What is Perception Management?

What is Perception Management?

Perception management is a type of strategy that is aimed at guiding the motives, emotions, and conclusions of another party by means of using different approaches to alter that party’s perception of past events and the projections of future events.

This particular type of strategy has been used in military operations in attempts to gain advantages over enemies, and has also found use in the business world among competitors. The goal is to alter the perception of the opposing party in a way that provides the manager with an advantage that can be used successfully to score a victory or otherwise defeat that opposing party.

There is some difference of opinion regarding whether the task of perception management must remain firmly rooted in the use of verifiable information that is presented in a manner that is likely to trigger the desired outcome, or if the strategy allows for the selective use of certain facts while ignoring others or even leaving room for the inclusion of data that is questionable.

What is Perception Management?

For those that focus on the use of verifiable data only, the task is to assess all the available information, then determine the best way to present those facts in a way that is likely to cause recipients to react in a certain manner. Sometimes referred to as spinning, here the focus is not on attempting to mislead per se, but instead to call more attention to certain bits of information while downplaying the importance of others. When successful, this approach has the benefit of having provided all the information, although in a format that definitely slanted the point of view in a specific direction.

At other times, the process of perception management includes the selective use of available data. In this scenario, certain facts are presented completely and concisely, while others are either presented only in part of are left out altogether. Doing so makes it easier to create a particular perception that can be sold to consumers, the citizens of a given country, or to a rival of some sort, assuming the opposing party is not privy to and does not discover the omissions.

The ethics of perception management are also a point of controversy. Proponents of the strategy in any of its forms note that this type of tool can be used to accomplish a greater good that might not be possible if a perception other than the one desired were to prevail. Opponents to perception management prefer that all relevant data be presented without prejudice in terms of assigning priority or value to any portion of the data, allowing the parties involved to engage in the prioritization as they see fit.

With this tool being effective in terms of business competition, reaching consumers, and even in the political arena, perception management is likely to remain a viable strategy in many walks of life.

Astrology: Magic or Science?

Astrology: Magic or Science?

Can astrology be disproved? Literally thousands of volumes have been written on the subject over the ages, attacks and defenses, apologies and interpretations. Proponents have claimed astrology as a “science” and an “art,” a true interpretation of the inner workings of the universe. Opponents have mostly attacked astrology on physical grounds, citing the old classical arguments: the question of twins, the time of birth versus time of conception, the immense distances to the planets and stars, and so on.

But very few writers have come to the nub of the matter: astrology is false because it is a system of magic, based on the magical “principle of correspondences.” In fact, astrology–or at least its prehistoric predecessor–probably arose concurrently with the magical world view of early civilized man, astrology and magic adding to each other and being developed and used by the priests to lend “cohesiveness” to the evolving city-states. By the time cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing had been developed, astrology in some form or other was already a part of man’s culture.

Thus, several thousand years have gone into the development of astrology, into its theory and practice. Astrology proper began in Babylonia as a system of omen-reading to foretell the fate of kings and realms. More or less simultaneously, the Egyptians developed their system of Places, based on “planetary aspects.” Then the Greeks took over both the Babylonian and Egyptian systems, combining them into a complex mathematical cosmology. Under the Greeks, astrology became available to the common man; astrologers today use virtually the same system as the Greeks, or endless variations thereof.

As a result of astrology’s long history, confused development, and obscured theoretical bases, it is common for writers and astrologers to state that the ancient “art” cannot be disproved, that modern man lacks the necessary “cosmic insights” to grasp its truths. Even the great humanist Petrarch attacked astrology only by making fun of astrologers, leaving the cosmological arguments relatively untouched. Very few writers indeed have associated astrology with its magical bases; a reasonable search reveals that only Isidore of Seville, in the seventh century, and recently Richard Cavendish, in The Black Arts, have properly identified astrology as magic.

This confused state of affairs is precisely the astrologers’ aim: as long as they can obscure the fact that astrology is nothing more nor less than magic and totally unrelated to physical science, they can continue to find customers willing to part with hard-earned funds. For, after all, astrology is a practical “art”; it has provided many an astrologer with a lifelong living.

