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Anton Vrba: on 9/15/13 at 17:19pm UTC, wrote "From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step" said Napoleon. It is...

John Merryman: on 8/26/13 at 10:27am UTC, wrote Eckard, Yes, my area of expertise is on the organic side of the ledger,...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/26/13 at 6:51am UTC, wrote John M, I have to apologize for referring to mathematical issues that you...

John Merryman: on 8/25/13 at 20:53pm UTC, wrote Eckard, Sorry for the miscommunication. I agree the effect of time...

Wilhelmus de Wilde: on 8/25/13 at 16:24pm UTC, wrote "Leaking energy" implies that we are talking about universes that are...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/25/13 at 14:36pm UTC, wrote John M, Do you intend confusing me? My command of English is perhaps not...

John Merryman: on 8/25/13 at 10:54am UTC, wrote Eckard, That would require going back and like with time reversibility,...

Eckard Blumschein: on 8/25/13 at 4:33am UTC, wrote John M, Wilczek wrote: "... mutually inaccessible (decoherent) worlds,...


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August 7, 2022

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Could Leaking Energy Provide Experimental Proof of Parallel Worlds? Perhaps, says Frank Wilczek [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 02:56 GMT
Frank WIlczek (photo by Andrei Linde)
When a physicist tells you that they have an idea for a lab experiment that may be able to detect the existence of quantum parallel worlds, the standard reaction is to smile, nod and move slowly away (even though the proposals for experiments can sometimes be intriguing). But when the physicist in question is Nobel Laureate (and FQXi member) Frank Wilczek, it's probably a good idea to take him seriously. His tentative idea -- which he tells me about in the August Podcast -- is that it may be possible to detect energy leaking back and forth between alternative realities. You can listen to the podcast here.

If you follow Wilczek on twitter then you'll know that he's recently been musing about "Multiversailty" in a review paper for Classical and Quantum Gravity (arXiv:1307.7376). (If you don't follow him on twitter, then you should: @FrankWilczek.) The term "multiverse" can be used to describe the idea from cosmology that faraway regions are governed by different laws and contain different substances. In the podcast we run through Wilczek's thoughts on the cosmological multiverse and its use as an explanation for why certain physical parameters are surprisingly well suited for life. He cautions that such anthropic lines of reasoning can be dangerous -- but then also gives an example, from axion cosmology, of how to use anthropic arguments to make testable predictions.

But his newest ideas are based on thoughts about a different type of multiverse: the multiple parallel worlds first predicted to exist by Hugh Everett III as a reaction to the apparent indeterminacy of the quantum world. The classic example used to highlight this is the paradox of Schrodinger's cat, shut in a box with a vial of poison (or a bomb, or some other gruesome deadly device) that will be smashed (or triggered) if a radioactive atom decays. While the box remains unopened, the atom exists in a quantum superposition state in which it has both decayed and not decayed -- leaving the unfortunate cat caught in a ghostly limbo between life and death. Everett's contribution was to argue that, when the lid is opened, reality splits into two: in one world the cat lives; in the other, the physicist is arrested for cruelty to animals.

Everett's ideas are now over 50 years old, and have gained many respectable followers. But whether or not you believe in it seems to be down to a matter of faith. At least, there did not seem to be any simple lab experiment that could be carried out to test whether such alternative realities (each with alternate you-s) exist.

But, thanks to a very savvy question from one of Wilczek's followers on twitter, the Nobel Laureate is thinking about whether such a test could be devised. Having tweeted his Multiversality paper, Wilzcek was asked where the power to generate such parallel worlds would come from. Wouldn't they violate energy conservation?

Puffy the cat, contemplating energy conservation
Wilczek has carried out a short calculation to prove that the answer is no -- they would not. You can hear him explain why not in the podcast. It comes down to the fact that energy is not a substance in quantum mechanics that is shared out between universes (one with a happy and one with a sad cat owner), but an "operator" (something which changes a physical state to another physical state). That means that you do not simply sum the energies of the universes by adding one to the other, as though they are numbers, but take a weighted average -- which will always conserve energy overall.

So does that mean that parallel universes never trade energy? If they did, we may be able to detect them in lab experiments. It is this possibility that Wilczek hopes to investigate in the coming months. Is there a way that some tiny fluctuating amounts of energy may leak back and forth between parallel worlds, while preserving overall energy conservation? And how could we detect it in the lab, given that experimental physicists are getting better and better at maintaining quantum effects in ever larger objects?

We wish Wilczek luck is his investigation!

Listen to the podcast to find out more.

