Monday, February 12, 2007

Parallel Universes

On my Twilight Zone post Crunchy Carpets mentioned that a company claims to have developed a quantum computer that can prove the existence of parallel universes. Can you imagine? I haven't been able to find a whole heck of a lot on the subject, so I can only guess that it's in the very early stages of development. But I am seriously wondering what this means. When I think of parallel universes I tend to think of books I've read that create whole new worlds that are in some way attached to ours; most books seem to rely on magic doorways. Take The Chronicles of Narnia for example. In The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe the Pevensie children discover Narnia through a doorway in an old wardrobe. The book was first published in 1950, so it may have been one of the first of its kind. But it is kind of classic in its literary formula. I've read tons of authors who have characters from our world step through a portal to another. Stephen R. Donaldson wrote a book about a woman who steps through a mirror in The Mirror of her Dreams. J.V. Jones has her heroine step into another world through the use of a magic talisman in The Barbed Coil. And it's not just books that like to use the subject of alternate universes. Star Trek had an episode about a mirror universe in "mirror, mirror in which Kirk finds himself in a parallel universe with a goateed Mr. Spock. In fact, most of the Star Trek television shows featured the idea of parallel universes, or multiverses at one time or another. I remember the wormhole being a favorite method to shuttle members of the crew through space, time and alternate universes. So I wonder what will happen if this quantum computer works. What kind of parallel universes are they talking about? Will it be anything like what we've come to expect through our favorite books and movies or something completely different? And what will the impact on our world be? I can't help but find this incredibly fascinating, and more than a little scary.


Alex said...

If you want more info, check out these related search strings:

-M Theory
-String Theory (or, more appropriately, Superstring Theories)
-Quantum Entanglement

Last I checked, physicists still thought it was possible that quantum entanglement would some day allow us to "beam" things from one place to another. How far in the future is anyone's guess -- the teleporter could just end up in the same dusty warehouse as the hovercar. The detailed explanations used to get entanglement across to laymen might help you wrap your head around quantum computing.

Anyhoo, M Theory makes sense of the five different superstring theories by claiming they're all right, though incomplete. Put simply, it is as if we are looking into a pentagonal room with mirrored walls. Each mirror represents another portion of the multiverse of which we are not a part (if I am construing it right, as an organic, not holistic, cosmology).

But, to be blunt, I am an ancient specialist, so don't take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.

However, I highly suggest checking out the Nova special they did on string theory a couple of years ago. They are so good at taking highly technical subjects and stripping away the unnecessary jargon to present something anyone with a high school education can follow. "String's the Thing" is the title of the episode; it's the final episode in a three-part documentary.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Thinking about a multiverse is an easy enough concept to grasp. Thinking about how to get around in it is another thing.

When I was a kid, the Justice League of America always used to just hop into their transporter tube if they wanted to go to Earth 2. It couldn't possibly be that easy, could it?

ShadowFalcon said...

I always look out for new articles on MWI in new scientist. I love the idea...probably cos it means not only is anything possible but its probably already happened....

Crunchy Carpets said...
This is the blog of the guy who made the thing.
They are supposed to be demonstrating it today.

Didn't Robert J.Sawyer do books about the 'effects' of a quantum computer?

I love the concepts...and dreams around the idea.

I will very interested to see the real ramifications of it.

mist1 said...

I don't know about quantum computers...

I prefer to use parallel universes for my own needs. Like when I forget that I'm supposed to be somewhere. I tell people that I was there, but maybe on some alternate plane. I am usually on an alternate plane.

SQT said...

I think what interests me most about this is the idea of what we might find. I think this could turn all of our conventional thinking about science upside down.

I think the only one's who might be remotely prepared would be the scientists who have been working on the technology.

Can you imagine the religious ramifications if they found a completely different world that the bible didn't address in any way at all? How will the fundamentalists come to grips with that? Will they try to find some reference in Revelations and claim the apocolypse? The whole thing would be worth it to me just to see all those people scurrying about trying to find some sort of "explaination" that would suit their beliefs.

Kate S said...

Fascinating and depressing.

I'm just sure there's another me out there somewhere--thin, fabulous, internationally famous best-selling writer--while "I" on the other hand, sit here gnawing on some mac-n-cheese watching the snow drift by my window.

The bitch.

The Curmudgeon said...

It's a fascinating concept and the basis of all the alt history books, too. And Heinlein had a thing for the Multiverse -- wasn't it him who had Edgar Rice Burroughs' Martians in one book?

Stewart Sternberg said...

When my father died, I remember reading a bit about quantum physics and the nature of reality. Perhaps it was a way to come to grips with my own mortality. I remember at the time reading a news item about an experiment in Colorado (at least I think it was in Colorado) in which scientists were able to stimulate a barium atom into being in two places at the same time. Sort of the beginning of transporter technology.

As I read about string theory and tried to understand the nature of time itself, I tried to wrap my mind around a concept that I exist simultaneously in several points in time. I am an old man. I am a child. I am a teen. All, now. This second.

Perhaps flawed from a physics point of view, it gives me comfort.

Or, if that's too hard..try and imagine another universe where George W. Bush has a brain, where Dick Cheney is charismatic, where Bill O Reilly isn't bombastic and cruel. Where Ann Coulter is a woman. Or..perhaps that stretches credulity too far.

SQT said...

Stewart, the possibilities are endless.

Anna Nicole's baby would have one father, Paris Hilton would have talent and class (nah), Michael Jackson would be human, Donald Trump's hair wouldn't look like a dead squirrel, Jennifer Garner could act....

I could go on all day.

Vancouver mermaid/Montreal photographer said...

Have you ever watched a movie called "What the bleep do we know?" It was all about quantum physics and parrallel universes.

I can't say I know much about this stuff, but it was sure interestine. Makes me interested in learning more.

S.M.D. said...

John Scalzi wrote a book called Old Man's War which dealt with the concept of a multiverse as a means of travel. What he came up with was this: Whenever a ship 'skips' (which is is what he called the movement over great distances without dealing with going faster than light), it enters a parallel universe almost identical and indiscernible from the previous universe. The only difference is you end up in a different place. It was rather interesting in the book because the main character found that he was the only one left from 'his' universe after all who had left Earth with him had died.

I think that if there are multiple universes that the likelihood we will find one so drastically different than our own (such as Narnia, or something like that) are rather slim, and just imagine what the differences in physics that maintain those universes would have in store for our bodies. Who knows ...and how would one even control which of the infinite number of universes to go to.

Check out "The One" with Jet Li. Great film (he speaks English in it) that has another take on a multiverse.

Alex said...

"Have you ever watched a movie called 'What the bleep do we know?' It was all about quantum physics and parrallel universes. "

No, "What the Bleep Do We Know" was about scientology, not to be confused with science or cosmology. You can normally tell the difference when the wackos start talking about being the reincarnation of Mongol warrior-kings. Or maybe I'm just exceptionally perspicacious that way. lol

Joe Banks said...

Here is an account of my sisters and my experience with what we believe is a parallel earth. These events took place in Death Valley National Park California USA