Saturday, July 21, 2012

Are There More Multiverses Than Angels who Can Dance on the Head of a Pin?

Multiple Universes Interpretation
In pressing my middle finger to the computer keyboard in order to type the first letter of this sentence, I have just brought into existence 6 sextillion universes.  Each of which rivals the size of the one we live in. According to scientists who adhere to the "many worlds theory," every sub-molecular possibility blossoms into a new universe.  Thus the movement in less than  a second of one human being's finger multiplied by the 50 billion fingers on this planet,  has just produced a number of new universes totalling 50 billion mulltiplied by 6 sextillion or 30^ 30). And remember that's in less than a second of time. Yes, the cosmos is strange indeed, but not that strange.   

It doesn't take a doctorate in astrophysics on this one (I'm an applied historian) to shout that the emperor has no clothes.  So what are multiverse or many-worlds theorists saying and more importantly what are they hiding from?  Professor Hugh Everetts who advocated the "many worlds interpretation" (MWI) of quantum mechanics has used dice to illustrate his theory.  What happens when a six-sided die is thrown?  According to the many-world's interpretation, all six possible ways the die can fall correspond to six different universes.  But my problem with this notion is that on a subatomic, quantum mechanical level it is not just the one die generating six universes, but the trillions of atoms that make up that one die, each collapsing to form as many realities or universes as the number of subatomic particles in each of the dice.

Nuclear physicists have long labored over the question of how does the huge number of possible actions  available to a subatomic particle congeal into the one action recorded by an observer.  Advocates of MWI would say that each possible wavelength collapses or branches into a subatomic particle in its own universe.  But isn't this just a convoluted way of trying to erase the question of consciousness? That is, might it be the consciousness of living organisms, or maybe even a conscious universe itself that collapses the wave function?
Different theories relating to this  "quantum mind-body problem"  have been promulgated beginning as far back as 1932 when John von Neumann wrote The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics.  His "Von Neumann chain," asserts that the collapse of the wave function can be placed at any position in the causal chain from the measurement device to the "subjective perception" of the human observer.  In many philosophies, the conscious mind is considered to be a separate entity, existing in a parallel realm not described by physical law. Some people claim that this idea gains support from the description of the physical world provided by quantum mechanics. Parallels between quantum mechanics and mind/body dualism (the notion that the conscious mind is a separate entity from the world it observes) have over the decades been advocated by such scientists as Erwin Schrödinger,Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, Niels Bohr, and Eugene Wigner.  My favorite scientific authors who have written popular books on the subject are   Robert Lanza, author of Biocentrism,  and Amit Goswami, who wrote The Self-Aware Universe.

If physicists are having trouble explaining the one universe in which we live, they ought to stay away from speculation positing the existence of an astronomical number of universes created with each subatomic action of my fingers tapping this computer keyboard.