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Is speculation in multiverses as immoral as speculation in subprime mortgages?

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Hidden Reality, book jacketI’m becoming a moralistic prig in my dotage. Someone dear to me just proudly told me that her son, a freshly minted Harvard grad, is training to be an investment banker. This privileged young man, I grumbled, should try to make the world a better place rather than playing in a rigged, high-stakes gambling racket.

I apologized later—and vowed privately to be less self-righteous in my judgments of others’ career choices. After all, I ain’t exactly Gandhi. But then I read Brian Greene’s new book, The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos (Knopf, 2011), and my moral hackles got all quivery again. (Weird coincidence alert: In 2006, the publisher RiskDoctor, Inc., released a book titled Options Trading: The Hidden Reality.) A physicist at Columbia University, Greene is an immensely talented science explicator who has brought physics to the masses through his smart, witty bestsellers, The Elegant Universe (turned into a television series narrated by Greene) and The Fabric of the Cosmos.

My beef with Greene is this: He has become a cheerleader for the descent of theoretical physics into increasingly fantastical speculation, disconnected from the reality that we can access empirically. Greene has argued eloquently for the plausibility of string theory, which (as I pointed out in a previous post) postulates the existence of particles that are far too small to be detected in any conceivable experiment.

In his new book Greene takes us even further away from reality, asking us to consider not just hypothetical particles but entire universes that lie beyond the reach of our instruments. Multiverses are old hat, of course. In a 1990 article for Scientific American on cosmology I included a sidebar, "Here a universe, there a universe…," about speculation that our universe "is only one in an infinitude of cosmos."

My tone was lightly mocking, because cosmologists themselves seemed to be kidding—even embarrassed—when they talked about all these alternate universes. But now Greene—as well as Stephen Hawking, Leonard Susskind, Sean M. Carroll and other prominent physicist/popularizers—want us to take multiverses seriously.

In Hidden Reality Greene notes that different theories of modern physics yield many different multiverse theories. One of the oldest is the many-worlds theory, which conjectures that all of the possible histories of our world allowed for by quantum mechanics are realized in other universes. Greene also touts the inflationary multiverse, which holds that new universes are constantly springing into existence via a mysterious antigravity force called inflation. String theory yields the brane multiverse; strings plus inflation produces the landscape multiverse; and that still leaves us with the quilted, cyclic, holographic and simulated multiverses, all of which Greene cheerfully elucidates.

These multiverse theories all share the same fundamental defect: They can be neither confirmed nor falsified. Hence, they don’t deserve to be called scientific, according to the well-known criterion proposed by the philosopher Karl Popper. Some defenders of multiverses and strings mock skeptics who raise the issue of falsification as "Popperazis"—which is cute but not a counterargument. Multiverse theories aren’t theories—they’re science fictions, theologies, works of the imagination unconstrained by evidence.

At their best, science fiction and theology can leave us awestruck before the unutterable strangeness and vastness of the cosmos. Multiverse theories used to arouse these emotions in me. When the Russian physicist Andrei Linde—one of the inventors of the inflation theory of cosmic creation—first explained his chaotic, self-reproducing, fractal, inflationary multiverse theory to me 20 years ago, my reaction was, "Wow! That’s so cool!"

Multiverse theories don’t turn me on anymore. Perhaps it’s because of 9/11 and all its bloody consequences, especially the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, I have two teenage kids, and I’m worried about the enormous problems they’re inheriting from my generation. Not only wars overseas but also global warming, species extinction, pollution, poverty, pandemics and so on.

Now, multiverse theories strike me as not only unscientific but also immoral, for two basic reasons: First, at a time when we desperately need science to help us solve our problems, it’s irresponsible for scientists as prominent as Greene to show such a blithe disregard for basic standards of evidence. Second, like religious visions of paradise, multiverses represent an escapist distraction from our world.

I find two multiverse concepts especially loathsome. One is the idea that an infinite universe contains infinite copies of our world. Greene writes that in another cosmos "your doppelganger is now reading this sentence, along with you. In others…he or she has, well, a less than felicitous disposition and is someone you’d rather not meet in a dark alley." Even worse is the proposition that our world is artificial, a simulation being run on a computer designed by an alien civilization. This sort of adolescent claptrap devalues our reality even more than heaven, Valhalla, nirvana and other ancient fantasies do.

Is theorizing about parallel universes as immoral as betting on derivatives based on subprime mortgages? I wouldn’t go that far. Nor do I think all scientists should be seeking cures for cancer, more efficient solar cells or other potential boons to humanity. But scientists should, at the very least, investigate the world in which we live rather than worlds that exist—as far as we will ever know—only in their imaginations.

P.S.: Earlier this week, I learned that JR Minkel, a former writer for Scientific American, died. Even before we met five years ago, I was a fan of JR’s work. He was not only a talented young journalist with an offbeat sensibility; he was also a thoughtful, gentle soul. I’ll miss him.

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  1. 1. airdrummer 12:51 pm 02/1/2011

    we’re always know there are parallel universes…we call them "other people";-)

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  2. 2. steven johnson 6:39 pm 02/1/2011

    Didn’t see this till today. And obviously it inspired much comment, too much for the time I have. But I do have to add two things. (And they’re probably original contributions.)

    First, arguments from personal incredulity are fallacious. Fallacious thinking is never to be encouraged, so I am not sure why Scientific American is publishing it, except to prove that the Internet truly does have all the world’s BS.

    Second, taking umbrage at "Popperazi" is not a rebuttal to Popper’s critics. Popper’s popularity is wholly undeserved. Popper himself initially rejected evolutionary theory as science. His friends finally cobbled up some fragile reasoning that allowed him to condescend to accept Darwinism. Despite this, most every defender of scientific creationism, or intelligent design, or what have you, uses Popper’s criteria, holding that microevolution is scientific in Popper’s peculiar usage, experimentally testable and tested. But macroevolution is not.

    It is also the case, the last time I looked, Popper was dubious about the scientificity of quantum mechanics, considering it to pose The Crisis in Physics.

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  3. 3. Dr. Strangelove 12:29 am 02/2/2011

    "Anyone not shocked with quantum mechanics has not understood it." – Niels Bohr

    "I think it’s safe to say that nobody understands quantum mechanics." – Richard Feynmann

    I say the Many-Worlds Interpretation is sheer nonsense. The ‘simulated universe’ has no scientific merit but has religious overtone. If the universe is a computer simulation, you need a programmer, a creator. It gives hope to the religious. A God compatible with science.

    Physicists promoting such moonshine are the modern-day Dr. Pangloss, Professor of Theology-Cosmology-Metaphysics.

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  4. 4. kenkoskinen 12:50 am 02/2/2011

    I wouldn’t say the multiverse conjecture is immoral. Morality doesn’t have anything to do with it. There is a very important and much needed speculative arm in the process of science. Physicists need to engage their imaginations in the attempt to solve problems and develop reasonable theories to explain natural phenomena.

    I’m not a fan of the multiverse theories but it is used in conjunction with the anthropic principle to explain the disturbing appearance of the fine-tuned constants of nature. If the constants such as the value of the charge of an electron or the strength of gravity, speed of light etc. weren’t as fine tuned then life couldn’t have appeared and evolved. Our universe is one of the few lucky ones within the multiverse where anthropic selection favored the rise of advanced life. Okay, it waters-down the seeming miracle of the appearance of the fine-tuned constants and therefore offers an naturalistic explanation in lieu of a divine designer.

    Whatever one’s take is on such speculations, realize that speculative science is an important component of the overall process of science. Feel free to download my essay "The Three S’s of Science & the Physics of Humpty Dumpty." It’s a free pdf on my website

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  5. 5. jack.123 4:43 am 02/2/2011

    What part of infinite being infinite,is it that people don’t understand?Even people who believe in God don’t like the thought of the outer darkness,a place that God can see but doesn’t go to,or place his influence upon.But the Bible speaks of living things out there,and suggests that it is not a nice place to be.But it also says that someday whats been thrown out there will be brought back.Thus the only thing not infinite about God is his anger.

