Parallel Universes: The inflationary multiverse

Parallel Universes: The inflationary multiverse

The second multiverse theory arises from our best ideas about how our own Universe began.

According to the predominant view of the Big Bang, the Universe began as an infinitesimally tiny point and then expanded incredibly fast in a super-heated fireball. A fraction of a second after this expansion began, it may have fleetingly accelerated at a truly enormous rate, far faster than the speed of light. This burst is called “inflation”.

Inflationary theory explains why the Universe is relatively uniform everywhere we look. Inflation blew up the fireball to a cosmic scale before it had a chance to get too clumpy.

However, that primordial state would have been ruffled by tiny chance variations, which also got blown up by inflation. These fluctuations are now preserved in the cosmic microwave background radiation, the faint afterglow of the Big Bang. This radiation pervades the Universe, but it is not perfectly uniform.

Several satellite-based telescopes have mapped out these variations in fine detail, and compared them to those predicted by inflationary theory. The match is almost unbelievably good, suggesting that inflation really did happen.

This suggests that we can understand how the Big Bang happened – in which case we can reasonably ask if it happened more than once.
The current view is that the Big Bang happened when a patch of ordinary space, containing no matter but filled with energy, appeared within a different kind of space called the “false vacuum”. It then grew like an expanding bubble.

But according to this theory, the false vacuum should also experience a kind of inflation, causing it to expand at fantastic speed. Meanwhile, other bubble universes of “true vacuum” can appear within it – and not just, like our Universe, 13.8 billion years ago, but constantly.

This scenario is called “eternal inflation”. It suggests there are many, perhaps infinitely many, universes appearing and growing all the time. But we can never reach them, even if we travel at the speed of light forever, because they are receding too fast for us ever to catch up.

The UK Astronomer Royal Martin Rees suggests that the inflationary multiverse theory represents a “fourth Copernican revolution”: the fourth time that we have been forced to downgrade our status in the heavens. After Copernicus suggested Earth was just one planet among others, we realized that our Sun is just one star in our galaxy, and that other stars might have planets. Then we discovered that our galaxy is just one among countless more in an expanding Universe. And now perhaps our Universe is simply one of a crowd.

We do not yet know for sure if inflationary theory is true. However, if eternal inflation does create a multiverse from an endless series of Big Bangs, it could help to resolve one of the biggest problems in modern physics.

Next Page: The Theory of Everything

Parallel Universes: Worlds within worlds

Parallel Universes: Worlds within worlds

The simplest multiverse is a consequence of the infinite size of our own Universe.

We do not actually know if the Universe is infinite, but we cannot rule it out. If it is, then it must be divided into a patchwork of regions that cannot see one another.

This is simply because the regions are too far apart for light to have crossed the distance. Our Universe is only 13.8 billion years old, so any regions further than 13.8 billion light years apart are utterly cut off.

To all intents and purposes, these regions are separate universes. But they will not stay that way: eventually light will cross the divide and the universes will merge.

If our Universe really does contain an infinite number of “island universes” like ours, with matter and stars and planets, there must be worlds identical to Earth somewhere out there.

It may sound incredibly unlikely that atoms should come together by chance into an exact replica of Earth, or a replica that is exact except for the colour of your socks. But in a genuine infinity of worlds, even that strange place must exist. In fact, it must exist countless times.

If so, then somewhere almost unimaginably far off, a being identical to me is typing out these words, and wondering if his editor is going to insist on radical revisions.

By the same logic, rather farther away there is an entire observable universe identical to ours. This distance can be estimated at about 10 to the power 10 to the power 118 metres. It is possible that this is not the case at all.

Maybe the Universe is not infinite. Or even if it is, maybe all the matter is concentrated in our corner of it, in which case most of the other universes could be empty. But there is no obvious reason why that should be, and no sign so far that matter gets sparser the farther away we look.

Next Page: The inflationary multiverse

Parallel Universes: Why they might be real

Parallel Universes: Why they might be real

The idea of parallel universes may seem bizarre, but physics has found all sorts of reasons why they should exist.

Is our Universe one of many?

