To Create a Universe in a Lab

How mankind could create its own artificial multiverse

There are calculations which say the universe weighed 10 pounds (4.5 kg) and was no bigger than 10-²⁶ centimeters across before it stretched and sprawled into the great, heaving landscape we know of today. It’s strange to imagine that billions of fiery-tipped stars and billions of husky blue or rosy galaxies could emerge from such a negligible beginning — a point so small it was invisible to the naked eye and yet with enough weight to it that you could feel it pressing into the palms of your hands, encasing within that gaunt little area the necessary materials for the cosmos and all its ornaments. The Earth, too, being one of these ornaments and the eventual birthplace of toiling life. A vast and studded 46.5 billion lightyears of universe, and all of it possibly having weighed so little you could carry it in your arms.

This hot, dense point then underwent rapid expansion early on in its history. The inflation would have occurred due to repulsive gravity, a characteristic made possible by the laws of general relativity. But to create a universe artificially wouldn’t even require the initial 10 pounds of matter; just a hundred-thousandth of a gram would be enough to create an ever expanding universe similar to ours. The child universe would develop its own star systems and galaxies, having the ability itself to someday host intelligent life. The idea can seem absurd at first, though it’s become less so over the decades.

When it was first proposed in the late 1980’s by scientists Edward Farhi and Alan Guth, they considered the use of false-vacuum bubbles. False-vacuums in inflationary expansion describe positive, constant energy densities but negative pressure. Negative pressure from the false-vacuum is what creates a repulsive force that results in the ballooning effect of inflation. If a false-vacuum bubble of a specific size could be created, separated from the true vacuum by a thin wall, then this bubble would undergo inflation. From the outside it would appear to us as a black hole but beyond the event horizon would form this false-vacuum child universe that would eventually separate completely from our spacetime and become its own isolated world. This universe and our child universe would at first have been connected by a non-traversable wormhole which would eventually detach, like a “drop of rain from the gable of a window”. At this point, the child universe would be lost to us forever.

The problem of false-vacuum child universes isn’t that they require a black hole — any object condensed down far enough will become a black hole — but that they ask for an initial singularity, one that looks very much like a white hole. A white hole is the opposite of a black hole in that this region of space would emit an immense amount of matter and energy while allowing nothing to go inside it.

More modern approaches solve the problem of needing a singularity by making use of monopoles. Monopoles are particles with a single magnetic charge, unlike dipoles that have both a north and south magnetization. With the extremely heavy and energetic monopoles, north magnetization doesn’t necessarily entail a south magnetization and vice versa. This is, for us who have never observed them, like trying to imagine a coin with a tail but no head. Theoretical physicist Paul Dirac predicted that if even one monopole does exist then all electric charge would be quantized. This is exactly what we’ve observed. All electric charge is quantized. While there are many reasons why we may not yet have detected a magnetic monopole (sometimes called Dirac monopoles), finding or even creating them artificially could be a gateway to all new worlds.

Since an abundance of them seems to be lacking in the great voids of space around us, collisions between electrons and positrons could give rise to a monopole and anti-monopole pair. Further collisions with other particles would continue to build the monopole’s mass, leading to inflation. Inflation in monopoles would occur when its mass exceeds its charge. The monopole, in the creation of a new universe, would act as a kind of seed. As energy is diverted to it — possibly by accelerating it close to the speed of light — spacetime would bend and create a wormhole leading to an entirely new region of space, leaving just the mouth of a small and harmless black hole in our laboratory. This child universe would then behave a lot like the false-vacuum theory of the 1980’s in that a new bubble of cosmos would form and gradually pull away from this original plain of spacetime. In a paper by Arvind Borde and his colleagues they suggest that taking two regular monopoles and colliding them will result in a supercritical monopole that will then inflate to create a universe. On our end, amongst the sterile walls of our laboratories, we will be left staring at the smooth silken darkness of a black hole. We watch it shrink as it sheds particles, hiding behind its event horizon the beginnings of a whole new universe. And it shrinks and shrinks in the astounded silence. Then it’s gone.

There are many ethical questions involved with creating a cosmos. Once the child universe has begun its expansion and progression, we have little say in how it evolves or what happens to the life that may flourish therein. But that’s not to say that we can’t communicate with the new inhabitants whatsoever. Andrei Linde, one of the founding physicists behind inflationary cosmology, speculates that we could manipulate certain parameters of the universe to yield specific numbers. For example, the ratio of the electron’s mass to that of the proton’s. These would be the new world’s constants of nature just as we have what appear to be arbitrary numbers behind our own constants of nature. They serve as one of the few — if not the only — communication channel between our world and the new one.

Scientists today are working on calculations for the creation of new universes. However, the energies needed for monopole creation are well out of reach even for our most powerful and expensive machines. Child universes can result from temperatures of 1,000 trillion degrees. That’s out of range for us but perhaps not to a more advanced civilization. Impractical for the moment, they remain theoretically possible nonetheless — tasks for the technology of future decades.

But there’s a question which naturally follows the idea of universe creation: was there someone who created us?

 This doesn’t have to mean God but maybe a physicist in another world, or an intelligent life form that’s more advanced. Some researchers, like physicist Anthony Zee and his team out in California, are looking into the temperature variations of the CMB as a possible message from a creator. And as absurd-sounding as is the idea of creating a new universe or finding messages in the sky, we have a fairly absurd beginning ourselves.

If we’ve learned anything with our most successful theories of science it’s that what we experience and observe is only a fraction of what really exists. There are built-in restrictions to spacetime which leave us unaware of so much of what remains out there; out there in the alien terrain of space, and out there in the uncertainties of the future.

All Rights Reserved for Ella Alderson

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