Saturday, August 7, 2010

Many Worlds Theory- A Seema Interpretation

Who are we? Why are we here? What is beyond Earth? Are there aliens? Will they invade Earth? Why can’t we invade their planets first? Why are aliens depicted as green? Are there any cute n eligible ones? These are not merely philosophical questions; they are also scientific ones (barring the last one of course- that was just added in so you would stay with me in the post). Even as a child when I debated about such questions or tried to find answers- I reached only one conclusion. “We don’t know”. It’s as simple as that. We don’t know. And by ‘we’ I mean a collective of physicists, scientists, Nobel Prize winners, doctors, inventors, all over the globe. No one knows these answers. For every theory, there are an equal number of ones than refute it, and an equal number that support it.

So what exactly happens outside the galaxy we inhabit? Is there another galaxy far, far away?

I love the quote from the ‘97 science fiction thriller ‘Contact’ (one of Jodie Foster’s best films), where as a young girl she asks her dad “Dad, do you think there are people on other planets?” And he looks up to the sky and replies “I don't know. But I guess I'd say if it is just us... seems like an awful waste of space”.

Exactly. “I don’t know” was his answer. (And yes it would be awful waste of space).

A related theory to this is the Multiple Worlds Theory or the Many Worlds Theory (MWT). As explained by the “dummies” website: “The multiverse is a theory in which our universe is not the only one, but states that many universes exist parallel to each other”.

MWT is an interpretation of quantum physics (a term I love using whenever I can after it was popularized by Flash Forward). It was developed originally by American physicist Hugh Everett in 1957. It was further propagated by other eminent physicists and researchers, but not all physicists really believe in MWT.

So why am writing about MWT? I am so not a sci-fi lover. In fact I detested science even as a subject in school. This is all due to a recent obsession of mine called “Flash Forward”. It’s one of the best shows on TV in recent times. And am still devastated that Season 2 was cancelled. (Why o why? Is it not enough for ABC that I am a true lover and an ardent fan?? Yes, yes I know. ABC will not spend millions of dollars to air a show just because I love it so much- though am sure there are many others like who would have been very disappointed too).

Okie. So back to Flash Forward. The show in a nutshell- there was a global blackout- every human on the planet lost consciousness for 2 mins and 17 seconds. And they all saw their future 6 months hence. A married woman who loves her husband and has a happy marriage sees herself sleeping with another man. A young America doctor living in San Francisco sees himself in love with a Japanese girl living in Kyoto. And she sees the exact same thing too. My darling Agent Noh (John Cho) sees nothing- leading to believe that he won’t have a future 6 months hence, i.e. he dies.

So what now?
• If we have seen the future, can we change it?
• Can we avoid it?
• Can it change us?
• Is our fate determined by the Almighty?
• Or do we as humans have the power to mould our future and change our ending?
• Do we have a choice?
• If not and if our destiny is decided, then why the charade of choice?

The show grapples with many such questions (amongst solving the mystery on how and why the Flash Forwards occurred, criminal intents, love triangles and many other interesting sub plots). But it does raise very valid questions. 2 specific ones actually:

1) Is our fate is sealed? Whatever decision we take or choices we make, will ultimately lead us to that fate. But the paths we take, the experiences we experience, the relationships we grow, will all be different depending on our choices. But our fate is pre-decided.


2) Destiny is in our hands. Our choices will lead us to a destiny- which is not specified by anyone. Depending on our choices, our destiny will change.

So is life like a Hindi love story where the end is decided (boy-girl live happily ever after)? But the story line and plot is different for every story (think a Yash Chopra film vs. an Anurag Kashyap one).

Or is life like a blank canvas and every human being can paint it with the colors of his choice? And thus making the end product completely dependent on the taste, skill and imagination of the painter i.e. the human being himself. Meaning there is no pre-decided ending.

I will say it again “We don’t know”. But what did hit me was a mention on MWT in Flash Forward. Where Simcoe tells Olivia (Olivia is the married woman who saw herself sleeping with another man- Simcoe- in her flash forward, who she had never met before that day). He explains to her that all our choices are actually being played out in a parallel universe somewhere. So a part of “me” is living out my other choice in a universe somewhere. But I can never meet my “other me” so I don’t know how her life is and she does not know mine.

At every major fork in the roads of our lives we usually have 2 big choices e.g. you are 21 and graduating from college. You have 2 big choices-pursuing your education further or taking up a job. In this life, here on Earth, you have gone to college. BUT the road forked, and your “other me” went to work. She had different experiences from you. Her life is playing out in a Universe somewhere while you are living your life here on Earth. You both probably think “what if” many times- she thinks “what if I had gone studied further?” And you think “what if I would have gone to work”.

This is just a simple example of two probable decisions at one point of time. But many times the number of decisions is not restricted to two. And after that one decision is made, there are so many other choices that follow e.g. you have decided to study further, but what do you major in? Which country do you study in? How long do you study for? All these roads come with their own forks.

These parallel universes* apparently take place in the same space and time as our own universe, but you still have no way to access them. Every moment of your life, every decision you make, is causing a split of your “now self" into an infinite number of "future selves", all of which are unaware of each other.
* A simple portrayal of MWT was in the 1999 Gwyneth Paltrow starrer ‘Sliding Doors’

I like the MWT Theory. Its existence simply means that no decision of mine is wrong. Because if it is, then the right decision is being played out in the parallel universal. And somewhere my other me is living the life I think is perfect- loving husband who is an architect, 2 kids- Sanil and a baby girl, nice house, decent career, enough money and a walk-in-closet with many many clothes. And while I reciting my fantasies, I would like to add that my other me is a size 3, has long hair with gorgeous curls, a flat tummy and thin waist line, a pretty face and yes a metabolism that allows her to gorge on chocolate cake with no impact on that thin waist line.

But then again...who is to say that my other me got the right end of the stick? She could be the one living out the wrong decision.

The parallel universe need not be the desirable one after all!

So I take solace in the fact that if I have not got something I long for, my other me is enjoying it- right now, in the parallel universe. And any pain that I have to go through is me shielding her from that pain.

So as long as my other me is happy, I will always be happy too ;)

1 comment:

  1. Hi seema - finally got around to reading your blog properly - great stuff - any blog which references contact is fine with me - if u want to know more carl Sagan is about as accessible as u can get on this stuff. And btw - for something far more work related- try