Are We One of Many Universes? MIT Physicist Says "Yes"
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February 18, 2011

Are We One of Many Universes? MIT Physicist Says "Yes"

Srvr Modern cosmology theory holds that our universe may be just one in a vast collection of universes known as the multiverse. MIT physicist Alan Guth has suggested that new universes (known as “pocket universes”) are constantly being created, but they cannot be seen from our universe.

In this view, “nature gets a lot of tries — the universe is an experiment that’s repeated over and over again, each time with slightly different physical laws, or even vastly different physical laws,” says Jaffe.

Some of these universes would collapse instants after forming; in others, the forces between particles would be so weak they could not give rise to atoms or molecules. However, if conditions were suitable, matter would coalesce into galaxies and planets, and if the right elements were present in those worlds, intelligent life could evolve.

Some physicists have theorized that only universes in which the laws of physics are “just so” could support life, and that if things were even a little bit different from our world, intelligent life would be impossible. In that case, our physical laws might be explained “anthropically,” meaning that they are as they are because if they were otherwise, no one would be around to notice them.

MIT physics professor Robert Jaffe and his collaborators felt that this proposed anthropic explanation should be subjected to more careful scrutiny, and decided to explore whether universes with different physical laws could support life.

The MIT physicists have showed that universes quite different from ours still have elements similar to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and could therefore evolve life forms quite similar to us, even when the masses of elementary particles called quarks are dramatically altered.

Jaffe and his collaborators felt that this proposed anthropic explanation should be subjected to more careful scrutiny, so they decided to explore whether universes with different physical laws could support life. Unlike most other studies, in which varying only one constant usually produces an inhospitable universe, they examined more than one constant.

Whether life exists elsewhere in our universe is a longstanding mystery. But for some scientists, there’s another interesting question: could there be life in a universe significantly different from our own?

In work recently featured in a cover story in Scientific American, Jaffe, former MIT postdoc, Alejandro Jenkins, and recent MIT graduate Itamar Kimchi showed that universes quite different from ours still have elements similar to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and could therefore evolve life forms quite similar to us. Even when the masses of the elementary particles are dramatically altered, life may find a way.

“You could change them by significant amounts without eliminating the possibility of organic chemistry in the universe,” says Jenkins.

Although bizarre life forms might exist in universes different from ours, Jaffe and his collaborators decided to focus on life based on carbon chemistry. They defined as “congenial to life” those universes in which stable forms of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen would exist.

“If you don’t have a stable entity with the chemistry of hydrogen, you’re not going to have hydrocarbons, or complex carbohydrates, and you’re not going to have life,” says Jaffe. “The same goes for carbon and oxygen. Beyond those three we felt the rest is detail."

They set out to see what might happen to those elements if they altered the masses of elementary particles called quarks. There are six types of quarks, which are the building blocks of protons, neutrons and electrons. The MIT team focused on “up”, “down” and “strange” quarks, the most common and lightest quarks, which join together to form protons and neutrons and closely related particles called “hyperons.”

In our universe, the down quark is about twice as heavy as the up quark, resulting in neutrons that are 0.1 percent heavier than protons. Jaffe and his colleagues modeled one family of universes in which the down quark was lighter than the up quark, and protons were up to a percent heavier than neutrons. In this scenario, hydrogen would no longer be stable, but its slightly heavier isotopes deuterium or tritium could be. An isotope of carbon known as carbon-14 would also be stable, as would a form of oxygen, so the organic reactions necessary for life would be possible.

The team found a few other congenial universes, including a family where the up and strange quarks have roughly the same mass (in our universe, strange quarks are much heavier and can only be produced in high-energy collisions), while the down quark would be much lighter. In such a universe, atomic nuclei would be made of neutrons and a hyperon called the “sigma minus,” which would replace protons. They published their findings in the journal Physical Review D last year.

Jaffe and his collaborators focused on quarks because they know enough about quark interactions to predict what will happen when their masses change. However, “any attempt to address the problem in a broader context is going to be very difficult,” says Jaffe, because physicists are limited in their ability to predict the consequences of changing most other physical laws and constants.