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  6. 6. david_burress 4:36 pm 02/2/2011

    Hogan has perhaps already been adequately debunked, but here are a few points I don’t think anyone has quite made yet.

    1. Hogan is engaged in the genre of philosophy of science, which in his case as in nearly all cases is prescriptive. It takes a certain arrogance for outsiders to tell members of a particular scientific community how to proceed. In some cases that may be justified, in most cases not. Further, when outsiders criticize a field it usually consists in scientists from another field attempting to invade with a superior approach. If they succeed, then they were right. Hogan has no such justification.

    Moreover, as such, prescriptive philosophy constitutes an empirical prediction about what science can or cannot do in the future. These predictions rarely turn out well, as in the case already noted of Popper on evolution.

    Personally I tend to prefer historians of science (e.g. Thomas Kuhn)over philosophers of science, because they are more likely to take an empirical or descriptive approach.

    2. Nevertheless I will propose some negative prescriptive philosophic statements that have been endorsed (if memory serves) by the likes of Earnest Nagle. Unobservable entities are perfectly acceptable additions to scientific theory under at least two special cases:

    a. if they lead to an observationally equivalent theoretical simplification. Thus the multiple worlds hypothesis might provide easier ways to calculate the results of experiments.

    b. if they lead to observationally equivalent intuitions. Thus the multiple worlds hypothesis might make it easier to quickly grasp or visualize what the theory will predict.

    Even though I studied quantum mechanics (many years ago) I don’t happen to know if or how the many worlds hypothesis differs from the Copenhagen interpretation in terms of predictions. But if it does differ, then it constitutes a valid scientific proposal. And even if it doesn’t differ, it still appears to offer a conceptual simplification.

    So I don’t see that Hogan has any useful point, other than misplaced moralism.

    David Burress
    Ad Astra Institute of Kansas

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  7. 7. EyesWideOpen 4:43 pm 02/2/2011

    "These multiverse theories all share the same fundamental defect: They can be neither confirmed nor falsified. Hence, they don’t deserve to be called scientific, according to the well-known criterion proposed by the philosopher Karl Popper."

    Thankfully, scientists over the past centuries didn’t rely on well-known criterion proposed by philosophers.

    That is why I find dubious the article author’s value judgment "it’s irresponsible for scientists as prominent as Greene to show such a blithe disregard for basic standards of evidence." Are these basic standards of evidence referring to the well-known criterion proposed by the philosopher Karl Popper, per chance? I thought so.

    Moral condemnations by the unscientific masses down through the ages are par for the course for scientists whose famous theories, like Einstein’s, were once impossible to prove or disprove. Thankfully, they ignored those content with the mediocre primitive world in which they lives throughout past history, in favor of daring to use scientific thinking to discover quantum worlds that people like John Horgan would have morally condemned through scientific tomes like Scientific American.

    Puny minds stick to the status quo, what is seen and provable, where great minds are the direct and indirect reasons for curing cancer, taking flight into the atmosphere and beyond, and perhaps one day visiting other worlds that may hold the key to our own world’s literal salvation.

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  8. 8. angels355 6:22 pm 02/2/2011

    …"it makes me nervous when someone tells us what we should or should not research". –I completely agree!!

    And advancement of bad politics with bad science is just as disturbing.

    Putting on blinders and focusing in on just a small narrow aspect of science is the very height of ignorance and stupidity. And suggesting that we should do that prompts the question, why is the author even working in the scientific field?

    Theories of parallelism are not limited to advanced physics, the original Darwin theory of evolution which depended on dichotomy logic has been rejected and replaced with the parallel theory of evolution. Why should scientists waste their time with fanciful magic acts such as electricity or magnetism? Now we all know it is obvious that it is not fanciful science, lights are needed in the operating room, and magnets are essential for scanning inside the body for life saving diagnostics for example; where would medicine be without Maxwell’s equations?? Advanced physics and astrophysics are also essential for the future advancement of super computers, all based on some really weird frivolous scientific studies. Astronomy methods can also be applied to benefit our ordinary needs on Earth. Wildly expensive wasteful expenditures on sending a man to the Moon, for one thing, today saves police officers’ lives with advanced body armor.

    I’ve studied molecular biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, astrophysics, material science, a little aerodynamics and certain aspects of mechanical engineering, and started studying medicine. I was too poor to even be able to apply to medical school in addition to the financial hardships of getting through undergraduate school. Did any scientific employer give me a job? No not one, not even one interview from biotech firms or pharmaceutical companies, and I believe I applied as many as 5,500 times to Boeing with just one interview in which they wanted me to handle toxic waste disposal for less money than what I earned as a cashier. I was even rejected by Taco Time: "We only hire young people!" I did however come close to getting a job in investment banking. And I have contributed to national security with scientific research and designs through my own independent business. I was rejected by everyone, yet using free market/Capitalist methods I was able to save lives. The author’s suggestion that investment banking and theoretical physics are "immoral" smacks of Marxism and makes me wanna puke! I say to the author: turn in your calculator and pocket protector!!!

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  9. 9. mwagner17 6:35 pm 02/2/2011

    Quantum Machanics has been around for nearly a century and the "Many-Worlds Interpretation" is no less speculative than the "Copenhagen Interpretation" demonstrated by the Schroedinger’s Cat thought-experiment.

    The Multiverse is a natural consequence of the Many-Worlds interpretation. If we are to accept Quantum Machanics, we must accept (at least the concept, if not the details of) the Multiverse – Brian Greene’s more colorful "examples" aside.

    In the end, for the public to embrace science, it is helpful for them to be presented "outlandish-sounding" examples which would be consistent with theory.

    Your main crticism is that the multiverse cannot be tested. One-hundred-fifty years ago, Natural Selection would have been declared untestable (and to speak of it would have been "immoral"). We have since seen Natural Selection at-work on human time-scales and the concept is well-accepted in the scientific community. Still, many people continue to have their doubts.

    The Physics community has long-viewed the universe as unbounded. By definition, the universe refers to "everything" and yet the concept of unbounded is beyond human comprehension. Further, if we accept the Theory of General Relativity, an unbounded Universe is also untestable.

    If we have learned nothing else in the last one-hundred years, we have learned that many of the realities of the universe around us cannot be seen but can be inferred. Each new discovery puts bounds on the next iteration of theory.

    Maybe strings, maybe not. But we know that the Planck Length and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle places hard bounds on string dimensions.

    As humans, we perceive three spatial dimensions and one time dimension but there is nothing that precludes realities which we cannot perceive.

    To criticize science for seeking the unknown by postulating seemingly "outlandish and untestable" conditions which are consistent with our current understanding is remarkably short-sited for someone writing for Scientific American.

