Science fiction has a field day
inventing plots with alternate universes.
The terribly written show Sliders did this in
the 1990's (I couldn't watch beyond 3 episodes, the writing
was so weak) and the better scribed but not superb Fringe
explores this now.
Sliders embraced the concept of an infinite
number of alternate universes.
Fringe practices the "keep it simple, stupid"
mantra, pulling any science it can from dubious Wikipedia
articles, and limits the number of universes to two.
I first remember encountering the
alternate universe concept in 1987 when I read the book
Timescape. A scientist from 1962 receives
interference signals from 1998, warning the past of
impending ecological disaster. The scientist from 1962
acts on these findings and changes the future. His
1998 will wind up very different from the 1998
sending back the messages.
That the messages were sent from somewhere means that
there are at least two universes; and if there can be two
universes based on group choices, there can be an infinite
number based on an infinite number of choices made by the
billions of people occupying this planet.
Alternate universes offer an
explanation for the infamous Grandfather Paradox.
If I am able to journey back in time and murder by
grand daddy, how then can I be born?
Well, I can't -- not on that timeline.
By killing my grandfather, I've created an alternate
universe in which my father could never be born to ever
marry my mother.
The original universe, the one in which I was born,
continues to exist in parallel.
New age practitioners have embraced
Quantum jumping suggests you can converse with your
alternate selves through meditation to borrow abilities the
other you's have cultivated. If, for instance, you get
a vision of an alternate you being thinner but having the
hair combed differently, you're to comb your hair in that
same way to more closely mirror this alternate self and,
hence, borrow the thinner frame, too. The
Heisenberg uncertainty principle says that you can only
state a probability that an electron is in a certain
location. You cannot both measure position and momentum
You could say that each possible location of the
electron represent a different alternate universe.
None of this can be proven in peer
reviewed scientific journals though.
The way our universe works is that once we make a
choice, to attend Harvard instead of Jackass State
University as an example, all the subsequent actions that
would've resulted from the other choice cease to exist for
us. Flip a coin
and it lands heads, the tail possibility no longer exists on
that flip. When
we look back on our lives, we see only one distinctive path,
the path we took. The
other pathways disintegrate when we choose not to go down
Fringe throws all science to the
winds in its alternate universe pedagogy.
In their alternate universe, U.S. state names are
different and yet all the main characters work for the same
department in both universes and some even live at the same
identical movies will have been produced in both universes
but with different lead actors.
Traveling physically from one universe to the other
Deprive your senses in a deprivation chamber and inject
yourself with a few drugs and off you go.
Carlo Rovelli first proposed in his
relational interpretation of quantum mechanics that an
electron can appear to be in two places at once when
observing patterns in Thomas Young's double slit experiment.
I, too, can be in two places at the same time - or
millions - if you consider all the me's in all the alternate
universes as just expressed possibilities.
One me might be living in France, another in Texas,
another in Thailand.
If you were to graph these possibilities, I believe
you'd see something similar to an electron probability
distribution function, with the highest probabilities
indicating the choices most me's would've made.
Science fiction television shows and
movies ignore most science and logic.
Let's take it that I exist in N different alternate
universes, N representing some humungous number approaching
In every single one of those universes, I would necessarily
have to have the same parents, and every event preceding my
birth would have to be exactly the same in all those N
universes in order to lead up to my conception. Understand
that the odds of any of us being born are extremely small.
If my parents had decided to conceive me minutes
earlier or later, a different sperm would have reached the
egg. Let that
sink in. If you
could travel back to January 1, 1960, and cause a mere
2-second delay that would affect the actions of everyone on the planet
by 2 seconds,
every single person conceived thereafter could have
different genetic codes.
Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Jones who bore their child Ralph, Jr on October 5, 1960 could still have a Ralph, Jr, but he'd be a genetically different Ralph, Jr.
And so a different Ralph, Jr would procreate with a
different spouse and create different combinations of
some of the cases, and who knows how many, the original quickest
sperm still reaches the same egg but 2 seconds later, and
the same person with the same genetic code is born..
Expand the delay to 5 seconds, 10 seconds, or a still paltry
30 seconds, the odds of your conception go increasingly
Thus, every alternate universe in which
I exist can't really be all that different from the one I'm
currently living in.
My older sister and aunts and uncles would be the
same. My family
would've lived in the same apartment we resided in until I
was 6 months old, and it's likely we would've moved into the
same house afterwards.
My father would still have been a surgeon.
Perhaps, a year-and-a-half later, I would've had a
different looking younger brother or maybe a sister this
that I exist in all my younger brother's universes, but he
only exists in some of mine).
