Book Review: Many Worlds in One

Article written: 11 Feb , 2007
Updated: 27 Jan , 2013

Many Worlds in One - The Search for Other Universes
Does math lead physics or physics lead math? If observing is the source of your information, then physics leads. But, no one’s seen the universe age. Yet, as Alex Vilenkin writes in his book Many Worlds in One – The Search for Other Universes, there’s lots of both physics and math that tickles our imaginations when we observe the realm in which we live.

As we all know, Earth appears to be a tiny, mot of dust in the grand scheme of the universe. It’s much smaller than our solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, and, our local cluster which themselves are small when looking at the broadest extent. Does the universe have a comparative size? This is a consideration that’s based on some slick mathematics, together with a liberal dose of the anthropic principle. From these, we see that our universe may have other comparators in addition to its size.

This contemplation of size and composition is the subject that Vilenkin lays out for the reader in his book. With only the briefest of diversions into math, he presents his ideas of our universe’s fundamental parameters, its activity, and its residents. Not long ago, much of this subject material would be have been more the subject of science fiction books, if it were considered at all. Now, there’s enough evidence to test many considerations.

To provide basis for his own thoughts, Vilenkin brings in first hand discussions with many of today’s preeminent physicists. His particular forte is the consideration of the effects of vacuum energy density throughout the life span of our universe. However, he’s not ready to commit to any one scheme, as there’s not enough evidence nor any means to verify. Thus, he includes ideas from other researchers, even when these are in disagreement with his own. Therefore, the reader will be confident that, even if the arguments are not correct, they are well reasoned.

Given this, the book will most satisfy the reader who enjoys working themselves through reasoning and arguments founded on basic physics. Vilenkin develops many of the arguments, but the reader must be cognizant of electro-magnetism, the four fundamental forces, scalar fields and some recent results from the astronomy community. Without this understanding, the reader may be forced to swim when they don’t yet know how to wade in water. And no one gets satisfaction from breathing water. With this, the reader will be in for a well founded dissertation on universes.

This reliance on viewing the issue from physics, though necessary, is a weakness of the book. There is a writing standard for physicists and scientists in general that encourages embellishment. There’s other researcher’s names, their associated institutes and a quick summary of their work and personal idiosyncrasies. Hence, the reader bounces from alternate universes to wine in France and on to various researchers’ homesteads. At times, this is interesting. Often, it distracts. It’s as if the writer’s decided to combine blackboard presentations with personal anecdotes and few essences of dream visions. This smorgasbord makes for variety, but also a confusing theme in the book

Nonetheless, Vilenkin maintains, throughout his book, a strong association to his subject which is other universes. His book would be excellent for anyone with interest in this subject and willing to invest some time in contemplating some non-traditional concepts. A good grasp of physics helps, but really, who else but physicists and astronomers are thinking of other universes. This book isn’t for those who want spoon feeding or are looking to augment their personal wealth and notoriety. It’s for those interested in the immaterial riches of our existence.

The big bang introduced our universe. Probability and uncertainty indicate other universes could be popping up every which way. Alex Vilenkin in his book Many Worlds in One – The Search for Other Universes presents thoughts on what our neighbours may be like. It’s worthwhile reading for anyone, particularly before they press the doorbell of our universe’s neighbours.

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