Prehistoric man–and specifically the Upper Paleolithic cultures –painted images of animals on the walls of caves; he also carved and formed similar hand-held images, often in conjunction with carved notations, a series of nicks and lines. In “Lunar Notations on Upper Paleolithic Remains” and later in The Roots of Civilization, Marshack introduced the revolutionary idea that such Upper Paleolithic notations do not represent “hunting tallies” but rather lunar observations, a seasonal timekeeping that aided prehistoric man in keeping track of the seasonal activities of his prey.

Certainly, such seasonal timekeeping would have been of great selective value, permitting man to use his rapidly evolving cognitive powers to anticipate and prepare for the coming hunts. While Marshack tends to place religious and ritual significance on such seasonal notations, one might suggest that the rituals were more in the form of learning and preparation experiences than religious in nature, particularly at first. Play-learning is very common in mammals, especially among the primates; hence, one suspects that ritual play-learning came first and that it was only with the rise of civilization that religion and the magical world view came into being.

Marshack’s sequences of lunar notation then further suggest that the traditionally accepted view that astronomy arose from astrology is wrong. It would seem that prehistoric man was making careful observations of the night sky long before astrology entered the picture; plus, he was putting those astronomical observations to a practical use: keeping track of the seasonal comings and goings of the plants and animals that were important to him. In that sense, prehistoric man was far more scientific than the modern astrologer.

Marshack’s thesis concerning prehistoric man’s use of lunar notation has been generally accepted by anthropologists. The Paleolithic use of linear notation in conjunction with artistic representation goes far toward paving the way for the civilized development of cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing.

Similarly, the use of such linear notations to keep track of the phases of the moon goes far toward explaining why astrology, in one form or other, arose nearly simultaneously all over the globe ( China, India, Egypt, Babylonia, Central America). Prehistoric man had been used to watching the comings and goings of the heavenly bodies, and when the magical world picture arose with the advent of civilization, astrology was a natural consequence.

The association of lunar notations with the seasonal advent of certain plants and animals also helps explain why abstractly shaped constellations have animals’ names: there was a long history of associating celestial objects with animal life. A similar idea is expressed by Rupert Gleadow in The Origin of the Zodiac.

One may well ask, Why would magic develop along with civilization? As in the case of lunar notation and seasonal timekeeping, one can only suggest that magic arose because it was of selective advantage. Perhaps magic gave the burgeoning citystates cohesiveness; one could easily make a case for magic being the power yielded by the priests to keep the citizens in line, convincing them that only by working for the good of the state could they keep the “powers of nature” in check.

This interpretation would further suggest to a hard-core skeptic that civilization does not have a rational basis, but rather an irrational basis of selective value–irrational at least in terms of the twentieth century. For magic is based on the “principle of analogies,” or the “law of correspondences,” as it is generally called in astrology. As we shall see, this “principle of correspondences” is merely a product of the human mind and has no physical basis in fact.

Let the stars size up your shopping style

Let the stars size up your shopping style

Are you a shop-a-holic? Or a mall-a-phobic? Let the stars size up your shopping style: Back to school means back to the stores.

Leos love taking chances, going to dances, having romances-and stealing all the boys’ admiring glances! Your charisma is legendary… and so is your lion-size temper! Still, when you flash that sunny smile and clown it up, you’re the life of the party. In fact, it feels like a party just to be with you. You’re a magnet with that classy laugh, superb posture, and bodacious mane of hair!

Guess what: Your circle of friends is going to expand over the next year. New and old pals will revive your social life; join as many clubs and groups as you want for the best luck.

Aries (March 21 to April 20)

The decisive shopper. You like to zip in and out fast. Long lines and pals who take all day to decide drive you crazy. Shop alone at malls, where you can pop into small stores and make a speedy getaway.

Taurus (April 21 to May 21)

The quality shopper. You like to go to department stores, where you’d rather get a great pair of jeans than three cheap ones that fall to pieces in six ugly weeks! You shop slowly, carefully, and wisely.

Gemini (May 22 to June 21)

The perennial shopper. Boutiques, five and-tens, department stores, malls-you love them all. You like to hang out with friends, buy clever doodods, study the latest fashions-and then shop some more!

Cancer (June 22 to July 23)

The queen of shoppers. You love to shop at home–by raiding your mom’s closet! You love old clothes. And as a champion bargain finder, you have a sixth sense for finding fantastic clothes at sale prices.

Leo (July 24 to August 23)

The princess shopper. Saks, Bloomingdale’s, and the Neiman-Morcus catalog are Your Majesty’s favorites. You like the best, and you don’t mind returning items if they fail to please you, either!

Virgo (August 24 to September 23)

The nervous shopper. You loathe the tacky atmosphere in discount stores; you feel crawly because you think the clothes might be dirty. You like bargains but prefer liner stores: The hems stay in longer!

Libra (September 24 to October 23)

The true shop-a-holic. Shopping is an essential function for Librans, like eating. You were born to shop-anytime and everywhere. When you can’t shop, it’s time to call in the doctor.

Scorpio (October 24 to November 22)

The fussy shopper. You’re very sure of what you want, but you don’t often find it. Take a Libra along to help. Intense and emotional, you agonize over choices. You hate crowds and love discount outlets.

Sagittarius (November 23 to December 21)

The impulse shopper. You like a big sale, a deal, a bargain, auctions, outdoor flea markets, and ethnic and foreign shops. You already own 101 pairs of sweatpants; you snicker at designer labels.

Capricorn (December 22 to January 20)

The organized shopper. You pore over the paper searching for sales; when you find an item you like, you get two in different hues. You’re an extremist, too: It’s either the best or the cheapest for you!

Aquarius (January 21 to February 19)

The eccentric shopper. Thrift shops, secondhand stores, garage sales, army/navy stores, and pretty boutiques have the cowboy boots, odd hats, and wild stuff that you enjoy so much!

Pisces (February 20 to March 20)

The shoe shopper. Soon you will have 4,907 pairs of shoes in the closet, but it doesn’t hurt to look for more, eh? You like nice, quiet boutiques, too, but shopping solo is no fun. Bring a friend.

Weight Loss – Feel Motivated

Weight Loss - Feel Motivated

It feels good to be thin!
Keep your goals and motivation in mind – it will keep you on track especially if times get a little hard.

For years overweight women have had numerous types of diet/weight loss plans to choose from when attempting to lose weight. Neglected underweight women never had any type of instructional information which would them lose weight in systematic, scientific, step-by-step fashion. Losing weight isn’t easy and does take effort and dedication, but as your clothes start getting looser and you start feeling healthier, I think that you will find it easier to feel motivated. You won’t be happy making any changes until it does.

It’s just plain and simple– we don’t like to do what we’re not ready and willing to do. You really shouldn’t be trying to lose weight if you’re not prepared to do the hard work it takes to maintain that weight loss. You’re just setting yourself up for failure and the dieting blues! Because how depressing is it to have lost 50 pounds only to gain back 60?! And it’s probably better if you think of it as ‘getting healthy’ instead of ‘losing weight’, but to my shame, I’m not quite there yet!

I have one incentive/motivation or whatever you want to call it: Health. I want to be healthy and you cannot be healthy and obese. Just want to feel happy and enjoy life.

Remember keep to basic, simple things you can do each day to help you – drink lots of water, try to eat at least 5+ portions of fruit and vegetables a day and be as active as possible.

Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s the determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence- that will enable you to attain the success you seek. Sooooo… you have no motivation huh??? How about you work out today and I will too? Look at your goal weight hun… you are closer than you think. Summer is here again… and… you are going to hit that goal. I know that you can.

Stick with your calorie quota and I can ensure that you will lose weight. It is important to stick to your daily calorie quota to achieve weight loss. I can assure you that if you fill in your food diary with everything you eat and drink you will lose weight. If you set yourself small and achievable goals it will motivate you to go further when you reach them.

Related Link: View more Fitness and Weight Loss articles

8 Signs you need to go shopping

8 Signs you need to go shopping

“I need to go shopping!” said every woman, ever. We’ve all said or heard it, and we all know that when it comes to clothes, the word ‘need’ is grossly overused.

So how to tell the difference between wanting to treat yourself to something cute and an actual need for new clothing? Let’s visit a few scenarios where ‘need’ might actually be used in the literal sense.

1. It’s Easier to Dress for Halloween

Go-go boots? No problem. Sequins and feathers? You’ve got plenty. While your Halloween game may be as strong as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 90’s, you’ve still got 364 other days to worry about. It’s totally fine to keep some stellar statement pieces tucked away in your closet, but try relegating them to under 1/10th of your sartorial collection. Once you’ve cleared away the baubles, it’s time to work in some new goodies for those days that don’t require a costume.

2. Your Friends Won’t Borrow Your Clothes

Let’s try a little test, shall we? Invite your most stylish friend over and offer her full access to your closet. If she politely declines or tries to change the subject, it’s time to upgrade. The more uncomfortable she is, the faster you should run, don’t walk, to the nearest mall. If you’re not quite sure where to start, bribe your friend with churros to come with you. Works every time.

3. You’re Twinning With Your Pre-Teen Niece

Sure, twinning is in, but dressing identically to someone who has yet to pass her driving test? Not so much. While keeping a youthful attitude is something to be applauded, your wardrobe should reflect a general age range – yours! If you can spot every piece you own at a One Direction concert, you might be ready to work in a few new items.

4. Your Shirt Has Its Own Twitter Account

If you wear the same article of clothing too often, there’s a chance people might end up knowing you more by your shirt than anything else. And when your shirt is more famous than you are, that means it’s time to expand your regular outfit rotation. Here’s a great rule of thumb: if your shirt is in more than three of your social media profile photos, it’s time to swap in a few new options.

5. Climbing Kilimanjaro Is Easier Than Getting Dressed

If getting dressed in the morning feels like climbing a mountain, it’s time to rethink the process. Aside from lack of coffee, the culprit to sartorial stuckness can often be not having the right items for your everyday routines. Work at an office? A new blazer can suddenly make a camisole work-appropriate. Meeting friends for brunch? Pair that cami with a new maxi skirt, and you’ve got a totally different outfit. Bring on Kilimanjaro, you’ve now got the outfit for it!

6. You Wore Your Nicest Dress to Prom

While that pink one-shoulder tulle gown may have scored you a slow dance with the cutest boy in school, it might not work the same magic at a wedding or cocktail party. Say sayonara to ‘Prom Queen’ and hello to ‘Best Dressed’ by kissing that prom dress goodbye and scoping out a sizzling LBD. Not only are you set for any last minute events, but the jaws will hit the floor at your next high school reunion.

7. You Have Nothing to Wear

Your bedroom looks like an atomic bomb went off, with garments strewn across the floor in a fit of desperation. You’re sitting in the middle of a large pile of clothes, lamenting that you have nothing to wear. Sound familiar? You’re not alone! While you obviously have the ability to clothe yourself from the piles of despair that surround you, they’re just not the right clothes. So what do you do? Ditch those suckers for some snazzy basics you’ll want to wear over and over again.

8. People Think You Own One Pair of Pants

Keeping a uniform a la Steve Jobs is definitely efficient. Having to explain to everyone that no, you don’t just own one pair of pants but several pairs in the same style and color, is not quite as efficient. Adding a few new pairs to your wardrobe should help keep those rumors at bay. Which means you can get back to being the visionary you truly are.

Why Married People Flirt

Why Married People Flirt

Some people wonder why married people flirt. They make the false assumption that the taking of vows suddenly turns off any playfulness or sexual attraction with anyone but a spouse. The idea with marriage is that saying “I do” usually includes the unspoken understanding”… and I won’t with anyone else!” The idea of fidelity, of “cleaving to you only” is integral and common to most marriage vows.

That kind of action is well within the power of the husband and wife – you can always control your actions. What you can’t control is your desire – that is, you can’t say “…and I won’t ever want to with anyone else!” If a woman has always been turned on by firemen, for example, the idea that saying the words “I do” will suddenly turn off that biochemical response is ludicrous.

A Release Valve

Married people who realize this may also realize that there is a lot of pressure when you try to just “turn off” what might have been an ingrained habit established over years or decades. Not that everyone needs to flirt, or that everyone flirts, but if the reason you fell in love with a girl in the first place is because she was outgoing, teasing, and playfully engaging with you and others, why would you think that would be easy to just turn off?

It is certainly possible – and newlyweds especially usually only have eyes for each other, which makes it seem easy. But once that new-relationship energy wears off, and they settle back into their everyday life, the original habits return – and having to struggle to turn them off can become very frustrating. One of the reasons why married people flirt is simply to keep that fun in their lives – so that being married doesn’t mean losing a fun and harmless part of their joy in life.

A Matter of Degree

Of course, before married people flirt, it’s probably a good idea if they work out with each other what the definition of flirting is. Some very insecure and jealous people will try to enforce a rule like “Don’t even look at another woman!” which is both unrealistic and unfair in a culture that counts on sexy female forms in just about every kind of marketing.

But it’s a good idea to talk out with your partner what you think is flirting and what isn’t. Friendly conversation? Dancing a tango? Going to coffee? Sexual innuendo? What about online chats? All of these could be considered a form of flirting, and knowing what level it becomes uncomfortable for your partner lets you both make informed decisions – whether that be modifying your own behavior or your partner working on handling insecurity and jealousy.

The 2010 Oscar winner Mo’Nique made waves when she revealed that her marriage was “open” – it included the right for each of them to have other sexual partners. That’s an extreme level of “flirting”, certainly, but it illustrates the fact that “cheating” means breaking the rules – but the people who make the rules of a marriage are the ones who are in it, no one else.

Is It Really A Good Idea?

Of course, if married people flirt with others, it’s also usually a good idea that they flirt with each other, as well. One of the biggest dangers of marriage is reaching a point where it no longer feels exciting, where you feel like you’re in a rut. Some people go so far as to fear that they’ve fallen out of love with their spouse, and that’s when rules and marriages get broken.

Often what is really happening is a transition into a new kind of relationship, that goes deeper than the hunt-and-chase of the flirtatious dating scene and into the realm of security, trust, and commitment. But dating is fun, and by making sure you and your spouse are both still flirting, teasing, and dating – even after decades of marriage, like Mo’Nique – it will help give your relationship the best of both worlds.

Parallel Universes: The Quantum Multiverse

Parallel Universes: The Quantum Multiverse

The theory of quantum mechanics is one of the most successful in all of science. It explains the behaviour of very small objects, such as atoms and their constituent fundamental particles. It can predict all kinds of phenomena, from the shapes of molecules to the way light and matter interact, with phenomenal accuracy.
Quantum mechanics treats particles as if they are waves, and describes them with a mathematical expression called a wave function.

Perhaps the strangest feature of a wave function is that it allows a quantum particle to exist in several states at once. This is called a superposition.

But superpositions are generally destroyed as soon as we measure the object in any way. An observation “forces” the object to “choose” one particular state.

This switch from a superposition to a single state, caused by measurement, is called “collapse of the wave function”. The trouble is, it is not really described by quantum mechanics, so no one knows how or why it happens.

In his 1957 doctoral thesis, the American physicist Hugh Everett suggested that we might stop fretting about the awkward nature of wave function collapse, and just do away with it.

Everett suggested that objects do not switch from multiple states to a single state when they are measured or observed. Instead, all the possibilities encoded in the wave function are equally real. When we make a measurement we only see one of those realities, but the others also exist.

This is known as the “many worlds interpretation” of quantum mechanics. Everett was not very specific about where these other states actually exist. But in the 1970s, the physicist Bryce DeWitt argued that each alternative outcome must exist in a parallel reality: another world.

Suppose you conduct an experiment in which you measure the path of an electron. In this world it goes one way, but in another world it goes another way.

That requires a parallel apparatus for the electron to pass through. It also requires a parallel you to measure it. In fact you have to build an entire parallel universe around that one electron, identical in all respects except where the electron went.
In short, to avoid wave function collapse, you must make another universe.

This picture really gets extravagant when you appreciate what a measurement is. In DeWitt’s view, any interaction between two quantum entities, say a photon of light bouncing off an atom, can produce alternative outcomes and therefore parallel universes.

As DeWitt put it, “every quantum transition taking place on every star, in every galaxy, in every remote corner of the Universe is splitting our local world on earth into myriads of copies.”

