First observational test of the ‘multiverse’

August 3, 2011
Space, Uncategorized

The theory that our universe is contained inside a bubble, and that multiple alternative universes exist inside their own bubbles – making up the ‘multiverse’ – is, for the first time, being tested by physicists.

Two research papers published in Physical Review Letters and Physical Review D are the first to detail how to search for signatures of other universes. Physicists are now searching for disk-like patterns in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation – relic heat radiation left over from the Big Bang – which could provide tell-tale evidence of collisions between other universes and our own.

Many modern theories of fundamental physics predict that our universe is contained inside a bubble. In addition to our bubble, this `multiverse’ will contain others, each of which can be thought of as containing a universe. In the other ‘pocket universes’ the fundamental constants, and even the basic laws of nature, might be different.

Until now, nobody had been able to find a way to efficiently search for signs of bubble universe collisions – and therefore proof of the multiverse – in the CMB radiation, as the disc-like patterns in the radiation could be located anywhere in the sky. Additionally, physicists needed to be able to test whether any patterns they detected were the result of collisions or just random patterns in the noisy data.

A team of cosmologists based at University College London (UCL), Imperial College London and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics has now tackled this problem.

“It’s a very hard statistical and computational problem to search for all possible radii of the collision imprints at any possible place in the sky,” says Dr Hiranya Peiris, co-author of the research from the UCL Department of Physics and Astronomy. “But that’s what pricked my curiosity.”

The team ran simulations of what the sky would look like with and without cosmic collisions and developed a ground-breaking algorithm to determine which fit better with the wealth of CMB data from NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). They put the first observational upper limit on how many bubble collision signatures there could be in the CMB sky.

Stephen Feeney, a PhD student at UCL who created the powerful computer algorithm to search for the tell-tale signatures of collisions between “bubble universes”, and co-author of the research papers, said: “The work represents an opportunity to test a theory that is truly mind-blowing: that we exist within a vast multiverse, where other universes are constantly popping into existence.”

One of many dilemmas facing physicists is that humans are very good at cherry-picking patterns in the data that may just be coincidence.  However, the team’s algorithm is much harder to fool, imposing very strict rules on whether the data fits a pattern or whether the pattern is down to chance.

Dr Daniel Mortlock, a co-author from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London, said: “It’s all too easy to over-interpret interesting patterns in random data (like the ‘face on Mars’ that, when viewed more closely, turned out to just a normal mountain), so we took great care to assess how likely it was that the possible bubble collision signatures we found could have arisen by chance.”

The authors stress that these first results are not conclusive enough either to rule out the multiverse or to definitively detect the imprint of a bubble collision. However, WMAP is not the last word: new data currently coming in from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite should help solve the puzzle.

Media contact: Clare Ryan


UCL Physics & Astronomy

Research in Physical Review Letters

Research in Physical Review D

Coverage on BBC News Online

7 Responses to First observational test of the ‘multiverse’

  1. DURGADAS DATTA January 10, 2014 at 4:27 am #

    The Rutherford-Bohr atomic model on protons merged at center requiring strong nuclear force is a bit of imagination and consequent six quarks theory in standard model along with ideas of Einstein in relativity theory proved a doom to Modern PHYSICS. New physics on non relativistic entropical gradient time and atomic model with protons as a close cloud positive charge around neutrons on a non relativistic platform and non isotropic dark energy swirling and whirling in galactic rotation revising Newton ..F=P.G.M.m/R.R where Pis permeability of dark energy as advocated in my many papers can be seen and applied on the cosmic observations.

  2. DURGADAS DATTA. January 9, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    DURGADAS DATTA published a few theories in ASTRONOMY.NET in year 2002. The papers are –MISJUDGEMENT BY NEWTON,–BALLOON INSIDE BALLOON THEORY ,–ETHER=GRAVITY=DARK ENERGY THEORY OF GRAVITOETHERTONS. In balloon inside balloon theory of matter and antimatter universe on opposite entropy path producing gravitoethertons by annihilation of matter and antimatter at common boundary and injected into our universe as dark energy producing all laws and constants in non isotropic manner due to variable field density . Therefore NEWTONS LAW will be now F=P.G.M.m/R.R. where P is factor of permeability. Accordingly due opposite entropy path these universes will be re bounce universes for one reaching tends to zero entropy and these eternal rebounce again and again so that two universes will form in many manner and by chance good laws may allow life in one universe etc etc etc..—for total paper write to SECRETARY–HOME RESEARCH ON GRAVITOETHERTONS–

  3. Udaybhanu Chitrakar October 2, 2011 at 11:22 pm #

    Scientists have shown that total mass of the universe is zero. They have also shown that anything having a mass will always occupy some space. So anything having no mass will not occupy any space. Therefore our universe having no mass cannot occupy any space. Based on this we can say that multiverse theory is probably not true, because if multiverse theory is true, then our universe will occupy some space within the multiverse, and so its mass cannot be zero.
    For further reading on this please see my comment on blog

  4. Ross August 4, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Should read, in the second-last paragraph:
    “… turned out to *be* just a normal mountain”

  5. passing for human August 4, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    It sounds like we’re all just cells in something bigger than we’ve ever imgined.

  6. vernes August 4, 2011 at 5:53 am #

    And as you manage to push beyond the membrane of this universe, you discover that the laws of physics dictate that the elements that make up your body cannot exist over there.
    A mistake that turns your body into an atomic bomb as your mass is converted into energy of equal worth.

    I am sure it will be quite a sight to behold as I look at it through my telescope on Mars Colony 1

  7. diondeville August 3, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    I was planning a trip to Mars when space agencies begin looking for colonists but a trip to a another Universe sounds even better; maybe I’ll find home.

    I look forward to reading more about this research over the coming years.

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