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  10. 10. Shestopaloff 6:39 pm 02/2/2011

    I wrote on this subject in my book “Properties and interrelationships of polynomial, exponential, logarithmic and power functions with applications to modeling natural phenomena”, AKVY Press, 2010.
    There are methodological foundations of science in general, and the possibility of verification of any suggestion is one of them. (For introduction, who am I, my site
    The discrete Universe, and it is discrete according to the theory of quantum gravity, cannot be divided into two discrete Universes in such a way that new Universes preserve all of the properties of the original Universe. Matter is interconnected, otherwise matter would not exist. It is also a multidimensional entity – people are fairly confident about the existence of four dimensions that the General Theory of relativity introduces. So, in the case of the Universe, the completely identical Universes have to be created from a discrete four-dimensional entity (like two discrete “integer” cubes from a single “integer” cube). However, we already discussed that this is impossible. So, under this scenario, the Universe must exist as a single whole entity.
    These considerations are not obvious and still there are some gaps that need to be fulfilled. It may take the whole book to describe how we came to this conclusion. However, the main idea should be clear. Its essence is this. The most fundamental set of properties that the Universe possesses are those of matter. The properties of the Universe are representatives of the properties of matter. The Universe is matter. This claim should be clear at this point. However, the reverse statement is also true. It is, in fact, even more fundamental statement. Matter is the Universe, and so, matter is indivisible. This is how this statement follows from the indivisibility of the Universe that we discussed in the previous paragraph.
    However, this statement can be derived independently, based on the properties of matter, using dialectics. The main dialectical consideration is that parts of matter cannot be separated entirely. Matter must relate to itself. Any part of matter is connected to any other part of matter. Each such part can, in a broad sense, communicate with any other part and any other form of matter. The eternal movement of matter backs this fundamental property. Lack of such communication means that we are dealing with The Greatest Nothing, because time and space can be provided only by matter, as well as the communication between different forms and different parts of matter.

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  11. 11. mwagner17 6:47 pm 02/2/2011

    You said:

    "But how "moral" would it have been for Gallileo to acquiesce to the church, and recant the things he knew to be true, but which others scoffed at?"

    Actually, Galileo DID recant his theory in order to please the Church. His theory lived on in the minds of others who knew he was right.

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  12. 12. mwagner17 7:08 pm 02/2/2011

    You said:

    "I also think that it is a big leap from the key discovery of quantum mechanics – namely, that a state is not known to exist until one observes it – to the presumption that every state exists in a separate universe of its own.

    An alternative explanation is that a state does not even exist unless one observes the state. Thus, no multiverse is needed to explain this. Instead, we have the counter-intuitive explanation that the universe actually consists of our observations – and nothing else."

    What you have described above is the "Copenhagen Interpretation" of Quantum Mechanics.

    The "Many-Worlds Interpretation" of Quantum Mechanics is just as consistent with modern Quantum Mechanics but this interpretation leads directly to the concept of a Multiverse.

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  13. 13. egad 8:33 pm 02/2/2011

    Dear Mr. Horgan … The world you live in exists only in your imagination, not just the other worlds.

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  14. 14. ferchak 10:36 pm 02/2/2011

    I generally appreciate Horgan’s column. His last one focused on politicians and gun control. About this column however, I think he ‘doth protest too much’. As a scientist, I can’t technically quibble too much about the logic of his point, but only about its importance. Given the small number of theoretical physicists who are engaged in such questionable ‘trivial pursuits’, and the similarly small number of us readers who indulge them by investing time in reading about their ‘fantasies’, if one considers just for a moment the number of hours that we ‘frivolous’ people spend on such ‘nonsensical’ speculation, and compare it to the number of hours that huge numbers of the human population spend shopping on less-than-necessary items, and the large number of people engaged in militarism, and the substantial number of people engaged in dubious economic activity (e.g, speculating in derivatives of sub-prime morgages, or killing whales and other endangered species), the illegal drug trade, Berlusconi-esque charades, etc., I do think he needs to readjust his moral compass just a bit.

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  15. 15. pmereton 10:58 pm 02/2/2011

    John Horgan is exactly correct. In summary, here are the problems I see with the multiverse: (1) It throws Occam’s razor out the window; as Issac Newton said "We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances." What would Newton think about Brian Greene and Stephen Hawking inventing an infinity of other universes just to explain the one we know exists? Before resorting to this desparate speculation, Greene and Hawking might want to take a deep breath and continue seeking an explanation for the one universe we know with certainty does exist. The universe is roughly 300 billion light years across and contains about 10E22 stars. Isn’t this big enough? (2)The multiverse is the last refuge of atheism; Greene, Hawking, and others use the multiverse to explain away the unmistakable evidence of design in the cosmos. Question for the open mind: which is more likely to exist, these infinite number of universes or one Mind, perhaps even God? (3) The advocates of the multiverse, while using the power of the intellect to imagine all those new worlds, shut down their minds when trying to find a theory that allows for both science and spiritualism. Are these two concepts in fact incompatable? If you put your mind to it, they’re not. (4) The multiverse invites lazy scientific reasoning. The answer to any searching inquiry of why certain scientific forces, chemical relations,or laws exist, is simply: "because we live in the one universe where those things are that way." Not sure about you but this is a highly unsatisfying explanation.

    The bet here is that the multiverse represents the tipping point of the scientific paradigm of materialism. It can’t get worse than an infinite number of unprovable universes.

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  16. 16. Dr. Strangelove 2:06 am 02/3/2011

    The various interpretations of quantum mechanics are more metaphysics than physics. They ‘explain’ the same set of measurements and equations. The observations and calculations are science. The interpretations are philosophy. Bertrand Russell said science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know.

    How can the many-worlds interpretation be a conceptual simplification? It postulates that every split second the universe splits into trillions and trillions of carbon copies of itself, each with carbon copies of you and me. Just to explain how an electron appears to be in two places at a time, Everett had to assume the universe splitting into carbon copies of itself.

    I wonder why anybody took Everett seriously. He could just said I don’t know why the electron behaves like that, maybe it’s wave nature allows it to spread to two places at a time. But to use his ignorance to justify the existence of countless carbon copy of unseen universes is absurd.

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  17. 17. Quinn the Eskimo 2:31 am 02/3/2011

    Generations of Politicians and IRS employees will be kept very busy establishing and collecting taxes from all the denizens of the Multiverse.

    Just try cashing the checks! Before they evaporate.

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  18. 18. Jaume Puigbo 4:29 am 02/3/2011

    I would like to comment on what timtimes said (comment 68). Imaginary numbers are needed to find real solutions in the formula for solving third degree equations. Imaginary numbers are introduced to have a closed extension of the field of Reals. In the same way the Reals are introduced to have a complete extension of the Rationals. In practice we hardly ever use numbers with more than 10 decimals. Numbers with infinite decimals? They are hardly "real"!, although they appear in certain geometric constructions (Pythagoras)

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  19. 19. iward 9:55 am 02/3/2011

    Multiverses ( which I believe to be a surrounding sea of "bubble universes" similar to ours ) need to be taken seriously because they could be causing the accelerating expansion of galaxies in our neck of the woods.

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  20. 20. Wilhelmus de Wilde 12:02 pm 02/3/2011

    Beam me up Scotty, science fiction all right but aren’t we already "beaming up" particles, we have to begin with little things, but you have to think BIG in order to continue our quest for science, our horizon is becoming more and more wider since the primitive horizon of the neanderthal , indeed for him even the thought of electricity would be too much like the multiverse for Mr Horgan, he needed more meat to eat in order to stay alive, our LHC is trying to find solutions for problems that are not the problems of the avarage man,but we are STILL doing it, hopefully we will be able to persuite this road and economy and religion will not decide what we can think of.

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  21. 21. Jim Lacey 1:02 pm 02/3/2011

    I was once informed in a physics class that no one would ever see an atom. In our bio lab we have an electron microscope, and guess what!!

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  22. 22. pajamasam 6:45 pm 02/3/2011

    Far more dangerous than speculation going astray is the notion that scientists can only justify their existence by helping us solve our problems.

    Second place goes to the notion that you or anyone else knows what can be observed or tested and what cannot. A hundred years ago you would have protested speculation that other stars have planetary systems because they are much to small to observe.

    In physics more than any other science, speculation is not only healthy but essential for progress. IF you were in a sealed elevator car out in space, could you tell whether you were accelerating, or stationary in a gravitational field? And who would have guessed that the solution lay in "worlds that exist … only in" the imagination of one Bernhard Riemann?

    In short, your first sentence was right on the money, and you should have stopped while you were ahead.

