Hey Bill Nye! Is the Multiverse a Paradoxical Idea?

The Many Worlds Interpretation is just one of a few multiverse hypotheses—but is there a glaring paradox in this popular idea?

Austin: My name is Austin Bogner and I have a question about the multiverse. So if there does exist an infinite amount of universes, then mathematically there’s a 100 percent chance that there exists at least one universe out there in the multiverse that cannot support the idea of any other universe existing except for that one particular universe. And my question is: doesn’t this create a paradox in the multi-universe idea?

Bill Nye: Austin, you are asking a fabulous question about multiverses. The answer for me is: clearly I don’t know. This is to say, is it just a question of definition, that there is one universe and within it are subverses or multiverses? Or is it actually: everything that we know and see and can detect is nominally replicated at some other dimension or some other space beyond space that we are only able to imagine? 

And the only reason we think that they might exist, these multiverses beyond space time, is because there’s no reason to exclude them. Like there’s no reason they couldn’t exist. 

These are wonderful questions. I’ve seen many talks on this. I’ve gone to symposia about this. And I don’t know the answer. 

However, we have the Spitzer space telescope. We have Hubble space telescope. We’re going to have James Webb space telescope. And these instruments along with ground-based telescopes are peering farther and farther into the past, looking at light that came from the Big Bang and the unknowable time, the Planck time, getting back that far. 

And so what came before that? Is that even a meaningful question? Is it just our perception and the nature of our perception of time that limits our ability to understand what might be beyond our universe or not? 

These are wonderful questions, but here’s what I’ll say: When you get a chance support space exploration, because learning more about the cosmos tells us more about ourselves and tells us more about where we all might have come from—And then ultimately, “Are we alone in all this?”, in the cosmos or in this universe or beyond. Whoa. That’s a great question man.

 

The idea of a multiverse as we conceive of it was first mentioned by Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1952, who warned a lecture hall full of people that this may "seem lunatic", but perhaps his equations did not show mere alternative versions of history, but alternatives all happening simultaneously. For this week's question, Austin wants to know about the multiverses paradox: if every alternate timeline happens, and anything that can happen does—somewhere—then wouldn't there be a universe that could not support the idea of any other universe existing? All multiverse hypothesis are as yet unverified by experiments, so it's all up in the air. But if we ever want to find out, the way to do it is by supporting space exploration, because the more we find out about the cosmos, the closer we get to knowledge about our own origins and the greater our capacity grows for multiverse experimentation. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.


Participatory democracy is presumed to be the gold standard. Here’s why it isn’t.

Political activism may get people invested in politics, and affect urgently needed change, but it comes at the expense of tolerance and healthy democratic norms.

Photo by Nicholas Roberts /Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Polarization and extreme partisanships have been on the rise in the United States.
  • Political psychologist Diana Mutz argues that we need more deliberation, not political activism, to keep our democracy robust.
  • Despite increased polarization, Americans still have more in common than we appear to.
Keep reading Show less

Astronomers spot only the 2nd interstellar object ever seen

An amateur astronomer discovers an interstellar comet on its way to our Sun.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Surprising Science
  • The comet C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) was spotted by an amateur astronomer.
  • The object is moving so fast, it likely originated outside our solar system.
  • The comet should be observable for another year.
Keep reading Show less

Truth vs Reality: How we evolved to survive, not to see what’s really there

Take the circumstances in your life seriously, but not literally. Here's why.

Videos
  • Galileo was quite controversial, in part, because he argued that Earth moved around the sun, despite people's senses deluding them that the world was static.
  • Evolution may have primed us to see the world in terms of payoffs rather than absolute reality — this has actually helped us survive. Those who win payoffs are more likely to pass on their genes, which encode these strategies to get to the "next level" of life.
  • It's important to listen to people's objections because they may bring something to your attention outside your ken. Learn from them to make your ideas sharper.
Keep reading Show less