I recently read Adam Frank’s interview with cosmologist Max Tegmark in the July 2008 issue of Discover Magazine. Frank introduces Tegmark with these words:
His grand theory posits parallel worlds in multiple dimensions of space and time, infinite realms where our doppelgangers live alternate lives. (Adam Frank)
This is one of those far-fetched imaginative places where we can all play with ideas alongside the likes of Einstein. Multiverses, with their realms of space and time have something in common with dinosaurs. That is, we don’t know what color dinosaurs were, or how they sounded, or what they did everyday. This lack of information allows imagination to be unleashed yet contained within what is known. A happy paddling pool where what is imagined can also be considered possible.
Multiverse First Level – All you need for a level 1 universe is an infinite universe – go far enough out and you will find another earth with another version of yourself. (Tegmark)
It is intriguing to contemplate how creative minds influence each other. Creative writers inspire mathematicians, philosophers and cosmologists inspire composers and artists etc (there is no order or sequence to who inspires who of course). All dip into abstract thought and return with new ideas. Tegmark suggests the ‘universe is really nothing more than a mathematical object’. And ‘Every mathematical object is in a sense its own universe’.
Multiverse Level 2 – This level emerges if the fundamental equations of physics, the ones that govern the behavior of the universe after the Big Bang, have more than one solution… There could have been ‘other Big Bangs. These would be parallel universes with different kinds of physical laws, different solutions to those equations. This kind of parallel universe is very different from what happens in level 1. (Tegmark)
A few years ago I found a little exercise book that I had used when I was about 8 years old. Scrawled in the back of this book in blue biro ink was a table: 0+1=2, 0+2=3, 0+3=4 etc. This was then followed by another table: 1+1=3, 1+2=4, 1+3=5 etc and 2+2=5, 2+3=6, 3+3=7 etc. Underneath these tables I had drawn some basic diagrams representing zero with a dot and I had written ‘All sums are wrong because 0 = something.’
You will not be surprised to learn that I had a few problems with mathematics at school. I was put into a special class with three others who were also ‘bad’ at maths. This class was taught by our Latin master who had a big, black, bushy beard that held samples of his meals all day long, cornflakes, grains of rice, odd sticky substances etc. One day our food strewn teacher said he was leaving to become a missionary in Africa (where there was apparently a shortage of Latin teachers or was he going to farm his beard?) I have wondered, once or twice, whether we were responsible for his turning to religion? But of course that is pure ego-centric thinking, seeing cause and effect through the very narrow lens of my remedial maths class.
Multiverse Level 3 This is a radical solution to the measurement problems proposed by the physicist named Hugh Everett in the 1950s… Everett said that every time a measurement is made, the universe splits off into parallel versions of itself. In one universe you see result A on the measuring device, but in another universe, a parallel version of you reads off result B. After the measurement, there are going to be two of you. (Tegmark)
As it turned out no teacher showed up to funnel equations into our brains at the next class. We waited, and waited, and began to realize that the school had overlooked our small class of arithmetical disasters. We made a pact to keep quiet and not draw attention to ourselves; when it was time for our class we discreetly disappeared to an empty music room and read magazines or did homework. The shocking thing is that we did this for over a year! By the time we took our final exams the school must have realized the oversight but also opted to say nothing! So, when I read that Tegmark suggests that we live in a mathematical universe I feel a little nervous. I prefer to think of it this way: the universe is really nothing more than an imagined object and every imagined object is in a sense its own universe. That works don’t you think?
Multiverse Level 4 – The mathematical universe. ‘Galileo and Wigner and lots of other scientists would argue that abstract mathematics “describes” reality. Plato would say that mathematics exists somewhere out there as an ideal reality. I am working in between. I have this sort of crazy-sounding idea that the reason why mathematics is so effective at describing reality is that it is reality. That is the mathematical universe hypothesis: Mathematical things actually exist, and they are actually physical reality.’ (Tegmark)
Perhaps I am a doppelgänger that got lost? I am simply applying the laws of the wrong universe to my sums! Easy to do and completely understandable. Now, is Second Life a doppelgänger multiverse? After all, if we can have parallel universes and parallel selves, then perhaps we can have parallel Second Lives too? Maybe I am more real in Second Life because I am generated by zeros and ones? Maybe my avatar is more real than me? Maybe it is good at maths?
Slurls to locations in Second Life™: