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Q & A: just a little niche in the big picture?

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Most recent answer: 08/13/2010
Q:
If something can be infinitely divided in half, could that mean that the realm of our perceived existence is only a nitch on an infinite scale of possible perceivable existences? Example: Our universe is actually a quark in an atom of something larger. I realize that this question is mostly philosphical because of the inability to test with results. However, mathematics and the logic of properties and how they interact have helped pave the way for many theories in physics. Is there research being done in this field? It is so difficult to imagine that our views on the "sizes" of created things can be confined to such a small area on a scale that potrays a neverending depth of something that has mass.
- Paul (age 26)
Fayetteville, NC
A:
There aren't any coherent pictures in which we are embedded in some bigger-scale phenomena which somehow look like our scale, just greatly expanded. Also, as we've gone deeper into small-scale phenomena, we don't find little versions of large-scale phenomena, but things which are quite different. Although this contrast has become very sharp in light of quantum mechanics, the way the universe differed on different scales was discussed by Galileo in his Dialog on Two New Sciences.

There is, however, a substantial amount of speculation, based on the physics of what we've observed, about how our universe could be merely one branch of a much larger (probably infinite) multiverse. It's quite possible that many particular parameters (e.g. the strength of the interactions, the magnitude of the cosmological acceleration, maybe even the number of extended dimensions, ....) of the universe we know come out differently in the other branches of the multiverse.

So your philosophical point about us occupying just a little niche is indeed an active area of speculation and, to some extent, research. You might want to read Lenny Susskind's book The Cosmic Landscape.

Mike W.

(published on 08/12/2010)

Follow-Up #1: Just a little niche in the big picture? #2

Q:
Thank you very much for your response and book suggestion. I realize you and your team may be very busy so at the least I hope this will entertain you. As for coherent pictures of being embedded on a bigger scale, how about the fact that the large-scale and small-scale phenomena we observe appears spherical, with a dense, almost "stationary" center and some sort of orbiting going on in an outside cloud. If we ever become able to photograph something considerably smaller than an atom, I assume it will follow those characteristics. I also assume that based on the principle that the size of things goes on infinitely, the most likely possiblity would be an infinite amount of 'verses within larger 'verses. And if each 'verse has his own unique properties or parameters as you stated, then that would account for our particles and subatomic particles behaving differently. Some 'verses would have no mass (photon) and some verses would be able to exist in more than one place at once (electron). As far as the mathematics goes, the formulas that include variables like time, size, and speed in one equation paint a picture of different sizes and speeds of objects causing different perceivable times. We may split an atom in a second, but that atom-verse had trillions of "years" to develop in that second. If there is a theory of everything that governs the universe, wouldn't there be an all-verse theory as well that would guide the interaction between the diffrent 'verses? Wouldn't a "law" that all things obeyed create some symmetries or fractals?
- Paul (age 26)
Fayetteville, NC
A:
Here's some thoughts on aspects of what you write.

The "able to exist in more than one place at once" property is not something special for electrons. It's shared by all small things. It may in some sense also be shared by large things, but that's hard to test.

People are indeed trying to come up with meta-laws which would include the whole picture, not just our branch. The Susskind book has some discussion of that search.

Mike W.

(published on 08/13/2010)

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