Monday, December 24, 2012

Why Do Multiverses Scare You So?

Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang by Paul J. Steinhardt

Summary: Two world-renowned scientists present an audacious new vision of the cosmos that “steals the thunder from the Big Bang theory.” —Wall Street Journal

The Big Bang theory—widely regarded as the leading explanation for the origin of the universe—posits that space and time sprang into being about 14 billion years ago in a hot, expanding fireball of nearly infinite density. Over the last three decades the theory has been repeatedly revised to address such issues as how galaxies and stars first formed and why the expansion of the universe is speeding up today. Furthermore, an explanation has yet to be found for what caused the Big Bang in the first place.

In Endless Universe, Paul J. Steinhardt and Neil Turok, both distinguished theoretical physicists, present a bold new cosmology. Steinhardt and Turok “contend that what we think of as the moment of creation was simply part of an infinite cycle of titanic collisions between our universe and a parallel world” (Discover). They recount the remarkable developments in astronomy, particle physics, and superstring theory that form the basis for their groundbreaking “Cyclic Universe” theory. According to this theory, the Big Bang was not the beginning of time but the bridge to a past filled with endlessly repeating cycles of evolution, each accompanied by the creation of new matter and the formation of new galaxies, stars, and planets.

Endless Universe provides answers to longstanding problems with the Big Bang model, while offering a provocative new view of both the past and the future of the cosmos.  It is a “theory that could solve the cosmic mystery” (USA Today).

Review: An informative overview of inflationary and cyclic theory, but with a definite skewing towards cyclic theory. 

This book focuses on two possible explanations for how our universe came to be. It includes a good deal of history and includes some theories that have been debunked. The idea of an inflationary universe scared a good number of people, including Einstein. Even today, the idea of an inflationary universe is still scaring people. The picture has changed quite a bit with the inclusion of dark energy and dark matter. The idea of a cyclic universe has been postulated to explain the universe. 

The authors focus very heavily on the cyclic universe and obviously hope that the cyclic universe will be proven correct. They say that when one needs to add to a theory, that theory becomes somewhat useless. Yet, that is what the authors appear to do with cyclic theory. Unless there are some mysterious properties in dark energy, the universe will expand forever, but the authors state there might be mysterious properties that helps slow down the expansion and eventually contract the expansion. I can believe that the current universe is due to two branes colliding, but how many branes are there? Will you ever be able to discover the force that draws them together? What would happen if different ones collide? 

The inflationary universe seems to frighten the authors because it means that there is a multiverse and the universe we live in just happens to be one that life occurred in because the conditions were right. I don't see that as part of the anthropomorphic principle. Multiple universes means that conditions will vary widely and in some universes, at least ours, life will form. The fact that we may be only one of multiple universes doesn't scare me.


Recommendation: I would recommend this book to those interested in theories of the universe that are not the standard inflationary theory. 

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