Not everyone sees Everett’s many-worlds interpretation this way. Some say it is largely a mathematical convenience, and that we cannot say anything meaningful about the contents of those alternative universes.

But others take seriously the idea that there are countless other “yous”, created every time a quantum measurement is made. The quantum multiverse must be in some sense real, they say, because quantum theory demands it and quantum theory works. You either buy that argument or you do not. But if you accept it, you must also accept something rather unsettling.

The other kinds of parallel universes, such as those created by eternal inflation, are truly “other worlds”. They exist somewhere else in space and time, or in other dimensions. They might contain exact copies of you, but those copies are separate, like a body double living on another continent.

In contrast, the other universes of the many-worlds interpretation do not exist in other dimensions or other regions of space. Instead, they are right here, superimposed on our Universe but invisible and inaccessible. The other selves they contain really are “you”.

In fact, there is no meaningful “you” at all. “You” are becoming distinct beings an absurd number of times every second: just think of all the quantum events that happen as a single electrical signal travels along a single neuron in your brain. “You” vanish into the crowd.

In other words, an idea that started out as a mathematical convenience ends up implying that there is no such thing as individuality.

Parallel Universes: The Brane Multiverse

Parallel Universes: The Brane Multiverse

When Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity began to come to public attention in the 1920s, many people speculated about the “fourth dimension” that Einstein had allegedly invoked. What might be in there? A hidden universe, maybe?

This was nonsense. Einstein was not proposing a new dimension. What he was saying was that time is a dimension, similar to the three dimensions of space. All four are woven into a single fabric called space-time, which matter distorts to produce gravity. Even so, other physicists were already starting to speculate about genuinely new dimensions in space.

The first intimation of hidden dimensions began with the work of the theoretical physicist Theodor Kaluza. In a 1921 paper Kaluza showed that, by adding an extra dimension to the equations of Einstein’s theory of general relativity, he could obtain an extra equation that seemed to predict the existence of light.

That looked promising. But where, then, was this extra dimension? The Swedish physicist Oskar Klein offered an answer in 1926. Perhaps the fifth dimension was curled up into an unimaginably small distance: about a billion-trillion-trillionth of a centimetre.

The idea of a dimension being curled may seem strange, but it is actually a familiar phenomenon. A garden hose is a three-dimensional object, but from far enough away it looks like a one-dimensional line, because the other two dimensions are so small. Similarly, it takes so little time to cross Klein’s extra dimension that we do not notice it.

Physicists have since taken Kaluza and Klein’s ideas much further in string theory. This seeks to explain fundamental particles as the vibrations of even smaller entities called strings.

When string theory was developed in the 1980s, it turned out that it could only work if there were extra dimensions. In the modern version of string theory, known as M-theory, there are up to seven hidden dimensions.

What’s more, these dimensions need not be compact after all. They can be extended regions called branes (short for “membranes”), which may be multi-dimensional.

A brane might be a perfectly adequate hiding place for an entire universe. M-theory postulates a multiverse of branes of various dimensions, coexisting rather like a stack of papers.

If this is true, there should be a new class of particles called Kaluza-Klein particles. In theory we could make them, perhaps in a particle accelerator like the Large Hadron Collider. They would have distinctive signatures, because some of their momentum is carried in the hidden dimensions.

These brane worlds should remain quite distinct and separate from each other, because forces like gravity do not pass between them. But if branes collide, the results could be monumental. Conceivably, such a collision could have triggered our own Big Bang.

It has also been proposed that gravity, uniquely among the fundamental forces, might “leak” between branes. This leakage could explain why gravity is so weak compared to the other fundamental forces.

As Lisa Randall of Harvard University puts it: “if gravity is spread out over large extra dimensions, its force would be diluted.”

In 1999, Randall and her colleague Raman Sundrum suggested that the branes do not just carry gravity, they produce it by curving space. In effect this means that a brane “concentrates” gravity, so that it looks weak in a second brane nearby.

This could also explain why we could live on a brane with infinite extra dimensions without noticing them. If their idea is true, there is an awful lot of space out there for other universes.

