Let's pause for a moment and look at some of the things we've talked about lately:

Our universe is provably non-local. In Our Non-Local Universe, I began with a quote from physicist Bernard d'Espagnat that sums this up nicely. Bernard was awarded this year's $1.4 million Templeton Prize for his work on quantum physics and what he refers to as the veiled reality, you can read about his award here. What does it mean if our universe is non-local? It means there is more than the physical reality we see around us, and there can be instantaneous connections that transcend the limitations of space-time. The fact that Shamans deal in such connections is something I've remarked upon before, and of course the Templeton Prize is awarded to people who have advanced human knowledge in ways that are willing to embrace spirituality. It's clear, then, that d'Espagnat's body of work teaches that there is a metaphysical/spiritual interpretation to non-locality that fits in with the science of quantum mechanics, despite how uncomfortable many physicists continue to be with such discussions.

Life is a quantum process, which uses non-locality to simultaneously explore possible paths and then choose whichever is the most advantageous. In Creativity and the Quantum Universe, I talked about the work of Graham Fleming and his colleagues at the University of California which has shown how electrons use non-locality to make photosynthesis so highly efficient, and this is a paragraph from an article in Discover magazine I quoted from back then:
Instead of haphazardly moving from one connective channel to the next, as might be seen in classical physics, energy traveled in several directions at the same time. The researchers theorized that only when the energy had reached the end of the series of connections could an efficient pathway retroactively be found. At that point, the quantum process collapsed, and the electrons’ energy followed that single, most effective path.
Quantum mechanics and the multiverse are connected. I've talked many times about the proof published by a team of scientists at Oxford under the direction of physicist David Deutsch, a story which New Scientist Magazine declared to be one of the most important science news stories of 2007. The team's proof equates the branching possibilities of the quantum world with the branching parallel universes of Everett's Many Worlds Interpretation, an idea which is also advanced in my original animation. Since quantum mechanics is one of the most extensively confirmed of all the theories of reality out there, this proof offers an indirect confirmation of what I've been saying - the multiverse is real, and the decisions any of us make from moment to moment are how each of us navigate through a fifth-dimensional probability space which makes scientific sense (I say more about this in The Holographic Universe).

The other universes of the multiverse are just as real as our own. As I've remarked before, string theory predicts that there are 10 to the power of 500 possible universes. Critics of string theory have said this demonstrates that string theory proves nothing, because it doesn't provide a way of explaining why our universe is in the unique configuration we find it to be. I've been saying, with my book, this blog and with songs like The Anthropic Viewpoint, that the other universes are just as real, they're just not the one we find ourselves to be in... and that there are most likely forms of life in some of those other different-initial-conditions universes that are (just like us) marveling at how unlikely it is that a universe exists which seems to be uniquely "tuned" to allow them to live there.

Early this month New Scientist published an article called "How to Map the Multiverse". In it, I was thrilled to see well-known physicist Brian Greene saying things that echo my own project so nicely. Here's an excerpt from that article, which was written by Anil Ananthaswamy:
String theorists are beginning to accept that their ambitions for the theory may have been misguided. Perhaps our universe is not the only one after all. Maybe string theory has been right all along.

Brian Greene, certainly, has had a change of heart. "You walk along a number of pathways in physics far enough and you bang into the possibility that we are one universe of many," he says. "So what do you do? You smack yourself in the head and say, 'Ah, maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.' I have personally undergone a sort of transformation, where I am very warm to this possibility of there being many universes, and that we are in the one where we can survive."

Greene's transformation is emblematic of a profound change among the majority of physicists. Until recently, many were reluctant to accept this idea of the "multiverse", or were even belligerent towards it. However, recent progress in both cosmology and string theory is bringing about a major shift in thinking. Gone is the grudging acceptance or outright loathing of the multiverse. Instead, physicists are starting to look at ways of working with it, and maybe even trying to prove its existence.

The whole article is definitely worth reading, please check it out. And of course, those of you who have been following my project for the past 3 years will recognize how happy it makes me to see mainstream science coming around to my way of thinking! I thought I would test the waters a bit now and launch a new poll question that asks if you agree with the following statement:

There is a multiverse of other "different-initial-conditions" universes out there, and they are not just theoretical, they are equally as real as the universe in which we live.
Now's your chance, let me know what you think. And enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: The Biocentric Universe

1 comment:

Sky Nelson said...

Rob, I love your poll question. I think you actually point to the core principle of quantum mechanics in the way you phrased the only gave two possible answers. you left out the answer that I would have chosen (what you might call the coherent superposition state), which is "I don't know".
thanks for the useful and interesting information, keep writing!

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