The Cosmic Apple
© 1988 by Joseph Kerrick
Since the early decades of the Twentieth Century, the science of physics has been schismatically split between the theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity. The turf covered by each has been a separate arena, a self-consistent matrix of hypotheses, many of which have been experimentally verified. The problem is that the two great master-theories do not seem to mesh together, either conceptually or experimentally ~ and mathematically they have been shown to actually exclude one another. This quandary has since the time of Einstein generated an ongoing, and to date unsuccessful, effort to create a unified field theory that would resolve the loggerhead.
Western science itself is based on a process of reducing all phenomena to their smallest discernible components, then examining these pieces and trying to work out the relations between them. It sometimes seems to more intuitively or holistically-oriented people that some of the great unsolved anomalies of science must surely be symptoms of this deliberate but myopic fragmentation. Science fiction, for instance, has concocted many a great entertainment out of the idea of parallel universes ~ a multitude of worlds that exist in the same space and time as our own but are nevertheless separate and invisible. Extra dimensions of space-time are often used to explain the mystery of the existence of these hidden worlds, and in fact the terms "parallel worlds" and "other dimensions" are often used interchangeably. To a mind that hones itself on such science-fictional lore, it therefore comes as a great puzzlement to discover that present-day theoretical physics has somehow managed to sever these two concepts into separate abstractions, each one championed by an opposite branch of the two unreconciled schools of the science.
The possibility of parallel universes, or "multiple worlds" as they're referred to generically in the literature of physics, has in recent years been proposed as a solution to the old quantum conundrum of Schrödinger's cat, wherein an equation yields a result in which a cat comes out of an experiment dead and alive at the same time. Obviously, if the cat inhabited "two simultaneous, noninteracting, but equally real worlds" (this is quoted from a paper in a physics journal) ~ or even more than two ~ the contradiction would be resolved. Since this hypothesis was first broached, the math pads of quantum physicists have blossomed with literally infinite numbers of multiple worlds.
The curious thing is that none of these theorists seem to think that their newly-descried multiple worlds have anything to do with other dimensions ~ indeed, for that idea is safely pigeonholed across the corridor in relativity physics.
In 1919 a mathematician named Theodor Koluza proposed to Einstein a novel and disturbingly elegant solution to Einstein's equations that hinged on the existence of a fifth dimension of space-time. Einstein was sufficiently impressed to work with the hypothesis for some time in his finally unsuccessful effort to construct a unified field theory. Other physicists, however, rejected Koluza's idea on the grounds that it profoundly violated not only common sense but the whole structural matrix of the world as envisioned by science. If there is a fifth dimension, they asked, why can't we sense it? Why can't our instruments detect or measure it? And there the matter lay.
The latest hot contender in the quest for the unified field is a theory called "superstrings". Its proponents ply both sides of the great divide, working with general relativity theory as well as quantum mechanics. The math of superstrings presents a ten-dimensional universe, and answers the poser ~ what happened to the extra dimensions? ~ by stating that they "cracked away" from our familiar four dimensions during the first moments of creation, and have since shrunk into an entity billions of times smaller than the nucleus of an atom. In other words, the extra dimensions of superstring theory simply do not impinge upon us or our world in any significant way; they are so miniscule that there is certainly no room in them for multiple worlds on anything like a human scale.
What I would like to propose is a model of the cosmos that, while it may not satisfy all the demands of a unified field theory, will at least resolve the obvious howler of the physicists' separation of multiple worlds from extra dimensions, and show how this unified concept does in fact result in a multiverse of parallel worlds very similar to the realms long dreamt of in science fiction.
The best lights of modern cosmology give us a picture of a universe that began with the Big Bang and burgeoned outward, an expansion that will one day reverse, if space holds a great enough density of matter. At that point the universe will begin to collapse back in on itself, or, as alternatively described, the galaxies will go 'round the curve in space and begin to reconverge, a process that will end in the Big Crunch.
The entire series of events can be schematically illustrated on the skin of an apple ~ preferably the variety of delicious apple that has thin yellow lines and speckles radiating from the top where the stem attaches, all the way down to the bottom. Look directly at the top of the apple and you will see a picture of the Big Bang ~ the splotch of yellow in the stem-pit shooting out rays, which here and there "condense" into tiny speckle-galaxies. These galaxies float down the surface of the apple till they reach its equator. Rounding this "curve in space", they finally reconverge in the little mound of fuzz at the bottom of the apple, called the fontanelle, which stands for the Big Crunch.
This model of the universe (Figure 1) is very exact. The two-dimensional curved surface of the apple represents the four-dimensional space-time continuum. Time moves from its beginning in the Big Bang to its end in the Big Crunch ~ from the top to the bottom of the apple.
