Our Universe Is A Multiverse.

The concept of a multiverse, a cosmos with multiple different universes, is often brought up in creation vs evolution debates.  It really irks me, but this time not because of what fundamentalists say – but because of what evolution proponents say.  Often they rely on the concept of a multiverse to justify the probability of life existing.  They say “well if there are an infinite series of universes with different properties, certainly one of them is likely to be a universe where life is possible”.  In this blog I will show how this is flawed thinking, not because the concept of multiple universes is unproven (though of course it is), but because our singular, solitary universe for all intents and purposes is a multiverse. 

I know this is confusing, but bear with me, it’s actually pretty cool.

The concept of a multiverse is invoked in these debates because the idea is that our universe does not have enough variety and potential for complexity, so we need many more universes with different sets of properties, different periodic tables, maybe another universe where gravity is 20% weaker and matter doesn’t behave the way it does here.

The reason this is silly is that we already have that in our universe.  If you want to see what a universe would be like where gravity is stronger or weaker, you don’t need another universe, you just need to be further from or closer to a source of gravity.  In a universe where gravity is 10% stronger you wouldn’t have anything different than what you have in this universe, stars would just be 10% hotter and brighter by volume, so if you want to see a star like that one, find one with 10% more mass in this universe.

How about the elements?  They behave in a consistent manner, so don’t we need a multiverse to have enough variety to make life possible?  Nope.  This is flawed on several different levels – first of all matter behaves very differently in different environments, most elements have a gaseous state, a liquid state, a solid state and a plasma state, so depending on the temperature range of an environment, that is effectively five different universes with five different sets of properties right here in our universe.  If it were cold enough you could build a solid house out of bricks of air.

The other reason why this is flawed thinking is that the chemical elements have dramatically different properties depending on their arrangements.  X atoms have x properties, y atoms have y properties, mix them together and they have z properties.  Put salt in water and it has a different melting, freezing and boiling point for instance.  So it is not as though we have a hundred or so elements with set properties and that is that, the properties and potential for complexity of our universe is limited not by the number of different particles (all elements are just combinations of only 2 particles after all, protons and electrons).  Instead the potential for complexity is determined by how many different ways those particles can be combined to produce different properties.  So how many combinations are there?

The answer: A big, big, big, big number.  Too big to even know for sure how big it is.  To give you an idea how big, I will quote wisegeek.com:

“In 2005, a group from the University of Berne, in Switzerland, tried to determine the total number of stable compounds with up to eleven atoms of just carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and fluorine. Their number was just under 18 billion, but a subsequent analysis found they ignored many common chemicals, including many which could be easily ordered online, and the number may have been low by as much as three orders of magnitude.”

18 billion chemicals with 18 billion sets of properties was a lowball estimate of how much potential for variation you could get by mixing a limited number of just five of the one hundred and eighteen known chemical elements.  And they limited themselves to only 10 atoms per molecule, when organic chemicals (like DNA) can contain literally hundreds of billions of atoms and the largest known genome contains about 40 trillion atoms, over 200 times the size of the human genome.  The website continues:

“There are a huge number of possible chemicals. Estimates range from 1018 to 10200. For comparison the number of grains of sand on the Earth is about 7.5 x 1018, the number of particles in the universe is between 1072 and 1087. Clearly, if there really are more chemicals than this, then not every one even physically exists in the universe.”

In other words, the universe, with all of it’s billions of galaxies containing billions of solar systems and unimaginable vastness, does not even have enough matter to make one of every possible chemical simultaneously.

So I ask you, do we need to invoke a multiverse to account for life, or does our universe have more than enough potential for variation and complexity?  And by more than enough I mean “enough to make your brain hurt while you still haven’t even begun to grasp one percent of one percent of one percent of the unfathomable vastness of it”.

But the weirdness doesn’t end there (and I mean weird in the most positive, exalted sense of the word).  The “our-universe-is-effectively-a-multiverse” way of looking at things can also be seen when you add time as a factor.  Because we live on a planet that is capable of supporting the type of life we have on earth – but it did not used to be able to support any known form of life, and it will in the future not be able to support any known form of life.  Planets and stars and solar systems are not static.  Though they may seem incredibly stable due to the magnitudes of time it takes them to change significantly, they do change dramatically.  Earth today is a far cry from the molten ball of liquid magma it once was.  And a far cry from the frozen mars-like wasteland it will one day be.