The idea of parallel universes, once consigned to science fiction, is now becoming respectable among scientists – at least, among physicists, who have a tendency to push ideas to the limits of what is conceivable.

In fact there are almost too many other potential universes. Physicists have proposed several candidate forms of “multiverse”, each made possible by a different aspect of the laws of physics.

The trouble is, virtually by definition we probably cannot ever visit these other universes to confirm that they exist. So the question is, can we devise other ways to test for the existence of entire universes that we cannot see or touch?

In at least some of these alternative universes, it has been suggested, we have doppelgängers living lives much like – perhaps almost identical to – our own.

That idea tickles our ego and awakens our fantasies, which is doubtless why the multiverse theories, however far-out they seem, enjoy so much popularity. We have embraced alternative universes in works of fiction ranging from Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle to movies like Sliding Doors.

Indeed, there is nothing new about the idea of a multiverse, as philosopher of religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein explains in her 2014 book Worlds Without End.

In the mid-16th century, Copernicus argued that the Earth is not the centre of the Universe. Several decades later, Galileo’s telescope showed him stars beyond measure: a glimpse of the vastness of the cosmos.

So at the end of the 16th century, the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno speculated that the Universe might be infinite, populated by an infinite number of inhabited worlds.

The idea of a Universe containing many solar systems became commonplace in the 18th Century.

By the early 20th Century, the Irish physicist Edmund Fournier d’Albe was even suggesting that there might be an infinite regression of “nested” universes at different scales, ever larger and ever smaller. In this view, an individual atom might be like a real, inhabited solar system.

Scientists today reject that notion of a “Russian doll” multiverse, but they have postulated several other ways in which multiverses might exist. Here are five of them, along with a rough guide to how likely they are.

Next Page: Worlds within worlds

Duran Duran – Lyrics for Notorious

Duran Duran are an English new wave / synthpop band formed in Birmingham in 1978. They were a successful band of the 1980s and a leading band in the MTV-driven “Second British Invasion” of the US. Since the 1980s, they have placed 14 singles in the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart and 21 in the Billboard Hot 100, and have sold over 70 million records.

While they were generally considered part of the New Romantic scene, along with bands such as Spandau Ballet, when they first emerged, the band later shed this image. The band worked with fashion designers to build a sharp and elegant image. The band has won a number of awards throughout their career: two Brit Awards including the 2004 award for Outstanding Contribution to Music, two Grammy Awards, and an MTV Video Music Award for Lifetime Achievement. They were also awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The band’s controversial videos, which included partial nudity and suggestions of sexuality, became popular in the early 1980s on the then-new music video channel, MTV. Duran Duran were among the first bands to have their videos shot by professional directors with 35 mm film movie cameras, which gave their videos a much more polished look than was standard at the time. In 1984, the band were early innovators with video technology in their live stadium shows.

The group was formed by keyboardist Nick Rhodes and bassist John Taylor, with the later addition of drummer Roger Taylor, and after numerous personnel changes, guitarist Andy Taylor and lead singer Simon Le Bon. These five members featured in their most commercially successful line-up.

The group has never disbanded, but after separation of Andy Taylor in 1986, the line-up has changed to include former Missing Persons American guitarist Warren Cuccurullo from 1989 to 2001 and American drummer Sterling Campbell from 1989 to 1991. The reunion of the original five members in the early 2000s created a stir among the band’s fans and music media. Andy Taylor left the band once again in mid-2006, and guitarist Dom Brown has since been working with the band as a session player and touring member.

Duran Duran - Lyrics for Notorious

Duran Duran – Lyrics for Notorious

No-no-Notorious. Notorious. Ah. No-no-Notorious.

I can’t read about it.
Burns the skin from your eyes.
I’ll do fine without it.
Here’s one you don’t compromise.
Lies come hard in disguise.
They need to fight it out.
Not wild about it.
Lay your seedy judgements.
Who says they’re part of our lives?

[CHORUS]
You own the money ;
You control the witness.
I’ll leave you lonely.
Don’t monkey with my business.
You pay the prophets to justify your reasons.
I heard your promise,but I don’t believe it.

