• Diya Varma

Parallel Universes

The dictionary defines a parallel universe as a universe that may exist in addition to our own, but that is not known. Over time, several theories of astronomy and physics have hypothesised the existence of a multiverse that consists of many parallel universes. This article is an in-depth evaluation of a handful of these theories and the extent of their possibility. Theorists now have a testable prediction: collisions with surrounding galaxies may have left a trace in the cosmic microwave background (the Big Bang’s fossil radiation). Research is now underway to detect the reflections of these collisions. This will be the first scientific proof of the existence of other worlds. Almost immediately after the Big Bang, our cosmos is believed to have extended exponentially in a process called inflation (Alan Guth, MIT). After this idea was proposed, physicists realised that once inflation began, it should ideally never stop occurring. According to this theory, which is now known as “eternal inflation”, the vacuum of space is not necessarily empty; it retains energy that makes it unpredictable and vulnerable to forming new bubble-like vacuums. This action is similar to bubbles of air form in boiling water. As each bubble inflates, the potential for new bubbles to appear inside of it increases. This is an analogy for our universe and how it is capable of giving rise to a new one. However, to convert this theory into fact, one would have to look for proof that one of these “bubble” universes has interacted with our own. A merger like this would cause ripples in the structure of space-time, leaving a mark on the cosmic microwave background radiation (Matthew Johnson, PITPW). The background radiation is composed of photons that were emitted in the universe just 370,000 years subsequent to the Big Bang (the universe’s first light). The photons hold knowledge about the state of the universe at that time, which may have been influenced by events similar to the Big Bang, such as inflation. According to Johnson and his associates, an impact would leave a well-defined disc-shaped impression on the background radiation. The temperature inside the impression would be just a few degrees different than the temperature outside the disc. The precise nature of the collision would allow for the determination of properties such as the side of the impression, as well as the strength of the temperature differential between the inside and the outside of the impression. Johnson and his team sought to predict how many collisions could be seen in data obtained by NASA’s WMAP satellite, and what the remnants of such collisions would look like to WMAP. Their discovery that the results are more compatible with zero collisions may be disappointing for multiverse enthusiasts. However, it is likely that the satellite is not sensitive enough to identify the traces of other universe collisions. In reality, the data contains a scarce number- but a number all the same- of spots that fit the type of signal that could be expected from bubble collisions. Johnson is reported to be pleased with his findings. In a similar study, physicists from Stanford managed to calculate the number of all possible universes. They explain that the number would have been potentially bigger if they were not limited in their ability to distinguish more universes. To calculate this number, the observers looked to the period of inflation, where the quantum fluctuations became “frozen” into standard oscillations in different regions. Today, each of these realms could be considered a whole different universe, with its own laws of low energy physics (Andrei Linde and Vitaly Vanchurin, Stanford). According to the researchers, calculating the number of universes is a crucial step toward achieving a greater goal: determining the likelihood of existing in a universe with a particular set of properties. What are the odds that we will live in a world where the laws of physics are the same ones that we observe now?

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