I have posted two versions of Wilczek's interview on the podcast page, The first, which is included in the main edition, features both myself and Brendan (with a cameo from Puffy the cat), while the second is my extended interview with Wilczek. Regarding the first version, please rest assured that no cats were harmed in the making of the podcast (although Brendan did follow Puffy round with a mic, which might have annoyed him).

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Pentcho Valev wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 04:42 GMT
Frank Wilzcek has discovered that the fundamental contradiction in physics is not between general relativity and quantum mechanics, as most physicists misleadingly teach, but, rather, between the relative time of special relativity and the Newtonian time of quantum mechanics:

Frank Wilczek: "Einstein's special theory of relativity calls for radical renovation of common-sense ideas about...

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 04:14 GMT

While you did so far neither criticize nor accept my explanation of Michelson's null result, we agree on that SR is at least unfounded. You will probably also agree on that de Sitter universe and many other theories ultimately depend on Einstein's field equations of GR and are therefore not fiducial to us.

However, I do not share your fear that the current ideology cannot be abandoned because physics will collapse. The same argument was used in mathematics as to defend G. Cantor's set theory: "a huge heap of rubble would remain". Indeed, Set Theory as a belief is still as alive as was Lenin in his mausoleum. Such Bourbakism has almost no consequences. Schroedinger's cat is an exception. Everett's belonging worlds in excess of the all including universe remind me of G. Cantor's transfinite numbers in excess of infinity. I tend to blame inappropriate foundations of currently mandatory mathematics for the cat problem with quantum theory. I offered an alternative.

As an aside, those who dislike experiments with Schroedinger's cat might use an alternative object, e.g. the also discussed exploded/unexploded bomb.


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Domenico Oricchio wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 09:45 GMT
It is only an idea, no calculus (errors are always possible).

If there are some region in the beginning of the Universe with great extension, then can be possible that the mass distribution of the initial Universe can be deflected by these slow moving great mass obtaining interference fringes in the mass distribution (cosmic microwave background radiation fluctuation).

I think that it is not necessary the screen to measure the interference fringes, if it is possible to measure the radiation emission of the first stars, to measure the mass distribution fluctuations: if the Universe have a wave function, then the quantum effect must be measurable, so if the quantum effect exist, then we live in a multiverse.

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John Brodix Merryman wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 10:44 GMT
If we treat time, not as a vector from past to future, but as the process by which future becomes past, a lot of this nonsense goes away. To wit, the earth is not traveling some vector from yesterday to tomorrow. Tomorrow becomes yesterday because the earth rotates.

Sequence is not causal. Yesterday doesn't cause today anymore than one rung on a ladder causes the next. The sun radiating on a rotating planet creates this sequence of events called days. Time is simply a measure of change, ie. frequency. As temperature is a scalar, like amplitude.

Then it doesn't matter that different clocks run at different speeds, because they are simply measuring separate actions. There is no problem with reality branching off into multiple worlds with every probability, as it is the collapse of probabilities that yields actualities, ie. tomorrow becomes today.

Is it any wonder that when Wall St. wanted mathematicians to create all those complex financial derivatives, they went to quantum theorists and not accountants? Could it be that accountants learn you can go to jail for funny math, but the guys from the multiverse think their equations create reality?

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Cristinel Stoica wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 11:35 GMT
Assuming that energy leaks will be found, such an experiment will not be able to differentiate between many-worlds and Copenhagen interpretations (MWI and CI).

For simplicity I will explain in terms of spin, but the reasoning goes the same for energy and momentum.

Say we measure the spin of an electron, along axis z. The spin will be found to be parallel or antiparallel with the axis z. Measure it now along y, and then again along z. The outcomes of the the two measurements along z coincide in 50% of cases. What happened to the spin conservation? One answer may come in our mind is that the interaction with the measurement apparatus transferred spin between the electron and the apparatus. But we know that the perturbation due to measurement is not enough to explain Heisenberg's uncertainty, a projection is still required. If the projection is non-unitary, then the spin is not conserved. This should not be a surprise, since conservation is due to the unitary evolution, if the observable commutes with the Hamiltonian. A non-unitary projection will not ensure the conservation of the observable. So we see that the CI actually predicts violation of conservation laws. Bohr believed in such violations, even before working at the CI, so maybe, if he realized this, he was not disturbed too much.

MWI looks for the inhabitant of a particular branch like CI. Unitarity is restored when accounting for all branches. When considering all branches, conservation laws are restored too, but for a particular branch, there may be violations.

