[Homestead] Escape from a dying universe, reconstituting population in a parallel universe

tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Sat Jan 29 10:18:50 EST 2005


Not your average home schooling/unschooling education, folks---this sort 
of research would have to take place in a giant collective with almost 
unimaginable resources.


Issue 107 / February 2005

Escape from the universe

The universe is destined to end. Before it does, could an advanced 
civilisation escape via a "wormhole" into a parallel universe? The idea 
seems like science fiction, but it is consistent with the laws of 
physics and biology. Here's how to do it

Michio Kaku
The author is professor of theoretical physics at City University of New 
York. This article is adapted from his book "Parallel Worlds" (Allen Lane)
------------------------------------------------------------------------

The universe is out of control, in a runaway acceleration. Eventually 
all intelligent life will face the final doom—the big freeze. An 
advanced civilisation must embark on the ultimate journey: fleeing to a 
parallel universe.


In Norse mythology, Ragnarok—the fate of the gods—begins when the 
earth is caught in the vice-like grip of a bone-chilling freeze. The 
heavens themselves freeze over, as the gods perish in great battles with 
evil serpents and murderous wolves. Eternal darkness settles over the 
bleak, frozen land as the sun and moon are both devoured. Odin, the 
father of all gods, finally falls to his death, and time itself comes to 
a halt.


Does this ancient tale foretell our future? Ever since the work of Edwin 
Hubble in the 1920s, scientists have known that the universe is 
expanding, but most have believed that the expansion was slowing as the 
universe aged. In 1998, astronomers at the Lawrence Berkeley National 
Laboratory and the Australian National University calculated the 
expansion rate by studying dozens of powerful supernova explosions 
within distant galaxies, which can light up the entire universe. They 
could not believe their own data. Some unknown force was pushing the 
galaxies apart, causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. 
Brian Schmidt, one of the group leaders, said, "I was still shaking my 
head, but we had checked everything… I was very reluctant to tell 
people, because I truly thought that we were going to get massacred."


Physicists went scrambling back to their blackboards and realised that 
some "dark energy" of unknown origin, akin to Einstein's "cosmological 
constant," was acting as an anti-gravity force. Apparently, empty space 
itself contains enough repulsive dark energy to blow the universe apart. 
The more the universe expands, the more dark energy there is to make it 
expand even faster, leading to an exponential runaway mode.


In 2003, this astonishing result was confirmed by the WMAP (Wilkinson 
microwave anisotropy probe) satellite. Orbiting at a million miles from 
earth, this satellite contains two telescopes capable of detecting the 
faint microwave radiation which bathes the universe. It is so sensitive 
that it is able to photograph in exquisite detail the afterglow of the 
microwave radiation left over from the big bang, which is still 
circulating the universe. The WMAP satellite, in effect, gave us "baby 
pictures" of the universe when it was a mere 380,000 years old.


The WMAP satellite settled the long-standing question of the age of the 
universe: it is officially 13.7bn years old (to within 1 per cent 
accuracy). But more remarkably, the data showed that dark energy is not 
a fluke, but makes up 73 per cent of the matter and energy of the entire 
universe. To deepen the mystery, the data showed that 23 per cent of the 
universe consists of "dark matter," a bizarre form of matter which is 
invisible but still has weight. Hydrogen and helium make up 4 per cent, 
while the higher elements, you and I included, make up just 0.03 per 
cent. Dark energy and most of dark matter do not consist of atoms, which 
means that, contrary to what the ancient Greeks believed and what is 
taught in every chemistry course, most of the universe is not made of 
atoms at all.


As the universe expands, its energy content is diluted and temperatures 
eventually plunge to near absolute zero, where even atoms stop moving. 
One of the iron laws of physics is the second law of thermodynamics, 
which states that in the end everything runs down, that the total 
"entropy" (disorder or chaos) in the universe always increases. This 
means that iron rusts, our bodies age and crumble, empires fall, stars 
exhaust their nuclear fuel, and the universe itself will run down, as 
temperatures drop uniformly to near zero.