Weird enough?  There’s more : )  If you zoom out even further and keep time as a factor, the universe itself has gone through serious changes.  During one period for instance the universe was too dense and hot for light or any form of matter we know of to even be possible. 

Then once it expanded and cooled light became possible and protons and electrons could form, but there was only one element – hydrogen.  Only after the formation of stars were other elements made from hydrogen and today after some 14 billion years or so only about 1/10th of the universe’s hydrogen has been converted into other elements.  How is a universe so dense and hot that no known form of matter is even possible not effectively another universe with different properties?  And who knows what the universe may be like a hundred trillion years into the future.

Either way the universe is impressive enough, we don’t need to invoke another one (or an infinite series of them, what a joke!) to account for life or complexity, or the amazing vastness of it all.  And when people put down reality or nature as if it were nothing much (as religious folk often do to bolster belief in the supernatural), it seems to me like, well… blasphemy.

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About agnophilo

Nerd.
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20 Responses to Our Universe Is A Multiverse.

  1. striemmy says:

    Well, howdy do. You called the other side to account. Bravo. 

  2. Additionally, the current definition the universe is everything that exists, so the concept of multiple universes doesn’t work by that definition anyways. Good post!

  3. agnophilo says:

    @TheBlueNinjaTiger – True.  I used the term cosmos to mean “all that is, ever was and ever will be” instead of universe to make it less confusing.  But yeah, thanks for the kudos : )  (and rec’ : )

  4. You’re arguing against the strong anthropic argument, which is fair enough. You’re right, we don’t need a multiverse to explain life, but physics does point towards a multiverse existing.[In a universe where gravity is 10% stronger you wouldn’t have anything different than what you have in this universe, stars would just be 10% hotter and brighter by volume, so if you want to see a star like that one, find one with 10% more mass in this universe.]This is fundamentally false. The question is not whether gravity itself is stronger, but whether the FORCE of gravity is stronger. If the FORCE of gravity were stronger, stars could never explode, spreading the heavier elements across the universe.

  5. PervyPenguin says:

    Why did this put me in the mood to watch Doctor Who?

  6. And let us not forget quantum physics and the lovely strings (except harp, it’s rather annoying). The incredibly small no long abide by our normal rules and law of nature so if those are factored in, your number goes much higher.Godless makes a good point in regards to the force of gravity; we truly don’t know how gravity works – something that keeps bringing down planes when their engines fail, fail to keep me from picking up a pencil with my miniscule muscles. I find the ‘slice of bread’ idea rather intriguing which could bring multi-verses into play or multi-dimensions (and multi-dimensions within the multi-verses).I enjoy the factor of time in multi-verses. All things end so in a multi-verse where your bubbles (pic above) represent different ‘verses’ they also represent different times. One bubble doesn’t necessarily follow the next as in linear time but time is fluid and the past as we call it is the future or concurrent or instantly in view then gone… the bubbles that provide life would be, in theory, uncommon (and incredibly unstable) though from the perspective of life within them life would appear abundant and eternal.It would be impossible to calculate the number of ‘verses’ because they are in constant flux; we’d have to be outside the medium that contains the multi-verse bubbles which would, in theory, put us inside its scope so could we ever really be able to observe and calculate with any kind of accuracy?Oh, science is so cool; always something new to factor into our mental-verses. 😉

  7. Roninsabum says:

    I’ve been somewhat annoyed with the self-promotion coming from the physics theorists lately.  Multiverses, string “theory” (not really a theory), supersymmetry, and other such models are simply that and only that at present–models.  I’m working on a supersymmetry search in experimental physics now and I won’t buy it until there’s very good evidence behind it.  All those models are currently nothing more than interesting math problems, and shouldn’t be taken as anything more.

  8. It sort of surprises me that people would have to resort to multiple universes to start to admit to themselves that there may be life elsewhere.  There are so many worlds here in this universe that I’m not sure why you would have to resort to that.  We don’t even know all the answers to our own galaxy, much less the rest of the universe.In short, there are too many planets and stars here for there to be a need to look for life in other universes–we have too many options right in our neighborhood.

