Parallel universes have excited the minds of many, being imagined famously in the TV series Fringe, and adapted as alternate universes for The Butterfly Effect.
Howard Wiseman of Griffith University in Australia led a team that has created a new, groundbreaking theory, suggesting that multiple other universes exist in the same space and time as our own, and that they interact on a quantum level reports IFL Science.
For us mere laymen, quantum theory can be a very complicated idea to conceptualise, as matter does not behave in accordance with the universal laws we are familiar with.
Michael Hall is the lead author of the paper which introduces the ‘Many Interacting Worlds’ theory as an alternative to the well-known ‘Many Worlds’ approach that came about in the 1950s.
The traditional ‘Many Worlds’ theory suggests that after an event happens (like the asteroid hitting Earth) then numerous universes are created with all the possible outcomes of that event, and ours just happened to be that the dinosaurs were wiped out.
Those universes are thought to run parallel to ours in a separate space but at the same time, never interacting, unlike the new ‘Many Interacting Worlds’ theory, as the name suggests.
To understand their new theory, published in Physical Review X, we can think of a deck of cards where each card is an event. When you have a full deck of cards, the one you turn over could be any single outcome, until you turn it over and it forces one particular outcome to occur.
So their theory suggests that the parallel universes overlap and take up the same space and time, simultaneously existing in all possible configurations until an observer (us turning over the card) forces one state to exist, just like in quantum theory.
All possibilities are therefore realized – in some universes the dinosaur-killing asteroid missed Earth. In others, Australia was colonized by the Portuguese.
But critics question the reality of these other universes, since they do not influence our universe at all. On this score, our ‘Many Interacting Worlds’ approach is completely different, as its name implies.
The response from the physics community has been mixed, with one scientist branding it ‘a huge waste of time’, while others think of it as ‘a very nice analysis’.
The next thing is it to try and test the theory, and see if we can someday access parallel universes, which could lead to time travel!