Brave New Worlds?

Hello. My name is Larry and I'll be your astrophysicist  for today.
Hello. My name is Larry and I’ll be your astrophysicist for today.
Just to be clear. A bi-racial Canadian who moonlights as a white supremacist Texan has declared his candidacy for the office of President of the United States. And there are already those who fear he may be too smart for the Republican party. Why do science fiction authors even bother any more? Nevertheless, as many of you know, there’s a hypothesis (of the scientific kind and not some nutcaae with an ax to grind) which states that our universe is one of many. In fact there may be an infinite number of universes. That has proved to be great fodder for some authors. Back in 2011 I noted that Robert Heinlein used the hypothesis to justify incest. Yes, I am well aware that sentence makes no sense. Even so it is, nevertheless, true. But a hypothesis is meaningless unless it can be tested. Until now there really was no way to dig down through the firmament to see if there was anything else there.

As I said, “Until now.”

Stephen Luntz, at IFLScience, reports that scientists at the Large Hadron Collider think they may have come up with a method to find out.

A paper in Physics Letters B has raised the possibility that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) could make a discovery that would put its previous triumph with the Higgs Boson in the shade. The authors suggest it could detect mini black holes. Such a finding would be a matter of huge significance on its own, but might be an indication of even more important things.

Few ideas from theoretical physics capture the public imagination as much as the “many-worlds hypothesis,” which proposes an infinite number of universes that differ from our own in ways large and small. The idea has provided great fodder for science fiction writers and comedians.

However, according to Professor Mir Faizal from the University of Waterloo, “Normally, when people think of the multiverse, they think of the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, where every possibility is actualized,” he said to Phys.org. “This cannot be tested and so it is philosophy and not science.” Nonetheless, Faizal considers the test for a different sort of parallel universes almost within our grasp.

“What we mean is real universes in extra dimensions,” says Faizal. “As gravity can flow out of our universe into the extra dimensions, such a model can be tested by the detection of mini black holes at the LHC.”

The idea that the universe may be filled with minute black holes has been proposed to explain puzzles such as the nature of dark matter. However, the energy required to create such objects depends on the number of dimensions the universe has. In a conventional four-dimensional universe, these holes would require 1016 TeV, 15 orders of magnitude beyond the capacity of the LHC to produce.

String theory, on the other hand, proposes 10 dimensions, six of which have been wrapped up so we can’t experience them. Attempts to model such a universe suggest that the energy required to make these tiny black holes would be a great deal smaller, so much so that some scientists believe they should have been detected in experiments the LHC has already run.

So if no detection, no string theory? Not according to Faizal and his co-authors. They argue that the models used to predict the energy of the black holes in a 10-dimensional universe have left out quantum deformation of spacetime that changes gravity slightly.

Whether this deformation is real is a rapidly developing question, but if it is, the paper argues that the black holes will have energy levels much smaller than in a four-dimensional universe, but about twice as large as that detectable for any test run so far. The LHC is designed to reach 14 TeV, but so far has only gone to 5.3 TeV, while the paper thinks the holes might be lurking at 11.9 TeV. In this case, once the LHC reaches its full capacity, we should find them.

Such a discovery would demonstrate the microscale deformation of spacetime, the existence of extra dimensions, parallel universes within them and string theory. If found at the right energy levels, the holes would confirm the team’s interpretation of a new theory on black hole behavior named gravity’s rainbow, after the influential novel. Such an astonishing quadruple revelation would transform physics, although the researchers are already considering the most likely flaws in their work if the holes prove elusive.

I left all of Stephen’s links in so that you can take advantage of the great research he did. There’s a ton of information in there if you’re interested in finding out more.

Unlike previous iterations of this hypothesis these tests could lead to an actual theory.

For those of you who are new here, and not scientists (it’s okay, I’m not either), allow me to give you a brief, layman’s, definition of terms.

  • Hunch – when you say “hey, every time I see this that happens (or some similar basic observation). It is a presumed result based on very narrow data. It can also include any statement that starts with “I wonder if ….” Nothing wrong with that, everything starts somewhere, but you can’t stop there or you end up thinking that vaccines cause autism.
  • Hypothesis – after compiling as much data as you can (either theoretically or physically) you note that Event A tends to keep leading to Result B. This is where we’re at now. At this stage there can be, and in this case are, many conflicting hypothesis. But now everyone knows what to test for. If they find it, HOORAY, it moves up the ladder. If not, oh well, they’ve eliminated one possibility and can concentrate on the rest.
  • Theory – When the preponderance of evidence fits the known facts. Let’s say, for our purposes here today, 98% of all discoveries related to your hypothesis fit. It moves into theory mode. That is why evolution and gravity are both theories. There is still more to be discovered but the path is now very clear.
  • Fact – an item that is irrefutable. Humans are are a carbon based life form is a good example.

Here’s the deal, there could be multiple universes that are nothing like ours. There is no data to support the idea that all universes would have another you in them. Life in our own galaxy could be silicon based instead of carbon. Such creatures, should they encounter us, would happily eat our windows and such but would pose no threat to us as they wouldn’t need or want any of our resources.

H. G. Wells probably said it best.

One is startled towards fantastic imaginings by such a suggestion: visions of silicon-aluminium organisms – why not silicon-aluminium men at once? – wandering through an atmosphere of gaseous sulphur, let us say, by the shores of a sea of liquid iron some thousand degrees or so above the temperature of a blast furnace.

Alien enough for you?

And that’s just in our universe. Others might not even need or consider our laws of physics. Remember that our laws are based on our observations. We have not observed another universe so there’s no way of knowing.

In other words, that’s just a hunch.

multiverse from Sinan İpek on Vimeo.

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