That’s why I’ve done it again. No-no-Notorious.

Girls will keep the secrets (uh)
So long as boys make a noise.
Fools run rings to break up.
Something they’ll never destroy.
Grand Notorious slam (bam).
And who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit?
Don’t ask me to bleed about it;
I need this blood to survive.

[CHORUS]

That’s why I’ve done it again. No-no-Notorious.

[CHORUS]

[CHORUS]

That’s why I’ve done it again. No. No.
That’s why I’ve done it again. No-no-Notorious.
That’s why I’ve done it again. No-no-Notorious.
No-no-Notorious. Yeah.
That’s why I’ve done it again. No-no-Notorious.
No-no-Notorious. Yeah.
That’s why I’ve done it again. No-no-Notorious.
No-no-Notorious.

Facebook uses AI to understand text-based posts

Facebook uses AI to understand text-based posts

Facebook has developed AI software to help understand what people are talking about in posts to the social network. The Deep Text engine can understand text with “near-human accuracy”, a Facebook blogpost explained.

It said the AI system was developed to help people get more out of the site and to help catch spam and other unwanted messages.
Deep Text is being tested with Facebook Messenger and to generate responses to certain search queries.

With Messenger, the system is primed to spot when people are talking about preparing to travel and this can lead to software robots – known as bots – asking if they need to call a cab.

Similarly, if someone writes that they have something to sell, Deep Text-based bots will grab information about what is being sold and its price and suggest the seller uses Facebook’s sales tools to make sure the ad reaches a wide audience.

Deep Text has emerged from work Facebook is doing on bots that can automatically help the site’s users. Future work will refine the AI engine’s ability to get at the deeper meanings of text so it can spot subtle connections between words such as “bro” and “brother” that are often missed by other language analysis tools, said Facebook.

Facebook uses AI to understand text-based posts

Rather than be directed by humans, the software has been allowed to learn about human language by itself and has built a conceptual map of how words are used and how they relate to each other.

The greater understanding of text could be useful when applied to lengthy text-based conversations that take place on Facebook to spot relevant or interesting comments. It will also be used to clean up message threads by weeding out spam or other unwanted replies.

Facebook also said it planned to use Deep Text to improve its understanding of what people like so it can refine the information and adverts they are shown.

Currently, said Facebook, Deep Text can analyse several thousand posts per second and can handle more than 20 languages.
Mike Murphy, writing on the Quartz tech news website, said there were dangers involved in mapping people’s interests ever more closely.

“As Facebook gets better at offering us personalised search results from our networks, as useful as those might be, it also keeps us in a more insular version of the web,” he wrote.

Three Stages of Falling in Love

Three Stages of Falling in Love

There are three stages to falling in love and different hormones are involved at each stage. Events occurring in the brain when we are in love have similarities with mental illness.

When we are attracted to somebody, it could be because subconsciously we like their genes. Smell could be as important as looks when it comes to the fanciability factor. We like the look and smell of people who are most like our parents. Science can help determine whether a relationship will last.

Cupid’s chemicals

Flushed cheeks, a racing heart beat and clammy hands are some of the outward signs of being in love. But inside the body there are definite chemical signs that cupid has fired his arrow.

When it comes to love it seems we are at the mercy of our biochemistry. One of the best known researchers in this area is Helen Fisher of Rutgers University in New Jersey. She has proposed that we fall in love in three stages. Each involving a different set of chemicals.

Three Stages of Falling in Love

Three Stages of Falling in Love

Stage 1: Lust

Lust is driven by the sex hormones testosterone and oestrogen. Testosterone is not confined only to men. It has also been shown to play a major role in the sex drive of women. These hormones as Helen Fisher says “get you out looking for anything”.

Stage 2: Attraction

This is the truly love-struck phase. When people fall in love they can think of nothing else. They might even lose their appetite and need less sleep, preferring to spend hours at a time daydreaming about their new lover.

In the attraction stage, a group of neuro-transmitters called ‘monoamines’ play an important role:
— Dopamine – Also activated by cocaine and nicotine.
— Norepinephrine – Otherwise known as adrenalin. Starts us sweating and gets the heart racing.
— Serotonin – One of love’s most important chemicals and one that may actually send us temporarily insane.

Stage 3: Attachment

This is what takes over after the attraction stage, if a relationship is going to last. People couldn’t possibly stay in the attraction stage forever, otherwise they’d never get any work done!

Attachment is a longer lasting commitment and is the bond that keeps couples together when they go on to have children. Important in this stage are two hormones released by the nervous system, which are thought to play a role in social attachments:

— Oxytocin – This is released by the hypothalamus gland during child birth and also helps the breast express milk. It helps cement the strong bond between mother and child. It is also released by both sexes during orgasm and it is thought that it promotes bonding when adults are intimate. The theory goes that the more sex a couple has, the deeper their bond becomes.

— Vasopressin – Another important chemical in the long-term commitment stage. It is an important controller of the kidney and its role in long-term relationships was discovered when scientists looked at the prairie vole.

The frisky Prairie Vole

In prairie vole society, sex is the prelude to a long-term pair bonding of a male and female. Prairie voles indulge in far more sex than is strictly necessary for the purposes of reproduction.

It was thought that the two hormones, vasopressin and oxytocin, released after mating, could forge this bond. In an experiment, male prairie voles were given a drug that suppresses the effect of vasopressin. The bond with their partner deteriorated immediately as they lost their devotion and failed to protect their partner from new suitors.

Looking in their genes

When it comes to choosing a partner, are we at the mercy of our subconscious? Researchers studying the science of attraction draw on evolutionary theory to explain the way humans pick partners.

It is to our advantage to mate with somebody with the best possible genes. These will then be passed on to our children, ensuring that we have healthy kids, who will pass our own genes on for generations to come.

When we look at a potential mate, we are assessing whether we would like our children to have their genes. There are two ways of doing this that are currently being studied, (to find out more click on the links): pheromones and appearance.

The Science of Flirting

The Science of Flirting

There are certain things you can do that might help your date go with a bang – and turn into something more serious.

It can take between 90 seconds and 4 minutes to decide if we fancy someone. But this has little to do with your smooth-talking. As far as attraction goes, here’s how we get the message:

55% is through body language
38% is the tone and speed of our voice
Only 7% is through what we say

Stare into each others’ eyes

It is thought that asymmetrical features are a sign of underlying genetic problems. Numerous studies in humans have shown that men in particular go for women with symmetrical faces.

New York psychologist, Professor Arthur Arun, has been studying the dynamics of what happens when people fall in love. He has shown that the simple act of staring into each other’s eyes has a powerful impact.

He asked two complete strangers to reveal to each other intimate details about their lives. This carried on for an hour and a half. The two strangers were then made to stare into each others eyes without talking for four minutes. Afterwards many of his couples confessed to feeling deeply attracted to their opposite number and two of his subjects even married afterwards.

When we are aroused and interested in what we are looking at our pupils dilate. In medieval Italy, women put belladonna into their eyes to make them look bigger. In fact, bella donna means ‘beautiful lady’. However, this is not recommended, as belladonna is a kind of poison!

Match their moves

When people are attracted to each other, they tend to sit or stand in the same way and copy each other’s physical gestures. This is known as ‘mirroring’. When someone does this, it marks good communication and shows us that our interest is reciprocated. Mirroring also happens when talking to close friends as well as potential lovers, so be careful as you may misread signs of friendship as signs of love.

Don’t play hard to get

Research suggest that playing hard to get doesn’t usually work. However, there is a theory that we tend to fancy people who are hard to get for everyone else, but easy for us to get.

Scientists tested this ‘selective difficulty’ theory by using a computer dating experiment. One woman was keen to meet any of the dates that the computer selected for her. Another played hard to get and wasn’t enthusiastic towards any of her computer matches. A third was selective and only showed interest in one of the candidates. Out of all three women, the choosy woman was the most preferred by all the male participants.

Understanding lonely hearts ads

If you wrote a lonely hearts ad, what would it say about you? Does the opposite sex find you more attractive if you describe yourself as sexy or successful, or wealthy or reliable?

Another experiment showed that if people experience fear on a date they often misinterpret that feeling as love. So dates at a theme park are likely to be successful. A bungee jump might seal your relationship for life!

In fact, people who both like the same level of thrills and excitement are more likely to be compatible.

‘No shorts’ rule for marriage licences in China

'No shorts' rule for marriage licences in China

Couples who want to apply for a marriage licence in Beijing will have to dress smartly in future, or risk being turned away.

Beijing’s Civil Affairs Bureau has announced a new rule stipulating that couples won’t be issued a licence to wed if they show up in shorts, T-shirts or other casual wear, the state newspaper Beijing Daily reports.

The bureau’s marriage registration director, Han Mingxi, says people aren’t showing sufficient respect for the process. “It is not unusual to see couples registering in shorts and slippers. It shows their carelessness and disrespect for marriage,” he tells the paper. “From one glance you can see that marriage registration is being treated as a casual affair, and this is prone to many problems.”

Coming into effect on 1 July, the new rule is part of efforts to tackle the capital’s divorce rate. Mr Han says his bureau is currently analysing a large number of divorce cases, and asking experts to “propose methods and ways to promote marriage and family happiness”.

China’s divorce rate has been rising for more than a decade: in 2015, the government said that 3.6m couples ended their unions during the previous year. Beijing had the highest rate among cities, with 55,000 divorces in a single year.

There has been a mixed response to the new rule among Chinese social media users. “Marriage is not child’s play, it should be dignified,” writes one on the Sina Weibo microblogging site. But others think applying for a licence shouldn’t have to be a big deal. “What if a young couple want a low-key event?” asks one user, who thinks that applying for a licence is “simply a boring and tedious process” anyway.

The Maya secrets spotted from the sky

The Maya secrets spotted from the sky

Inaccessible or easily missed on the ground, ancient Maya ruins are increasingly spotted with the help of satellite imagery – but the process isn’t always fool-proof.

Some of the most magnificent Maya murals ever found – dating to 100BC – were discovered deep in the jungle of San Bartolo, Guatemala back in 2001.

It was obvious that San Bartolo had more to offer – but the jungle was thick. “It’s really dangerous walking through the jungle to find sites – it’s really humid, there are snakes,” explains Diane Davies, Honorary Research Associate at the Institute of Archaeology, UCL, who worked in the same area in the mid 2000’s.

“Honestly, you can be literally seven or eight metres away from a pyramid and in the jungle you can’t see it because [the vegetation is] so thick,” says Davies. However, through the analysis of satellite imagery, previously hidden archaeological sites can be found.

Davies recalls the assistance of Nasa scientist Thomas Sever who was later able to identify all sorts of fascinating features – including a lost Maya pyramid – from satellite images. Because many Maya buildings were constructed with limestone, the chemical composition around ruins has been altered over time – this shows up in some imagery.

The Maya secrets spotted from the sky

When scanning areas for archaeological remains, different wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum can be used to reveal patterns on the ground, says Geoffrey Braswell, at the University of California San Diego.

Light detection and ranging (Lidar), which uses lasers, may also be deployed to measure the topography.

“If you are flying over a canopy most of those beams going down get reflected off leaves and other things and don’t reach the ground – but some of them do,” says Braswell. “That allows us to see unique features on the ground.”

But Lidar is expensive and, for many years, was an inaccessible technology only used by the military. Braswell would love to use it to scan entire regions of Central America to see what sites archaeologists may have missed, but so far that just hasn’t been feasible.

There are other issues too. Most Maya scholars agree that sites detected by remote sensing should definitely be confirmed by expeditions on the ground.

This is because a lot of apparent discoveries often turn out to be nothing of interest – a field rather than the outline or a building, or something manmade much more recently than an ancient ruin.

“In the northern part of the Maya area in Yucatan [remote sensing] gives about 70% false positives,” says Braswell.

However, most agree that the benefits such technologies have made to archaeology are stunning. Some fabulous sites have been uncovered that could otherwise have gone unnoticed – and in some cases years have potentially been shaved off the effort to explore dense forest regions.