Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Case for Parallel Universes

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you must hopefully believe that deep down, parallel universes, somehow exist.  I do. Certainly, we’ve been aware of the possibility thanks to quantum theory. In 1952, physicist  Erwin Schrödinger first proposed the concept in a speech in Dublin.

Some Theory
Some years earlier Schrödinger had introduced his famed thought experiment, where a cat was locked into a box with a container of poison gas triggered by the decay of a radioactive element. According to the Copenhagen Interpretation, the cat is both dead and alive until the box is opened and the wave function collapses when an observation takes place (the observer effect).  However, the Many-Worlds Interpretation (MWI) holds that the cat is both dead and alive in equally real but separate parallel universes.  Basically for every decision that is made at quantum level, the universes branch out, until, as MWI predicts, we have an infinite number of divergent parallel worlds, existing at the same time, complete with their own alternate histories. Ultimately, MWI says that it’s impossible to communicate between the universes,  much less travel between them, which is sure to let down many SF fans.

Recently, some however slight physical evidence of parallel universes has come to light, raising the tantalizing possibility of travel between them.  In 2015, the European Space Agency’s orbiting Planck Telescope found what US researcher Dr. Ranga-Ram Chary described as a “Cold Spot” in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) – light lingering from the Big Bang, which might be indicative of matter from a neighbouring universe leaking into our own. As far-fetched as it may seem, the British Royal Astronomical Society does not rule this out, noting in April, 2017: “Another explanation could be that the Cold Spot is the remnant of a collision between our Universe and another ‘bubble’ universe during an early inflationary phase…” 

What if ?
What If and if… a Cold Spot  is indeed an indication of universes brushing up against each other? What if it is in fact, still happening?  Is it possible that more of these Cold Spots are in fact, all around us? And if matter – and presumably people -  can seep back and forth between universes in apparent violation of MWI, what are the implications? 

If these Cold Spots are more common than we think, is it possible that a person can transit through them?  I’ve talked about this possibility before in an earlier posting.  In 2018, in the United Kingdom, for example, someone was reported missing every 90 seconds. In that same year in the United States, it was reckoned that there were 90,000 people missing at any one timeIn our surveillance society, that would seem impossible. Many missing people are eventually found. But history is also full of individuals who have simply disappeared. Granted that most have vanished due to things like foul play, misadventure, or the simple deep personal wish to start over under a new name. But what if just one of those people unwittingly stepped into a Cold Spot and through the walls of reality?

The idea of an individual innocently minding their own business and stumbling across into a parallel world has long been a staple of the alternate-history genre.  Several novels, such as Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, have used this as a major or minor plot device.  Another novel, the not so well-known, Sideslip (1968), by Ted White and Dave van Arnam, has its protagonist, a hard-boiled but decidedly down on his heels New York private eye by the name of Ronald Archer ( a nod to Dashiell Hammett) transit from his world to a world that is not his own. It’s a world where the Second World War never happened thanks to the benevolent intervention of a race of alien overlords called the Angels.  With the action fast and furious, Archer becomes the unwelcome focus of attention of the surviving Nazis, Communists, and Technocrats, and eventually the Angels themselves as they engage in an all-out power play.  Although the book in paperback comes in at a slender 188 pages, White and van Arnam are both able to develop  Archer as the primary protagonist and make him more than just a two-fisted gunsel and build out the alternate universe he finds himself in, thanks to some tight plotting and world-building.

Sideslip is one of my perennial favourites.  You can try finding a copy online or your at local used bookshop. It's worth the hunt.

What’s Next?
Currently I’m reading the second book in S.M. Stirling’s alternate First World War series, Theater of Spies, which continues the adventures  of American super-spy Luz O’Malley Arostegui, and her companion, technical wizard Ciara Whelan. I hope to have a review for you next month.  After that, I’ll be reviewing The British Lion, a novel of Britain under Nazi occupation, by Tony Schumacher. 

(Note that in any inaccuracies in the science portion of this blog are my fault.)

In the meantime, you can help out a poor unemployed writer by purchasing Elvis Saves JFK! for just 99 cents and War Plan Crimson, A Novel of Alternate History, for $2.99 and now The Key to My Heart, also $2.99 (all are free to preview). All books -- which are already on Smashword's premium distribution list -- are also available through such fine on-line retailers such as Sony, Chapters Indigo, Barnes & Noble and Apple's iTunes Store.  Thanks.

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