Multiverse Theory

Searching for Life in the Multiverse

18 Jan , 2010 by

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Other intelligent and technologically capable alien civilizations may exist in our Universe, but the problems with finding and communicating with them is that they are simply too far away for any meaningful two-way conversations. But what about the prospect of finding if life exists in other universes outside of our own?

Theoretical physics has brought us the notion that our single universe is not necessarily all there is. The “multiverse” idea is a hypothetical mega-universe full of numerous smaller universes, including our own.

In this month’s Scientific American, Alejandro Jenkins from Florida State University and Gilad Perez, a theorist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, discuss how multiple other universes—each with its own laws of physics—may have emerged from the same primordial vacuum that gave rise to ours. Assuming they exist, many of those universes may contain intricate structures and perhaps even some forms of life. But the latest theoretical research suggests that our own universe may not be as “finely tuned” for the emergence of life as previously thought.

Jenkns and Perez write about a provocative hypothesis known as the anthropic principle, which states that the existence of intelligent life (capable of studying physical processes) imposes constraints on the possible form of the laws of physics.

Alejandro Jenkins. Credit: Florida State University


“Our lives here on Earth — in fact, everything we see and know about the universe around us — depend on a precise set of conditions that makes us possible,” Jenkins said. “For example, if the fundamental forces that shape matter in our universe were altered even slightly, it’s conceivable that atoms never would have formed, or that the element carbon, which is considered a basic building block of life as we know it, wouldn’t exist. So how is it that such a perfect balance exists? Some would attribute it to God, but of course, that is outside the realm of physics.”

The theory of “cosmic inflation,” which was developed in the 1980s in order to solve certain puzzles about the structure of our universe, predicts that ours is just one of countless universes to emerge from the same primordial vacuum. We have no way of seeing those other universes, although many of the other predictions of cosmic inflation have recently been corroborated by astrophysical measurements.

Given some of science’s current ideas about high-energy physics, it is plausible that those other universes might each have different physical interactions. So perhaps it’s no mystery that we would happen to occupy the rare universe in which conditions are just right to make life possible. This is analogous to how, out of the many planets in our universe, we occupy the rare one where conditions are right for organic evolution.

“What theorists like Dr. Perez and I do is tweak the calculations of the fundamental forces in order to predict the resulting effects on possible, alternative universes,” Jenkins said. “Some of these results are easy to predict; for example, if there was no electromagnetic force, there would be no atoms and no chemical bonds. And without gravity, matter wouldn’t coalesce into planets, stars and galaxies.

“What is surprising about our results is that we found conditions that, while very different from those of our own universe, nevertheless might allow — again, at least hypothetically — for the existence of life. (What that life would look like is another story entirely.) This actually brings into question the usefulness of the anthropic principle when applied to particle physics, and might force us to think more carefully about what the multiverse would actually contain.”

A brief overview of the article is available for free on Scientific American’s website.

Source: Florida State University

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Jon Hanford
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Jon Hanford
January 18, 2010 7:33 PM

“What theorists like Dr. Perez and I do is tweak the calculations of the fundamental forces in order to predict the resulting effects on possible, alternative universes”.

How would you like to have that for a job description? smile

Seriously, the authors lay out their case in a non-technical, accessible manner. They also touched on a number of cosmological questions familiar to regular readers here at UT. It’s worth tracking down the full article at a library or school (or borrow a friends copy).

OJB42
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OJB42
January 18, 2010 10:26 PM

Very interesting. The apparent fine tuning of the universe has been something I’ve found very puzzling and have recently blogged about. I find the idea that our universe may not be as finely tuned as we thought intriguing. This finding seems to have philosophical and theological as well as cosmological significance!