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  23. 23. MTpackrat 7:20 pm 02/3/2011

    While most of the comments deal with the concept of the multiverse in all its forms and some hint that epistemology needs to be brought in for a proper discussion, I personally think that Mr. Horgan is primarily pointing to the human foible of its occupations which includes relatively useless ones such as scientific speculation and investment banker.

    I do disagree with the relative uselessness of the above occupations, since all occupations serve to keep people gainfully employed–should this not be a goal of civilized society? However, our current value system both undervalues and overvalues most occupations. But that is another topic.

    What dismays me most is that most of the commenters view scientific knowledge as something better than religious knowledge; after all, nobody refers to religious knowledge except as religious dogma or belief even though the religious call their beliefs, truths.

    So what is a belief system? In short, it is a system of statements called assumptions which its adherents claim to be true plus all other statements which can be claimed to be derived from those assumptions. Anybody claiming that science is not a belief system is welcome to argue with me at my epistemology post in my blog at


    Ron Toczek

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  24. 24. verdai 7:28 pm 02/3/2011

    Even if many exist, they do not do so at the same time and space, no matter how anyone tortures some numbers.

    Guess what? On another topic, we have serious problems here.

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  25. 25. crossmanf 8:11 pm 02/3/2011

    Perhaps this article should be called faith-based science? I’m not joking. Clearly the ideas are science based, but the inability to prove them requires a faith by the scientist who proposes them that they are the truth, if only they could be proven. This is quite an interesting turn of ideas, since faith requires no proof and science does.

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  26. 26. jack.123 10:04 pm 02/3/2011

    The point of my previous comment was that multiverse theories are about as provable as God is.When there is a test for the existence of God we will have a test of the multiverses as well,and viceversa.but the outer darkness is out there and we will never be able to see it.It will always be out of our reach.

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  27. 27. leif.sterner 11:13 pm 02/3/2011

    Speculation in Multiverses is immoral ?

    A hundred years ago speculation about planets around other stars might have been a dumb thing considering
    that such entities could never ever be observed.
    Now we are told that the Kepler telescope has found 1200 new planets.

    The theory of selfregenerating inflation is not merely science fiction. It is fairly based on our knowledge about high energy physics. Possibly the Planck surveyor can confirm the existence of B mode polarisation in the cosmic background which is the remnant of "tensor mode gravitational waves" in the inflationary era.
    That would prove a specific potential for the inflationary field and the existence of spacetime beyond the observation horizon.

    The existence of "parallell worlds" is really only a consequence of basic combinatorial math as was explained in the (splendid) Scientific American article by Max Tegmark some years ago.
    This model is fairly hard to avoid if inflation a la Linde is really out there !

    And the speculations of virtual reality could be argued as a (well somewhat naive) embodiement of quantum information theory as investigated by Anton Zeilinger and others. Really, these people dont need to pull strings to have HARD EVIDENCE that the world is in undeniable fact immorally weird to the N’th degree :-|

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  28. 28. iward 9:58 am 02/4/2011

    The outward acceleration of galaxies in our "universe" suggests that the multiverse does in fact exist, since gravitational attraction would still occur between separate, material "bubble universes".

    solar systems > galaxies > bubble universes > the multiverse

    I’d even like to propose a name for the multiverse: the "Halcyon".

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  29. 29. christinaak 10:41 am 02/4/2011

    Let’s face it much of contemporary physics and cosmology is speculative including the fate of the universe, the nature and function of black holes, and ideas about quantum behavior in general. It is a safe bet that much of what is currently believed (including the multiverse idea) will eventually be scrapped. My own prediction (and hope) is that when the LHC fails to find the Higg’s boson that the scientific community will be open to new ideas. Among these new ideas will be the acceptance of an evolutionary cyclic model (that demonstrates that parametric modification or adaptation is inevitable) to replace the standard big bang model (and put an end to the anthropic principle). In addition, it will be necessary to develop a model of space-time geometry which includes a modified notion of the arrangement of the extra-dimensional structure of string theory. This will be necessary in order to construct a hierarchically structured space-time geometry that explains the organizational relationship between the three types of matter (dark energy, dark matter, and baryonic matter). When this is accomplished many of the mysteries concerning quantum behavior as well as those puzzling cosmologists may finally be answered. In my recently published book, I attempt to explain the organizational relationship between the three types of matter within the context of a hierarchical stratification of the cosmic space-time geometry, which assigns stratum-specific variations in parameters (c, G, and the Planck constant), as well as stratum-specific variations in the nature and range of the fundamental forces. For those who are interested the title of the book is: The Short Range Antigravitational Force and the Hierarchically Stratified Space-time Geometry in 12 Dimensions.

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  30. 30. kenkoskinen 2:33 pm 02/4/2011

    Jack123, So how do you know there is an outer darkness? In your previous statement you didn’t cite any Biblical sources, yet wrote as if these were so. Even if you had, let’s get real. Science isn’t theology. Just because some emotion filled people speak/write as if their notions/ideas are unquestionable, it doesn’t make it so. There isn’t any connection between some ancient scare tacit about "hell" etc. and the equally vain speculations of some modern scientists who are trying to solve some problems. Speculative science is not the same as the unquestionable, unreasonable and totalitarian religious notions that the clergy tried to forever drive down the throats of people who didn’t know any better. These poor victims couldn’t defend themselves against their fear-filled on-lash of crazy ideas. After all they didn’t have a robe on or a collar that was put on backwards!

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  31. 31. Elderlybloke 4:26 pm 02/4/2011

    Writing, speaking of thinking about Multi-universes (or whatever term is correct at present) is not causing the American economy to collapse .
    It is a harmless preoccupation of cosmologists who like to play with weird things.

    They proposed some decades ago that a state of matter called a Black Hole could exist.
    Pure rubbish,how could nature allow such illogical thing be present in our well ordered Universe.

    The actions of subprime mortgage manipulators and financiers like Bernard Madoff are quite different, and I won’t get started on them as obscene language is about all I can use about them.

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  32. 32. jack.123 7:32 pm 02/4/2011

    kenkoskinen-Not hard to find.If you will go to the last page of the New Testament Bible you will find the source that you are seeking.It explains from the Bible’s point of view what will happen to the Earth and the universe and the rest of things as being through out into the outerdarkness.And then saying there will be new universes and Earth’s to follow,sounds a lot like mutiverses ya think? As for the outerdarkness or whatever you might call it.Our universe is expanding in to something that we can not see.

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  33. 33. Guglielmo Tell 8:51 pm 02/4/2011

    Skeptics like Mr. John Horgan and those who criticize them miss a common point: that is that Social Dynamics and the matherial world obey ultimately the same laws – those of PHYSICS. Once I had asked Mr. Steven Weinberg, no less, what does he think about inclusion of the Social Sciences into Theory of Everything. He answered that he was very skeptic about it, that society is ruled by the laws of evolution and historic accidents. With all my respect for him I must say that this answer is dead wrong. The consequences of actions of human society as a SYSTEM upon planet Earth as a SYSTEM, of the Western society as a SYSTEM upon other civilizations as SYSTEMS are getting bluntly clearer everyday (right today). A living system of any kind – even social – is trying to reproduce its own existence for a longer time. But understanding the actions of CAPITALIST society as a system requires entering something you, folks, are afraid to death to hear of: MARXISM. Not in Stalinist version, of course. The key to MATHERIALIST philosophy is to look at the Big Ideas ("Communism", "Freedom and Democracy", a Religious one) from the point of view of practical reality. Then you’ll be able to examine the Surplus Value produced by a society in the terms of Energy and all of its laws with the rest of imaginary or already written Physics plunging in next. The Universe is not to be blamed for 9/11, the PEOPLE are. Physics are not responsible for the way people are, the issue is the KIND OF USE the Science is given by the people with big moneys and vast amounts of poltical power. Sounds poltical? Damn right it does. Mahathma Gandhi said: "The one who says Religion’s got nothing to do with Politics doesn’t understand anything about Religion".

