Crazy is such an ugly word but how else can we describe these concepts? They each try to explain some aspect of our universe in a manner that just seems bizarre. Granted, most things in the universe are odd already, and we haven’t even begun to fully understand a fraction of it, but there’s something particularly disturbing about these theories. They express ideas that are too mindboggling and inconceivable, even for fellow scientists. While none of them have been verified or completely dismissed, we should still speculate because in a universe as crazy as ours, we just never know what might be true.
#10 - Ekpyrotic Universe
The ekpyrotic scenario provides an alternative to the widely accepted Big Bang theory. It suggests that, unlike the Big Bang that began from singularity, our universe is one of a pair of universes that collided. The effect of the collision resets the universe. From there, it expands for billions of light years (the way we imagine the Big Bang occurring) until it contracts back to the Big Crunch. The speed and energy of that reduction creates another massive collision and the universe is reborn. The cycle continues for infinity.
Did you catch the crazy part? This theory states there’s another universe out there. That’s not too strange considering we accept the possibility of parallel universes. But if the ekpyrotic scenario is correct, our twin universe is right next to us in another dimension, separated by a distance less than the diameter of an atom. That’s close, even for siblings.
#9 - White Holes
White holes, unlike their black hole neighbors, have not been studied because they only exist in an extremely hypothetical situation. In fact, there’s not even a clear understanding what a white hole could be. Is it the other end of a black hole? Is it a wormhole? Is it something else entirely?
Generally, white holes are thought to spit out matter, much like black holes eat matter. For this to happen, the matter that passes through a black hole would have to be protected during the voyage, avoiding the process of merging into singularity. No white holes have ever been detected, up to this point, and no black holes have been seen without an event horizon (the guarding force around a black hole that prevents us from seeing them) that may show us just how matter passes through. To do that, white holes would have to break a few laws of physics and reinstitute some ideas that have been discarded; that’s asking a lot. Until then, white holes are best left for hypothetical ideas or naughty jokes.
#8 - Dark Energy is Murder
According to Professor Lawrence Krauss, every time we look at dark energy, we’re killing the universe. Now dark energy, as you may recall, makes up 70% of the universe. It answers for all the invisible peculiarities we see in deep space. It’s also one of the most perplexing concepts that’s becoming more accepted nowadays. Why wouldn’t we try to explore it?
He suggests that the Big Bang was initiated when strange high energy with repellent gravity decayed into zero-energy; it went from a false vacuum to an ordinary vacuum causing the universe to happen. Now in quantum mechanics, there is what’s called the quantum Zeno effect. It states that if an unstable object is observed regularly, it will never decay. Krauss argues then, that under the same principle, if dark energy is continuously observed, we are keeping it unstable and reducing the universe’s lifespan by forcing it back to that state when it was a false vacuum. With our interest so high in the invisible dark energy that makes up the universe, it seems unlikely that astronomers will stop studying it. If Krauss is right, we’re doomed.
#7 - Matrix Universe
Does anyone remember that little movie that came out a few years ago? The protagonist could stop bullets and see time slow down as he fought his enemies. It was called the Matrix. Did you catch it?
If you haven’t, (been living under a rock much?) go check it out, because it might provide the ultimate answer to the universe: we live in a computer program. It surely seems like science fiction to say that one day computers will become so powerful that they will be able to simulate consciousness, but as technology advances, that crazy thought could become reality. In a simulated world, we could be trapped in the mundane until death or live out fantasies and never even realize we’re hooked up to a machine. Hell, for all we know, we’re in a matrix universe right now. Time to start a rebel team and escape, don’t you think?
#6 - Universe is a Hologram
On the subject of the unreal, there’s another theory that suggests we’re not in an elaborate computer program but that much of what we think is the universe is nothing more than a hologram made by the universe itself.
The idea is when we look at the night sky, we’re seeing a wall with an image on it (that includes all the galaxies and stars). This holographic principle might explain why the universe appears grainy on the most basic of energy scales. Remember that a holographic image is created when an object is bathed by the light of a laser and a second laser jumps off the first’s reflective surface (which is then recorded). A third light illuminates the image to reveal the holograph. If changes to gravity waves is caused by patterns of light, than it would simulate what is, essentially, the process of creating a holographic image. If this was proven, then it would change most of what we think we know about the universe.
#5 - Black Hole Babies
We could be the child of a black hole. The idea is, when matter gets pulled into a black hole, it becomes so dense before reaching singularity, that the black hole might spit it back out and form a universe from that very same matter.
