Monday, February 15, 2010

Parallel Universe

The notion of the parallel universe appears as a philosophical concept in Nietzsche’s Doctrine of the Eternal Recurrence. Though the concept had a long and venerable history in many religions and philosophies, the notion of the parallel universe may be one of the only philosophical concepts that went on to have an afterlife in both science (Poincare’s Recurrence Theorem) and science fiction (in the work of masters like Phillip K. Dick). Doesn’t Dick’s The Man in the High Castle suggest that the Allied victory is coeval with that of the Axis, which lives on as an alternate world? Hard science itself is forced to deal with the notion of parallel universes when it confronts the uncertainties of string theory and quanta. Yes there are successions of worlds only a millionth of a second apart, repeating themselves with minute divagations and forever bookending in conformity or complete dissolution. Isn’t Minority Report a description of a form of parallel universe in which what is meant to be is essentially coexisting with what is?
It’s very comforting that life is going on in some  multiverse, and that even after death we will still be living in a slightly altered form in another dimension. If only we knew how to jump from one dimension to another, we could switch horses when we were diagnosed with a fatal disease. The lights never go out. Life continues on despite the fact that it has eliminated us. We live on in successive universes as if nothing had happened at all.  For every loss, death, breakup, failed job search, failed romance, there is the parallel universe where the reverse has taken on a life of its own, and the life we know continues without missing a beat.
Over the expanse of infinite time, we exhaust enough possibilities so that we come back to where we started, both a second too early and three seconds too late.


  1. We hypothesize about parallel universes, but there is no (current) way to know if they are really there. We have to believe in them, in the same way that worshippers believe in God. It is very possible that neither exist... we may just want to think they do. And how could we cross into another universe, without screwing this one up (as in the old time-travel conundrum)? For now, I am going to have to make do with this universe, and be happy with what I have.

  2. I agree there is enought mystery and complexity in the knowable universe. Love SP


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