When it comes to universes, perhaps one is enough after all.
Many theories in physics and cosmology require the existence of alternate, or parallel, universes. But Dr. Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, explains the flaws of theories that suggest our universe is just one of many, and which also perpetuate the notion that time does not exist. Smolin, author of the bestselling science book ‘The Trouble with Physics’ and a founding member of the Perimeter Institute, explains his views in the June issue of Physics World.
Smolin explains how theories describing a myriad of possible universes, or a “multiverse”, with many dimensions and particles and forces have become more popular in the last few years. However, through his work with the Brazilian philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Smolin believes that multiverse theories, which imply that time is not a fundamental concept, are “profoundly mistaken”.
Smolin says a timeless multiverse means our laws of physics can’t be determined from experiment. And he explains the unclear connection between fundamental laws, which are unique and applicable universally, and effective laws, which hold based on what we can actually observe.
Smolin suggests new principles that rethink the notion of physical law to apply to a single universe. These principles say there is only one universe; that all that is real is real in a moment, as part of a succession of moments; and that everything real in each moment is a process of change leading to future moments. As he explains, “If there is just one universe, there is no reason for a separation into laws and initial conditions, as we want a law to explain just one history of one universe.”
He hopes these principles will bring a fresh adventure in science.
If we accept there is only one universe and that time is a fundamental property of nature, then this opens up the possibility that the laws of physics evolve with time. As Smolin writes, “The notion of transcending our time-bound experiences in order to discover truths that hold timelessly is an unrealizable fantasy. When science succeeds, we do nothing of the sort; what we physicists really do is discover laws that hold in the universe we experience within time. This, I would claim, should be enough; anything beyond that is more a religious urge for transcendence than science.”
Source: Institute of Physics