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  34. 34. DGPIS 6:38 am 02/5/2011

    John might have an intuitive feeling about how things ‘should be’. And Dr. Scott brings up some good points – however what if a basic tenet of physics needs modification? How willing will current physicists be to a major change in thought?

    The problem with the multiverse theories is not with physics. It is with the unconsidered use of certain mathematical tools – probability in this case – and the attempt to extrapolate physical existence from mathematical tools – without a critical review of the mathematical tools being used.

    Physics has found probability to be a very convenient tool for atomic and particle physics. Unfortunately the equations generated do not provide for a micro-second by micro-second layout of what any particular particle is doing. Straight calculus does provide for such a continuous view of the movement of, say, a billiard ball. The probability equations of quantum mechanics do not. This leads to the question, what is happening in all those micro-seconds we cannot describe? And the multiverse is one such possibility.

    If non-probability mathematical tools were found to fit the universe of particle physics with a micro-second by micro-second path, this entire discussion would be moot.

    The stereotype roles of mathematicians and physicists is that each thinks the other less significant. History shows otherwise. Some of the most significant discoveries in both areas have been found by someone working in both ‘universes’.

    The current place where fundamental change in both physics and mathematics lies is in a critical review of the use of and assumptions underlying the mathematical tools physics uses.
    The Law of Large Numbers is part of probability theory. Applying it we find that we are averaging out a characteristic that we are unable (or unwilling) to directly measure. This means simply by using probability theory we admit that there is a characteristic we are going to average out and not measure the specific details of.

    So any use of probability theory in physics means there is some characteristic of the universe we essentially admit we do not know the specifics of and will ‘average out’. There will always be something left out of equations based upon probability theory.

    To get further with both physics and mathematics, new mathematical tools are needed – which provide new methods of modeling the universe. Ones which might require a foundational change in both areas – and which might make this discussion moot.

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  35. 35. jzftiger6 1:34 pm 02/5/2011

    Articles such as this are valid in the discourse of science. Skeptics on both sides of a new thought (or no sides as the case may be) tend to drive science.

    While we were in college almost 40 years ago studing engineering, my twin brother asked a physics professor the following:

    Question: "Does the math work out because it works out "? Or does the math work out because we (consciously or sub-consciously) want it to work out?"

    After several seconds, the prof smiled and gave his answer: "If I could answer your question, I would be God."
    [Put your feelings of/for (or not) a divinity aside. The answer was simple yet profound at least to me - had to be for me to remember it all these years.]

    We learn by exploring and discussing these explorations – not by limiting the discussions of the exploration. Only ‘time’ will tell which explorations prove fruitful and which do not.

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  36. 36. Fermanl 1:57 pm 02/5/2011

    I arrived to this discussion through the SA Weekly Review. At first I was astonished. "How can SA publish this?" Then I planned to e-mail JH a few good reasons why he was sadly and dangerously wrong. Today I inflected from my chasm to realize there were a lot of comments to the article. I read them all (103) – it is getting a small book about the subject – and I marveled before so much wonderful scientific knowledge expressed! So, I would start with a thanks to JH for the splendid result of his silliness. But, on the same quantum wave (thus after and before) I really must ask JH where could he breed such an arrogant approach about these matters. Multiverse is not the infantile dilettantish waste of time JH pretends to figure. Perhaps JH forgot that in Euclid days the Universe was merely three dimensional – time was not yet considered as a dimension by itself; but even three dimensions constitute already a multiverse. Much later on time was found as a consequence of the light cone expansion and the Universe became tetra-dimensional. I still remember from my early years the thrill coming from the 4th Dimension on TV sci-fi! Those were the days – and these are the days. And who are we to pretend that today’s conjectures will not be verified in the future? Theoretical research is not, as JH insinuates, a just because bolt from the blue; it stems on scientific knowledge and coherent development. Many of these hypothesis are not yet demonstrable – and so what? Many are mere mathematical constructions – and so what? Many yet are mere good ideas expressed by flashy wanderers and waiting to be systematized by scientific experts – and so what? And so what, JH? Don’t you realize that they all are pieces of the giant motor that pulls the knowledge net and make Science evolve? And yes, on this scenario even sci-fi is important and leads to the passion of debate and discovery!

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  37. 37. Fermanl 1:58 pm 02/5/2011

    Arguments enough have been adduced that show JH is wrong; I would only add that JH speech is the Inquisitorial type one that would send Giordano Bruno to the blaze. And this is very serious, especially in these days when obscurantism tries by every means assign the guilt for the economic crisis upon the intellectuals and the artists. Don’t you fear, JH? Because that avalanche wan’t save you if it starts to roll! And then you label the researchers for wasting time that could be dedicated to cure diseases and pursue biological investigation… How dare you?! Don’t you fear that the defibrillator fails to get your heart on the right track if you need it? Don’t you fear that an extra dimension could be the realm where to drain the cancer’s specific bio-field that could kill you? I’m tired, JH. I’m tired of living among poor ignorant mason workers terrified by some nuclear menace their boss claims to exist and afraid of talking about it as if they were selling their souls to the devil – yes, even today, in 2011 this is the common labor ground for these matters! I’m tired of investing for many years my time, health and wealth on Astrophysics research only to get from friends and family the dubious condescending reserved to lunatics and other weird fauna among the human species. And, as if that was not enough, here comes doctoral JH on considered Scientific American declaring that Multiverse talk, a component for the future FTL inter-stellar travel astrophysics, is mere bullshit and dangerous deviant propaganda for the masses! You are dangerous, JH. Your speech is the the kind of one they are using at this very moment to castrate their young scientists as vagrant and lazy people that should be jailed and put do do some ‘useful work’ – can’t you hear it? Don’t you fear that, JH?

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  38. 38. Zephir_AWT 2:38 pm 02/5/2011

    IMO multiverses exists in form of various abstract theories – like the relativity and quantum mechanics. They’re all "low-dimensional slices" of "higher-dimensional" reality, where we are living.

    String theory is assuming these extradimensions, but it considers Lorentz symmetry at same moment, whereas extradimensions will manifest itself just with Lorentz symmetry violation. The inconsistency of both these postulates leads into large fuzzy landscape of string theory solutions.

    You can understand it in illustrative way with water surface analogy of light spreading in vacuum of AWT: when you’re observing the water surface with surface ripples, you can expect, for tiny capillary waves the drag of underwater doesn’t exist, because the spreading of these waves is solely driven with their surface tension. The spreading of such waves is (nearly) independent to underwater motion/reference frame, thus becoming analogous to relativistic light wave spreading in vacuum.

    But just because such waves are independent to underwater motion, they cannot be used for detection of third dimension of underwater at the 2D water surface. You can consider these waves dependent on (extradimensions of) underwater, or independent to them – but not both at the same moment.

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  39. 39. drelliot 12:20 pm 02/12/2011

    Well, Feynman, Newton and Einstein and the Nobel Laureates would disagree:

    Feynman wrote: "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool. … You just have to be honest in a conventional way after that. . . I would like to add something that’s
    not essential to the science, but something I kind of believe, which is that you should not fool the layman when you’re talking as a scientist. . . I’m talking about a specific, extra type of integrity that is not lying, but bending over backwards to show how you are
    maybe wrong, that you ought to have when acting as a scientist. And this is our responsibility as scientists, certainly to other scientists, and I think to laymen. . . If you’re representing yourself as a scientist, then you should explain to the layman what you’re doing–and if they don’t want to support you under those circumstances, then that’s their decision." -Feynman, Cargo Cult Science

    "Errors are not in the art but in the artificers." -Newton

    We don’t know what we are talking about . –Nobel Laureate David Gross on string theory

    It is anomalous to replace the four-dimensional continuum by a five-dimensional one and then subsequently to tie up artificially one of those five dimensions in order to account for the fact that it does not manifest itself. -Einstein to Ehrenfest (Imagine doing this for 10-30+ dimensions!)

