PARALLEL UNIVERSES …. AND FLIES

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

I knew there was a parallel universe long before I heard about the theory.

No, I don’t mean the parallel universe where lots of people live, particularly middle-class, where justice and democracy and the rule of an objective and impartial law governs. In that universe, oppressive powers who have plundered the earth and committed so many crimes to enrich themselves will meekly give all that up once you show them how many people disapprove of what they’re doing. They won’t repress you instead, with baton, plastic bullet and gas, jail, guns, helicopters, drones …. Sometimes, in my more idle moments, I wish I lived in that same universe instead of this one.

But it’s not the one I mean here.  The parallel universe I mean is another one where there is oxygen and what is necessary for carbon-based life forms to breathe and live — but it is not this one. And I didn’t find out about it through carrying out complicated mathematical computations – me, maths? Are you joking? All the same, I did use a scientific method: observation. And I have to thank flies for the discovery.

Have you ever tried to catch a fly, or to swat it with your hand? There’s the fly, lazily buzzing, wheeling around in the air. You prepare yourself. Fast, so fast, you grab and you know you got it, open your hand– and it’s empty!

Where did the fly go? Into a parallel universe. It’ll come back soon, when the danger is past for the moment. Conditions must not be that great in that parallel universe (unlike the one where those liberal middle-class people live) so the flies never stay there long. Maybe there’s a giant frog or toad there, its tongue flicking out right and left, catching flies that stay there too long.

OK, a different scenario. You see a fly on the table and move your hand evvverrrr so-o-o-o slowwwllly towards it. You must get close enough so it doesn’t have time to avoid your swat.

The fly does that strange thing, kind of like stiffening, apparently getting ready to jump and fly. It has seen you, you think. But you don’t give up. You slow down, almost stop. Maybe it will forget or won’t think your hand is dangerous.

The fly is now cleaning its face with its front legs.

“Good,” you think, “It’s not alarmed any more.” It doesn’t occur to you that the fly was not cleaning its face before and is only doing so now. You don’t suspect that the fly is thinking: “Oho! Fancy your chances? Come on then Big Thing. See, I’m just relaxed here, cleaning my face.”

Swat! Your hand has streaked out. The plate rattled and the mug jumped, spilling some coffee on the table-top. But nothing flew out from under your hand. You got him for sure!

You remove your hand and …. no dead fly! No bloody smear. Incredible! How did it do that? In that instant before your hand, ever so fast, came down to crush it, the fly simply shifted to another universe. It will be back soon, circling nonchalantly and may even return to the table, walking innocently on it and waiting for you to try again.

And not only is there a parallel universe but parallel universes! And I have reached this conclusion too, without even a pass in mathematics in the Irish State’s former Intermediate Examination (abandoned in 1991) or much study of physics. Again, achieved through observation. Sometimes, particularly when I am tired, I have observed a rapid movement of some small object across my line of vision. It is there for a moment only, originating ‘out of nowhere’ and disappearing again a few feet away. I propose that this is a fly, originating in another universe, flying across this one and, presumably, heading for yet another. No doubt fleeing from a swatting hand or other pursuer in another universe. Sometimes I can even hear what sounds like it might be fly laughter.

Why observable mostly when the eye is tired? Because the brain at this time is less receptive to the normal distractions and so therefore is the eye, making observation of other less normal phenomena more likely. Of course, this theory has not been proven, despite my efforts to catch this fly. It has not proved possible to predict the day or time when this “fly-through” might occur and also, being often tired at the time, my reactions tend to be slow. But one day ….

Of course, theoretical science has now caught up with my observations and a number of reputable scientists have been discussing related theories for decades (though also dismissed by other reputable scientists). Those supporting the theoretical concept even speak of a “multiverse”, i.e of a universe consisting of many – and some propose infinite — variables of the universe currently observable to us. Interestingly to a Dubliner such as myself, the term “multiverse” was first recorded in scientific discourse in a 1953 Trinity College Dublin lecture by Erwin Shrodinger (1887-1961), an Austrian Nobel Prize-winner in physics (and achiever of an even greater distinction, managing to live successfully with not one but two unslaved members of the opposite gender).  According to Wikipedia ‘he said that, when his Nobel prize-winning equations seemed to describe several different histories, these were “not alternatives, but all really happen simultaneously”. That is the earliest known reference to the multiverse.’

In one of those parallel universes there might be a version or iteration of myself who did not fuck up so many times, who is more disciplined and productive in the use of his free time and ….. well, that’s enough to think about. This other iteration might even like heavy metal music, be good at maths, like eating flatfish and not get into trouble with authorities.

The arguments in favour and against the existence of a multiverse have been equally convincing or unconvincing logically.

Against: We live in the universe that we do because that one provides the conditions for the existence of life. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be here. Therefore it is the only universe capable of sustaining life and the only one in existence.

For: There is no logical reason why other universes capable of giving rise to life and therefore populated, could not exist, but with some different conditions to ours. All possible permutations. Or indeed that some would not consist of completely different life-forms, not even carbon-based. Life keeps turning up in situations previously thought impossible even here on Earth and we have long known about anaerobic bacteria.

Against: Such speculation is fruitless. We have not observed any effect or trace of these other universes.

For: However, there are some factors in quantum theory which do not explain what we can observe of this universe. And lack of proof does not rule out the possibility of the existence of something.

Against: That is true so far about quantum theory. But unless it can be proven or disproven, it is not worthy of scientific theory. We might as well fund investigation into the existence of God.

For: Aha, funding! That’s why you don’t want it studied – it might reduce the funding available for your work.

Against: How dare you!

And so on and on. And on.

And now, if you‘ll excuse me ….. There’s a fly nearby on the table …..

 

End.

 

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiverse

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