Daniel Pecoraro has done wonders to unlock the secrets of this universe, but what about the rest of them? Yes, I am talking about parallel universes, the many-worlds interpretation, whatever you want to call it – another you may be calling it something else in another world. Once considered a ridiculous proposal, the theory is quickly gaining ground among circles of scientists as a plausible explanation for the workings of the universe(s?).
Let’s learn some fun facts about it which, at the very least, hold true in this universe:
- The theory was proposed by physicist Hugh Everett (father of Mark Oliver Everett of the band Eels), a graduate student studying quantum mechanics at Princeton University during the 1950s.
- Everett’s theory began small – with subatomic particles. While big things like apples and tennis balls follow the laws of classical physics, small matter like atoms and subatomic particles follow the laws of quantum mechanics.
- Particles following quantum mechanics behave not as individual particles but have wave-particle duality. For example, if tennis balls were fired through two slits at a wall, they would hit two consistent spots on the wall in line with the slits. However, small particles behave like waves, passing through the slits and winding up in multiple places on the wall that would be considered impossible according to the laws of classical physics. Physicist Niels Bohr concluded that the reason for this strange pattern was that the small particles actually pass through both slits at once.
- Hugh Everett found it hard to believe that matter should behave differently according to size. He reasoned that since everything is made up of elementary particles that follow quantum mechanics, everything – big and small – should follow the laws of quantum mechanics. If these small particles can be in two places at once, then so can anything. His studies led him to his theory of parallel universes.
- Everett proposed that the universe splits every time a quantum event occurs. After the split, the two separate universes created would have no way of knowing about each other or influencing each other. In the experiment where small particles are fired through slits in the wall (called Double Slit Diffraction), the universe would split, allowing for the particle to wind up in every place on the wall in some universe.
Everett compared the fact that we cannot feel the splitting occur to the way we cannot feel the Earth rotating. The splitting creates millions of new worlds per second. According to the theory, everything that can happen will happen in some universe. There can be no such thing as “too many coincidences.” This might explain how a rare planet with such life forms as the Earth came into existence (After all, at its conception, our universe was smaller than the electron that follows the laws of quantum mechanics).
Everett’s theory does not apply only to experimentation at the microscopic level. If his theory is correct, some physicists argue, the universe splits every time a decision is made in our own personal lives. If the choices we make define who we are, we may be more people than we think.
As our knowledge grows, an increasing number of physicists acknowledge the logic in Everett’s theory. In 1995, a poll of 72 prominent physicists revealed that 58% of them believed in the theory. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time until acceptance of the theory becomes…well, universal.