    String theorists don’t make predictions, they make excuses . – Feynman, Nobel Laureate

    String theory is like a 50 year old woman wearing too much lipstick. -Robert Laughlin, Nobel Laureate

    All the Best,

    Dr. Elliot McGucken

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  40. 40. drelliot 12:23 pm 02/12/2011

    Actually, no.

    Higher mathematics is not physical evidence at all, and physics has ever advanced by physics. Heed the resounding words of the Greats–of Galileo, Einstein, and Dyson, whom I quote in my upcoming book Hero’s Journey Physics dx4/dt=ic:

    Einstein, "But before mankind could be ripe for a science which takes in the whole of reality, a second fundamental truth was needed, which only became common property among philosophers with the advent of Kepler and Galileo. Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts form experience and ends in it. Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics — indeed, of modern science altogether. (Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions)"

    "Mathematics are well and good but nature keeps dragging us around by the nose." –Albert Einstein

    In Disturbing the Universe, Freeman Dyson writes, "Dick [Richard Feynman] fought back against my skepticism, arguing that Einstein had failed because he stopped thinking in concrete physical images and became a manipulator of equations. I had to admit that was true. The great discoveries of Einstein’s earlier years were all based on direct physical intuition. Einstein’s later unified theories failed because they were only sets of equations without physical meaning. Dick’s sum-over-histories theory was in the spirit of the young Einstein, not of the old Einstein. It was solidly rooted in physical reality." –Freeman Dyson

    All the Best,

    Dr. Elliot McGucken

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  41. 41. drelliot 12:42 pm 02/12/2011

    Great post!

    Greene completely neglects the thoughts of the Greats–of Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Schrodinger, and Heisenberg, whom I quote in my paper here:

    Planck: Let us get down to bedrock facts. The beginning of every act of knowing, and therefore the
    starting-point of every science, must be our own personal experience. (nobodoy has ever experienced strings,nor multiverses, nor little loops!) All physicists have personally experienced the double-slit experiment, and as relativity tells us that photons remain stationary in x4, x4 must thus be propagating at c with both a wavelike and quantum nature!)

    Einstein: Mathematics are well and good but nature keeps dragging us around by the nose.

    Einstein: The theory must not contradict empirical facts. . . The second point of view is not concerned
    with the relation to the material of observation but with the premises of the theory itself, with what may briefly but vaguely be characterized as the naturalness or logical simplicity of the premises of the basic concepts and of the relations between these which are taken as a basis.

    Multiversemania violates all of these tenets.

    Einstein: Truth is what stands the test of experience.

    Schrodinger: The world is given but once. . . The world extended in space and time is but our
    representation. Experience does not give us the slightest clue of its being anything besides that.

    Who has contributed more to physics? Brian Greene and his publisher, or Einstein, Schrodinger, Planck, Heisenberg, and Galileo?

    All the Best,

    Dr. Elliot McGucken
    Hero’s Journey Physics

    P.S. I really enjoyed your words here: "The really offensive aspect to this theory is the concept of "discreet" slices of time. He treats them as completely real. Useful concepts for understanding mechanics can’t split off into other dimensions, last time I checked. It’s amazing they peddle this crap to the public with a straight face. I’m surprised more members of the scientific community don’t come out and expose people like Greene and his reifications for what they are. It’s clear that Greene has found a cash machine and he’s exploiting two weakness in the general public: the blind trust they place in people who have advanced degrees in science and their vast ignorance of epistemology."

    Yes–my Moving Dimensions Theory shows that past is no longer real:

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  42. 42. drelliot 12:53 pm 02/12/2011

    You write, "Arguments enough have been adduced that show JH is wrong; I would only add that JH speech is the Inquisitorial type one that would send Giordano Bruno to the blaze."

    Actually, the Multiversers are the ones who would send Giordano Bruno (& JH) to the blaze for questioning their religion and well-funded theocracy and focusing on testable, empirical physics, while exalting truth and science.

    In many ways Galileo had it easy, because at least the Inquisition in his day wasn’t posing as physicists interested in science.

    And Max Planck had it easy too, as he noted, “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

    But in Plancks’ time, the opponents were generally a generation of successful scientists who had risen to the pinnacles of their profession via science–not by multiverse politics. So today’s non-opponents of MDT are anti-theorists bolstered by state-funded crackpot indexes and anthropic principle politics–”we have tenure/funding because we are smarter than you because if we weren’t smarter than you, we wouldn’t have tenure/funding. Ergo we are smarter than you,” is what they announce at their lavish conferences, reformulating the anthropic principle to fit the latest “flavor of the week” of their unchanging anti-theory regimes, which have frozen physics in a block universe.

    Max Born wrote, “All great discoveries in experimental physics have been made due to the intuition of men who made free use of models which for them were not products of the imagination but representations of real things.”

    And yet, today, the quantum gravity regimes have rejected simple physical models along with the belief that the math ought represent *real* things. And now, they are even willing to forget time, space, reason, words, dialogue, physics, and physicists–to keep their perpetual motion funding apparati moving–even as time remains frozen. But there is no graviton, nor any consistent theory of quantum gravity. Instead, there are literally an infinite number of string theories, and a fair amount of loop-quantum theories, none of which quantize gravity in any finite, consistent way; let alone in any way that makes predictions that can be tested. There is no proof whatsover for tiny, vibrating strings, nor atoms of space and time, nor twistors, nor tiny little loops, nor multiverses, nor hyperspace, nor parallel universes, nor bouncing universes.

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  43. 43. drelliot 1:00 pm 02/12/2011

    Galileo’s Inquisition lives on, but today they wear the robes of Multiversers. Not so long ago, I had to recant my beliefs before them:

    I, Dr. E, son of the late Vincenzio Galilei of Florence, aged 70 years, tried personally by this court, and kneeling before You, the most Eminent Antitheorists and Reverend Lord Cardinals of M-Theory Multiverses, Inquisitors-General throughout the Quantum Gravity Republic against heretical depravity, having before my eyes the Most Holy Gospels of an Elegant Universe, Not Even Wrong, and The Trouble With Physics, and laying on them my own hands; I swear that I have always believed, I believe now, and with Ed Witten’s help I will in future believe all which the Holy Quantum Gravity and M-Theory Church doth hold, preach, teach, and hype to the press, including E-8 and next year’s E-9 anti-theory.

    But since I, after having been admonished by this Holy Office entirely to abandon the false opinion that the fourth dimension expands relative to the three spatial dimensions, and that quantum mechanics’ entanglement, nonlocality, entropy, relativity itself, time and all its arrows and assymetries across all realms, the gravitational slowing of clocks and time, Huygens’ Principle, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, probability, and all the dualities (space-time, wave-particle, mass-energy) derive from this simple principle of MDT and its equation dx4/dt=ic, and that I was neither to hold, defend, nor teach in any manner whatever, either orally or in writing, the said false doctrine; and after having received a notification that the said doctrine is contrary to the Holy Writ of Hyperspace, I did write and cause to be printed a blog and forum in which I treat of the said already condemned MDT doctrine, and bring forward arguments of much efficacy in its favour, without arriving at any solution: I have been judged vehemently suspected of heresy, that is, of having held and believed that the fourth dimension’s expansion is the universe’s fundamental invariant and the cause of all time and motion, and that the block universe does not exist and time is not the fourth dimension, but that time is a parameter that emerges because the fourth dimension is expanding relative to the three spatial dimensions at c, that change is and ought be woven into the fundamental fabric of space-time with dx4/dt=ic, and that the fourth dimension, like the earth, does move.

