If you haven’t seen the animated comedy hit Rick and Morty yet, we strongly recommend you fire up Netflix and give it a try. It’s about a super-smart, but rather miserable, grandfather (Rick) and his impressionable grandson (Morty) who go on epic space adventures together.
The show is incredibly sophisticated and creative. From space travel to teleportation to erased memories to vampire slaying, this show touches on pretty much every element of science fiction. Oh, and did we mention that it’s hilarious? Seriously, this show will pretty much have you gasping for air between fits of laughter.
When we say say “universe”, the prefix “uni” implies that there’s only one. Well, as we see in Rick and Morty, and more intriguingly, as we hear from some of the world’s leading physicists, there may be more than one universe. This means that there may even be more than one you out there!
The Multiverse in Rick and Morty
A central element in the show is the “multiverse”. Rick and Morty are always teleporting across dimensions, planets, and universes. One of the implications of the “Multiverse” or “Many Worlds” theory, as we’ll shortly delve into, is that if there are many (or infinite) universes, then there are many (or, again, infinite) versions of you.
In some episodes, the creators of Rick and Morty play with this idea in many delightful ways. For example, in one episode, they accidentally destroy the world in which they live. So, in order to get things “back to normal” (whatever that means here), they teleport to another identical world and “replace” the versions of themselves that live there. Morbid and creepy? Yes, kind of. Genius and creative? Absolutely.
Many more examples of invoking the multiverse exist in the show. The above example is just the tip of the asteroid. Yes, this is indeed animation and science fiction at its best. There are, however, many reputable scientists that believe the multiverse idea is not fiction, and that, in fact, we have good reason to believe that there are multiple universes out there.
Bubbles, Swiss Cheese, and Lots of Particles
Ok, so the idea is that there is more than one universe. There are a few different theories explaining what this could mean, physically. The science of these theories involves astrophysics and quantum mechanics. Let’s roll our sleeves up, get a little scientific, and see what the hype is about.
First, we’ll consider the “Bubble Universe” theory. This notion asserts that the Big Bang is not a unique event. Versions of the Big Bang, which is the explosion responsible for the genesis of our universe, scientists say, could be happening all the time. So basically, our universe, which is unfathomably vast, might just be our “little” bubble of space-time. One of many, or infinite, bubbles of space-time.
In other bubbles, the rules of physics and chemistry could be radically different. Maybe in these other bubbles, we can fly. Maybe our brains are made of silicone instead of carbon-based material. To visualize the bubbles, you might try imagining a piece of Swiss cheese. The empty spaces represent the universe bubbles.
Next, let’s take a look at another theory that is somewhat less outlandish, but just as fascinating. Here though, we’ll call the general idea “Many Worlds” (for reasons which will soon be clear). Is our universe finite or infinite? We don’t know, but both answers would be just as mind-boggling.
Suppose our universe is infinite. So with limitless time and space, there must be infinite configurations of particles. Somewhere out there in the vastness of space, there are more Earths and more yous. Here, the “uni” is still in “universe.” But endless space-time could equal unlimited possibilities.
Physicists, Caveats, and Splits
The last theory we will consider is weird and is sometimes hard for us non-physicists to wrap our heads around. Let’s now go further down the rabbit hole.
Usually, it’s also called “Many Worlds” theory or simply “Multiverse” theory. This idea states that every action or decision results in a split universe where the opposite decision was made. For example, if you were deliberating whether to eat salad or pizza for lunch today, and you decided on salad, then time itself split. And in another universe, a less nutritionally prudent version of you decided to go for the pizza.
The thing to keep in mind about all these whacky theories is that the physics community is divided with regards to their likeliness. Some physicists (even the father of the bubble theory) say that none of the theories are scientific, because none of their elements are observable. Other prominent physicists, such as Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Brian Greene, and Sean Carroll are utterly convinced that the multiverse is a reality.
Interestingly, there is some scientific evidence to support the various theories. Sean Carroll gets super deep into this cool stuff in his new fascinating book Something Deeply Hidden. Anyway, in this world, we’ll finish here. Maybe in another world, you get inspired by this article, become the next Einstein, and ultimately uncover the secrets of reality.