You're multiple of a kind

Christopher Little tells us how we all have thousands of cosmic twins

22nd February 2017

You are here reading The Courier. You are out there in the distant depths of the cosmos, also reading The Courier. But that version of you had the cheek to flick past the Science section and go straight to the Puzzles. And back here again, another version of you had the audacity to walk by those newspapers and not even pick one up. Shame on you.

Sorry, that was a bit harsh. It wasn’t your fault, well at least not the version of you that is reading this (the best version in my opinion). For it was your cosmic twins that I was referring to. Copies of you that exist in a multiverse of parallel worlds that are both here and scattered throughout the far-flung realms of space. It may sound beyond belief, but according to some of the best theories we have to explain the universe, these doppelgängers do exist.

Your cosmic twins could have the same thoughts and feelings as you. They could be identical to you in every way or they could be very different. They could be evil, or twelve feet tall, or inhabit the body of a cat. They could be all three at the same time. In a distant parallel world you may even have a cosmic twin that looks exactly like Donald Trump. The cosmos is potentially so big, that all of these possibilities must play out. It is simply a matter of basic probability.

What makes scientists believe this is possible is the theory of inflation. Developed around 1980 as an extension to the Big Bang theory, inflation proposes that a period of exponential expansion occurred in the split seconds following the Big Bang. The theory answers many cosmological puzzles and is the best model we have so far to explain the birth of our universe. But it also predicts that this expansion could have created bubbles of spacetime that grew into other universes.

One branch of the theory predicts that this rapid expansion could last forever, creating an infinite multiverse. Known as ‘eternal inflation’, there could be universes out there where the laws that govern matter are completely different. Where ours has six types of quarks, another may have eight. In these universes your cosmic twins could be anything from geometric shapes to balls of pure energy.

Another theory that predicts the presence of parallel realities lies in the weird world of quantum mechanics. This branch of physics deals with the very small, where matter seems to obey different rules to the world we perceive. On a quantum scale particles can exist in many states at the same time, it is not until we observe them that they become fixed. Yet it has been proposed that these particles continue to exist in their other states in parallel universes.

In these universes your cosmic twins could be anything from geometric shapes to balls of pure energy

Theoretically speaking, these microscopic occurrences could be scaled up to a macroscale. This would mean that it is not merely an electron that is in two places at the same time, but a person as well. In the quantum multiverse the world is continually branching off into divergent copies, fuelled not by human choice, but by quantum mechanics.
Though it would be impossible to meet your quantum twin, it would be possible to meet your physical cosmic twin. Probability alone dictates that if you travel a googolplex metres into space, then all of the quarks would be arranged in the same way as our universe. Here you would find your doppelgänger. But before you can meet them, you’ll just have to wait for us to invent faster-than-light travel. For now, you can rest assured that we are not alone in the cosmos. In fact, there are loads of us.

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