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CosmosUp | August 15, 2022

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Our Universe was Born During a Collision with Another Universe?

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Our Universe was Born During a Collision with Another Universe?

Though many physicists believe it’s possible that our universe is one of many in a multiverse, they struggle to find concrete evidence to back up that hypothesis.

But now, we may find that evidence — if we look for the wreckage left behind by a collision of cosmic proportions. Over at Quanta, Jennifer Oullette explores one experiment that could provide evidence for the multiverse. It assumes that our universe was born during a collision with another universe — and that this dramatic event may have left a cosmic imprint behind that we can measure.

Like many of her colleagues, Hiranya Peiris, a cosmologist at University College London, once largely dismissed the notion that our universe might be only one of many in a vast multiverse.

It was scientifically intriguing, she thought, but also fundamentally untestable. She preferred to focus her research on more concrete questions, like how galaxies evolve.

Then one summer at the Aspen Center for Physics, Peiris found herself chatting with the Perimeter Institute’s Matt Johnson, who mentioned his interest in developing tools to study the idea. He suggested that they collaborate.


Illustration by Olena Shmahalo (click to zoom)

At first, Peiris was skeptical. “I think as an observer that any theory, however interesting and elegant, is seriously lacking if it doesn’t have testable consequences,” she said. But Johnson convinced her that there might be a way to test the concept. If the universe that we inhabit had long ago collided with another universe, the crash would have left an imprint on the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the faint afterglow from the Big Bang. And if physicists could detect such a signature, it would provide a window into the multiverse.

Erick Weinberg, a physicist at Columbia University, explains this multiverse by comparing it to a boiling cauldron, with the bubbles representing individual universes — isolated pockets of space-time. As the pot boils, the bubbles expand and sometimes collide. A similar process may have occurred in the first moments of the cosmos.

In the years since their initial meeting, Peiris and Johnson have studied how a collision with another universe in the earliest moments of time would have sent something similar to a shock wave across our universe. They think they may be able to find evidence of such a collision in data from the Planck space telescope, which maps the CMB.

The project might not work, Peiris concedes. It requires not only that we live in a multiverse but also that our universe collided with another in our primal cosmic history. But if physicists succeed, they will have the first improbable evidence of a cosmos beyond our own.


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  1. Fred

    If you’re going to republish someone else’s work (in this case, Jennifer Ouellette writing for Quanta Magazine), it would be appreciated if you didn’t misconstrue the basic premise of the article with a totally misleading headline. Ms. Ouellette’s piece was about a method to test for the existence of a multiverse using possible imprints of a collision with another universe *early* in the life of our own. Your headline suggests the article is about a collision *causing* the birth of our universe, which is an entirely different thing. Although the timing they’re talking about is very close to the beginning (in the first few seconds), it’s not being hypothesized as the cause – a significant distinction.

  2. Johnnie D. Ainsley

    I was indoctrinated to believe that the universe exists because of an act of magic by an all-powerful spiritual entity. I guess that’s why, beginning as a small child, I dismissed such teachings as mythological quackery.

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