Month: January 2023
How many different universes can there be?
If there are an infinite number of universes or even if a single universe is infinite in extent then each person (or thing) should have an infinite number of doppelgangers, each with a slight variation. The argument is that if the universe is infinite, and most importantly does not repeat itself, then all possible configurations of matter and energy (or bits of stuff) can and will occur. There should be an infinite number of other universe or other parts of our universe that contain another solar system, with a sun and an earth and a you except that maybe one molecule in one of your cells is in a different position or moving at a different velocity. A simple way to think about this is to imagine an infinite black and white TV screen where each pixel can be either black or white. If the screen is nonperiodic then any configuration of pixels can be found somewhere on the screen. This is kind of like how any sequence of numbers can be found in the digits of Pi or an infinite number of monkeys typing will eventually type out Hamlet. This generalizes to changing or time dependent universes where any sequence of flickering pixels will exist somewhere on the screen.
Not all universes are possible if you include any type of universal rule in your universe. Universes that violate the rule are excluded. If the pixels obeyed Newton’s law of motion then arbitrary sequences of pixels could no longer occur because the configuration of pixels in the next moment of time depends on the previous moment. However, we can have all possible worlds if we assume that rules are not universal and can change over different parts of the universe.
Some universes are also excluded if we introduce rational belief. For example, it is possible that there is another universe, like in almost every movie these days, that is like ours but slightly different. However, it is impossible for a purely rational person in a given universe to believe arbitrary things. Rational belief is as strong a constraint on the universe as any law of motion. One cannot believe in the conservation of energy and the Incredible Hulk (who can increase in mass by a factor of a thousand within seconds) at the same time. Energy is not universally conserved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (Why these supposedly super-smart scientists in those universes don’t invent a perpetual motion machine is a mystery.) Rationality does not even have to be universal. Just having a single rational person excludes certain universes. Science is impossible in a totally random universe in which nothing is predictable. However, if a person merely believed they were rational but were actual not then any possible universe is again possible.
Ultimately, this boils down to the question of what exactly exists? I for one believe that concepts such as rationality, beauty, and happiness exist as much as matter and energy exists. Thus for me, all possible universes cannot exist. There does not exist a universe where I am happy and there is so much suffering and pain in the world.