Written by Lujain Al Mulla
After having it explained to me by a friend who also happens to be a mathematician, for reasons of inconsistency with universal laws of physics—conservation of energy and mass, the laws of motion, and some relatively advanced concepts I couldn’t completely grasp, yet nodded to in quasi-comprehension—a cosmological fancy I’ve always had was shattered into metaphorical subatomic particles that squirmed away in Brownian motion. I bit my lip and tried once more for a loophole, “So, you’re saying the notion is only unlikely, right?”
“No, Lujain,” he repeated kindly, “I’m saying it just isn’t possible.”
The idea we were debating was the proposed possibility of the existence of universes within universes. It has often been pondered upon that within the smallest particles that make up all that physically exists are universes not unlike our own, that share the same physical properties, but are too tiny to be detected presently, and perhaps never will be detected empirically by Earthly technology and its observational limitations. The conclusion comes about when one examines fundamental laws of physics and how they govern the behavior of all that ensues around us, applying both to the microscopic and macroscopic—a fractal scale. Take Logarithmic spirals, for instance. These spiral patterns occur in the smallest scale up to the grandest models, a progression commonly illustrated by comparing the spiraling of a nautilus shell, the swirling shape of a cyclone and the twisting arms of a spiral galaxy. Another such deliberation is that which juxtaposes the physical properties of a planetary system and the motion of subatomic particles; the merry-go-rounding of non-stellar objects, such as planets, about a focal point of gravity is reminiscent of the motion of electrons in an atom, circumnavigating a nucleus of neutrons and protons, and held close by an electromagnetic field. Electrons don’t exactly orbit a nucleus as the now outdated Bohr model romanticizes. Still, as we continue to relate the large-scale to the small-scale in the fashion of fractal physics, it is natural to suggest the theory of multiverses. Russian doll multiverses, I sometimes picture them to be. Imagine opening a Russian doll only to find a billion rosy-cheeked girls grinning at you with painted faces. You pick one out, splitting its halves, and shriek in panic as another billion of them scatter on the floor.
Let me elaborate on the immenseness of the scope of the proposition at hand. Take… anything. Take that painful protrusion of skin that grows right round the corners of your nail. You know that nasty little projection that no amount of biting can snip off? That skin is made up of molecules, correct? Imagine that inside a carbon atom bonded in a molecule that makes up the tip of this bothersome bit of human flesh is a subatomic particle containing a full-blown universe speckled with stars, comets, clouds of dust—the works! All the atoms that make up the molecules of your skin would, essentially, contain universes on an undetectable scale. Everything in this world, nay, this universe, would be made up of such microcosms. Consequently, you would move on down to the next quantum level of countless cosmoses within, so that if you penetrated into one of these femtometric universes, picked a random object shooting through its near-vacuum space, say, a terrestrial planet minding its own business, and penetrated the particles that swam in the lava of its spitting volcanoes, there, too, would you find universes within universes within universes. Ultimately, the idea proposes an infinitude of them.
Now, think outside the box—our own cosmic box. The same idea would apply on higher levels. Everything we know around us, all matter and non-matter, is, in theory, the innards of a particle that exists somewhere in external stellar space.
“No,” says my friend, “It just doesn’t work that way.”
I wasn’t about to digress. The idea of an infinitude of miniature universes existing simultaneously within our own tickled me so—universes existing in the particles of oxygen we breathe in, travelling through our blood streams. He smiled, listening patiently as I yapped on incomprehensibly, trying to word out what my brain wanted so badly to believe plausible.
“Ultimately, I’m suggesting that it is hypothetically possible, say,” I paused to rearrange my thoughts, “that we, our universe, could be a teeny-tiny particle swirling in some sort of alien beverage, a… a soup! And that it is being sipped on right now by an alien beast in an external universe!” It finally hit me; it just isn’t possible.
For the sake of science fiction, though—and for my imagination’s sake, really—let’s presume a viable basis to this theory. Oh, the titillating possibilities! If the likelihood of life-sustaining conditions like those that have developed living organisms on Earth existing elsewhere in our universe is very thin, imagine how probable it would be in a limitless hierarchical encapsulation of universes! Extraterrestrials may in fact be interterrestrials, hidden in a universe somewhere around us!
Imagine that right at the center of the full-stop that ends this very sentence is a submicroscopic cosmos, pulsing with celestial energy. Stare at that full-stop long enough and really take a few seconds to contemplate the notion; it enlarges and gravitates you into its somber depth, and as you zoom in, absorbed further and further towards the center of this abyss, you arrive at a brilliant spiral galaxy dwelling in a dimple of its space-time continuum. Among the two-hundred billion planets that whirl round this spiral galaxy nestles one golden-brown world, collared by a faint ring system, tethered by one of its double suns, and chasing its tail in orbit. This planet is home to a civilization of living beings that have evolved quite differently from us. Their chemical and biological makeup is entirely different than ours, developing natural impulses and emotions that are also unlike our own—except for a recognizable few: love, and a somewhat semblance of longing and loneliness. Love happens to permeate the layers of universes, and a lonesome native being of this golden-brown planet, the equivalent of a female—one of five varieties of the female gender that inhabit this world—is gazing up at the stars of her unpolluted night sky right now, dreaming of another alien being, different from her own kind, whom she had met and loved deeply once upon an epoch of yore, eight billion Earth years ago. She yearningly surveys the stretch of stars before her to where her beloved’s planet would have reached by now. Once, their two planets were close enough to make contact with one another; they met, parted, and now their worlds have fluctuated so far apart across the galactic plane, each ending up on a different spiral arm. Wishfully, desperately, she dreams that the galaxy’s spiral arms would finally, passionately embrace and reunite them once more. She soon dismisses this fanciful notion in alien-heartbreak—it just isn’t possible.