  9. agnophilo says:

    @GodlessLiberal – So you’re saying that if gravity were stronger we would have black holes…  We do.  What I’m saying is that if gravity were stronger than you would need less mass to make a star to begin with, so smaller stars would explode, not ones that were quite so massive.  And less mass needed means there would be more of them.@PervyPenguin – I’ll take that as a compliment : )  Though the new season is discouraging so far, but might be awesome by the end (wish they’d slow down a bit).@suzibikerbabe – Yup : )@Roninsabum – I don’t see the problem – does anyone take them absolute truth?  I have not seen a brushfire of this starting anywhere.@childofthemyst – I agree entirely.

  10. @GodlessLiberal – Physics point’s to reality, not a multiverse. Multiverse is pure imaginary fantasy unsubstantiated by any evidence whatsoever.This post tries to use science to support the latest wacko hallucination in New Age pseudo-science.And it’s the usual non-sense.

  11. agnophilo says:

    @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – No, you just didn’t bother to read it.  But felt perfectly entitled to bash it anyway.Thanks for stopping by.

  12. @agnophilo – I read enough to know that this post is your usual hallucination that makes science look like @GodlessLiberal‘s worst impersonation of Christianity.

  13. Wow, LoBo hates science … wonder what he’s doing with a computer – it has to be the biggest satan tool ever. Will he deny science if he gets cancer, needs glasses? Science covers many areas and, as Ronin pointed out; much falls into theory and models. Mind exercises … it’s part of how science is advance. Only the deluded would think what is being discussed here was presented as fact.

  14. agnophilo says:

    @LoBornlytesThoughtPalace – I said multiple times that the multiverse is unsubstantiated, that wasn’t what this blog was about.  But again, you didn’t read, you just bashed.  All you ever do.@suzibikerbabe – True.  Though there is a difference between applied and pure science, but in many fields you could not have one without the other, so it’s still hypocritical.

  15. Peter Kinnon says:

    In general, agnophilo, I would strongly support your conclusion that there is no evidence that requires a multiverse of the kind proposed by some of todays most prominent theoretical physicists.  These ideas which, as you imply, are serious departures from the principle of parsimony which has always been an important tool in scientific advancement. Their motivation appears to be essentially the provision of an escape route from the “fine tuning” of the fundamental physical constants which appear to uniquely permit our chemistry and hence biology. The fact of this “just right” universe is, of course, inevitably and very improperly seized upon  by those of a superstitious disposition to argue for the existence their preferred deity or “intelligent designer”.  The “fine tuning” can also be observed further downstream in terms of the special properties of the chemical elements and the natural abundances of their compounds which uniquely permit the development of a now clearly observable phenomenon, the exponential evolution of technology.The overall evolutionary process that  extends well beyond biology is the subject of my latest book, “The Goldilocks Effect” which is a free download from the  “Unusual Perspectives” website

  16. sleekpeek says:

    My astronomy expertise is nearly non-existent, but I refuse to accept the idea of multi-verse because my thinking can’t wrap itself around none other than the idea of a nested doll universe or “one” thus, uni whether it’s infinity or closed (though I do have a tough time with comprehending “closed”). I guess for me it’s semantics, and I don’t know why infinity is easier for me. Maybe it’s because it’s not supposed to be understood; whereas, finite should be understood (because we die? therefore our idea of an end to the line makes sense?). Who knows. But you smart people are a fun way to spend time with.

  17. agnophilo says:

    @Peter Kinnon – (If you see this) how did you see my blog if you’re not on xanga?@sleekpeek – Many things in nature defy our common sense and common experience, so there could be a multiverse for all we know, but there’s no reason one is necessary that I can see.  And thanks for the compliment : )

  18. sleekpeek says:

    @agnophilo – It sounds, then, like multi-verse is metaphysical as far as we can define that which defies our common sense and common experience. Maybe it’s the very idea of God at the moment (or something beyond what is classed as Time), until we can discover a red shift or evidence (?) as commonly accepted as showing us multi-verses are, or multi-multi-verses are, moving away from or closer to our common understanding of whatever it is we call a universe. *pthah* (fuzzy mouth).

  19. agnophilo says:

    @sleekpeek – Something like that.

Speak yer mind.

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