Torbjorn Larsson OM
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Torbjorn Larsson OM
January 18, 2010 11:04 PM
Well, I’m glad that this type of work explodes the myth of fine-tuning. The adherents never show any numbers behind their claims, it seems to be a folk myth. While those who look into it (Vic Stenger comes to mind) does so. The smoking gun was that paper a few years back there they turned the weak force off all together (IIRC) and still got mundane galaxies. OTOH the weak anthropic principle is really robust and predictive, at least in it’s more general environmental form. (Say, as maximizing dust production, and so planets of any kind. Which sounds what these author’s may have been looking at.) I thank Nancy for the article and Jon for the encouragement to… Read more »
Paul Eaton-Jones
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January 19, 2010 4:25 AM
I feel that any version of the Anthropic Principle smacks of some underlying religious element. The initial conditions [electric charge ratios, mass ratios etc. etc] didn’t happen as they did in order to eventually produce life. That hints at a grand design. In some universe the ratios were different and life either didn’t arise or is totally differently. It always gets turned around so that the fine tuning ‘was done’ in order that the universe would end up with us/intelligent life to observe and measure it. Why can’t people accept that we’re here and the universe is here? The universe existed before us/life and will be here long after life has had its day in the light. Anything… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
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Lawrence B. Crowell
January 19, 2010 4:58 AM
The other problem is the anthropic principle (AP). There are forms of this, in particular the strong and weak forms. The weak form is a sounding board of sorts. The 19th century hypothesis that the sun produced energy by gravitational collapsing failed a weak AP argument, for this could only work a few 100 thousand years and evolution indicated at the time a greater than 100 million year time line. So this was effectively an AP argument that physics had to be of a different form in order for life and configurations on Earth to exist. So the weak AP says, “Nature must be of a certain form in order for life to exist as well as other… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
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Lawrence B. Crowell
January 19, 2010 5:05 AM
I copid this in from MS Word and did not capture the first paragraph! LC I read their article and found myself asking an important question, “Is this science?” There are two main problems with this. The first is we are not likely to ever test the hypothesis there exists life on other universes in the multiverse. BTW, I really dislike the term multiverse, for I prefer to think of there being a universe with multiple spacetime cosmologies. Yet I will never change that term — as much as I dislike it. In fact the big trick is to detect the existence of other cosmologies. This might be possible if we can detect quantum fluctuations of spacetime which… Read more »
neoguru
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neoguru
January 19, 2010 5:57 AM

Is it me or is this Santa Claus science? I mean the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are fun also, but their existence is asking a bit much. Alternate universes? Isn’t this simply investigating a fantasy where there’s no evidence of such a thing? Worse, by its very nature, no evidence for its existence can EVER be found. It seems downright silly to me. I’m at least glad that others share my opinion.

Lawrence B. Crowell
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Lawrence B. Crowell
January 19, 2010 6:25 AM
There are good reasons to think there are other spacetime cosmologies. It comes down to counting degrees of freedom in physics. To make physics work we need to go to these larger dimensions, but this results in many more degrees of freedom than what can exist in our observable universe. Hence these degrees of freedom exist “elsewhere,” or in other universes. There are potential tests for this. Other universes (or spacetime cosmologies as I prefer to think of them) are coupled to our observable universe by quantum fluctuations which will have certain signatures. We can detect that — at least in principle. We then could infer the existence of these other universes based on evidence which is correlated… Read more »
Aodhhan
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Aodhhan
January 19, 2010 7:22 AM
Science101: Science is doing something, when we don’t know what we are doing. So, yes it is science. If we stopped working on things before we ever thought they were possible… there would be many things never invented or researched. Yeesh, just read the life of Einstein, and look at at least 3 things many experts believed he was nuts about. Like maybe, gravity affecting light “Insert here”. Actually…what a great job. Turning off elementary forces and then attempting to determine what the universe would be like… a helluva challenge actually. Unless you turn off the strong force… then it would be pretty simple. Just a bunch of radiation. However, the weak-force which someone brought up; is full… Read more »
Joseph
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Joseph
January 19, 2010 8:00 AM
I think that if the multiverse theory is real, that not only are there different universes other than our own, but an infinite amount and all in other dimensional planes. You can’t rule out that just because these universes would have different laws of physics, that none of them would hold life like ours does. If there’s an infinite amount of universes, there is a possibility that there is another universe out there that is basically exactly replicate to our own, except maybe history is a little different, because you know how they say, kill a bug in the past, drastically alter the future? Well, if you go back in time and something changes and then are brought… Read more »
Aqua4U
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January 19, 2010 11:05 AM

Apparently there are at least as many universes as there are opinions?