Next Page: The Quantum Multiverse

Parallel Universes: Cosmic Natural Selection

Parallel Universes: Cosmic Natural Selection

Another kind of multiverse avoids what some see as the slipperiness of this reasoning, offering a solution to the fine-tuning problem without invoking the anthropic principle.

It was formulated by Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada. In 1992 he proposed that universes might reproduce and evolve rather like living things do.
On Earth, natural selection favours the emergence of “useful” traits such as fast running or opposable thumbs. In the multiverse, Smolin argues, there might be some pressure that favours universes like ours. He calls this “cosmological natural selection”.

Smolin’s idea is that a “mother” universe can give birth to “baby” universes, which form inside it. The mother universe can do this if it contains black holes.

A black hole forms when a huge star collapses under the pull of its own gravity, crushing all the atoms together until they reach infinite density.

In the 1960s, Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose pointed out that this collapse is like a mini-Big Bang in reverse. This suggested to Smolin that a black hole could become a Big Bang, spawning an entire new universe within itself.

If that is so, then the new universe might have slightly different physical properties from the one that made the black hole. This is like the random genetic mutations that mean baby organisms are different from their parents.

If a baby universe has physical laws that permit the formation of atoms, stars and life, it will also inevitably contain black holes. That will mean it can have more baby universes of its own. Over time, universes like this will become more common than those without black holes, which cannot reproduce.

It is a neat idea, because our Universe then does not have to be the product of pure chance. If a fine-tuned universe arose at random, surrounded by many other universes that were not fine-tuned, cosmic natural selection would mean that fine-tuned universes subsequently became the norm.

The details of the idea are a little woolly, but Smolin points out that it has one big advantage: we can test it.

For example, if Smolin is right we should expect our Universe to be especially suited to making black holes. This is a rather more demanding criterion than simply saying it should support the existence of atoms.

But so far, there is no evidence that this is the case – let alone proof that a black hole really can spawn an entirely new universe.

Next Page: The Brane Multiverse

Parallel Universes: The Theory of Everything

Parallel Universes: The Theory of Everything

Some physicists have long been searching for a “theory of everything”: a set of basic laws, or perhaps just a single equation, from which all the other principles of physics can be derived. But they have found there are more alternatives to choose from than there are fundamental particles in the known universe.

Many physicists who delve into these waters believe that an idea called string theory is the best candidate for a “final theory”. But the latest version offers a huge number of distinct solutions: 1 followed by 500 zeros. Each solution yields its own set of physical laws, and we have no obvious reason to prefer one over any other.

The inflationary multiverse relieves us of the need to choose at all. If parallel universes have been popping up in an inflating false vacuum for billions of years, each could have different physical laws, determined by one of these many solutions to string theory.

If that is true, it could help us explain a strange property of our own Universe. The fundamental constants of the laws of physics seem bizarrely fine-tuned to the values needed for life to exist.

For example, if the strength of the electromagnetic force were just a little different, atoms would not be stable. Just a 4% change would prevent all nuclear fusion in stars, the process that makes the carbon atoms our bodies are largely made of.

Similarly, there is a delicate balance between gravity, which pulls matter towards itself, and so-called dark energy, which does the opposite and makes the Universe expand ever faster. This is just what is needed to make stars possible while not collapsing the Universe on itself.

In this and several other ways, the Universe seems fine-tuned to host us. This has made some people suspect the hand of God.
Yet an inflationary multiverse, in which all conceivable physical laws operate somewhere, offers an alternative explanation.

In every universe set up in this life-friendly way, the argument goes, intelligent beings will be scratching their heads trying to understand their luck. In the far more numerous universes that are set up differently, there is no one to ask the question.

This is an example of the “anthropic principle”, which says that things have to be the way we find them: if they were not, we would not be here and the question would never arise.

For many physicists and philosophers, this argument is a cheat: a way to evade rather than explain the fine-tuning problem.
How can we test these assertions, they ask? Surely it is defeatist to accept that there is no reason why the laws of nature are what they are, and simply say that in other universes they are different?

The trouble is, unless you have some other explanation for fine-tuning, someone will assert that God must have set things up this way. The astrophysicist Bernard Carr has put it bluntly: “If you don’t want God, you’d better have a multiverse”.

Next Page: Cosmic Natural Selection