So, I don't think that, assuming there are violations of any of the conservation laws, this proves that MWI is true rather than CI.

On the other hand, not finding these leaks shows that the hypothesis of non-unitary projection, entertained by CI and even MWI for each particular branch, is false.

Cristi Stoica

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Lawrence B Crowell replied on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 20:20 GMT

As I indicated earlier there might be some connection with cosmology. If the universe is a closed 3-sphere there would then be some change in the energy in the spacetime cosmology. If it is flat and a pure dS spacetime there is no definition for energy in the spacetime (the space being R^3 and unbounded) so there is no meaning to saying there is any leaking on a global basis. I am not sure what this says either way about some putative test for this locally.

In the case of the pure dS spacetime it appears likely there is no leaking. If no leaking is found then this seems to indicate that wave function collapse is unreal. In the case of MWI the overall universe is still unitary and the appearance of being carried along on some “eigen-branch” of the universe is then a sort of epiphenomenology of consciousness. It is then some sort of illusion; it is an illusion generated by this illusion called consciousness.

I doubt there is any way that any quantum interpretation can be verified. To be honest I think that quantum mechanics troubles us because this 1.6kg brain of ours is unable to reconcile our intuitive sense of reality with QM. The brain is unable to visualize four dimensions as well. Quantum interpretations are attempts to get around this problem, and it may be a physics example of trying to square the circle.


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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 20:49 GMT

" The brain is unable to visualize four dimensions as well."

Or it could be the other way; We frame everything from the perspective of this point in space our brain occupies. What is three dimensional space, other then the xyz coordinate system we use to reference space from a center point, ie, our own perspective, then add the narrative timeline to model the course of events this singular point of view encounters.

What if we tried a decentralized principle as basis for our model? For one thing, there would likely be multiple references moving about and boundaries would tend to be horizon lines of effectiveness. So thermodynamics and entropy might have precedence over vectors, events and other narrative functions. The multiple timelines would be a tapestry of interlocking relations, rather than any singular process.

Who is to say consciousness isn't more of a field effect anyway and its just our human drive and focus on detail that makes it seem that concentration is the cause of consciousness and not just an effect?

Not to argue, but just trying to step even further back and question some of your premises, to see if they hold.


John M

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Cristinel Stoica replied on Aug. 22, 2013 @ 08:22 GMT
Lawrence, John,

Maybe after several millions of generations of physicists, some mutations will appear, making us able to visualize 4D spacetime, and the quantum. Maybe those future X-men will be able to leap among the parallel universes in MWI. But until then, they can try quantum suicide. Darwin's law will act to select those with better understanding of QM ;)

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Peter Warwick Morgan wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 11:51 GMT
If there are multiverses that "trade" energy, then it would seem that they are parts of a single universe. I'm happy for people to have in their heads as many multiverses that are completely unobservable --no interactions!no trades!-- as they like, however Physics prizes for unobservables would seem unlikely.

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 15:45 GMT
The de Sitter cosmology has a constant vacuum energy which induces through negative pressure the accelerated expansion of the observable universe. This then means any finite volume element in the universe will as it expands increase the amount of energy in that volume. If the spacetime is pure de Sitter then the spatial surface of the universe is infinite in extent and flat. This means the...

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Thomas Howard Ray wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 17:07 GMT
Zeeya & Brendan -- excellent as usual.

You make me want to go and reread Frank Wilczek's *The Lightness of Being* as I am reminded that the theorists I most admire are exceedingly subtle thinkers (not malicious ;-) )

I'll have to think a little deeper -- though I am compelled off the top of my head to agree with Peter Morgan. Though I am a supporter of the multiverse hypothesis in principle, I can't get my mind around the energy exchange component. It would seem to violate Wheeler's "the boundary of a boundary is zero" principle. Looking forward to a lively discussion here.

Note to Brendan: Stop annoying that cat! Don't you know that it's a cat's god-given right to annoy *us*? :-)

And I want to add a p.s. -- the piece on neutrino oscillation sparked something in my memory. It was the 2007 article by Joy Christian that proposed to test his notion of "Heracletean relativity" using neutrino oscillations. Equation 60 really interests me. I thought it was a great paper, and I hope we see a separate article here on the current neutrino research.

All best,


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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 23, 2013 @ 14:03 GMT
I got around to reading Frank Wilczek's (very straightforward and well written) note with the mathematical details. Yes, I now understand how the "boundary of the boundary" problem is obviated in the Hilbert space by the operator map, big-O --> H in assuming no time dependence of the Hamiltonian H on the Hilbert space evolution of operators.

While I'm not one of those who believe the...

