The cosmos is perfectly fine-tuned for our existence. Professor Donald Page has calculated the odds against the fundamental physics of our Universe being just the way it is as 1 part in 101240. The slightest variation in any of the physical constants of our Universe would make it impossible for life to even get started.

These odds are so astronomically unlikely that if you were to write a zero on every fundamental particle in existence, you still wouldn’t get anywhere near writing out the number in full. In fact, it would be physically impossible to write such a number in numerical form because it would require more space than the known Universe occupies.

Page based his calculation on the precise order and functioning of the four fundamental forces – gravity, electromagnetism and strong and weak nuclear. Alongside the precise rate of expansion following the Big Bang which allowed all matter to develop, the perfect balancing of the opposite charges of electrons and protons enable all solid bodies to develop. If any of these forces were only slightly altered, galaxies and star systems would not have formed, let alone any form of life (biological or otherwise) within those systems.

The famous astrophysicist, Michael Turner, likens the precision of the physical constants of our Universe to, “the precision of throwing a dart across the entire Universe and hitting a bulls-eye one millimetre in diameter on the other side.”

This is the power of anthropic reasoning, that our Universe is such a remarkable stroke of luck, a chance event that has given birth to a conscious realisation of the Universe manifested in creatures such as ourselves. It has given rise to powerful and intuitive arguments for the existence of creator gods, of divine providence and hubristic geocentrism located at the centre of the cosmos. It certainly seems reasonable to conclude that we humans are something extraordinarily special when we look around and view our entire plane of existence as an event that (by any reasonable stretch of the imagination) just should not have happened. But of course, anyone lucky enough to find themselves in a Universe that supports conscious life would probably be consciously thinking exactly the same thing…

Clearly, a Universe possessing the precise physical constants necessary for our existence is a given when we actually exist in it. The question is how this might have happened. A recent theory has emerged which not only accounts for these precise physical constants and initial conditions, but is also consistent with the inflationary model and current expansion phase of the Universe. Moreover, it is one of the very few cosmological theories that can actually explain the origin of the Big Bang prior to its singularity – an enigma which still plagues theoretical physics. It is known as ‘M-Theory’, and posits the existence of eleven dimensions (10 space, and 1 time). It describes the Universe as a ‘three-dimensional bubble’ that coexists in an ‘ocean of infinite bubbles’, each one floating along in ‘eleven dimensional hyperspace’. Of course, given that the theory allows for an infinite number of Universes, the existence of Universes such as ours (with its precise physical conditions) are also infinite.

According to M-theory, the big bang is the aftermath of a collision between two of these bubbles (Universes). Speaking on BBC’s Horizon, eminent physicists Burt Ovrut, Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok note how these ‘collisions’ act like great ‘cosmic waves’ that crash into one another in higher dimensional space. These wave-like collisions then leave a lasting residue in the form of ‘ripples’, which themselves produce all the ‘matter, radiation and effects’ of the early Universe, as well as driving its initial expansion. Indeed, speaking on the same programme, renowned theoretical physicist, Michio Kaku, claims that, “big bangs probably take place all the time,” in the, “eleventh dimension,” of hyperspace.

M-theory is not uncontroversial. Forming physical theories about entities to which the physics of this Universe may not apply is, undoubtedly, a fragile process. Yet, it’s an amazing thought: that before we have even detected other life forms in our Universe, we may actually have already detected the presence of another, entirely different, Universe in the eternal backwaters of hyperspace. We are certainly living in exciting times, with profound changes in our commonsensical notion of reality waiting just around the corner. Brace yourselves for the mind-warping space adventures that lie ahead.

Joel Hickman

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