A group of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has done related studies examining whether congenial universes could arise even while lacking one of the four fundamental forces of our universe — the weak nuclear force, which enables the reactions that turn neutrons into protons, and vice versa. The researchers showed that tweaking the other three fundamental forces could compensate for the missing weak nuclear force and still allow stable elements to be formed.

That study and the MIT work are different from most other studies in this area in that they examined more than one constant. “Usually people vary one constant and look at the results, which is different than if you vary multiple constants,” says Mark Wise, professor of physics at Caltech, who was not involved in the research. Varying only one constant usually produces an inhospitable universe, which can lead to the erroneous conclusion that any other congenial universes are impossible.

One physical parameter that does appear to be extremely finely tuned is the cosmological constant — a measure of the pressure exerted by empty space, which causes the universe to expand or contract. When the constant is positive, space expands, when negative, the universe collapses on itself. In our universe, the cosmological constant is positive but very small — any larger value would cause the universe to expand too rapidly for galaxies to form. However, Wise and his colleagues have shown that it is theoretically possible that changes in primordial cosmological density perturbations could compensate at least for small changes to the value of the cosmological constant.

In the end, there is no way to know for sure what other universes are out there, or what life they may hold. But that will likely not stop physicists from exploring the possibilities, and in the process learning more about our own universe.

Casey Kazan via MIT News Office

Comments

Makes you wonder if we're not all in a mega living organism called the universe & in turn it mingles with other universe buddies. & maybe they themselves are inside another bug universe etc... etc...

This answers, at least in part, a question that I've had since I first heard that physicists took seriously the idea of other universes with different properties of physics. That question is, "Like what?" Now I can see, at least in part, what kind of differences they're talking about.

Still, I do wonder if it would be possible, in another universe, for light to have a different speed -- especially if that speed might be great enough to have real-time radio conversations across interstellar distances.

Aren't electons elementary particles on their own, and not made of quarks (at least as far as current knowledge states)?

i postulated about the multiverse as a young teenager during lunch period.

kudos.on right track. Saturn Rings of truth like neptune.
words, written, spoken, read are cumbersome, try gestures first then LISTEN to positive vibrations. 5th, higgs boson, life, travel in near FUTURE if communication/education improve ...messages all around more and more...hurry constants here are very limited and nuclear familys are soon to redefine, gays, hiv pos, amygdala, hypothalumus, move to FRONTAL lobe next.

Beyond carbon there are others AS 33 lucky will slyly infect a NWO and enLIGHTen.

I, too, am waiting out this plethora of quasiparticles. The electron is my guess, others combos of electrons. Photons are neutrinos most likely. Phonons have mass and spin, up and down. M Mathis on net.

I, too, am waiting out this plethora of quasiparticles. The electron is my guess, others combos of electrons. Photons are neutrinos most likely. Phonons have mass and spin, up and down. M Mathis on net.

Sorry, kids. More speculation with not a shred of proof that these things exist. That they might exist is the provenance of science fiction or fantasy or both. Slow news day for The Daily Galaxy. (Unless Michio Kaku is waiting in the news-cycle wings to tell us more about the wonderful world of worm-hole travel--which he thinks we haven't heard about before. He's always good for a boring five minutes or so.)

Sorry, kids. More speculation with not a shred of proof that these things exist. That they might exist is the provenance of science fiction or fantasy or both. Slow news day for The Daily Galaxy. (Unless Michio Kaku is waiting in the news-cycle wings to tell us more about the wonderful world of worm-hole travel--which he thinks we haven't heard about before. He's always good for a boring five minutes or so.)

What is proven to exist is the largest structural formation in the universe, larger then superclusters, are cosmic filaments that actually form the cosmic web of phony inferred theoretical undetected dark matter gravity from the arrogant big-bang from nothing. Whether the laws of physics change or not, using common sense observations today indicate that superclusters too form huge flat sheets walls along billion light year long filaments that connect together the great voids and logically form even larger structures called "Hyperclusters" that the big-bang cannot tolerate to exist! Superclusters walls align parallel and perpendicular to other great walls, but a hypercluster is not proven yet to exist to support the big-bang theory ! The universe is a PLASMA HIERARCHY of FILAMENTS that attract dust and gas at all scales from atoms, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters, superclusters, and hyperclusters, and beyond conceivable size limits ! This explains why galaxies fly away, to form larger clusters and superclusters etc. Dark Energy is not necessary in a hierarchy Universe of Plasma Clouds !

