To Break the Rules, First Learn the Rules
You might ask: why bother trying to figure out if there’s a multiverse? What’s the point? How can the knowledge there are other universes sort-ofbut-not-really-but-sort-of outside our universe, ever be useful? Why spend the money on this?
And the answer is: because we don’t know. Research into apparent esoterica like way-out cosmology and brane theory and superstrings, are all in the domain of what we call “pure science”. It’s knowledge for the sake of knowledge.
Maybe it’s just part of the human condition. Way back in March 1923, British mountaineer George Mallory famously cut right to the core of the matter. When asked by the New York Times, why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he famously replied: “Because it’s there.”
Of course, he later disappeared on that mountain, and may not even have really said this (1920s newspapers being somewhat liberal with poetic license), but the quote lives on.
Today, Everest is a way to prove to yourself that you have what it takes to climb the world’s tallest mountain (with hundreds of other people at the same time).
Similarly, pure science is a way to prove to ourselves that we can know what might otherwise seem unknowable. Why is there a huge cold spot in the universe? Why do we need to know what caused it? Because it’s there.
In any case, pursuit of pure science is often essential for the real breakthroughs in technology and knowledge, that trickle down to improve the lives of we mere mortals. Electricity was a curiosity for centuries, until various societies got rich enough to be able to indulge some weirdo’s obsession with fiddling with the stuff 24/7. Steam power was similarly considered only good for toys or for demonstrating natural principles, until a bunch of humans all got bees in their bonnet about how this stuff must be more useful than that, it just has to be.
Right now, a lot of high-energy physics and cosmology, is still at the stage of “we’re pretty sure this is important, probably”.
If you’re outraged that the world is spending billions on building an experimental fusion reactor that won’t even produce more electricity than a normal power station, then pause.
It’s essentially the same kind of outrage as that directed at Jerónimo de Ayanz y Beaumont, when he was awarded patents for his steampowered water pump and 49 other steamy inventions in 1606, none of which did any work that couldn’t be more reliably carried out by perfectly good slaves. On the other hand, there were those who were outraged that Isaac Newton wasted so much time on alchemy and mysticism, and they definitely had a point. Some “research” is indeed a waste of time and money, and trying to figure out which research is worth diverting resources away from people who are starving today, in hopes it may one day who knows how far in the future, abolish the concept of starvation altogether, is hard.
But without the breakthroughs and the discovery of things we didn’t know we didn’t know, our civilisation doesn’t really progress. It just goes round and round in our various cycles of boom and bust, war and peace, enlightenment and ignorance.
The universe seems to run according to rules, but every now and then some kind of catastrophe causes real change. Until now, those “catastrophes” have been bad: an asteroid strike here, a supervolcano there, a plague, whatever.
Pure science lets us learn the rules in increasingly fine detail. And when we know the rules, we can use them - or even break them - to our advantage.