Charles Darwin was referring to this law when he wrote: "Believing as I 
do that man in the distant future will be a far more perfect creature 
than he now is, it is an intolerable thought that he and all other 
sentient beings are doomed to complete annihilation after such 
long-continued slow progress." And one of the most depressing passages 
in the English language was written by Bertrand Russell, who described 
the "unyielding despair" he felt when contemplating the distant future: 
"No fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought or feeling, can preserve a 
life beyond the grave… all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, 
all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are 
destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system; and the 
whole temple of man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the 
debris of a universe in ruins."


Russell wrote this passage in an era before space travel, so the death 
of the sun does not seem so catastrophic today—but the death of the 
entire universe seems inescapable. So on some day in the far future, the 
last star will cease to shine, and the universe will be littered with 
nuclear debris, dead neutron stars and black holes. Intelligent 
civilisations, like homeless people in rags huddled next to dying 
campfires, will gather around the last flickering embers of black holes 
emitting a faint Hawking radiation.


*String theory to the rescue?
*Although thermodynamics and cosmology point to the eventual death of 
all lifeforms in the universe, there is still one loophole. It is a law 
of evolution that, when the environment changes radically, life must 
adapt, flee or die. The first alternative seems impossible. The last is 
undesirable. This leaves us with one choice: leave the universe.


Although the concept of leaving our dying universe to enter another 
seems utterly mad, there is no law of physics forbidding entering a 
parallel universe. Einstein's general relativity theory allows for the 
existence of "wormholes" or gateways connecting parallel universes, 
sometimes called "Einstein-Rosen bridges." But it is still unknown 
whether quantum corrections make such a journey possible or not.


Although once considered a preposterous idea, the concept of the 
"multiverse"—that our universe coexists with an infinite number of 
parallel universes—has recently generated much interest among 
physicists from several directions. First, the leading theory consistent 
with the WMAP data is the "inflationary" theory, proposed by Alan Guth 
of MIT in 1979. It postulates a turbo-charged expansion of the universe 
at the beginning of time. The inflationary universe idea neatly explains 
several stubborn cosmological mysteries, including the flatness and 
uniformity of the universe.


But since physicists still do not know what drove this rapid 
inflationary process, there remains the chance that it could happen 
again, in an endless cycle. This is the chaotic inflationary idea of 
Andrei Linde of Stanford University, in which "parent universes" bud 
"baby universes" in a continuous, neverending cycle. Like soap bubbles 
which split into two smaller bubbles, universes can constantly sprout 
from other universes.


But what caused the big bang and drove this inflation? The question 
remains unanswered. Since the big bang was so intense, we have to 
abandon Einstein's theory of general relativity, which forms the 
underlying framework for all of cosmology. Einstein's theory of gravity 
breaks down at the instant of the big bang, and hence cannot answer the 
deep philosophical and theological questions raised by this event. At 
these incredible temperatures, we must incorporate quantum theory—the 
other great theory to emerge in the 20th century—which governs the 
physics of the atom.


Quantum theory and Einstein's relativity theory are opposites. The 
former governs the world of the very small, the peculiar subatomic realm 
of electrons and quarks. Relativity theory rules the world of the very 
large—of black holes and expanding universes. Relativity, therefore, 
is not suited to explaining the instant of the big bang, where the 
universe was smaller than a subatomic particle. At this moment we would 
expect radiation effects to dominate over gravity, and hence we need a 
quantum description of gravity. Indeed, one of the greatest challenges 
facing physics is to unify these theories into a single, coherent theory 
of all the forces in the universe.


Physicists today are groping for this "theory of everything." Many 
proposals have been made over the past half century, but all have been 
shown to be inconsistent or incomplete. So far, the leading—in fact, 
the only—candidate is string theory.