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  44. 44. drelliot 1:03 pm 02/12/2011

    Continued from above– Based On: "Confession of Galileo Galilei"

    Nevertheless, wishing to remove from the minds of your Tenured Eminences and all faithful Multiversers, LQGers and String Theorists this vehement suspicion reasonably conceived against me, I abjure with sincere heart and unfeigned faith, I curse and detest the said errors and heresies, and generally all and every error and sect contrary to the Holy Quantum Gravity Regimes, and I am ready to forget time, forget space, and forget physical reality, while embracing multiverses and tiny, vibrating strings. And I swear that for the future I will neither say nor assert in speaking or writing such things as may bring upon me similar suspicion; and if I know any heretic who speaks out against tiny, vibrating branes, anti-theories, or atoms of space and time, or one suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office of Time Travel, or to the Inquisitor of Wormholes and Ordinary of the place in which I may be, which will of course be in the block universe, which MDT falsely liberated us from, while falsely granting us free will and free thought, as it falsely unfroze time. I hereby remit all future free will, as I return to the block universe with the hopes of receiving the funding that is a part of my pre-Ordained future, as a member of the Quantum Gravity Church in this multiverse–this subset of the landscape–that the Gods of the Anthropic Principle granted us, while declaring that we should receive infinite funding for our fortitude in service to the Lords of the Landscape.

    I also swear and promise to adopt and observe entirely all the penances which have been or may be by this Holy Office of Loops imposed on me. And if I contravene any of these said promises, protests, or oaths, (which Ed Witten forbid!) I submit myself to all the pains and penalties which by the Sacred Canons of String Theory and other Decrees of D-branes general and particular are against such offenders imposed and promulgated. So help me God and the Holy Warped Passages/The Trouble With Physics/10^99 indecipherable papers–which I touch with my own hands.

    I, Dr. E, aforesaid have abjured, sworn, and promised, and hold myself bound as above; and in token of the truth, with my own hand have subscribed the present schedule of my abjuration, and have recited it word by word. In America, at the Convent della M-Theory, this 8th day of December, 2008, in this parallel universe

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  45. 45. drelliot 1:18 pm 02/12/2011

    Yes–but what you are missing is that when massive funding and hype goes towards untestable religions, individual, rugged, heroic, free-thinking physicists are once again afflicted, castigated, and impugned as they were in Galileo’s and Bruno’s day and age, and thus, in Brian Greene’s books, the words of the Einsteins, Plancks, Heisenbergs, and Galileo’s are absent:

    Einstein: Time and again the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally by pure thought without any empirical foundations–in short, by metaphysics.

    Heisenberg: Science. . . is based on personal experience, or on the experience of others, reliably reported. . . Even today we can still learn from Goethe . . . trusting that this reality will then also reflect the essence of things, the `one, the good, and the true.

    Planck: Let us get down to bedrock facts. The beginning of every act of knowing, and therefore the starting-point of every science, must be our own personal experience. (All physicists have personally experienced the double-slit experiment, and as relativity tells us that photons remain stationary in x4, x4 must thus be propagating at c with both a wavelike and quantum nature!)

    Einstein: Mathematics are well and good but nature keeps dragging us around by the nose.

    Einstein: The theory must not contradict empirical facts. . . The second point of view is not concerned with the relation to the material of observation but with the premises of the theory itself, with what may briefly but vaguely be characterized as the “naturalness” or “logical simplicity” of the premises of the basic concepts and of the relations between these which are taken as a basis.

    "Born described the weak point in Einstein’s work in those final years: ". . . now he tried to do without any empirical facts, by pure thinking. He believed in the power of reason to guess the laws according to which God built the world." –Einstein’s Mistakes, Hans C. Ohanian

    Maxwell: Mathematicians may flatter themselves that they possess new ideas which mere human language is as yet unable to express. Let them make the effort to express these ideas in appropriate words without the aid of symbols, and if they succeed they will not only lay us laymen under a lasting obligation, but… they will find themselves very much enlightened during the process, and will even be doubtful whether the ideas as expressed in symbols had ever quite found their way out of the equations into their minds.


    Dr. Elliot McGucken

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  46. 46. drelliot 10:02 pm 02/13/2011

    Dear wolfkiss,

    you bring up galileo and copernicus. neither would approve of the stringy theocracy of multiverses, as they are the antithesis of both science and exalted religion.

    "I think that in the discussion of natural problems we ought to begin not with the Scriptures (String Theory’s gods & multiverses), but with experiments, and demonstrations." –Galileo

    Max Born: "All great discoveries in experimental physics have been made due to the intuition of men who made free use of models which for them were not products of the imagination but representations of real things." Strings and multiverses aren’t real.

    Max Planck: Let us get down to bedrock facts. The beginning of every act of knowing, and therefore the starting-pont of every science, must be our own personal experience. (Nobody has ever personally experienced a string nor a multiverse)

    Max Planck:: That we do not construct the external world to suit our own ends (tenure/money/book deals for multiversers) in the pursuit of science, but that vice versa the external world forces itself upon our recognition with its own elemental power.

    Einstein: Truth is what stands the test of experience. (Nobody has ever experienced a multiverse nor string.)

    Heisenberg: Science. . . is based on personal experience, or on the experience of others, reliably reported. (Nobody has ever experienced a multiverse nor string.)

    Schrodinger: The world is given but once. (no multiverses!) Nothing is reflected. The original and the mirror image are identical. The world extended in space and time is but our representation (Vorstellung). Experience does not give us the slightest clue of its being anything besides that as Berkeley was well aware.

    Einstein: Time and again the passion for understanding has led to the illusion that man is able to comprehend the objective world rationally by pure thought (brian greene et. al.) without any empirical foundations–in short, by metaphysics.

    We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances. –Newton (are multiverses and strings true?)

    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger (multiverses), more complex (30+ dimensions), and more violent(the destruction of physics). It takes a touch of genius–and a lot of courage–to move in the opposite direction. (dx4/dt=ic) –Einstein

    My belief is based on the fact that string theory is the first science in hundreds of years to be pursued in pre-Baconian fashion, without any adequate experimental guidance. –Nobel Laureate P. Anderson

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  47. 47. drelliot 3:33 pm 02/14/2011

    dear zeevaviezer,

    what were some of the "accusation hurled at Dirac by Stalinists?"

    would love to read these! are they similar to the accusations hurled at JH for promoting science, reason, and honor like Dirac?

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  48. 48. triariusii 6:04 pm 02/17/2011

    Deliberately provocative stuff, I think…and maybe right if it were not that the guys who are exploring the outer edges of this metaphysical envelope are doing so because of known scientifically proven anomolies in more accepted standard theories. They may not be able yet to prove their own ideas through experiment as yet, but observed data has shown that there must be deficiencies in current orthodoxies.

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  49. 49. drelliot 1:57 am 02/18/2011

    Thanks triariusii,

    What are these "known scientifically proven anomolies in more accepted standard theories?"

    I would love to know more about them. Thanks!

    Also, if you know of any "unknown scientifically proven anomolies in more accepted standard theories. . ." or known unscientifically proven anomolies in more accepted standard theories. . ." or "unknown scientifically proven anomolies in less accepted nonstandard theories." please do share!

    Thanks in advance! :)

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  50. 50. drelliot 12:33 pm 02/18/2011

    Giordano Bruno pretty much captured the spirit of the String Theorist Multiversers and their fanboys: "After it hath been seen how the obstinate and the ignorant of evil disposition are accustomed to dispute, it will further be shewn how disputes are wont to conclude; although others are so wary that without losing their composure, but with a sneer, a smile, a certain discreet malice, that which they have not succeeded in proving by argument — nor indeed can it be understood by themselves — nevertheless by these tricks of courteous disdain they pretend to have proven, endeavouring not only to conceal their own patently obvious ignorance but to cast it on to the back of their adversary. For they dispute not in order to find or even to seek Truth, but for victory, and to appear the more learned and strenuous upholders of a contrary opinion. Such persons should be avoided by all who have not a good breastplate of patience."–"Introductory Epistle : Argument of the Third Dialogue"

    If real, true, heroic science in the spirit of Einstein, Galileo, Feynman, Newton, Born, Copernicus, and Heisenberg is what you long for, please join us here:

    For we agree with the GREATS!