Joseph
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Joseph
January 19, 2010 8:11 AM

And I won’t post my personal theories if other people don’t.

Paul Eaton-Jones
Member
January 19, 2010 8:16 AM

If one subscribes to the ‘Many Worlds Hypothesis’ of quantum theory then a multiverse idea isn’t too far out and is theoretically possible/probably.

Aqua4U
Member
January 19, 2010 11:25 AM

Are there beings from alternate realities/universes among us? Have you ever had an otherworldly ‘visitation’? or done any time travel?

I have. Yet I have no scientific proof that would pass even the most casual analysis. There are aspects of reality that are only cognizant to those who attempt them. And there are those amongst us who would vehemently deny even the possibility.

NO FEAR!

Dark Gnat
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Dark Gnat
January 19, 2010 8:36 AM

In these multiverses, maybe Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Frodo truely exist.

Honestly, unless something could be detected or tested, then this is all science fiction, or a fun mind excercise.

Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
January 19, 2010 9:43 AM
Depending upon who you talk to there are differences between the many worlds interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics and the multiverse. The MWI is an interpretation of quantum measurement or the apparent nonunitary process of quantum state reduction. The multiverse is a system of spacetime cosmologies connected in a grand superspace. Now these have subtle quantum entanglements with each other, which means this system is related MWI. However, there are holographic considerations at work, which means each of these cosmologies exists “on its own,” so to speak. The entanglements these other cosmologies have with our observable universe involves the quantum wave mechanics of the superspace, which is an E8 system. This wave mechanics is a type of soliton… Read more »
Aodhhan
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Aodhhan
January 19, 2010 10:08 AM
You must have your own nonphysics dictionary, perhaps just another point where you use the words but lose the cephalic energy to allow the brain to perfuse, or just a twat? Quantum Entaglement does not simply mean systems are related. By no means would there be any “Subtle” relationship within the definition. It is definitely an all-or-nothing relationship. Holographic Considerations typically relates to information for creating a whole (system for instance) is stored in each of its parts. …which it doesn’t in this case. Or in Physics, it refers to the holographic principle. Which you definitely can’t fit here the way you use it; although it could fit in with the structure of the topic. However, I’ll let… Read more »
Lawrence B. Crowell
Member
Lawrence B. Crowell
January 19, 2010 10:29 AM
An pure state composed of an entangled system with two parts has the entropy S = S(A) + S(B) – S(A|B). It can shown that since the eigenvalues of the two subsystems are equal that S(A) = S(B) and that S = 0. So the entropy, as given by the von Neumann form is S = 0. So the joint entropy cancels out the S(A) + S(B). This can be extended to many components of an entangled system. This is the case with multiverse physics. The entire multiverse is likely a pure state in the “superspace,” and so the local entropies we observe, say as with the S(A) above, is due to the fact the other entropies of… Read more »
Joseph
Member
Joseph
January 19, 2010 7:03 PM

Would I be considered ignorant to hypothesize that maybe black holes could be connected to other universes? Just another theory to add to what might be on the other side of a black hole, if anything at all.

Dave Finton
Member
January 19, 2010 7:16 PM

@Joseph: It is myunderstanding that black holes exist in an infinitely deep gravity well in space time, so there effectively is no other end to connect to another Universe. It’s akin to trying to drive an infinite amount of distance in your car. No matter how far you go, there’s infinitely more distance to cover.

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