The latest incarnation of string theory, M-theory, may answer a question 
which has dogged advocates of higher dimensions for a century: where are 
they? Smoke can expand and fill up an entire room without vanishing into 
hyperspace, so higher dimensions, if they exist at all, must be smaller 
than an atom. If higher-dimensional space were larger than an atom, then 
we should see atoms mysteriously drifting and disappearing into a higher 
dimension, which we do not see in the laboratory.


In the older string picture, one had to "curl" or wrap up six of the ten 
original dimensions, leaving the four-dimensional universe of today. 
These unwanted dimensions were squeezed into a tiny ball (called a 
Calabi-Yau manifold) too small to be seen. But M-theory adds a new twist 
to this: some of these higher dimensions can be large, or even infinite, 
in size. Imagine two parallel sheets of paper. If an ant lived on each 
sheet, each would think that its sheet was the entire universe, unaware 
that there was another universe close by. In fact, the other universe 
would be invisible. Each ant would live out its life oblivious to the 
fact that another universe was only a few inches away. Similarly, our 
universe may be a membrane floating in 11-dimensional hyperspace, while 
we remain oblivious of the parallel universes hovering nearby.


One interesting version of M-theory cosmology is the "ekpyrotic" (from 
the Greek for "conflagration") universe, proposed by Paul Steinhardt, 
Burt Ovrut and Neil Turok. It assumes that our universe is a flat, 
infinite membrane floating in higher-dimensional space. But 
occasionally, gravity attracts a nearby membrane. These two parallel 
universes race towards each other until they collide, releasing a 
colossal amount of energy (the big splat). This explosion creates our 
known universe and sends the two parallel universes flying apart in 
hyperspace.


*Searching for higher dimensions
*The intense interest in higher dimensions generated by string theory 
has slowly spilled over into the world of experimental physics. Idle 
dinner-table chatter is being translated into multimillion-dollar 
physics experiments.


At the University of Colorado in Denver, the first experiment was 
conducted to search for the presence of a parallel universe, perhaps 
only a millimetre away. Physicists searched for tiny deviations from 
Newton's inverse square law for gravity. The light from a candle is 
diluted as it spreads out, decreasing at the inverse square of the 
distance of separation. Similarly, according to Newton's law, gravity 
also spreads out over space and decreases in the same way. But in a 
four-dimensional universe, there is more room for light or gravity to 
spread out, so they decrease at the inverse cube of the distance. Hence, 
by searching for tiny deviations from the inverse square law, one may 
pick up the presence of the fourth dimension.


Newton's inverse square law is so precise that it can guide our space 
probes throughout the solar system. But no one knows if it holds down to 
the millimetre level. At present, only null results have been found in 
these experiments. Other groups are searching for even smaller 
deviations. Physicists at Purdue University in Indiana are trying to 
test the law down to the atomic level, using nanotechnology.


Other avenues are also being explored. In 2007, the large hadron 
collider (LHC), capable of blasting subatomic particles with a colossal 
energy of 14 trillion electron volts (10 trillion times the energy found 
in a typical chemical reaction) will be turned on outside Geneva. The 
world's largest atom smasher, this huge machine, 27km in circumference, 
straddling the French-Swiss border, will probe into places 10,000 times 
smaller than a proton. Physicists expect to find an entire zoo of new 
subatomic particles not seen since the big bang.


Physicists predict that the LHC may create exotic particles like 
mini-black holes and supersymmetric particles, dubbed "sparticles," 
which would provide indirect evidence for string theory. In string 
theory, every particle has a super-partner. The partner of the electron 
is the "selectron," the partner of the quark is the "squark," and so on.


Furthermore, around 2012, the space-based gravity wave detector Lisa 
(laser interferometer space antenna) will be sent into orbit. Lisa will 
be able to detect the gravitational shockwaves emitted less than a 
trillionth of a second after the big bang. It will consist of three 
satellites circling the sun, connected by laser beams, making a huge 
triangle in space 5m km on each side. Any gravitational wave which 
strikes Lisa will disturb the lasers, and this tiny distortion will be 
picked up by instruments, signalling the collision of two black holes or 
the big bang aftershock itself. Lisa is so sensitive—it can measure 
distortions a tenth the diameter of an atom—that it may be able to 
test many of the scenarios being proposed for the pre-big bang universe, 
including string theory.


