Book: “Visions of the Multiverse”

Many physicists believe that our universe is just one of many universes out there in a grander multiverse.

Dr. Steven Manly talks about these concepts in his book Visions Of the Multiverse published in 2011.

With good diagrams and printed in decent size print that is not small, the book is not intimidating to read. The humorous chapter titles such as “Of Boxer Shorts and Charmed Quarks” and “A Case of Cosmic Acne” make it light-hearted as well. The book is written for the general public and no technical expertise is expected.

Dr. Manly knows how to teach and make good use of ample analogies. He was named New York State Professor of the Year in 2003 and awarded the Excellence in undergraduate Teaching Award in 2007. Dr. Manly studied at Columbia University and taught at Yale and at University of Rochester. He also performs experiments at high-energy accelerators around the world.

In the first few chapters, Manly gives a good basic overview of the foundations of physics including Newtonian physics, Einsteins relativity, Maxwell’s equations, and quantum mechanics. This will provide the background for the discussion of multiverse.

Important topics covered includes the Standard Model with its zoo of elementary particles such as quarks, leptons, and gauge bosons. You will learn about terms with sometimes funny names such as WIMPs, gluons, Zino, and Wino. For example, charm is one flavor of quarks. Physicists are still looking for the Higgs boson. It is almost like learning a new language.

You get an idea of what Feynman diagrams looks like. Some physicists can be quite interesting characters. Richard Feynman was one such physicists. In fact Feynman himself wrote a somewhat autobiographical book called “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character)

What also makes the book interesting is that Dr. Manly provides several anecdotes about various interesting people in physics. One such anecdote is about Feynman (which I won’t go into here). Manly even throws in a joke about two atoms walking down the road.

No discussion of quantum mechanics will be complete with at least talking about the Copenhagen Interpretation and Schrodinger’s cat. I don’t believe Schrodinger had a cat. But even if he did, that would not have been the cat that we are referring to. Because Schrodinger’s cat is just a thought experiment. And you will learn what that is about in the book.

Another interpretation of quantum mechanics is the “many worlds” interpretation. Now we are starting to get into the realm of multiverse.

He not only explains the concept of multiverse, but the different types of multiverses. In particular, the appendix lists the different interpretations of the multiverse as well as Tegmark’s taxonomy of the different level of multiverse.

To give you a sense of multiverse, let’s look at Tegmark’s Level I multiverse, or what Manly calls “beyond-the-horizon multiverse”. We now know that our universe is flat and is expanding. Not only that. Our universe is expanding faster and faster. Conceivably, space can expand faster than the speed of light. You may have heard that nothing travels through space faster than speed of light. This is true. But we are not talking about something traveling through space. We are talking about space itself expanding. And it can expand faster than the speed of light. What that means is that there are parts of space that we can never access because they are so far away that even light can never reach us even if we wait forever. If we define our universe as what we can access, then those other disconnected regions of space which we can never access can be considered different universes.

Tegmark’s Level II multiverse are like “bubble multiverse” caused by cosmic inflation. Each bubble universe contains within it many “beyond-the-horizon” universes.

Another type of multiverse that a physicist named Lee Smolin came up with is the “fecund multiverse” where universes are born inside black holes through a mechanism involving quantum gravity. These universes are totally disconnected from the universe that contains the black holes — as nothing can come back out of a black-hole’s event horizon. (Although Steven Hawkings no longer thinks this is true and hence does not believe that baby universes can branch off from within a black hole. [ref] )

Other types of universe comes about through string theory involving multi-dimensions, branes, and M-theory. If you have never heard of string theory, the book provides a historic overview of it.

As of this writing, we do not know which of these ideas are correct yet. And they are not easy to test (as you can imagine). But they are ideas that are brandied about by physicists.

For those who are hearing some of the ideas for the first time, they may think the idea of multiple universes and parallel realities as science fiction. But the ideas are grounded in the mathematics.

On the back cover it says …

“The idea of a multiple universe reality is no longer considered speculative or implausible by many physicists; rather, it is deemed inescapable.”

Although there are still debates among physicists, many physicists do believe that multiple universes are a possibility. And some physicists are going further to say that it must be the case. The mathematics are telling them so.

Steven Manly closes in the last chapter with an final anecdote. Martin Rees, Professor of cosmology and astrophysics at the University of Cambridge, is so confident in the the belief of the multiverse that he was willing to bet his dog’s life on it. Andrei Linde, professor at Stanford University who is into inflationary cosmology, is even more confident in that his is willing to bet his own life on it. Upon hearing of these two bets, Steven Weinberg is only willing to bet both Andre Linde and Martin Rees’s dog on it.

Other Books on Multiverse

Perhaps one book by itself is not convincing enough to make one believe in some of the ideas. So, here are more books written by other notable physicists who tells of similar concepts.

The Hidden Reality by Brian Greene


Parallel Worlds by Michio Kaku.

are just two that come to mind. But I’m sure there are others. Like Visions of the Multiverse, these books are non-fiction books (not science fiction) that can open your mind to new ideas about our universe and the possibility of other universes besides ours.


This article was written in February 2011. Author of this article have received complimentary book from publisher, and may receive compensation from the links and display ads within content of article.