1 Void a 2nd Universe Makes?

Ok, so New Scientist is just not making my brain happy this week. I decided to forage around their website  to see what was there (one of their editors, Maggie McKee, is a friendly soul I worked with at Astronomy and I wanted to see what’s she’s up to now a days). While Maggie has been writing a whole series of nice, interesting, valid pieces, I found another cosmology based story that just hurt.

Some background… Many cosmologists believe our universe is one of many parallel or branching universes.  These universe’s, if these theories are right, are boiling and seething side-by-side, and (if these theories are correct) these parallel multiverses may periodically merge like two soap bubbles meeting in the wind. It may, if these theories are correct, be possible that one edge of our universe is rapidly getting eaten away by another cannibalistic universe. (Go read this article by Andrei Linde to learn more. Additional links are on his website.)

Those are the theories. Observationally, until the big rip comes are way, we have no way of knowing if they’re true.

And, the New Scientist article seemed to indicate that we might have found that proof in the from of a giant void. (I talked about the void here). The proof? Well, I couldn’t find a peer reviewed journal article or any related science papers, so I’m a little sketchy on what the proof is other than there is a volume of space with no radio galaxies superimposed in front of a particularly cool section of the CMB.

There are also giant galaxy clusters out there and hot areas of the CMB. I’m not sure any of the big things are as big as the void, but dense things tend to collapse while empty things tend to appear to grow as the things around them collapse. Think of it this way: Imagine you have a crowded show room of people and you drop in 5 people who just finished cleaning barns, eating beans, and haven’t yet showered. An initial small area of nothing – a void – will form around each of these people, but it won’t grow since their smell probably is only noticable within a small radius. Now if you drop in 5 movie stars willing to sign autographs and have their pictures taken, then you’ll see a collapse as people crowd around the movie stars, and one side of effect of that collapse is those voids around our tired smelly people (who’ve opted to just plunk down on the floor and wait out the madness rather than to mob the movie stars) seem to grow. The smelly people aren’t doing a better job pushing people away – they didn’t get smellier – but rather the movie stars attracted all the mass to them making the voids seem to grow.

Until we have optical deep images of the void and spectra to map out any non-radio galaxies or other objects (like gas clouds) in the void, I can’t put much significance on the “It’s the most giant empty thing no one ever imagined could exist” hype. Yes, it is cool. Yes, it needs follow up time to understand. But, shouldn’t there always be 1 spot on the sky that is labled “Here be the lowest density of stuff?”

So, rant about the void hype aside, what about the “Its another universe” hype?

Personally, the idea that another universe merging with our own appearing as nothing more than an empty patch strikes me as rather depressing. No fireworks. No gamma rays. No high energy, low energy, or any energy anything – just a bubble of nothing. I’m not a theoretical cosmologist, but I can’t imagine how to colliding universes, with potentially different physical parameters, could collide and not create cause some sort of event at the surface of merger.

I wish I could find a scientific paper addressing this, but I couldn’t. And New Scientist is read by more people than any science journal (and maybe by more people than all the English astronomy only journals combined). So… What people are going to end up learning is our universe might be getting consumed. And some of them will freak out. And some of them will decide this is another example of scientists scaring people for not reason. And I really wish this type of hype wasn’t something I know will eventually lead to some student saying “Isn’t our universe getting sucked into a giant void?” one day.

Maybe it’s getting sucked into a void. Maybe. But I don’t think it’s getting sucked into that particular void.  Give it a couple years – that’s how long I think it will take to get the telescope time needed to start to understand the void. Once the data is in, please feel free to built as big an observationally based theory as you like.


  1. Jorge Schrauwen November 28, 2007 at 4:14 am #

    “Personally, the idea that another universe merging with our own appearing as nothing more than an empty patch strikes me as rather depressing”

    I would think a somehow very violent event horizon thing would be more likely.

    Or nothing at all but a new mixed universe bubble is create and we end up with 2 originals and 1 new odd ball.

