Vision of the Multiverse – Book Review
Summary: High-energy accelerators, quantum mechanics, string-theory and the search for an explanation of gravity. The concept of multiple universes—the multiverse—as an explanation for everything and everything you ever wanted to know about modern physics.
Taking off from the Copernican revolution in which the earth (as in Mankind, the arrogant) were regulated to essentially footnotes in the cosmos, Dr. Manly proceeds at a leisurely pace to explain the various concepts behind eleven “distinct types of multiverses”. They are all listed in Appendix A of the book. Two of the eleven are “non-scientific” but are included for the sake of comprehensiveness. Dr. Manly wades through the mathematics and physics of multiple universes with ease.
The beginning of VISION OF THE MULTIVERSE has a few too many diversions for this reader’s taste, but are not disastrous. For instance, the author recounts the story of a group of fellow grad-students at New York’s Columbia University who took a rolled-up carpet into their apartment with the intent of using it in the commons area of their dorm suite. After taking it upstairs, they unrolled the rug and found a body with two bullet holes in the head. Manly ends the story by writing, “Seriously. It’s a true story.” The only reaction to this is, Really?
There are other such human interest vignettes sprinkled throughout the opening chapters of the book. But when he does get down to the business at hand, he is rather brilliant. He achieves this exalted clarity by taking the “common sense” understanding of the physical world and applying the rules of science in everyday language. In the process, he explains how the consistency of mathematics and physics expand our understanding of our physical world and how it has no applicability to our mental world. This later is rather important given the temptation of philosophers and some spiritual gurus to extrapolate the musings of physicists into the realm of the mind. While a cosmological universe is conceivably very, very big, the human mind seems to be bigger-maybe a lot bigger. After all, it is the human mind that came up with something like multiple-universes. Think about it.
VISIONS OF THE MULTIVERSE takes an astonishingly open approach to the issue of scientific objectivity. As Manly says on page 26, “science is a human endeavor” and “Scientists develop taste in ideas and theories.” This may be another way of saying that some-not all, but some-of the ideas underlying the concept of multiple universes is the outgrowth of ego or wishful thinking. In fact, Manly classifies multiverse theories eight through eleven as “Faith Based Multiverses”. The book ushers us through Newtonian reality and through the strange, non-intuitive world of time and space described by Albert Einstein. By the time we are introduced to the stranger-and theoretical-world of string theory, we have learned how surprised scientists were to discover that the current universe seems to be expanding (at an increasing rate) and that we have no idea what 70% of the universe is made of (so called dark energy).
More than anything else, VISIONS OF THE MULTIVERSE highlights the current state of flux the world of physics is in right now. The “big bang” theory of the origin of the universe has been so scientifically challenged that, even allowing for a frame of reference of 13.7 billion years in the past during which anything was possible, a bang of any sort seems highly improbable. Yet, there is no better theory at the moment. So science marches on. It marches on with the Linus security blanket of the “big bang” orthodoxy sweeping up and concealing any contrary opinion. But there are other ideas out there. This book provides plenty of hints.
Read VISIONS OF THE MULTIVERSE as your science read of the year. It is entertaining, informative and enjoyable.