Some physicists theorize that the Big Crunch will be the ultimate black hole, sucking all the matter
and energy of the universe into its singularity; and likewise, that the Big Bang was the apotheosis of all white holes, spewing forth the cosmos itself. The hypothetical formation linking a black to a white hole is
a structure called an Einstein-Rosen bridge (Fig. 2). [Note: at the time of writing, this had not yet become popularly known as a "wormhole".] In our model, the core of the apple is the Einstein-Rosen bridge (Fig. 3), through which the matter and energy of the collapsed universe is funnelled back out into a new creation by means of a new Big Bang; or possibly funnelled back into the past to re-emerge as the original Big Bang, in which case the same universe repeats itself. Either way, the model is of an infinitely cyclic creation.
The dynamic of the flow of time is clarified in Figure 4. At any given moment, the universe is represented by a latitudinal line of galaxies, with the equator of the apple being the point of maximum expansion of the universe. The galaxies recede from one another until they reach the equator, then begin to move closer together as the universe shrinks. The Universe Apple, as thus described, is a complete model of our four-dimensional cosmos, as known by present-day science. As noted earlier, however, there are serious unresolved anomalies in this current scientific paradigm, and hence there
must be elements of existence beyond the apple. In seeking to broaden our scope, therefore, let us resort
to a larger apple.
Our entire four-dimensional universe is represented as a mere one-dimensional curved line of longitude on the surface of the Multiverse Apple (Fig. 5). There are many such lines, and in fact their number is potentially infinite, just as any sphere contains an infinite number of meridians. Every meridian on the apple symbolizes a whole universe running its course from the Big Bang at the top to the Big Crunch at the bottom. Thus we have a Multiverse of literally parallel worlds.
To indicate a relation between two of these universes anywhere except at their two points of convergence, we use a straight line perpendicualr to the two meridians (Fig. 6). Drawn on the surface of an ordinary apple, it represents the second dimension that exists between the two one- dimensional lines of longitude, the slice of skin between these two neat cuts in the apple. On the skin of the Multiverse Apple, it shows that there is a fifth dimension in the relation between the two four-dimensional meridians. If the line is extended around the apple (Fig. 7), it forms a complete parallel of latitude, indicating that the whole skin of the
apple is a fifth dimension of space- time. Furthermore, the apple taken as a solid is a six-dimensional object.
In this way, by simple analogy of the lesser apple to the greater (a three-dimensional delicious apple to the six-dimensional Multiverse Apple), our model uses the basic
laws of geometry to clarify the relationships to a number of elements already recognized by theoretical physics, and thus presents a concept of extra dimensions that may well have some substance in actual reality. This reality would hold many surprises for human beings conditioned to believe that they only
live in four dimensions, but none of these strange "new" aspects of existence are inconsistent with the discoveries and ideas of Twentieth-Century physics. Physics just hasn't envisioned all the implications yet.
One thing that's clearly implied by such a great (and possibly infinite) number of parallel universes is that the ones close to our own on the Multiverse Apple will be similar enough to our familiar world to contain many of the same people, places, objects, and events. Here is where all the alter egos of Schrödinger's cat hang out, half of them dead and half of them alive. In short, we have now constructed a theoretical matrix, a map showing the precise location in space-time of the multiple worlds whose existence is indicated by the equations of the quantum physicists. This can be grasped by accomodating ourselves to the concept of a fifth dimension of parallel worlds stretched out on either side of us, like when we stand between opposing mirrors and observe multiple receding images of ourselves in both directions, as far as the eye can see.
The question was raised: why can't we perceive these alternate realities? The answer is that perhaps we can. Perhaps the intimate experience of the fifth dimension has always been a basic feature of human existence, and we just haven't recognized it as such, any more than we thought of time as a fourth dimension until Einstein came along.
Almost everyone is familiar with déjà vu, which can be described very precisely: a person finds him (or her)self in a certain situation or event, and suddenly experiences a sense of REMEMBERING that he's lived through it before, even though he knows this is logically impossible ~ or it would be, if the universe had only four dimensions. But on the five-dimensional surface of the Multiverse Apple, we can see that déjà vu is actually a sudden opening to perception of the universe next door. The experience is not at all illogical if the person can accept that he has a whole parallel existence, from birth to death, in this other world ~ and not only one, but many of them. What he "remembers" in the déjà vu is the exact same situation or event happening to one of his parallel selves at the corresponding point in the time-line of that universe.
Other phenomena that can be construed as five-dimensional include some (or all) experiences that carry a sense of great depth or intensity or passion. If at some fateful moment of his life, a person is called on to perform an act of great consequence to himself and others, he may pick up a sort of peripheral image of many hands moving in unison with his own as he makes a decisive gesture, of many reflections of himself going far into the depths of the fifth-dimensional mirror, of a whole battalion of selves lending their will to this endeavor. As I say, it's a feeling of depth, or perhaps of weight ~ in contrast to the light, heedless feeling of inconsequential actions of the usual sort, which presumably are not performed in synchrony with our parallel selves.
There are other experiences accessible to humans, involving an apparent expansion of apperception on a grand scale, when all phenomena seem to meld into one, or perhaps into a white light. It could be speculated that such an event is a brief glimpse into the sixth dimension of space-time, a tiny bite into the flesh of the cosmic apple.