  2. michael cassidy November 28, 2007 at 9:56 am #

    “So… What people are going to end up learning is our universe might be getting consumed. And some of them will freak out. And some of them will decide this is another example of scientists scaring people for not reason.”

    I don’t think people will freak out; I think it this type of speculation demeans scientists and science; though will probably make for some great scifi. BTW I like scifi.

  3. Derek C. F. Pegritz November 28, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    Hmmm. I find it more likely that the Big Empty Space is just a region of the Universe where the simulation has crashed. Consider it the equivalent of a universal Blue Screen of Death! One of the quantum computers running this sim black-crashed and hasn’t rebooted yet.

  4. Jorge Schrauwen November 28, 2007 at 1:24 pm #

    Derek, I bet it still spinning up it star driver… our fileserver takes 20 min to spill up all its SCSI driver 😉

  5. Adam November 28, 2007 at 9:02 pm #

    Chasing Eridanus and Tau Ceti. Some of this talk goes back to the 1960s.

    Anyways, keep the interest up….the probes aren’t stopping being launched.

  6. Justin Olson November 29, 2007 at 10:26 am #

    Dr. Gay,

    To be fair, I don’t believe the scientists interviewed for this New Scientist article are arguing that our universe is currently being devoured or “eaten away” by a parallel universe. They make it very clear in the article that they think the void is the result of an interaction that occurred BEFORE inflation took place 13.7 billion years ago, when our universe and the other ones were only quantum in scale:

    “Mersini-Houghton and Holman’s calculations show that the patch of vacuum that led to our universe must have interacted with neighbouring patches very early on. Because these interactions are between tiny patches of quantum vacuum, they would leave the universes in an entangled state and give them a ghostly connection that allows them to sense and affect each other from afar. ‘Such an entangled state remains for all time,’ says Mersini-Houghton. ‘So although inflation quickly pushed our region beyond the reach of neighbouring regions, it should still retain the imprint of its quantum entanglement with its neighbours.'”

    This explains why you would see, as you put it, “No fireworks. No gamma rays. No high energy, low energy, or any energy anything – just a bubble of nothing.”

    They make a few predictions as well:

    1.) A second cold spot of comparable size in the southern sky.
    2.) WMAP and (the soon to be launched) Plank results will not correlate 100% with matter and temperature.
    3.) The Large Hadron Collider will NOT detect supersymmetry because the energy levels are 100,000 greater than previously believed.

  7. Bridh Hancock November 29, 2007 at 9:36 pm #

    There must be explanations for the unevenness of matter from the time of the BigEscape after the BigBang. Matter conglomerates, yes, but the conglomerations are uneven and even irregular. Why?

    Looking around us from our near edge of the universe do we see differing areas of blankness, from fullness at the centre to emptiness to 180 degrees away (except for the stars further out, and nutrinos we must ‘see’), as we look further out into where we will go in space?

    Surely one can only detect a significant absence by the context of significant presence. As for the absence in question (the unit of space from elsewhere): how does one determine its origins and its intent? and also its size and contents?

    Are we are discussing another and empty universe? and if so then why just one?

    What of the other dimensions in our universe? some of which are millies of millimetres in width and even in length? Might these be present and congromerating en mass in our universe’s outer void somewhere.

    Questions: the leading-edge of science.

    I am just a poet.

  8. L Riofrio December 2, 2007 at 1:01 pm #

    This story can make us smile, if not laugh out loud. Could the parallel Universe be evil?

  9. Alex Grainger March 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

    Personally I think the universe is just a small piece of dust just like our Earth in an entire galaxy. My guess just like any F student in biology such as my self to give a crap about life… there are things bigger than the universe out there. Being astral could be the only way to see what’s beyond us. Not just us as a planet. Us as a universe.

  10. geo stelar June 3, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    is there a 2nd universe and beyond that

  11. Jayden August 8, 2016 at 4:48 am #

    This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for wrngtii!

  12. ratenkredit ohne schufaauskunft October 22, 2016 at 11:40 am #

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