Lie down and look up at the ceiling and breathe with those curiously fragile lungs of yours and remind yourself: Don’t worry. Don’t worry. All is as it was meant to be. It was meant to be lonely and terrifying and unfair and heaving. Don’t worry.
The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home, Night
Vale #31.5,”Condos” (via elucipher
So, how you’ve been?
Yea, good. Yea. Much better.
Jam, kittens, and RAGE.
A lot of people, both inside and outside the scientific community, are viscerally opposed to the idea of other universes, for the simple reason that we can’t observe them—at least as far as we know. It’s possible that another universe bumped into ours early on and left a detectable signature in the cosmic background radiation; cosmologists are actively looking. But the multiverse might be impossible to test directly. Even if such a theory were true, the worry goes, how would we ever know? Is it scientific to even talk about it?
These concerns stem from an overly simple demarcation between science and nonscience. Science depends on being able to observe something, but not necessarily everything, predicted by a theory. It’s a mistake to think of the multiverse as a theory, invented by desperate physicists at the end of their imaginative ropes. The multiverse is a prediction of certain theories—most notably, of inflation plus string theory. The question is not whether we will ever be able to see other universes; it’s whether we will ever be able to test the theories that predict they exist.
Imagine a tribe of primitive cosmologists living on a planet perpetually covered with clouds. They cannot see the sky, so all they can do is speculate. Most of them might be content to imagine that their gray atmosphere stretches on forever, but others start imagining huge numbers of other planets, many very different from their own. These folks go so far as to suggest that their picture helps explain why their own planet is so hospitable: On the planets that aren’t so pleasant, there aren’t any cosmologists asking that question.
This scenario is much like our current situation. We find ourselves surrounded by an opaque barrier past which we can’t see—the Big Bang. The distant universe might be uniform, or it might be full of different universes scattered throughout space. The conditions of our local environment might be the unique consequence of fundamental laws of physics, or they might just be one possibility out of a staggering number.
Right now we don’t know, and that’s fine. That’s how science works; the fun questions are the ones we can’t yet answer. The proper scientific approach is to take every reasonable possibility seriously, no matter how heretical it may seem, and to work as hard as we can to match our theoretical speculations to the cold data of our experiments.
Ivory Lake hut dwarfed by the rugged, green landscape of Westland, New Zealand.
Contributed by Matt McKessar.