In recent years there have been many claims made for “evidence” of a multiverse, supposedly found in the CMB data (see for example here). Such claims often came with the remark that the Planck CMB data would convincingly decide the matter. When the Planck data was released two months ago, I looked through the press coverage and through the Planck papers for any sign of news about what the new data said about these multiverse evidence claims. There was very little there; possibly the Planck scientists found these claims to be so outlandish that it wasn’t worth the time to look into what the new data had to say about them. One exception was this paper, where Planck looked for evidence of “dark flow”. They found nothing, and a New Scientist article summarized the situation:
“The Planck team’s paper appears to rule out the claims of Kashlinsky and collaborators,” says David Spergel of Princeton University, who was not involved in the work. If there is no dark flow, there is no need for exotic explanations for it, such as other universes, says Planck team member Elena Pierpaoli at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “You don’t have to think of alternatives.”
One of those promoting the idea that “dark flow” was evidence for a multiverse was Mersini-Houghton, who in a 2008 paper with Holman wrote:
Our contention, then, is that these observations of bulk flow can be construed as evidence for the birth of the universe from the landscape multiverse imprinted on the superhorizon sized nonlocal quantum entanglement between our horizon patch and others that began from the landscape. When we calculate the size of the induced dipole in our theory and convert it into a bulk velocity dispersion, we will see that for the constrained values of our parameters we arrive at a velocity dispersion of order 670 km/sec, remarkably close to the observed value of 700 km/sec.
One might think that the refutation of their prediction by the Planck data would be a problem. Instead though, the Sunday Times reported a few days ago that Scientists believe they have found the first evidence that other universes exist. The story got picked up by other news outlets, and appeared in the Daily Mail as “The first ‘hard evidence’ that other universes exist has been found by scientists”. The source for the story was Mersini-Houghton:
Laura Mersini-Houghton, theoretical physicist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Richard Holman, professor at Carnegie Mellon University, predicted that anomalies in radiation existed and were caused by the pull from other universes in 2005.
Now that she has studied the Planck data, Dr Mersini-Houghton believes her hypothesis has been proven.
Her findings imply there could be an infinite number of universes outside of our own.
She said: ‘These anomalies were caused by other universes pulling on our universe as it formed during the Big Bang.
‘They are the first hard evidence for the existence of other universes that we have seen.’
She will be in Britain soon promoting this at the Hay Festival on May 31 and at Oxford on June 11.
According to a New Scientist story just out, this hard evidence for the multiverse should be welcomed, since it (together with string theory) has just been shown to have the power to save us from “Legions of disembodied brains floating in deep space”. The story, which appeared in print as String Theory Limits Space Brain Threat starts with
LEGIONS of disembodied brains floating in deep space threaten to undermine our understanding of the universe. New mathematical modelling suggests string theory and its multiple universes may just provide our salvation – and that could win the controversial theory a few more backers.
It goes on to explain about Boltzmann brains and a recent paper by Bousso and Zukowski, and ends with news of yet another experimental success for string theory:
“This is potentially an added experimental success for string theory and eternal inflation,” says Daniel Harlow, a physicist at Princeton University. “We need to understand it better – [but] the fact that it potentially explains something is motivation to understand it better.”
Update: More here on how string theory will save us from the space brains.
Update: I’ve appended a response from Laura Mersini-Houghton and Richard Holman about this to a later posting, see here.