Spooky parallels

DO you think our world is perfect?

Well that’s a bit of a stupid question, really, because I don’t expect anyone with even a small amount of intelligence thinks that. Your own personal world may be fine, but everyone knows there’s plenty wrong with the world we live in – famine, disease, death, crime, natural disasters, etc, etc, etc…

Ok, so imagine for a moment that you were an all-powerful god with the ability to change one thing about the world. What would it be?

Maybe you’d give doctors a cure for cancer, or make sure there was enough food everywhere in the world so no-one went without. Perhaps you’d distribute the money around more equally, so poverty was a thing of the past. Or maybe even abolish death (though if you did that the earth would fill up pretty quickly).

It’s nice to think we could change the world and make it a better place. But did you know some scientists think that every single one of those alternative worlds we can imagine actually does exist?

The theory of parallel universes (also known as multiverses or many-worlds) has been around for some time now – since the 1950s, in fact.

Although we cannot at the moment prove the theory correct, plenty of scientists now believe that every possible outcome in life takes place at the same time. If that is the case, there must be countless billions of universes where you and I exist – and countless billions where we don’t – all slightly different from the other.

The multiverse theory has been given a boost in recent times by the development of quantum physics, which is the branch of science that deals with what happens inside atoms.

Now, quantum physics, also called quantum mechanics, is very, very complicated and I won’t pretend that I understand it, because I don’t. I’m not a scientist. But what I do know is that it has raised certain ideas which until recently seemed absolutely ridiculous.

One of these, and a significant one to the theory of parallel universes, is that particles can exist in two places at the same time. It’s called quantum superposition, and has been proved time and time again.

To make things even more puzzling, this superposition has been shown to only happen when no-one is observing it. In other words, the particles react differently when they are being watched.

Think about that for a moment. Particles react differently when you’re looking at them to when you’re looking away. And they can be in two places at the same time.

And then there’s quantum entanglement, when two particles remain connected, even over large distances, in such a way that actions performed on one particle have an effect on the other. For instance, one particle might be spun in a clockwise direction. The result on the second particle would be an equal anti-clockwise spin.

I don’t know about you, but I find all this both astounding and worrying. Albert Einstein himself, who called quantum theory spooky, was not convinced. Are you?

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