*Steps to leave the universe
*Unfortunately, the energy necessary to manipulate these higher 
dimensions, rather than just observe them, is far beyond anything 
available to us in the foreseeable future: 10^19 bn electron volts, or a 
quadrillion times the energy of the large hadron collider. To operate 
here one needs the technology of a super-advanced civilisation.


In order to organise a discussion of advanced extraterrestrial 
civilisations, astrophysicists often use the classification of Type I, 
II and III civilisations introduced by Russian astrophysicist Nikolai 
Kardashev in the 1960s, who ranked them by their energy consumption.


One might expect that a Type III civilisation, using the full power of 
its unimaginably vast galactic resources, would be able to evade the big 
freeze. The bodies of its citizens, for example, might be genetically 
altered and their organs replaced by computerised implants, representing 
a sophisticated merger of silicon and carbon technologies. But even 
these superhuman bodies would not survive the big freeze. This is 
because we define intelligence as the ability to process information. 
According to physics, all machines, whether they are computers, rockets, 
locomotives or steam engines, ultimately depend on extracting energy 
from temperature differences: steam engines, for example, work by 
extracting energy from boiling water. But information-processing, and 
hence intelligence, requires energy supplied by machines and motors, 
which will become impossible as temperature differences drop to zero. 
According to the laws of physics, in a uniformly cold universe where 
temperature differences do not exist, intelligence cannot survive.


But since the big freeze is probably billions to trillions of years 
away, there is time for a Type III civilisation to plot the only 
strategy consistent with the laws of physics: leaving this universe. To 
do this, an advanced civilisation will first have to discover the laws 
of quantum gravity, which may or may not turn out to be string theory. 
These laws will be crucial in calculating several unknown factors, such 
as the stability of wormholes connecting us to a parallel universe, and 
how we will know what these parallel worlds will look like. Before 
leaping into the unknown, we have to know what is on the other side. But 
how do we make the leap? Here are some of the ways.


/Find a naturally occurring wormhole
/An advanced civilisation which has colonised the galaxy may have 
stumbled during its past explorations upon exotic, primordial left-overs 
from the big bang. The original expansion was so rapid and explosive 
that even tiny wormholes might have been stretched and blown up into 
macroscopic size. Wormholes, cosmic strings, negative matter, negative 
energy, false vacua and other exotic creatures of physics may be relics 
left over from creation.


But if such naturally occurring gateways are not found, then the 
civilisation will have to take more complex and demanding steps.


/Send a probe through a black hole
/Black holes, we now realise, are plentiful; there is one lurking in the 
centre of our own milky way galaxy weighing about 3m solar masses. 
Probes sent through a black hole may settle some unsolved questions. In 
1963, the mathematician Roy Kerr showed that a rapidly spinning black 
hole will not collapse into a dot, but rather into a rotating ring, 
which is kept from collapsing by centrifugal forces.


All black holes are surrounded by an event horizon, or point of no 
return: passing through the event horizon is a one-way trip. 
Conceivably, two such black holes would be needed for a return trip. But 
to an advanced civilisation fleeing the big freeze, a one-way trip may 
be all that is required.


What happens if one falls through the Kerr ring is a matter for debate. 
Some believe that the act of entering the wormhole will close it, making 
it unstable. And light falling into the black hole would be 
blue-shifted, giving rise to the possibility that one might be fried as 
one passed into a parallel universe. No one knows for sure, so 
experiments must be done. This controversy heated up last year when 
Stephen Hawking admitted that he had made a mistake 30 years ago in 
betting that black holes gobble up everything, including information. 
Perhaps the information is crushed forever by the black hole, or perhaps 
it passes into the parallel universe on the other side of the Kerr ring. 
Hawking's latest thinking is that information is not totally lost. But 
no one believes that the final word on this delicate question has been 
spoken.


