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No. 81: May-Jun 1992

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That's the way the universe bounces

What follows is a chain of ideas (perhaps "speculations" is a better word) that was recently unleashed by L. Smolin in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity (9:173). At stake here is the very nature of Nature herself.

We begin with the notion of anthropic cosmology, in which the physical constants of the universe are identified as having just the "right" values to allow the existence of stars, planets, carbon compounds, and the other ingredients of human life. (Just why this state of affairs prevails is a question rarely addressed!) Adherents of anthropic cosmology hold that our "human-friendly" universe is just one of many universes populating a larger metauniverse. These "other" universes are thought to have different values of the fundamental physical constants (viz., the mass of the proton) and, in consequence, wildly different forms of life. In nonhuman universes, there could even be entities for which our word "life" is inadequate.

The second idea is that of an oscillating universe. In this concept, universes expand just so far and then collapse back into the "singularities" (i.e., black holes) from which they arose. Then, Phoenix-like, they bounce back and reexpand into new universes -- ones with slightly different physical constants. These rebounding universes are in a sense mutated universes, which have been slightly modified during the physical trauma of collapsing into singularities.

Now comes a stimulating thought. The most abundant sort of universe occupying the metauniverse will be that type that generates the most new black holes during its expansion and contraction phases, for each of its "progeny" can spawn a new universe of its own. As in biological Darwinism, these are the "selected" universes. Some universes may fail to reproduce at all. Thus, with the help of small mutations occurring during each bounce, the metauniverse and its constituent universes are evolving like biological life -- but towards what? (Gribbin, John; "Evolution of the Universe by Natural Selection?" New Scientist, p. 22, February 1, 1992.)

Comments. There do seem to a few black holes in our own universe (the Milky Way), perhaps many of them. So, universes like ours could well be highly successful in the cauldron of cosmological evolution. Since life and humans are possible in our type of universe, humanity seems to be favored not only by the evolutionary forces existing on earth but also by those permeating the metauniverse. What we do not know is: (1) Whether other life forms (or entities) are even more favored in their universes; (2) Whether meta-metauniverses exist; and (3) Who or what is "Master of the Show."

Whoever or whatever evidently plies its trade at the molecular level, too. See "Mutant Molecules" at the end under PHYSICS & CHEMISTRY.

From Science Frontiers #81, MAY-JUN 1992. � 1992-2000 William R. Corliss