Dis­cov­er­ies

All of this month’s big­gest science news.

Focus-Science and Technology - - Contents -

It’s a trippy thought: some­where, in a par­al­lel uni­verse, a ver­sion of you is the prime min­is­ter. In an­other par­al­lel uni­verse you’re a pop star, and in an­other you’re a No­bel Prize-win­ning sci­en­tist. But that’s ex­actly what it would mean if the multiverse the­ory were cor­rect.

It’s an idea that has long fas­ci­nated au­thors and film­mak­ers. But while it may seem to be lit­tle more than a fan­ci­ful science fic­tion trope to most, many prom­i­nent physi­cists take the the­ory very se­ri­ously. Now, re­searchers from Durham Univer­sity may have found ev­i­dence of the multiverse’s ex­is­tence.

It all comes down the so- called ‘Cold Spot’ found in the cos­mic mi­crowave back­ground (CMB) – the traces of elec­tro­mag­netic ra­di­a­tion left over from the early stages of the Uni­verse fol­low­ing the Big Bang. The Cold Spot is the largest known struc­ture ever dis­cov­ered, cov­er­ing an area bil­lions of light years across. It is around 0.00015 de­grees colder than the area that sur­rounds it. There are other cold re­gions in the Uni­verse caused by ran­dom f luc­tu­a­tions in the CMB but none as large as the Cold Spot – a fact that has puz­zled cos­mol­o­gists since its dis­cov­ery sev­eral years ago.

“BIL­LIONS OF OTHER UNIVERSES MAY EX­IST LIKE OUR OWN”

The lead­ing the­ory was that the Cold Spot is not cold at all, but is in­stead caused by a vast area of rel­a­tively empty space dubbed a ‘su­per­void’. Ra­di­a­tion pass­ing through this void would have its en­ergy re­duced, thus mak­ing the area ap­pear cooler.

How­ever, new mea­sure­ments sug­gest that there is no such su­per­void in the di­rec­tion of the Cold Spot. As­sum­ing this is cor­rect, then sim­u­la­tions of the stan­dard model of the Uni­verse give odds of just 1 in 50 that the Cold Spot arose by ran­dom fluc­tu­a­tions.

“This means we can’t en­tirely rule out that the Cold Spot is caused by an un­likely fluc­tu­a­tion ex­plained by the stan­dard model,” said lead re­searcher Tom Shanks. “But if that isn’t the an­swer, then there are more ex­otic ex­pla­na­tions. Per­haps the most ex­cit­ing of th­ese is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision be­tween our Uni­verse and an­other bub­ble uni­verse. If fur­ther analysis of CMB data proves this to be the case, then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first ev­i­dence for the multiverse – and bil­lions of other universes may ex­ist like our own.”

The team now plan to fur­ther test their the­ory through more de­tailed ob­ser­va­tions of the CMB.

Some the­o­ries sug­gest our Uni­verse is just one of many – and new ev­i­dence could lend weight to th­ese ideas

ABOVE: An artist’s im­pres­sion of mul­ti­ple ‘bub­ble universes’

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