To gain further data on space-times which are stretched to breaking 
point, an advanced civilisation might create a black hole in slow 
motion. In 1939, Einstein analysed a rotating mass of stellar debris 
which was slowly collapsing under its own gravity. Although Einstein 
showed that this rotating mass would not collapse into a black hole, an 
advanced civilisation may duplicate this experiment in slow motion by 
collecting a swirling mass of neutron stars weighing less than about 3 
solar masses and then gradually injecting extra stellar material into 
the mass, forcing it to undergo gravitational collapse. Instead of 
collapsing into a dot, it will collapse into a ring, and hence allow 
scientists to witness the formation of a Kerr black hole in slow motion.


/Create negative energy
/If Kerr rings prove to be too unstable or lethal, one might also 
contemplate opening up wormholes via negative matter/energy. In 1988, 
Kip Thorne and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology 
showed that if one had enough negative matter or negative energy, one 
could use it to create a transversable wormhole—one in which you could 
pass freely back and forth between your lab and a distant point in space 
(and even time). Negative matter/energy would be sufficient to keep the 
throat of the wormhole open for travel.


Unfortunately, no one has ever seen negative matter. In principle, it 
should weigh less than nothing and fall up, rather than down. If it 
existed when the earth was created, it would have been repelled by the 
earth's gravity and drifted off into space.


Negative energy, however, has been seen in the laboratory in the form of 
the Casimir effect. Normally, the force between two uncharged parallel 
plates should be zero. But if quantum fluctuations outside the plates 
are greater than the fluctuations between the plates, a net compression 
force will be created. The fluctuations pushing the plates from the 
outside are larger than the fluctuations pushing out from within the 
plates, so these uncharged plates are attracted to each other.


This was first predicted in 1948 and measured in 1958. However, the 
Casimir energy is tiny—proportional to the inverse fourth power of the 
separation of the plates. To make use of the Casimir effect would 
require advanced technology to squeeze these parallel plates to very 
small separations. If one were to reshape these parallel plates into a 
sphere with a double lining, and use vast amounts of energy to press 
these spherical plates together, enough negative energy might be 
generated for the interior of the sphere to separate from the rest of 
the universe.


Another source of negative energy is laser beams. Pulses of laser energy 
contain "squeezed states," which contain negative as well as positive 
energy. The problem is separating the negative from the positive energy 
within the beam. Although this is theoretically possible, it is 
exceedingly difficult. If a sophisticated civilisation could do this, 
then powerful laser beams might generate enough negative energy for the 
sphere to peel from our universe.


Even black holes have negative energy surrounding them, near their event 
horizons. In principle, this may yield vast quantities of negative 
energy. However, the technical problems of extracting negative energy so 
close to a black hole are extremely tricky.


/Create a baby universe
/According to inflation, just a few ounces of matter might suffice to 
create a baby universe. This is because the positive energy of matter 
cancels out the negative energy of gravity. If the universe is closed, 
then they cancel out exactly. In some sense, the universe may be a free 
lunch, as Guth has emphasised. Strange as it may seem, it requires no 
net energy to create an entire universe. Baby universes are in principle 
created naturally when a certain region of space-time becomes unstable 
and enters a state called the "false vacuum," which destabilises the 
fabric of space-time. An advanced civilisation might do this 
deliberately by concentrating energy in a single region. This would 
require either compressing matter to a density of 10^80 g/cm3, or 
heating it to 10^29 degrees kelvin.


To create the fantastic conditions necessary to open up a wormhole with 
negative energy or to create a false vacuum with positive energy, one 
might need a "cosmic atom-smasher." Physicists are attempting to build 
"table-top" accelerators that can, in principle, attain billions of 
electron volts on a kitchen table. They have used powerful laser beams 
to attain an energy acceleration of 200bn electron volts per metre, a 
new record. Progress is rapid, with the energy growing by a factor of 
ten every five years. Although technical problems still prevent a true 
table-top accelerator, an advanced civilisation has billions of years to 
perfect these and other devices.


