The September 2001 issue of Discover Magazine has an interview with physicist David Deutsch of Oxford University in English, who believes that parallel universes are real. If Deutsch?s ideas are correct, there is more than one ?you,? and you are reading this article countless times, in many different universes. In other universes, the article doesn?t exist, you don?t own a computer, don?t know how to read. In still others, you are already dead, haven't been born, will never exist.
Does it ever end?
In a word, not really.
Quantum physics has shown that a single particle of matter exists not just in one position, but in several places at once. It can exist has both a particle and as part of a wave?at the same time. Because everything in the world, including us, is made up of these particles, we too, must exist in many states at once, even if we don?t realize it. All possible events must exist, says Deutsch.
This theory solves the ancient question of whether or not we have free will, because we don?t need it?everything that can happen, does happen, in some universe somewhere. ?The bottom line is that the universe is open,? says Deutsch. ?In the relevant sense of the word, we have free will.?
Could you go back in time and kill your grandfather? If you did, you?d never be born. But if your father was never born and never married your mother, who gave birth to you, then you wouldn?t exist and you wouldn?t be able to go back in time and kill your grandfather in your own universe. The grandfather you murder in a parallel universe lives in a universe in which you do not exist, although you could travel there and even remain there, according to researchers. Deutsch says that different times are the same as different universes. ?The universes we can affect we call the future. Those that can affect us we call the past.?
Can we control what happens to us in the universe we happen to exist in right now? Deutsch thinks it?s impossible to control the fate of our other selves in the multiuniverse, but if we may be able to influence the other copies of ourselves. What about dangerous driving??we could hit a child. ?There?s ...the argument that because the child?s death will happen in some universes, you ought to take more care when doing even slightly risky things,? he says. But if someone dies, they can still be alive in other universes.
Physicists may disagree about the existence of parallel universes, but they work with the quantum physics that underlie the theory every day. 30% of the United States? gross national product is derived from technologies based on quantum mechanics; without it there would be no cell phones, CD players or portable computers. Yet, ?despite the unrivalled empirical success of quantum theory, the very suggestion that it may be literally true as a description of nature is still greeted with cynicism, incomprehension and even anger,? says Deutsch.
Christopher Fuchs, a research physicist at Lucent Technologies? Bell Labs, is one scientist who disagrees with David Deutsch?s interpretation of parallel universes. ?It represents our interface with reality,? he says. ?I don?t think it goes further than that. When a quantum state collapses, it?s not because anything is happening physically, it?s simply because this little piece of the world called a person has come across some knowledge, and he updates his knowledge. So the quantum state that?s being changed is just the person?s knowledge of the world, it?s not something existent in the world in and of itself.?
Deutsch think that ideas like that are just rationalizations?ways of avoiding the hard truth. And if scientists won?t face reality, they?ll never achieve their goal of building a quantum computer. A quantum computer, in theory, could perform a calculation requiring more steps than there are atoms in the entire universe. It would do this by utilizing the atoms that exist in parallel universes.
The theory of parallel universes is frightening at first, but it?s also comforting. It means there is a world in which we didn?t make those wrong decisions. Will it some day be possible to travel to a parallel universe where we?ve won the lottery? But one of ?us? is already there, living the good life.
If parallel universes are real, it means that a world exists in which no one has invented a hydrogen bomb and serial killers do not murder the innocent. Somewhere, Hitler did not try to destroy a entire race of human beings?and somewhere else, he succeeded.
For more information, go to Discover Magazine.
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