What is proven to exist is the largest structural formation in the universe, larger then superclusters, are cosmic filaments that actually form the cosmic web of phony inferred theoretical undetected dark matter gravity from the arrogant big-bang from nothing. Whether the laws of physics change or not, using common sense observations today indicate that superclusters too form huge flat sheets walls along billion light year long filaments that connect together the great voids and logically form even larger structures called "Hyperclusters" that the big-bang cannot tolerate to exist! Superclusters walls align parallel and perpendicular to other great walls, but a hypercluster is not proven yet to exist to support the big-bang theory ! The universe is a PLASMA HIERARCHY of FILAMENTS that attract dust and gas at all scales from atoms, stars, galaxies, galaxy clusters, superclusters, and hyperclusters, and beyond conceivable size limits ! This explains why galaxies fly away, to form larger clusters and superclusters etc. Dark Energy is not necessary in a hierarchy Universe of Plasma Clouds !

Human Intellect and wisdom can generate novel ideas/conjectures and one can proceed with scinece using mathematical forms that conform to such ideas. Only Experiments can prove what is right or wrong! That data is missing in cosmology mostly or is too inaccurate to confirm or deny a conjecture. i personally welcome innovative ideas but then these should be good for the society at large and not just boost individual scientists to form a mutual admiration group and survive in science. Any comments/ responses from proposers/commentators are welcome!!

But different universes may have different properties, but it is that the quantum coding to the universe that may be different then the one we live in. with totally different properties and maybe the outcome is nothing like our universe.

To believe in something & to really have something are two different things, with an interesting angle that, every thing that exists can be proved at one level but cannot be proved at another level, one have to believe at certain level of consciousness. Like we cannot explain atomic configuration to a 2 year old kid.

To believe in something & to really have something are two different things, with an interesting angle that, every thing that exists can be proved at one level but cannot be proved at another level, one have to believe at certain level of consciousness. Like we cannot explain atomic configuration to a 2 year old kid.

To believe in something & to really have something are two different things, with an interesting angle that, every thing that exists can be proved at one level but cannot be proved at another level, one have to believe at certain level of consciousness. Like we cannot explain atomic configuration to a 2 year old kid.

To believe in something & to really have something are two different things, with an interesting angle that, every thing that exists can be proved at one level but cannot be proved at another level, one have to believe at certain level of consciousness. Like we cannot explain atomic configuration to a 2 year old kid.

Ha! I just say "Man in Black"! Look at the last scene, it does not require a "MIT" to speculate about it!

It is complete non-sense what the MIT professor fantasized because by definition you can never known about "other" universes, let along understand or proof it.

Are We One of Many Universes? MIT Physicist Says "Yes".

- The statement is contra dictionary!

"UNI" = ONE. There is just 1 Universe - and we live in the local observable part of it.

why scientists have to make sure they say "to support life the laws oh physics have to be exact the same as here". what about in other places have different laws of physics and different types of life formed? and how can they think they know how a universe works when they barely know how our planet works. what is gravity? how are planets birthed? the big bag? hahahaha
Anyway, scientists know nothing at the end of the day. speculate away. have fun

1. How do you SHOW evidence that other universe's exist? as usual cnn article doesn't have the facts.

2. How stupid can these 'scientists' be? They assume only complex carbohydrates and hydrocarbones can create and support life? Read some freaking philosophy for God's sake. We are imperfect beings, we only percieve at the limit of our senses, and we therefore CANNOT KNOW what we can't percieve/comprehend.

That means that we can't assume there aren't other kinds of life forms. there could be other kinds of life right in front of us, but if we can't recognize it...see where I'm going?

Science fiction gets more right then these scientists.

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light. And God saw that the light was good." Genesis 1:1-4

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1

It would be a sad day if physicists stopped exploring universe. Facts about the universe are some of the most-mindblowing, credit them for there amazing work filling in some kind of picture for us.

"There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on earth"

Mind-Blowing or what!

It is possible that live evoles with a change in the laws physics but what we don't know is how these quarks will react to eachother with different laws of physics

It is possible that live evoles with a change in the laws physics but what we don't know is how these quarks will react to eachother with different laws of physics


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