About a month ago I attended a panel about multiverses – the theory, widely debated and accepted by many (but by no means all) physicists that many universes (maybe an infinite number of them) exist side by side, only we can’t gain access to them. If multiverses exist, some of them may have preceded ours, giving rise to speculation that our universe sprang from the cosmic debris of a previous universe like Athena from Zeus’ forehead. There no evidence that other universes do exist and there is no good reason to think that scientists will ever be able to uncover such evidence. But then the absence of evidence is no proof of absence. I gather that there are some theoretical grounds for postulating multiverses. If you follow the logic of these physicists the idea of multiverses raises the possibility that there is someone identical to you living in a universe similar to this one, doing things that you considered doing, for example, but never got around to doing or were too afraid (or too wise) to do – that is to say, the roads not taken in this universe might be taken in other universes. If, after all, you have an infinity of universes every possible scenario and outcome can be realized kind of like thousands of monkeys pounding away at typewriters. By chance one of those monkeys may come up with something that seems to make sense.

At the same panel held in connection with the World Science Festival in New York City in May a physicist mentioned that the sum total of information contained in the universe – that is our universe, the one that came into existence about 14 billion years ago – is 10 to the 129th – that is 129 zeros. (10 to the 2nd power is 100 so you can begin to appreciate just how very big that number is, but it still has a limit.) This universe, our home, then is not infinite. That is, in some way, consoling; it is also frightening. The way the universe is going – and it is going very fast – at some point in the distant future the stars and the galaxies will hurtle away from one another, emptying space of matter, leaving behind a cold void in its place. The universe will become a very lonely place. And then it will disappear, perhaps as a prelude to the birth of yet another universe billions and billions of years from now.

AuthorLeslie Horvitz