It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
* Multiple other universes—each with its own laws of physics—may have emerged from the same primordial vacuum that gave rise to ours.
* Assuming they exist, many of those universes may contain intricate structures and perhaps even some forms of life.
* These findings suggest that our universe may not be as “finely tuned” for the emergence of life as previously thought.
The typical Hollywood action hero skirts death for a living. Time and again, scores of bad guys shoot at him from multiple directions but miss by a hair. Cars explode just a fraction of a second too late for the fireball to catch him before he finds cover. And friends come to the rescue just before a villain’s knife slits his throat. If any one of those things happened just a little differently, the hero would be hasta la vista, baby. Yet even if we have not seen the movie before, something tells us that he will make it to the end in one piece.
In some respects, the story of our universe resembles a Hollywood action movie. Several physicists have argued that a slight change to one of the laws of physics would cause some disaster that would disrupt the normal evolution of the universe and make our existence impossible. For example, if the strong nuclear force that binds together atomic nuclei had been slightly stronger or weaker, stars would have forged very little of the carbon and other elements that seem necessary to form planets, let alone life. If the proton were just 0.2 percent heavier than it is, all primordial hydrogen would have decayed almost immediately into neutrons, and no atoms would have formed. The list goes on.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. ⎯ Is there anybody out there? In Alejandro Jenkins' case, the question refers not to whether life exists elsewhere in the universe, but whether it exists in other universes outside of our own.
While that might be a mind-blowing concept for the layperson to ponder, it's all in a day's work for Jenkins, a postdoctoral associate in theoretical high-energy physics at The Florida State University. In fact, his deep thoughts on the hypothetical "multiverse" — think of it as a mega-universe full of numerous smaller universes, including our own — are now receiving worldwide attention, thanks to a cover article he co-wrote for the January 2010 issue of Scientific American magazine.
In "Looking for Life in the Multiverse," Jenkins and co-writer Gilad Perez, a theorist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, discuss a provocative hypothesis known as the anthropic principle, which states that the existence of intelligent life (capable of studying physical processes) imposes constraints on the possible form of the laws of physics.
The theory of "cosmic inflation," which was developed in the 1980s in order to solve certain puzzles about the structure of our universe, predicts that ours is just one of countless universes to emerge from the same primordial vacuum. We have no way of seeing those other universes, although many of the other predictions of cosmic inflation have recently been corroborated by astrophysical measurements.
Given some of science's current ideas about high-energy physics, it is plausible that those other universes might each have different physical interactions. So perhaps it's no mystery that we would happen to occupy the rare universe in which conditions are just right to make life possible. This is analogous to how, out of the many planets in our universe, we occupy the rare one where conditions are right for organic evolution.
"What theorists like Dr. Perez and I do is tweak the calculations of the fundamental forces in order to predict the resulting effects on possible, alternative universes," Jenkins said. "Some of these results are easy to predict; for example, if there was no electromagnetic force, there would be no atoms and no chemical bonds. And without gravity, matter wouldn't coalesce into planets, stars and galaxies.
"What is surprising about our results is that we found conditions that, while very different from those of our own universe, nevertheless might allow -- again, at least hypothetically -- for the existence of life. (What that life would look like is another story entirely.) This actually brings into question the usefulness of the anthropic principle when applied to particle physics, and might force us to think more carefully about what the multiverse would actually contain."