10 Reasons the Multiverse Is a Real Possibility

It Fits Our Pattern of Knowledge About the Universe
Portuguese cosmographer and cartographer Bartolomeu Velho created this view of the universe with the earth as its center in 1568. Now we know our solar system is just an insignificant part of the Milky Way. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris/NASA

Bizarre as the notion of a multiverse might seem, in a way it actually fits the progression through modern history of how humans view themselves and the universe.

As physicists Alexander Vilenkin and Max Tegmark noted in a 2011 Scientific American essay, people in western civilization have been successively more humbled as they've discovered the nature of reality. They started out thinking the earth was the center of everything. We learned that wasn't true, and that even our solar system was just a not particularly significant part of the Milky Way.

The multiverse would take that pattern to its logical extreme. If multiverses exist, that means that we're not special at all, because there are infinite versions of each of us.

But some think that we're just at the beginning of a mind-expanding trip. As Stanford University theoretical physicist Leonard Susskind has written, it could be that a couple of centuries from now, philosophers and scientists will look back on our time as "a golden age in which the narrow, provincial 20th century concept of the universe gave way to a bigger, better [multiverse] ... of mind-boggling proportions" [source: Vilenkin and Tegmark].

Author's Note: 10 Reasons the Multiverse Is a Real Possibility

I've been intrigued with the idea of parallel universes for a long time, ever since I read Lester Del Ray's 1966 novel "The Infinite Worlds of Maybe," about an inventor who creates a device that's capable of transporting people between alternative versions of reality — for example, a universe in which Columbus had never discovered the New World, or one in which the South won the Civil War. Since then, the idea of multiverses has shown up in numerous other works of fiction. One of my favorites is Jack Womack's 1993 novel "Elvissey," which imagines another reality in which the protagonists venture into an alternative universe and return with its startlingly different version of Elvis Presley.

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