I spend a lot of time thinking. For the past fifteen years, my thoughts have been filled with how to get through death with my consciousness intact. I refuse to go the religion route, because it’s quite frankly a waste of time. So I’ve gone the science route. And while I have encountered many people — primarily atheists — who say that consciousness can not survive death, I don’t believe them. Primarily because they offer zero evidence, other than the fact that no one has ever come back from death…which is flimsy, circumstantial evidence at best. Now, I don’t have any evidence that one’s consciousness can survive death either, mainly because I live in a time period in which such evidence may be impossible to find due to our current technological and intellectual limitations.
But I ask myself many questions. In fact, this all began with one question (it actually began earlier, but in the interest of keeping this post as impersonal as possible, I’m beginning with my first impersonal question): do other universes exist?
Throughout my entire childhood, outside of science fiction and fantasy, the answer seemed to be “no.” Then, in April of 2003, I was perusing the magazines at my local Barnes & Noble when I saw an issue of Scientific American with this cover:
I was completely confounded. My entire life up to this point had been filled with the belief that parallel universes were impossible. That this universe was the only one. Hell, I still believed that the Sun was the only star in the universe with planets!
I opened the magazine thinking that there must be some mistake, that I must have misunderstood the cover somehow. I went to the article, which was authored by Max Tegmark, a professor at MIT and expert in cosmology, which began with this:
“Is there a copy of you reading this article? A person who is not you but who lives on a planet called Earth, with misty mountains, fertile fields and sprawling cities, in a solar system with eight (sic) other planets? The life of this person has been identical to yours in every respect. But perhaps he or she now decides to put down this article without finishing it, while you read on.
The idea of such an alter ego seems strange and implausible, but it looks like we will just have to live with it, because it is supported by astronomical observations (emphasis mine). The simplest and most popular cosmological model today predicts that you have a twin in a galaxy about 10 to the 10(28) meters from here. This distance is so large that is beyond astronomical, but that does not make your doppelgänger any less real. The estimate is derived from elementary probability and does not even assume speculative modern physics, merely that space is infinite (or at least sufficiently large) in size and almost uniformly filled with matter, as observations indicate. In infinite space, even the most unlikely events must take place somewhere. There are infinitely many other inhabited planets, including not just one but infinitely many that have people with the same appearance, name, and memories as you, who play out every possible permutation of your life choices.”
These two paragraphs completely changed not just my worldview, but my very personality. Before I read Tegmark’s article, I was on a very dark path, filled with ignorance, rage, and hate. The primary reason for all that hate and rage was that I believed my existence could only end in one of three ways: going to some religious heaven, going to some religious hell, or ceasing to exist. I hated those so-called “choices” and the species forcing them upon me. But when I read Tegmark’s piece, and saw that he wasn’t some crackpot but a respected MIT professor, I knew that I was not trapped, but merely ignorant. And that science was the way out of the spiral in which I was descending. It was as though I had been falling into an abyss, when I got caught on a branch. That branch was cosmology.
I began devouring every piece of information I could. I began asking myself countless questions. If those universes do exist, how can I reach them? I learned the speed of light was finite, and also a fundamental limit to how fast something in the universe could go. I could never reach those universes by passing the speed of light, because it was impassable. I accept this as truth for many years.
And yet, something kept bringing me back to the speed of light. Why was it impossible to go faster than the speed of light? I read Einstein’s theory of special relativity, and learned that the reason that nothing can go faster than the speed of light is because as it increases in speed, it gains energy which results in the object gaining mass. Once the object has hit the speed of light, it has accumulated so much mass that it can not go any faster. Time stops.
But why? What is the object accumulating? To be accumulating energy and mass, it has to be accumulating something. Is it Higgs bosons, which give objects mass? Is it other particles? Because if we can find out exactly what the object accumulates to make it gain mass, we can create ways to block it or deflect it away, like a celestial cowcatcher. In the same vein, I discovered that photons can not go faster or slower than the speed of light. Again, why? Everything I’ve read has merely said that it is “simply a fundamental feature of the universe.” That’s a lazy, bullshit answer, the scientific equivalent of saying “God wants it that way” or “Because I say so.” I need to know exactly what is causing this. There has to be something keeping those photons at that speed, just like there has to be something keeping ordinary particles from passing the speed of light. I intend to find out what that something is. If I’m right, if there really is something specific — a specific particle or wave — keeping us from going faster than light, then I am going to find it; or at least help set us on the path to finding it. Once we find it, we can create ways to counter it. And if we can counter it, it will open an entirely new array of options for us. I’ll get to those options in a subsequent post.