Mysterious force could determine whether life exists in multiverse

14 May 2018

Artistic impression of a multiverse. Image: Jaime Salcido/simulations by the EAGLE Collaboration

The multiverse theory has suggested the universe as being quite inhospitable to life, but new findings on dark energy help challenge this theory.

The multiverse theory – whereby our universe is just one of many universes out there – has gained considerable traction in recent years, in no small part due to the research undertaken by some of the world’s top physicists, including the late Stephen Hawking.

For decades, its very existence posed a major scientific challenge because it would make our universe – and every universe – very inhospitable for life to develop.

Future Human

The core of the problem lies in the existence of dark energy, a mysterious force believed to be accelerating the expansion of the universe, but existing theories predict more of this mysterious force than is observed.

If larger amounts were to be added, it has been predicted, it would cause such a rapid expansion that it would dilute matter before any stars, planets or life could form.

However, new research from a team of UK and Australian researchers has come to the conclusion that, actually, the opposite could be the case.

Due to be published in two related papers in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the team used powerful computer modelling to see what would happen if more dark energy was added in our own universe, up to a few hundred times the amount observed.

Dark energy as a lottery

The results showed that, in fact, only a modest impact was seen on star and planet formation, opening up the prospect that life could be possible throughout a wider range of other universes, if they do indeed exist.

Dr Luke Barnes of Western Sydney University said: “The multiverse was previously thought to explain the observed value of dark energy as a lottery – we have a lucky ticket and live in the universe that forms beautiful galaxies which permit life as we know it.

“Our work shows that our ticket seems a little too lucky, so to speak. It’s more special than it needs to be for life. This is a problem for the multiverse; a puzzle remains.”

The team added that the results were unexpected given the existing multiverse theory, casting doubt on the ability of the theory of a multiverse to explain the observed value of dark energy.

In fact, the findings show we should be seeing more than 50 times the amount of dark energy we currently see in the universe, and that the current, much lower levels suggest that an as yet undiscovered law of nature is in play.

The search continues.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic