Sunday, June 7, 2009

Multiple Universes

I think my new favorite saying should be, "People will believe anything - except the Bible". An article on Science News discusses the new theory of multiple universes.

I must investigate this notion of inflation, I thought it was much older than the article is saying:
"the anthropic implications of a multiplicity of universes, which owe their newfound importance to a popular astrophysical theory called inflation... Alan Guth of MIT, who invented the inflation idea in 1980...For a tiny fraction of a second, Guth proposed, the universe expanded exponentially, explaining why the visible cosmos is now so uniform in temperature and structure."
It was my understanding that inflation is used to explain why far objects are farther away than speed * time (that is, objects have been observed further away than the accepted age of the universe would allow). This notion of inflation explaining the uniformity of the universe puzzles me.

The other thing puzzling me is the use of averages to tell a story. I'm not sure if this is a new science thing, or a literary thing. It is most telling in Stephen Baxter's book "Manifold Time". There, he basically argues that this is the last generation, because if our population was going to expand immensely, on average, you would expect to be a part of that immense population.

This idea is actually used twice in the article:
"calculate the average temperature of space in those that remain, humans should measure a cosmic temperature that is not very far off from that average."
"If Boltzmann brains dominated the cosmos, humans would be rare, so your very existence implies that the average habitable universe must be young enough to restrain the odds of Boltzmann brain formation."
I don't understand this at all. The median name is Smith or Mohammad. Not everyone has that name. There are twelve people with my surname. Does that mean I shouldn't exist?

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