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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 18:40 GMT
Thanks Tom! I shall look at Joy's paper too -- I love ideas about "becoming".

You ain't getting me in no box
Don't worry too much about Puffy, he can take care of himself, I think. This is the alternative photo Brendan wanted to use, which he says captures Puffy's true nature.

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Thomas Howard Ray replied on Aug. 21, 2013 @ 19:42 GMT
LOL! Love the caption, too. :-)

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Eckard Blumschein wrote on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 07:05 GMT
I was disappointed that Frank Wilczek did not react when someone asked him to comment on an earlier essay of mine, and I acknowledge his own ideas as easily understandable:

Asymptotic freedom is a phenomenon whereby quarks behave as free particles when they are close together, but become more strongly attracted to each other as the distance between them increases. Guericke did just not yet have rubber bands as to illustrate the motion of planets.

Wilczek's recent remarks on the many worlds is also very appealing, at least on the first glimpse. Nonetheless, I see the huge uncountable amount of Hugh Everett's universes pointless or more strictly speaking measureless in a mathematical sense. The irrational numbers pi, 2 pi, 3 pi, etc. constitute a world parallel to the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, etc. See the first endnote of my 2013 essay.

As Wilczek made clear, all parallel universes are located in the same space.


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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 24, 2013 @ 16:42 GMT

Maybe we should more fully consider what space is. The idea of three dimensions comes from the xyz coordinate system and that references the zero point at the center. Each of us is the center point of our world, experiencing a narrative sequence of events, yet we all occupy this joint space. Has physics simply gone in a big conceptual circle and come back to where we are?

Sometimes, when we look in the mirror, we see a stranger.


John M

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Eckard Blumschein replied on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 04:33 GMT
John M,

Wilczek wrote: "... mutually inaccessible (decoherent) worlds, both made of the same materials, and both occupying the same space."

I agree, Cartesian coordinate systems imply to arbitrarily choose redundancy. Even if we consider the reference point x = y = z = 0 naturally given by a point attributed to a first object under consideration, natural angular orientation of the system in space requires a second point and a third point. The necessity to choose three points of concern does likewise hold for spherical coordinates which are also orthogonal to each other. Orthogonal means mutually inaccessible.

However, the radial distance in spherical coordinates is always positive as also is elapsed time, and the values of the belonging angles are finite. We should be aware that the added by Descartes redundancy made mathematical treatment easier but did NOT add more diversity to physical reality.

I am deeply disappointed that even rather intelligent people like Wilczek are not ready to swallow the consequences.



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John Brodix Merryman replied on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 10:54 GMT

That would require going back and like with time reversibility, it doesn't work in group dynamics for any one individual to change course. So you have to wait for the wave to peak and then it will start going the other way. You know the wave is peaking when it's all foam and bubbles and no upward momentum. Physicists are subject to physics.


John M

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Wilhelmus de Wilde de Wilde wrote on Aug. 25, 2013 @ 16:24 GMT
"Leaking energy" implies that we are talking about universes that are "existing", with all energy and mass that come along with our three plus one dimensional perception of causal universes. This also means that there would be a "border" between those universes where "energy" could leak, which implies that the so called "parallel" universes are ordered like numbers, three after two and two after three. This causal way is the only one possible to let leak energy from one to the other.

Or even going further : imagine an infinite amount of universes around our own, this would mean that the sphere of our universe is infinite too, so the limit of our universe where the "leak" takes place is NEVER observable, because eit is at an infinite distance and light signals will never reach us...

It is better not to think of "parallel" universe but of "available" universes, this amount is also infinite but does not need the energy nor the mass that comes with the creation of parallel universes at every Planck time and Planck length (when and where differences are created).

The theory of "availability" is described in my essays "REALITIES OUT OF TOTAL SIMULTANEITY" (topic 913) "THE CONSCIOUSNESS CONNECTION" (topic 1370) and my latest essay : "THE QUEST FOR THE PRIMAL SEQUENCE".


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Anton Lorenz Vrba wrote on Sep. 15, 2013 @ 17:19 GMT
"From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step" said Napoleon.

It is time for Physics to admit it is bankrupt, and bold new steps are needed forward, Neil Turok of the Perimeter Institute admits this. He said "There've been grand unified models, there've been super-symmetric models, super-string models, loop quantum-gravity models...Well, nature turns out to be simpler than all of these models."

With regard to string theory, Turok said "It's the ultimate catastrophe: that theoretical physics has led to this crazy situation where the physicists are utterly confused and seem not to have any predictions at all."

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