Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Theory ponders life in parallel universe

Today I find myself in a philosophical mood. When this has happened in the past, it's frequently resulted in a philosophical column. This is no exception.

When I write about such matters, I usually explore physics. Not your high school physics, of course, but the latest theories of modern physics; that is, the current ideas of a few mathematicians who try to offer some metaphysical framework that explains the weird phenomenon they observe and predict.

So, they've built this "monster" cyclotron a mile or more beneath the earth in one of the European countries – Switzerland, I think. And within this chamber there are all kinds of funny things flying around at nearly the speed of light, as scientists attempt to duplicate conditions that existed a few micro-seconds after the "big bang" of creation some six or seven billion years ago. (Yeah, I know strange and even preposterous this seems but, believe it or not, they've apparently succeeded.) Among all that stuff flying around, they hope to glimpse the sneaky "God particle" – that is, the particle that gives weight to everything and the particle that, at least mathematically, must exist. This gives rise to the inevitable question: If they find this particle, which they surely will if they haven't already, what is it composed of...presumedly, other particles?

The entire history of physics is characterized by absurdities – irrational ideas – that at, after considerable work and research, proven to be facts. Thus we were surprised to learn that the earth revolves around the sun, that time is relative and that space can be bent. Physicists have observed particles that go from one location to another, but do not pass through the space in between. Or, even stranger, a single particle that exists, simultaneously, in two different locations, a quality called "superposition." (As I've said, these concepts are illogical as hell.) Furthermore, one particle can influence another, instantaneously, regardless of how far apart they are – presumedly, even across the entire solar system. It's a quality called "entanglement." Einstein referred to it as "spooky action at a distance."

Such phenomena are so irrational they led Danish physicist Niels Bohr (1885-1962) to argue that physics has run up against the limits of what science can know. Science is wonderfully good at predicting the outcomes of individual experiments and creating tools, but can't actually tell us anything about reality. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman wouldn't quite go that far, but admits "our imaginations are stretched to the utmost, not as in fiction to imagine things which are not there, but just to comprehend those things which are there and observable."

A handful of avant garde physicists are attempting to explain the nonsense they observe by postulating the existence of parallel universes, the so-called Many Worlds theory. They submit that a theory of parallel universes is the only rational explanation – the only one that is tenable – for the irrational reality around us. Oxford physicist David Deutsch says, "physical phenomenon can have different values in different universes." In another parallel universe, particles can travel faster than the speed of light and along no detectable pathway. In Many Worlds theory, there isn't a single course of history or facts;  instead, there are innumerable versions. In this universe I'm a writer, but in another I'm a chef. In this universe you die, but in another you're born.

Fascinating stuff.

But we're now skating dangerously close to the realm of religion. And this young fella isn't about to pursue that subject.

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