Weird Science: Presenting the Multiverse

by Sue Lange

There’s no image for this post because you can’t photograph, or draw, or understand in any way the face of God. And as I discovered in researching this post, god = multiverse.

First off, a joke.

Set up: I gave myself 45 minutes to figure out the theory of the multiverse.

Punchline: I gave myself 45 minutes to figure out the theory of the multiverse.

What is the multiverse? you ask. Near as I can tell, it’s one of those things that number crunchers invent to make sure things add up. The Big Bang won’t work unless we include an infinite number of alternate universes. String theory doesn’t work unless there are a lot of universes. Quantum mechanics doesn’t work unless there’s a multiverse. In other words, to make all that we know and currently love add up, we simply must have a multiverse.

But, dang it, what is the multiverse?

It’s an infinite number of universes different than our own. Or maybe exactly the same as ours. Or maybe similar to ours: same particles and physical laws, but different arrangements. Or an infinite number of universes that are slightly less similar to ours but still pretty much like it: same particles and physical laws, but different histories. What these infinite numbers of universes are like depends on who you talk to. Just so you can wrap your head around it think of the multiverse as the old parallel universes of science fiction. We suspend our disbelief for that, so why not this?

In science fiction the hero gets to have contact with a parallel universe. Or he somehow finds a window into the alternate space. Sadly we’re not so lucky back here in reality. (Would that be out here in reality? Up here? Inside here.) We can’t actually visit any parallel universes in reality, but that’s okay because the hero can visit them in science fiction. Which is why we read it.

So that’s it in a nutshell, and what makes this multiverse concept so weird is that it is quickly leaving the realm of science fiction and entering the realm of reality. Well, the reality that exists in the heads of physicists, anyway.

Here’s my problem with trying to understand this concept in 45 minutes or less. The explanations make no sense. For instance New Scientist gives us this: “If the big bang started with a period of inflationary growth, there would be a multitude of universes a lot like ours but with different arrangements of matter.” I don’t see the logic. Obviously there’s some information missing, but searching further you get some mumbo jumbo about the cosmic background radiation, created from the big bang, being uniform across the entire universe.

If you tell me the cosmic background radiation is uniform, I say, hey, I’m with you. No problem. Balmy in every quadrant? Wow, I’m lovin’ it. But physicists are not content with that. It’s so unlikely, they say. Possible, but not probable. Why it is improbable they don’t say. And then of course, being the very embodiment of innocence and childlike wonder that every physicist is, they must ask why is the cosmic background radiation uniform? And then of course, being the short-tempered and easily provoked physicists they are, they set about finding an answer. And they do find an answer. It’s: Ta da! The multiverse!

Are you following this logic? Because I’m not. It amounts to this: Apparently in the early moments of the big bang, the really early moments–as in 10E-35 seconds after the big bang–the universe expanded so much, the cosmic background radiation became uniform. And that’s why we have a multiverse.

That just so clears it up.

I know if I keep reading up on this stuff, I’ll eventually understand what the smart people understand. Of course I will be on my deathbed at that time, but rest assured, I’ll be posting a blog on it as soon as I get my shot of morphine.

I knew I was toast once they brought up string theory. I still don’t even get that. I can’t understand dimensions beyond the fourth, and string theory has, what? ten? Or more. Or less, depending on who you talk to. Could dimensions and multiverses be the same thing? Er, no. Why not? I don’t know.

Okay. I quit.

There’s one last strange thing we must discuss in regards to the multiverse. And even though I said I was quitting, I’m going to mention it because it’s bizarre and that’s what we’re here for. It’s so bizarre, in fact, it’s in the realm of alien abduction. If someone says they’ve been abducted, then by golly, I’m going to believe it. How can I argue? I wasn’t there. Sure I’m going to smirk as soon as his or her back is turned, but question it? No way.

This final multiverse theory is like that.

They say our universe is a computer simulation running on some brainy civilization’s smartphone.

There I said it. With a straining face. I mean, all I can say is, that’s what happens when you let physics majors smoke pot.

I’m agnostic on this, this, multiverse thing. Even that last computer simulation could be true. Believing in it, for me, is no different than believing in God. You have to take this on faith. The numbers don’t add up so we invent something? Okay. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. Einstein wanted the numbers to add up so he said light speed was the constant, not time. And that has been proven. And it’s been proven nothing can go faster than light. Right? I mean, right? See what I’m saying.

As far as I’m concerned the multiverse is the new God. You can’t see it, you can’t visualize it, and you damn sure can’t understand it, not in the Biblical sense.

That’s why there’s no image up there. We have no conception of God and we have no conception of the multiverse.

Sue Lange’s latest ebook, Tritcheon Hash, is full of lapses of logic and weird science. “It’s a wild, good read.” Get your copy right here at good ol’ Book View Cafe.

This essay was first posted at the Singularity Watch blog on December 6, 2011.

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Weird Science: Presenting the Multiverse — 4 Comments

  1. The phenomenology of physics is exhilarating, but it’s also like shaping water. I’ll understand a concept long enough to go, wow! Then my brain can’t handle it, and it all dissolves.

  2. Hehe. I am writing a multiverse novel. I don’t understand it, so the simplest thing to do is have my characters not understand it either. We’re all going to have hair-raising plot complications in a haze of ignorance.

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