A different sister or different brother, even if he had the
same name as my current brother, affects our family dynamics in a
different way; and greater deviations from that universe to
this one could result.
As time passed, the universes could begin to deviate
But not in the exaggerated ways
depicted in bogus sci-fi flicks.
For most of us, in rather superficial ways.
If you married your college, you would probably have still married a
college sweetheart in a different universe.
It might just be a different college and a different
you opted for a safe profession, like accountancy, in this
universe, I'll bet you're doing the same job, but maybe at a
different company, in an alternate universe.
To think you would've wound up a president/prime
minister or CEO of a multibillion dollar company, though
possible, doesn't get much credibility if you've always been
opting for the middle of the road in this universe.
Where it gets more interesting is for
those people who've lived their lives on the edge.
These people took greater risks.
Deciding whether to go to Harvard or Yale before you
go on to laws school is not, in the scheme of things, a
major universe-altering event.
Deciding whether to go to college at all or to drop
out of college is. Whether
you crunch numbers for Proctor & Gamble or you do it for Wal
Mart isn't going to spin your life in an entirely new
direction; but whether you decide to work for a
multinational or a startup is.
Marrying the first sweetheart you meet in college or
pushing for a marriage on Jdate or Match.com isn't the risk
that holding out for a soulmate is. You may never meet that
soulmate and, thus, never marry, a greater risk for sure.
Being a real gambler, the kind to gamble on crap games and
roulette wheels, is a great risk. Odds are, if you're an
addict, that you're broke in all the universes.
More level-headed gamblers, such as investors who feel they
can tilt the playing field more to their favor because
they're armed with insights not gleaned by the general
masses, are still significant risk takers. In universes
where some of their leaps of faith played out, they'll be
immensely rich; in universes where an assumption failed,
Ditto for many famous celebrities, also
big risk takers.
For many a star, their career was launched into the
stratosphere off one pivotal role.
For Dustin Hoffman, it was his 1967 lead in The
Graduate. Clint Eastwood only got wide acclaim after
appearing in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns in the
Harrison Ford, from Star Wars. TV stars are the most
notorious for having careers built on single roles.
Would Ted Danson (Cheers), Jason Alexander (Seinfeld),
or Jennifer Aniston (Friends) have ever had their
illustrious careers if someone else had been cast in their
fame-breaking roles in an alternate universe?
Luck plays a significant role here, and you can't
count on luck playing out the same way in most alternate
if you're living on the top of the world right now and much
of your success can be attributed to a lucky break you
couldn't re-engineer even with a bribe or by putting out
strategically, rest easy that the current you is living
better than the alternate you's in 99% of all the other
universes in which you exist.
A good many of us acquire destructive
tendencies, habits, and behaviors during our youth which we
take into adulthood. We quite literally sabotage our own
chances at success and happiness over and over again.
I know a man of nearly 40. He grew up with no father
figure and this affects his relationships with women today
and not for the better.
He'll always find a reason to escape from any
relationship he's in, the reasons steadily becoming more and
more ridiculous over time.
When I met him 4 years ago, the excuses started with
"She's got a slight acne problem" and it's since progressed
to "Her legs are too skinny."
In an alternate universe, his father may have been a
more nurturing figure.
That simple change of detail in his past could have
paved the way for a more prosperous and productive
Now it is
out of this man's control in every universe what kind of
father he has, but it was always fully in his power to
assess the roadblocks brought on by his upbringing and do
what he can to move past them. In a few alternate
universes, he may have done just that.
Let's say that you are born with a
congenital heart defect that's certain to kill you before
age 50. The you's in
every alternate universe, born to the same parents, would
share this same heart anomaly.
Perhaps in a few select alternate universes, a
miraculous medical advance occurs pertaining precisely to
your heart problem. In most, you're destined to die before 50.
How the you in that universe is raised to deal with
this early visit with the reaper determines what kind of person
you'll end up as in that universe.
Since your reaction to your defect will be
predominantly shaped by the way your parents accept your
limited life span, and their reaction in your formative
years is outside your control, you're probably going to see
a very similar you in the majority of universes.
A person born with a golden spoon in
his mouth would've been born with a similarly expensive
spoon in every universe.
But money and access to the greater opportunities it
brings at a
younger age, while contributing largely to a greater scale
of happiness, isn't the sole determinant.
Still, I will say from observation that getting
served a combination platter of money, happiness, and
contentedness in any life isn't easy to come by.
It's just too damned easy for things to go pear
shaped along the way.
If you're one of the few experiencing bliss now, in
this universe, you must be doing something extraordinarily
right, and for once, it might really ring true that
there's no place quite like home.