Home » science » Weird Science Day 6: Presenting the Multiverse

Weird Science Day 6: Presenting the Multiverse

There’s no image for this post because you can’t photograph, or draw, or understand in any way the face of God. And neither can you the 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.

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.)

But that’s it in a nutshell, and what makes this 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.

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. I’m lovin’ it. But physicists are not content. It’s so unlikely, they say. Possible, but not probable. And then of course, being the very embodiment of  innocence and childlike wonder that every physicist is, they must ask why? 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!

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.

Glad that’s cleared 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 from Amazon or read a couple of free chapters at the publisher’s website.

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7 thoughts on “Weird Science Day 6: Presenting the Multiverse

  1. You are so very right about the multiverse being the new god. There is not a skerrick of evidence for either.

    And don’t be fooled by the proponents of string theory being “smart people”, I suspect that you are in fact smarter than that crowd. Rememberr, they are just mathematics is a very simple language. That’s its beauty, because it can pull simple aspects out of the enormous abstractions of natural language and render them more easily manipulated. Its a valuable tool of science.
    But , just like any other language it can also be used to write fictions. And that is really what Greene, Davies, Kaku, Hawking, do. They are SF writers.

    I am not alone in that view. Here are some comments by real scientists:

    Philip W. Anderson observes:

    “String theory is the first science in hundreds of years to be pursued in pre-Baconian fashion, without any adequate experimental guidance. It proposes that Nature is the way we would like it to be rather than the way we see it to be; and it is improbable that Nature thinks the same way we do.”

    Richard Feynman, for whose thinking I have enormous respect, put it this way:

    “I don’t like that they’re not calculating anything. I don’t like that they don’t check their ideas. I don’t like that for anything that disagrees with an experiment, they cook up an explanation-a fix-up to say, “Well, it might be true.” For example, the theory requires ten dimensions. Well, maybe there’s a way of wrapping up six of the dimensions. Yes, that’s all possible mathematically, but why not seven? . . . So the fact that it might disagree with experience is very tenuous, it doesn’t produce anything; it has to be excused most of the time. It doesn’t look right.”

    Here’s Sheldon Glashow:

    “Superstring physicists have not yet shown that theory really works. They cannot demonstrate that the standard theory is a logical outcome of string theory. They cannot even be sure that their formalism includes a description of such things as protons and electrons. And they have not yet made even one teeny-tiny experimental prediction. Worst of all, superstring theory does not follow as a logical consequence of some appealing set of hypotheses about nature.”

    Well, at last, by more mathematical smoke and mirrors, by further unwarranted assumptions, string theorists have come up with an experimental straw to clutch at.

    Kris Sigurdson, an assistant Professor at University of British Columbia, picked up the idea previously mooted several years previously by other researchers at UBC as a test for a multiverse and, it would seem, grafted this into the string framework. Which can, in keeping with tradition, and with no requirement to conform to physical reality, always be jiggled to fit. Sigurdson proposed that, providing the wake of any collision of multiverse components during inflation was sufficiently great, a characteristic double peak of single state photon polarization might be observable. A prediction which is, in principle, testable within the context of CMB missions to be carried out using the Plack observatory.

    That even this is, to use Glashow’s expression, “teeny-tiny” is underlined by Charles Bennett, who is the principal investigator on NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. He expresses the opinion that “the detection of a cosmic wake would nonetheless be “extremely unlikely”. The amplitude of a wake would have to be just right: too small and we wouldn’t see it; too big and it would probably have had severe consequences for our universe’s structure. The number of collisions would also have to be “fine-tuned”

    Incidentally, the notion of a multiverse did not spring from string theory, It has been around for a very long time in various forms before having been being taken aboard and tailored to fit within the string/brane scenario.

    Regarding the requirement for evidence as a prerequisite for admission to the domain of science:

    Dan Friedan has this to say:

    “The fact that certain beautiful mathematical forms were used in the period 1905-1974 to make the presently successful theory of physics does not imply that any particular standard of mathematical beauty is fundamental to nature. The evidence is for certain specific mathematical forms, of group theory, differential geometry and operator theory. The evidence comes from a limited range of spacetime distances. That range of distances grew so large by historical standards, and the successes of certain specific mathematical forms were so impressive, that there has been an understandable
    psychological impulse in physicists responsible for the triumph, and in their successors, to believe in a certain standard of mathematical
    beauty. But history suggests that it is unwise to extrapolate to fundamental principles of nature from the mathematical forms used by
    theoretical physics in any particular epoch of its history, no matter how impressive their success. Mathematical beauty in physics cannot be separated from usefulness in the real world. The historical exemplars of mathematical beauty in physics, the theory of general relativity and the Dirac equation, obtained their credibility first by explaining prior knowledge. . . General relativity explained Newtonian gravity and special relativity. The Dirac equation explained the non-relativistic, quantum mechanical spinning electron. Both theories then made definite predictions that could be checked. Mathematical beauty in physics cannot be appreciated until after it has proved useful.
    Past programs in theoretical physics that have attempted to follow a particular standard of mathematical beauty, detached from the requirement of correspondence with existing knowledge, have failed.The evidence for beautiful mathematical forms in nature requires only that a candidate theory of physics explain those specific mathematical forms that have actually been found, within the range of distances where they have been seen, to an approximation consistent with the accuracy of their observation.”

    Personally I will stick to the understanding that phenomena for which there is no evidence have no place withing the realm of science.

    I also subscribe to the principle (Carl Sagan, I believe) that “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    “Physics starts from experience and ends in it.” Albert Einstein

  2. Fabulous cognosium! I like this: “Mathematical beauty in physics cannot be separated from usefulness in the real world… Mathematical beauty in physics cannot be appreciated until after it has proved useful.”

    I cannot fully understand all of what you are stating here, but I understand the sentiment. And I think your first sentence is what I was trying to say. It’s like what they say about Turing’s machinesL if we can’t tell the difference between a computer and true sentience, what’s the difference? I happen to disagree with that, but nevertheless that’s how I feel about this. If there is no evidence for either of these two concepts, god and the multiverse, why do we blindly assume either one exists?

    Thanks for weighing in and including all those quotes.

  3. Pingback: Weird Science Day 26: Is Special Relativity Wrong? « Singularity Watch

  4. Pingback: Weird Science: Is Special Relativity Wrong? | Book View Cafe Blog

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