In other words, a universe with many black holes would have created many baby universes. We still can’t detect exactly where black holes are located in our universe (though we can estimate their location by recording the movement of stars and planets around them) but that might just be because we’re a baby universe, a product of another universe’s black hole with insufficient means. This idea supports the possibility of the multiverse where there could be an infinite amount of universes.
#4 - Many-Worlds Interpretation
On the subject of an omniverse, the many-worlds interpretation takes a different approach explaining multiple universes. While I can tell you that this concept of quantum mechanics argues the objective reality of space but denies the reality of wavefunction collapse (or rather the condensing of physical possibilities into one single occurrence) but I go cross-eyed just thinking about that. Basically, the interpretation says for every decision we make, a new universe is born.
When you woke up this morning, did you brush your teeth? Another you may be living in a different universe where you didn’t, while you live in the universe where you did (I’m giving the present you the benefit of the doubt). After that, did you floss? Again, a separate universe exists depending on the outcome of your choice. Each decision then is played out in full until you come across another decision and another universe branches out from there. If this is the case, then there are an infinite amount of universes, each accounting for every person’s every decision.
#3 - Heat Death
The argument uses the second law of thermodynamics by stating that if the universe was infinite, it should also be infinitely old. Or to make that sound less daunting, a star one hundred light years away could only be there if the universe was at least one hundred years old (if the speed was constant, more on that later). So if the universe is infinitely old, heat death suggests everywhere should be the same temperature and there should be no stars in the sky because they all would have died out (or they should all be at the same cooled temperature).
The explanation: If the universe was infinitely old, then stars should be cool because they warmed their surroundings, making the temperature across the universe uniform. However, there are stars and the universe doesn’t have an equal temperature throughout (as detected by cosmic background radiation). This idea also only works if the speed at which the universe is expanding has remained constant because such ideas as cosmic inflation claim expansion is not always the same. When you have variables such as dark flow and dark energy also pushing and tugging on matter, heat death’s vision of a starless sky appears dim (slight pun intended).
#2 - Theory of Everything
The theory of everything will be the ultimate discovery. It would combine quantum mechanics and general relatively to solve all the riddles around us into a neat little package. It would be able to name all the physical constants in the universe, whether or not those constants vary over time, locate other fundamental elements in the unobservable universe (such as dark matter and dark energy), and so on.
But why mention it here? Well, to have a theory that would explain all the mysteries of a seemingly changing universe seems insane. Think of a screw trying to fit into hundreds of holes in a wall but every hole is a different size and shape and possibly in a different dimension or universe. That’s a big achievement but scientists hope to find a unified answer. The closest possibility we have right now is the M-theory, an extension of string theory.
#1 - Time Travel
What do Marty McFly, Dr. Who and Bill and Ted have in common? They’re time travelers. They were able to do the impossible and make the voyage through our perception of time. It should go without saying time travel comes with a whole universe of problems, making the possibility extremely unrealistic. Consider the following:
You go back in time and kill your father. Theoretically, you can’t kill him because then you wouldn’t be born to kill him. You do so anyway and it turns out, he isn’t your real father and you actually killed your step-father. You’re real father goes untouched and thus the past and present line up perfectly. Well, not yet. When you left the present to go into the past, there’s an issue about your body. Do you become a duplicate so you exist in your own present time and in the past or are you displaced from time itself and inserted in another? That also doesn’t make sense because if you follow the rules of what we perceive as time, you’d return to the past as a baby, if even that. What if you go back in time and kiss your high school crush, making him/her fall in love with you? That should alter the future where you lived by yourself that led you to go to the past in the first place. That kiss and its alteration of history keeps you from going to the past at all. If in that different chain of events you still go to the past to make it in time for that kiss, you’ll be trapped in a cycle. And consider that all these questions are only applicable if time is cyclical. If time is linear, your past, present and future aren’t constantly happening somewhere, making time travel impossible (there would be nothing to travel back to). If time was cyclical, this suggests that everything is preordained and you have no free will. What you think of as free will would already be recorded and whatever action you believe is different than the original action is actually the decision you were going to make anyway.
Don’t worry, I got lost along the way too. To simplify all this, we look to Stephen Hawking who provides us with one question that indicates whether time travel will ever be possible: Why aren’t we inundated with time travelers from the future? They should be here right now, knowing full well that we’re interested in such topics as time travel to explain just how they accomplish it from a future tens of thousands of years in the future. This isn’t the case because maybe this science fiction dream is just that: a dream.