The book, The Hidden Reality, is available this week. It was written by popular Columbia University theoretical physicist and outspoken string theorist, Brian Greene. Brian also wrote The Elegant Universe (a bit of an M-Theory manifesto) in 1999, which was later made into a great documentary by PBS.
Yesterday NPR had a nice 35 minute podcast with Brian about The Hidden Reality. As Brian articulates, the nuts and bolts of one multiverse theory is an infinite universe, with a finite manifestation of matter.
This two minute BBC clip sets the mood.
So, imagine this:
Picture a hardwood floor that has no edge, no corners (infinity) and a box full of blocks (finite matter). You’re scratching your head, looking at the blocks and the huge expanse of hardwood floor. A skinny guy with glasses, Billy Gaitz, is watching you from afar. He has money to burn. He’s bored.
“I’ll give ya a mega-zillion dollars if you build stuff with these block for a year. You can never build the same thing twice. You must build twelve hours a day at a steady pace. No slacking. If you build the same thing twice, you lose and I get your fossil collection. If not, you’ll be loaded and can buy all the fossils you want.”
You text your folks and they give you the green light. They need a new furnace and you want more fossils. Why not?
You shake Billy’s hand, roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Eleven months later, you’re a different kid. Your hair is crazy. You mumble to yourself. You like the way you stink. Your teeth feel moldy. You’ve been thinking way too much about everything.
As you finish your latest block masterpiece Billy shouts from the shadows.
“You’re done kid. You lose. Gimme your fossils!”
He’s the first person you’ve heard in eleven months. “Huh?” Your voice is dry like old barn paint in Tucson.
“You built the same thing 9 months ago. You’re out of designs. I win!” Billy appears from the shadows, his penny loafers scuffing the floor.
You look long and hard at your blocks. Billy’s right! I’m out of new designs!
You text your folks. They aren’t mad. They purchased a furnace two month ago. They’ll order Thai.
On your subway ride home you snicker out loud, your shoulders hunched. The guy in the tie glares at you over his Android. You smell like a dump but don’t care.
The implications of an infinite universe and finite matter hits you like a ton of fossils. You scratch your damp arm pit. Assuming the universe is infinite, and is filled with finite matter, that means there is an infinite number of me riding the subway at this precise moment snickering out loud, shoulders hunched. Simple math. Yikes!
You waltz into your kitchen. It seems smaller. “Hey, Mom!”
She’s unpacking take-out at the table. “It’s okay about losing the bet. You tried. Go shower before you eat.” She gives you a wide berth, suspicious of your every move.
“Right.” You bounce up stairs, past the bathroom, and straight to your room, firing up the dusty MacBook. You forget about the shower, thinking only about infinity and finite matter. If the assumptions are correct, you snicker like a genuine lunatic, how can I meet me?
The smell of warm Thai Namtok Nua with Stickey Rice drifts into your room . . .