BY HOI MUN LEE
In our known universe, a student may be going to Peggy’s every night for Relays week, but there could be other universes out there where he or she decides to stay indoors and study for finals.
As a part of Drake Relays week, Drake University’s Astronomical Observatory Lecturer, Herbert Schwartz, held a public lecture about multiverse theories titled “Is There an Anti-Me?” at the Drake Municipal Observatory. Although there is no concrete proof of the existence of parallel universes, many notable scientists believe in the multiverse theory, including Neil deGrasse Tyson and the late Stephen Hawking.
In an interview prior to the event, Schwartz said the topic will be very “cerebral,” requiring a lot of thinking and analyzing, but will still be interesting to his “general astronomy-interested public” audience. He also said people should not expect to get definitive answers from his lecture.
“The world of quantum mechanics allows for multiple universes [to exist] in a quantum and every possible outcome in that quantum to be true,” Schwartz said. “I am simply saying this is possible as a reality, although, there is virtually no way of knowing if it is real.”
Drake associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics Charles Nelson said this is an important topic in the field of science today. He said people need to see where the opinions and conversation of multiverse is going, especially since Stephen Hawking, a huge contributor to the conversation, just died.
“The notion of multiverse is the latest fad,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of kerfuffle going on among intellectuals, cosmologists in the field, whether they buy into this stuff or not, so that’s kind of interesting to follow and hear how people are thinking about it.”
Drake first-year biology and environmental science major Mykaelah Fennoy attended the lecture. Before attending, she hoped to learn more about what she has seen in films like “The Butterfly Effect,” which features a protagonist who can change past actions, creating alternate timelines, and the film “Mr. Nobody,” which features a character who can see all the possible outcomes of his life before birth. While it is understood that parallel universes may be a possibility, the theories behind how they can exist are not widely depicted in popular culture.
“For there to be an anti-me? That seems pretty cool, it’s something you’ll listen to,” Fennoy said. “I want to know how do we look for these multiverses, how do we find them, how do we gather the idea that there might be millions of these universes cluttered in our own?”
Nelson is not a proponent of the multiverse theory because there is a lack of medium and adequate technology to conduct experiments and test its validity.
“Philosophical ideas of what science should be include this notion of falsifiability; you can do some experiment or test to see if it’s right or wrong, well there hasn’t been one devised,” Nelson said.
However, Nelson’s mind may yet change, with Stephen Hawking’s final paper being reviewed by leading scientific journal “A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation.” Hawking’s colleagues revealed he included a new theory of how parallel universes can exist in the paper and mathematical workings to help spacecrafts find multiple big bangs. It is a theory co-author Thomas Hertog said could land him a posthumous Nobel Prize.
Schwartz said the multiverse theory is important because it “presents one more possibility about our universe,” and according to Nelson, understanding the universe is what humans should be doing. Despite his skepticism, that is why Nelson was interested in attending the lecture.
“I think that understanding the universe that we live in, broadly speaking, is important; that’s what university is ultimately for,” Nelson said.
“Is There an Anti-Me?” was part of a series of astronomy lectures held at the Drake Municipal Observatory during spring and fall semesters. This particular lecture was held at 8 p.m. on April 27 and was open to the public.