Cosmologists have been enthralled by an unusual claim during the past ten years: that there are billions of more universes besides the expanding one we can observe around us. There are multiple universes, not just one. Leading scientists have mentioned a super-Copernican revolution in Scientific American articles and books like Brian Greene’s The Hidden Reality. According to this theory, not only is our planet one among many other planets, but even the entire universe is small in comparison to other entities in the cosmos. It is but one of numerous universes, each of which operates independently. The term “multiverse” has numerous interpretations.
Our cosmic visual horizon, which is 42 billion light-years away, is visible to astronomers. There is no reason to believe that’s where the universe ends. There may be numerous—possibly infinitely numerous—domains like the one we can see beyond it. The initial distribution of matter varies in each, but the fundamental rules of physics apply to all. Almost all cosmologists today accept this kind of multiplicity, or “level 1 multiverse,” including myself. But some go even beyond. They indicate entirely distinct types of universes, each with its physics, history, and possibly a different number of spatial dimensions. Although some may be brimming with life, the majority will be sterile.
Alexander Vilenkin, a leading advocate of this “level 2” multiverse, paints a stunning vision of an infinite set of universes with an infinite number of galaxies, an infinite number of planets, and an infinite number of individuals with your name who are reading this article.
Beyond the Horizon
People who hold a broad view of the multiverse have made a variety of suggestions on how and where such an abundance of universes might develop. According to the chaotic inflation hypothesis proposed by Alan H. Guth, Andrei Linde, and others, they may be seated in areas of space that are far farther from our own. According to Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok’s cyclic universe theory, they might exist at various points in time. According to David Deutsch, they might exist in the same place as us but as a separate branch of the quantum wave function. Tegmark and Dennis Sciama speculate that since they are completely cut off from our spacetime, they may not even have a location.
Chaotic inflation is the most popular of these approaches, thus this blog will focus on it even though most of my criticisms also apply to the other options. According to this theory, space as a whole is an infinitely growing emptiness where quantum effects continuously create new universes like a child blowing bubbles. Since the 1980s, physicists have developed the idea of inflation based on string theory, their most complete natural science theory. Bubbles can appear significantly different from one another thanks to string theory. In reality, each starts with both a random sort of matter and a random distribution of matter (Ellis, 2014).
Other universes may have radically different types of particles and forces, which translates to distinct local rules of physics. For example, our universe contains particles like electrons and quarks interacting through forces like electromagnetism. The landscape is the complete set of local rules that are permitted. In some string theory interpretations, the terrain is vast, ensuring a huge diversity of universes.
Many physicists who discuss the multiverse, particularly supporters of the string landscape, are not very interested in parallel universes in and of themselves. They don’t care about arguments against the multiverse as a concept. Internal consistency and, one would hope, future laboratory testing will determine whether or not their theories survive. Without considering how it came to be, which is what cosmologists are concerned about, they presume a multiverse background for their theories.
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Seven Doubtful Arguments
Most proponents of the multiverse are cautious scientists who are well aware of this issue but believe we can still infer reasonable hypotheses about what is happening elsewhere. Each of the seven major categories of their arguments has flaws.
Space is infinite. There is little doubt that space extends past the cosmic horizon and that there are numerous other realms outside of our field of vision. We can extrapolate what we observe to domains beyond the horizon if this particular form of constrained multiverse exists, but there will always be some degree of uncertainty regarding the farther-off places. Then, it is simple to see more complex variations, such as alternate physics, occurring outside of our field of vision. But the problem with extrapolating from the known to the unknown is that someone can’t refute you.
How can scientists assess whether their extrapolation of what we observe to a region of spacetime that is not observable is acceptable or unreasonable? It’s possible that alternative universes have different beginning densities of matter or that their fundamental physical constants—like those determining the potency of nuclear forces—have different values. Depending on your assumptions, you might receive either.
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Other domains are predicted by known physics.
Scalar fields, a hypothetical relative of other space-filling fields like the magnetic field, are predicted by proposed unified theories. These fields ought to fuel cosmic inflation and generate an infinite number of worlds. Although experimentalists have yet to prove the existence of the postulated fields or even quantify their purported properties, these theories are theoretically sound. However, the nature of the speculated fields is unknown. Importantly, physicists have not demonstrated that the dynamics of these fields would result in multiple bubble universes having different physical laws in effect.
A crucial observational test for the infinite number of universes hypothesis is successful.
The cosmic microwave background radiation provides a glimpse of the universe’s final stages of rapid early expansion. It has patterns that indicate our cosmos did indeed experience inflation. However, not all inflationary processes last indefinitely and produce an endless number of bubble worlds. The necessary type of inflation is not distinguished from other types by observations.
George F. R. Ellis (2014). Why the Multiverse May Be the Most Dangerous Idea in Physics. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-the-multiverse-may-be-the-most-dangerous-idea-in-physics/
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