Skip to main content

Levels of Multiplicity

Image result for universe

Just thinking aloud here. There are several theories extant about how what we think of as the universe, the totality of spaces you could in principle get to from here, and of moments in time that came before or will come after this one, is only one of many. A multiplicity of multiverse theories, so to speak.

I'll still to three (I'm sure there are more).

1) A multiverse exists because every black hole is also a big bang. I'm told that mathematical modeling of a black hole leads to the inference that a mass of any size may somehowishly be reduced to a single infinitesimal point (meaning: infinite density). Also, that this makes the formation of a black hole look like the big bang postulated as the start of our universe in reverse. From such premises, the italicized inference above seems possible. If every black hole you can get to from here is a big bang, though, then it is the big bang of another universe, one you can't get to from here, one with its own space and time.

On this view, too, the steady-state theory of the universe, long since consigned to the dust heap of scientific history, enjoys a resurrection. The multiverse consisting of all these universe creating universes might well be in a steady state, without a moment of creation and without the prospect of a heat death. Or any other sort of birth or death.  Cosmologist Lee Smolin advocates something like this, although he is not to be held responsible for my bald summary of what I think is his view. I'll call it the Smolin view below, and will continue to do so unless he sues me and gets an injunction.

2) A multiverse exists because some events are quantum mechanical indeterminate, and they cause time-series to diverge. This is probably the most familiar of the three views. It has made a sizeable pop cultural splash since the days of Heisenberg, Schrodinger, etc. If there is a time line in which the infamous cat lives and another in which it doesn't, then there are a heck of a lot more universes than the Smolin view above would entail. This theory may give to some a sort of quasi-religious consolation. Whatever bad decisions Christopher has made in this world, there may have been a quantum mechanical effect involved in his neurons at the time, and if that is so then there may be another universe in which he then made the right call. So miserable Christopher can console himself that there is a happy Christopher in that other (equally actual) universe.

Note that the Smolin sort of multiverse offers no such consolation. I have no reason to identify with any Christopher in any of those other worlds. There might be someone a lot like me in some of them, but if so that fact is entirely accidental and there's nothing consoling about it. This second view, though, with its ordinary-event divergence of universes, strikes close to home. The third one, to which we come now, even more so.

3) A multiverse exists for a purely conceptual reason, because it is impossible to make sense out of counter-factual statements unless every statement about a frustrated possibility is a statement about an actuality in another world.

Another way of putting this point: actuality may just be indexical. Indexical words are words that depend upon the point of view for their truth or falsity. "The book is here," I say, with my hand on the book in question. If you were to say that, in another room, with the same book in mind, you would be wrong. The book (for you) isn't here, it is there. I am bored now. I was excited last Wednesday. Now and then are indexical, like here and there. According to some philosophers, notably David Lewis, we can't make any sense out of the words "actual" or "possible" unless we see them as indexical. And since anything I can conceive of without contradiction is in the relevant sense possible, then any such "possible" world is "actual" in its own here and now, its own universe.

Where do we end up if we believe that each of these arguments for a multiverse is a strong one?  A multiverse-verse? or a multi-multiverse?


  1. TeethNightGuard is offering personalized fitting and high quality customized dental guards.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…

Hume's Cutlery

David Hume is renowned for two pieces of cutlery, the guillotine and the fork.

Hume's guillotine is the sharp cut he makes between "is" statements and "ought" statements, to make the point that the former never ground the latter.

His "fork" is the division between what later came to be called "analytic" and "synthetic" statements, with the ominous observation that any books containing statements that cannot be assigned to one or the other prong should be burnt.

Actually, I should acknowledge that there is some dispute as to how well or poorly the dichotomy Hume outlines really maps onto the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Some writers maintain that Hume meant something quite different and has been hijacked. Personally, I've never seen the alleged difference however hard they've worked to point it out to me.

The guillotine makes for a more dramatic graphic than a mere fork, hence the bit of clip art above.

I'm curious whe…

Cancer Breakthrough

Hopeful news in recent days about an old and dear desideratum: a cure for cancer. Or at least for a cancer, and a nasty one at that.

The news comes about because investors in GlaxoSmithKline are greedy for profits, and has already inspired a bit of deregulation to boot. 

The FDA has paved the road for a speedy review of a new BCMA drug for multiple myeloma, essentially cancer of the bone marrow. This means that the US govt has removed some of the hurdles that would otherwise (by decision of the same govt) face a company trying to proceed with these trials expeditiously. 

This has been done because the Phase I clinical trial results have been very promising. The report I've seen indicates that details of these results will be shared with the world on Dec. 11 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. 

The European Medicines Agency has also given priority treatment to the drug in question. 

GSK's website identifies the drug at issue as "GSK2857916," althou…