Science 4 min read

Parallel Universes: Alternate Universe Ideas Explained

StockSnap / Pixabay

StockSnap / Pixabay

Warning: Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame Ahead

Now, instead of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we might have to start calling it the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse.

Just like many fan theories have predicted, time travel was a key element of Avenger: Endgame’s storyline.

After the “inevitable” baddie Thanos decimated half of life on Earth, the remaining Avengers had to go to multiple points in the past to retrieve the Infinity Stones and undo the snap.

As the Ancient One explained to Professor Hulk, each change in the flow of time would trigger the creation of an alternate, or parallel timeline.

Alternate universe ideas have been widely explored in comic books and not only by Marvel. Crisis on Infinite Earth is one of many stories in the DC Multiverse contained within its own world, and there are dozens of DC alternate worlds.

But long before comics, the alternate universe ideas intrigued scientists. Mathematically speaking, there’s nothing that rules out the possibility of parallel universes.

The Multiverse Theory in a Math-Free Nutshell

Our universe is the sum of all the elements that exist, including everything that surrounds us, from galactic clusters down to atoms that make up our body.

This is what we call the Observable Universe, born 13.7 billion years ago, which has an estimated diameter of 93 billion light-years.

Just don’t try to convert these figures in miles or kilometers because the bottom line is that the universe is unfathomably large. But now consider this: as ginormous as our universe is, it could be only one of multiple universes, or a part of the multiverse.

The theory of parallel universes or multiple worlds was first brought into scientific discussion by the American physicist Hugh Everett in the 1950s. According to Everett’s “Many Worlds Interpretation”, quantum mechanics laws cause the universe to continuously split into an infinite number of universes.

The many worlds theory helps circumnavigate some quantum issues such as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox or quantum superposition.

Let’s take a moment with the idea of “infinite” universes similar to ours or utterly different, with changes going from slight to radical.

This means that there could be a parallel world where an identical “you” is dealing with this same article only you are the one writing it. There could be a world where superheroes are very real. Or there could be a world where cats rule. There’s no limit with an infinite number of worlds.

You Should Care About Alternate Universe Ideas

The multiverse theory solves some logical paradoxes like the “grandfather paradox” associated with time travel. If you go back in time and decide to kill your grandfather, what would happen? If the grandfather dies that means your father was never born and you could never make this time travel in the first place.

But within a multiverse, there’s no paradox at all. To accommodate your decision to kill your grandfather, the universe splits in two separate, almost identical parallel universes where in one you have actually killed the grandfather with all what that entails, and one where he remains alive.

In the alternate universe ideas scientists hypothesize, the notions of uniqueness and rarity lose their power. Our solar system, Earth, and life itself are just a logical result of an infinite number of possibilities.

Take the fundamental constants in physics that govern our universe as we came to understand and measure them, such as the gravitational force, the mass of electrons, or the speed of light. Scientists recognize 26 dimensionless constants and put values on them with associated arbitrary units. But how did these constants become constants in the first place?

At the moment of its birth, within a multiverse frame, when the Universe had to decide on the fundamental constants and their values, it split into multiple parallel universes, each characterized by its own set of constants. In other copies of our universe, the fundamental forces are either absent, stronger, or weaker, and so on. In the majority of these parallel universes, the preset conditions aren’t conducive enough to life, unlike ours, which proved fit to allow life to emerge.

If our universe is just one of many, and you are one of many, you should be more mindful to your decisions and actions. With every decision you make and every action you take, all the other possible choices and actions also happen, and each spawns a parallel universe. What you do here doesn’t only shape your life, but also the lives of your other selves in the multiverse.

Read More: 10 Scientific Questions Science Still Hasn’t Answered

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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