Personal Science & Physics

A universal illusion

The universe just got smaller. 120 times smaller, no less. And what impact does this news have on our daily lives? Absolutely nothing. But for the likes of me, this news simply set my mind racing around and around and around .. in fact, my thoughts came right back to where they started…

The universe just got smaller. 120 times smaller, no less. And what impact does this news have on our daily lives? Absolutely nothing. But for the likes of me, this news simply set my mind racing around and around and around .. in fact, my thoughts came right back to where they started…

And the funny thing is, that’s just what the current theories predict:

“Recent data suggest that the universe might be multiply connected, like the left-hand and right-hand sides of the screen in a computer game.”

So if you traveled far enough for long enough, you’d find yourself right back where you started.

A cosmic hall of mirrors?

But why would the universe produce such an elaborate illusion? Why would there not be a wall to fly right into? Good question. But that question sort of relies on the idea that there would be anything at all to slam into in the first place.

Not only is the current thinking making the universe a small place, there’s also a shape given to the universe. An what better shape than a football.

No, not that football! That’s some rugby derivative with a totally different shaped ball. I mean the football played by the rest of the world. I mean the kind of football that’s a dodecahedron in shape.

If true and verifiable, this proposed new ‘topology’ of the universe allows for all kinds of theories and ideas to fall neatly into place. Principally, the idea of a ‘multiply connected’ universe.

Now, I’m no physicist, but what I am is logical and like to think that I have a keen eye for symmetry and a sense of poetry.

Patterns across size and scale

What fascinates me is how patterns are replicated across scales both microscopic and galactic. Take for example the humble, kitchen or bathroom variety plug hole. Watch as water spirals inexorably down into the drain.

Then fix your gaze upon the spiral arms of a galaxy and how each point of light, a star in formation, all rotate around a common point, which is thought to be in every instance a super massive ‘quantum singularity’, or more commonly known as a black hole.

Such patterns are common and to be found just about everywhere. Indeed, the proposed shape of the universe – the universe being the largest single known cosmological structure – just happens to be the same shape as the Buckminsterfullerene, or the ‘Bucky Ball’ which is arguably one of the tinier known objects in the universe.

How sublime it is that they share the same shape. How perfectly coincidental? Not quite.

Again, I must reiterate my lack of scholarly accreditation with regards to physics, but I believe that everything we see around us, and those things either too vast to behold or too small to resolve are intrinsically and inherently linked.

Picture this…

The very first thing that struck me when I looked at the “A cosmic hall of mirrors” web page was the image on the right. What I saw then immediately pulled me towards an idea that had persisted in my mind for over a decade.

What if our universe is merely one of many? What if these many universes are an incalculable multitude?

“A multiverse (or meta-universe) is the hypothetical set of multiple possible universes (including our universe) that together comprise all of physical reality. The structure of the multiverse, the nature of each universe within it and the relationship between the various constituent universes, depend on the specific multiverse hypothesis considered.”

Put more simply – because the very nature of the topic is quite dense and syntactically difficult to read through in one go, much like a legal document – our universe is just one of many, and there’s a good chance that there are other universes almost identical to our own.

Inside these near identical universes, there are near identical versions of yourself living out their lives.

I’d ask you to dwell on this notion for a second. Think carefully about those many iterations of yourself, one maybe less fortunate. One more fortunate, perhaps? One who may have already died.

One who is puzzling over the very same thing as yourself right now. The two of you separated by a distance so immense as to be laughable in both its extent and value.

A mind to measure many worlds

As you might imagine, thinking about such things for so long forces the mind to contemplate issues quite startling which put more present affairs into their proper perspective.

Now, if we accept that there are an incalculable number of universes, what might this multiverse look like? Might we not imagine these many universes as a seething froth?

That is exactly as I imagined them. Which provides an intriguing segue into the nature of the image in the article, as I discussed earlier.

Think back to the last time you washed your hands. Can you see the bubbles in the sink basin? Look through your mind’s eye and then in turn inside the seething froth of bubbles.

Individually, a bubble is a perfect sphere. A marvel of nature. But what happens when you force these spheres together? As they push against each other, their surfaces become faceted as they make room for those other, adjoining spheres. Faceted like a football or a Buckminsterfullerene, perhaps?

And we see again those recurring patterns across scale and proportion – from the vanishingly small, to the infinitely large.

Could it be that the very same forces at work in the bathroom are the same forces at work in the region beyond the confines of our universe?

If the universe is nothing more than an elaborate illusion, then it is an illusion we have no apparent control over. But we all play a part no less important, despite our relative lack of control over the outcome.

Or do we?

By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

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