    But before mankind could be ripe for a science which takes in the whole of reality, a second fundamental truth was needed, which only became common property among philosophers with the advent of Kepler and Galileo. Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it. Propositions arrived at by purely logical means are completely empty as regards reality. Because Galileo saw this, and particularly because he drummed it into the scientific world, he is the father of modern physics–indeed, of modern science altogether. -Einstein , Ideas and Opinions

    Max Planck: Let us get down to bedrock facts. The beginning of every act of knowing, and therefore the starting-pont of every science, must be our own personal experience. (Dr. E adds: All physicists have personally experienced the double-slit experiment, and as relativity tells us that photons remain stationary in the fourth dimension, the fourth dimension must thus be propagating at c with both a wavelike and quantum nature!)

    I think that in the discussion of natural problems we ought to begin not with the Scriptures of string theory/the multiverse), but with experiments, and demonstrations. –Galileo

    Dr. E

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  51. 51. Gina74 8:21 pm 08/5/2011

    I had to chuckle about this blog post because I just read on Science Blog, published 8/3/2011 that a team of cosmologists at 3 different London colleges are testing the theory.

    It seems to me that John Horgan is grumpy about Brian Green for some reason. I, like a previous commenter, am not sure why Scientific American would publish a piece like this.

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  52. 52. Cranmer 3:04 pm 11/24/2011

    It seems to me that more folks need to study Thomas Kuhn’s book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Paradigm changes come slowly. For string theory or multiverse theory to be accepted by the scientific magisterium there will need to be demonstrable evidence so overwhelming that said theories are convincing to anyone of reasonable mind. So far those theories seem to be as metaphysical as divine revelation. It might be that those advocating those theories have a philosophical agenda similar to the agenda of the late logical positivist theories.

    Science should limit itself to empirical evidences and leave the metaphysics to the philosophers and the theologians:)

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  53. 53. Philip-Maguire 1:17 am 01/14/2012

    I actually subscribe to the lacker band theory of creation. This posits that the universe is a kind of elastic string that somehow gets pulled it to it’s fullest extent then rebounds back and starts all over again. The best part of this theory is that it’s testable. Just don’t stung by the band when it springs back.

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  54. 54. nsalmon 8:22 pm 07/22/2012

    The observation that there is a multitude of ways that things might have gone differently—and hence a multitude of possible worlds (maximal scenarios that might have been realized)—lends no support whatsoever to the controversial hypothesis that parallel universes are physically real. A realized scenario is realized by a sub-universe and, as a limiting case, a realized world is realized by an entire universe (in perhaps the most natural and reasonable sense of the word ‘universe’). The hypothesis that there are physically real alternate universes (and hence, such things as talking donkeys) follows directly from the confused idea that there is a plurality of worlds that are not merely equally possible but equally realized. This serious misconception of worlds is, at best, dubiously consistent. It is an analytic truth that (in the relevant senses) a world w is realized by a universe iff every proposition that obtains according to w obtains in reality. (This is a consequence of the analytic truth that, in the relevant senses, a scenario s is realized iff every proposition that obtains according to s obtains simpliciter.) It follows that one world is realized (“the actual world”) and the rest are not. Whereas there are a great many ways that things might have gone differently, there is but one maximal way that things are. It is a serious intellectual failing that misconceptions of worlds (in the relevant sense) on the model of multiple maximal scenarios that are equally realized, or on the closely related model of a plurality of physically real alternate universes, continue to be taken seriously and even enthusiastically embraced.

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  55. 55. modalizer 5:22 am 07/23/2012

    nsalmon: the sentences that you claim are analytic truths contain several technical terms – ‘world’, ‘universe’, ‘obtains’, ‘propositions’, ‘realized’, ‘according to’. Why are you so confident these sentences are analytic? If it’s because they follow from your stipulations about the meanings of the technical terms, fine, but it’s unclear what that shows. If the terms are instead meant to be theoretical terms of modal logic/metaphysics along a Mill-Ramsey-Lewis model, then I think their reference is still not definitively known. The science does seem relevant here; multiverse models might provide modal realists with resources to construct expressively adequate counterpart theories, without incurring the non-naturalistic ontological costs of Lewis’ picture. But perhaps my serious intellectual failings are preventing me from seeing the problem with this.

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  56. 56. nsalmon 2:35 pm 07/23/2012

    @modalizer: I mean the terms you mention in their most natural and/or reasonable senses, given their theoretical roles. I specify that by ‘world’ I mean a maximal scenario. I take it that it is sufficiently well understood what it means to say that a proposition (e.g., that Jones is a thief) obtains according to a particular scenario (the Jones-robbed-Fort-Knox scenario). This is not normally challenged. Greene in effect concedes that in the traditional sense of ‘universe’, there cannot exist alternate universes. The burden of re-defining ‘universe’ to give it a non-traditional sense on which a pluarility of “universes” is coherent falls squarely on the parallel-universe theorist. If they use the term in such a way that the real existence of a “universe” corresponding to a maximal scenario w does *not* require that everything that obtains according to w also obtains in reality, then it is they, not I, who owe a definition of ‘universe’, or at least a theory that constrains the meaning of the term (and related terms), together with a defense of the claims: (i) that the real existence of a universe, in that sense, corresponding to a possible world w does not require that everything that obtains according to w obtains in reality; and (ii) that their re-definition, or meaning-constraining theory, is reasonable. (Undoubtedly some parallel-universe theorists do just that, or something like it.) Even then, it remains that on at least one reasonable sense of the term (along the lines of what Greene concedes is the traditional sense), there do not exist alternate universes (in this sense) corresponding to distinct possible worlds (maximal ways things might have gone differently), and instead there exists but one universe, which corresponds to the actual world (the maximal way things *are*).

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  57. 57. modalizer 12:24 pm 07/26/2012

    nsalmon: thanks for the reply.

    I’m unhappy with primitive modality, so I don’t agree that propositions obtaining according to scenarios is sufficiently well-understood. Unless scenarios are just sets of propositions, in which case the primitive modality is reintroduced via primitive consistency as applied to sets of propositions.

    I agree that parallel universe theorists have the burden of arguing that the different parts of the multiverse deserve the name ‘universes’; and a modal realist parallel universe theorist has the additional burden of arguing that they deserve the name ‘possible worlds’. But it’s not clear that if they were successful, they’d thereby be *redefining* the words. Perhaps, given some kinds of interpretational metasemantics, they’d instead be revealing what our modal terminology has been referring to all along. So they wouldn’t concede with Greene that there do not exist alternate universes in the traditional sense – they’d maintain instead that we’ve historically been systematically mistaken about the semantics of our own modal discourse.

    Some parallel-universe theorists do indeed give defences of i), ii) the kind you describe – I tried to do so in my doctoral thesis. We’ll agree that in one reasonable sense of ‘exists’, there exists the multiverse. But we’ll resist the claim that the existence of a multiverse entails that the actual world contains a multiverse.

    On the view I like, *what the multiverse is like* is a noncontingent subject-matter whereas *which world/universe is actual* exhausts the contingent subject matters. Actuality is indexical; contingency is irreducibly self-locating.

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  58. 58. SiliconDoc 10:38 pm 12/31/2014

    I cannot thank you enough for stating my very thoughts, Mr. John Horgan.

    No longer alone.


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