To reach the Planck energy (10^28 eV) with this laser technology would 
require an atom-smasher ten light years long, beyond the nearest star, 
which would be well within the technological capabilities of a Type III 
civilisation. Since the vacuum of empty space is better than any vacuum 
attainable on the earth, the beam of subatomic particles may not need 
light years of tubing to contain it; it could be fired in empty space. 
Power stations would have to be placed along the path in order to pump 
laser energy into the beam, and also to focus it.


Another possibility would be to bend the path into a circle so that it 
fits within the solar system. Gigantic magnets could be placed on 
asteroids to bend and focus the beam in a circular path around the sun. 
The magnetic field necessary to bend the beam would be so huge that the 
surge of power through the coils might melt them, meaning that they 
could only be used once. After the beam had passed, the melted coils 
would have to be discarded and replaced in time for the next pass.


/Build a laser implosion machine
/In principle, it might be possible to create laser beams of limitless 
power; the only constraints are the stability of the lasing material and 
the energy of the power source. In the lab, terawatt (trillion watt) 
lasers are now common, and petawatt (quadrillion watt) lasers are slowly 
becoming possible (in comparison, a commercial nuclear power plant 
generates only a billion watts of continuous power). One can even 
envisage an X-ray laser powered by the output of a hydrogen bomb, which 
would carry unimaginable power in its beam. At the Lawrence Livermore 
National Laboratory, a battery of lasers is fired radially on a small 
pellet of lithium deuteride, the active ingredient of a hydrogen bomb, 
in order to tame the power of thermonuclear fusion.


An advanced civilisation might create huge laser stations on the 
asteroids and then fire millions of laser beams on to a single point, 
creating vast temperatures and pressures unimaginable today.


/Send a nanobot to recreate civilisation
/If the wormholes created in the previous steps are too small, too 
unstable, or the radiation effects too intense, then perhaps we could 
send only atom-sized particles through a wormhole. In this case, this 
civilisation may embark upon the ultimate solution: passing an 
atomic-sized "seed" through the wormhole capable of regenerating the 
civilisation on the other side. This process is commonly found in 
nature. The seed of an oak tree, for example, is compact, rugged and 
designed to survive a long journey and live off the land. It also 
contains all the genetic information needed to regenerate the tree.


An advanced civilisation might want to send enough information through 
the wormhole to create a "nanobot," a self-replicating atomic-sized 
machine, built with nanotechnology. It would be able to travel at near 
the speed of light because it would be only the size of a molecule. It 
would land on a barren moon, and then use the raw materials to create a 
chemical factory which could create millions of copies of itself. A 
horde of these robots would then travel to other moons in other solar 
systems and create new chemical factories. This whole process would be 
repeated over and over again, making millions upon millions of copies of 
the original robot. Starting from a single robot, there will be a sphere 
of trillions of such robot probes expanding at near the speed of light, 
colonising the entire galaxy.


(This was the basis of the movie 2001, probably the most scientifically 
accurate fictional depiction of an encounter with an extraterrestrial 
lifeform. Instead of meeting aliens in a flying saucer or the USS 
Enterprise, the most realistic possibility is that we will make contact 
with a robot probe left on a moon from a passing Type III civilisation. 
This was outlined by scientists in the opening minutes of the film, but 
Stanley Kubrick cut the interviews from the final edit.)


Next, these robot probes would create huge biotechnology laboratories. 
The DNA sequences of the probes' creators would have been carefully 
recorded, and the robots would have been designed to inject this 
information into incubators, which would then clone the entire species. 
An advanced civilisation may also code the personalities and memories of 
its inhabitants and inject this into the clones, enabling the entire 
race to be reincarnated.


Although seemingly fantastic, this scenario is consistent with the known 
laws of physics and biology, and is within the capabilities of a Type 
III civilisation. There is nothing in the rules of science to prevent 
the regeneration of an advanced civilisation from the molecular level. 
For a dying civilisation trapped in a freezing universe, this may be the 
last hope.






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