When Universes Collide

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Einstein tried to develop the unified theory of the universe; one theory that explained everything. He never did.

In this 50 minute documentary Parallel Universes, the BBC explains the theory relating the existence of parallel universes called M-Theory. Some believe this is the goal that eluded Einstein.

In the 1980’s String Theory evolved to say that matter is not simply a particle, but rather it is in the form of strings. To validate the theory there was one critical test. The hope was that Big Bang and String Theory would complement each other: Big Bang would explain the beginning of the Universe; String Theory the matter in it. But after 10 years of work, the two could not be merged, and worse yet they began to self-destruct.

First, the theories could not explain the singularity which marked the initial instant of the big bang. It was at that point the known laws of physics broke down. The equations blew up. Next, rather than there being one unifying String Theory new ones emerged, eventually coming to five different theories.

A competing theory, Super Gravity, which had been supplanted by String Theory, was very similar except for one point. While String Theory described a universe of 10 dimensions, Super Gravity added one to make 11 dimensions (10 spacial, and 1 time).

When String Theory added the extra dimension, the five different theories collapsed into one. They were in effect five different manifestations of the same underlying theory. With the added dimension, the strings stretched and combined into a membrane, resulting in what was called M-Theory.

Continued research began to suggest that there was not just one single membrane, but many. Some of these were like rubber sheets, some were three-dimensional, some were donut shaped, etc. It became apparent that each membrane was another universe each with its own laws of physics. All these Universes where floating around in the 11th dimension.

But to explain the Big Bang more was needed. The theory was augmented to describe this 11th dimension as a very turbulent place. Like bubbles floating in heavy seas, sometimes these universes collided. It was when two universes collided that a singularity was formed to create a big bang and a new universe.

So, as the theory goes, while we may live in a single universe, ours is just one of an infinite number in the multiverse.

The program ends with a startling question: is it possible to create a universe in the lab? Those interviewed speculated it could be done. Now what would that mean?

[note: the approximately 50 minute episode is broken up into 5 10 minute sections]
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