'Wonderfully weird': Brian Greene takes on parallel universes

February 20, 2013

At this very moment, there may be an infinite number of “you’s” in an infinite number of universes doing every conceivable thing all of you could ever possibly do.

That’s the kind of thing Brian Greene ponders not only in his day job as a scientist, but also as the foremost translator of the “wonderfully weird” concepts of theoretical physics for millions of curious non-scientists.

Take, for example, all those versions of you. Scientists aren’t yet sure whether the universe is infinitely large — though it’s a viable possibility, Greene says — but if it is, and matter is finite, then multiple “universes” are inevitable. Greene uses a deck of playing cards to explain.

“If you shuffle, there are only so many orderings that can occur,” he says. “If you shuffle enough times, the orders must repeat. So in an infinite universe with only a finite number of configurations of matter, the way in which matter arranges itself has to repeat.”

Greene will take his audience on a tour of the mind-bending science behind parallel universes — there currently are nine theories of how and why they might exist — when he gives the 48thGeorge Gamow Memorial Lecture on Feb. 26 at Macky Auditorium. The lecture is named for the late theoretical physicist and early proponent of the big-bang theory who spent much of his career at the University of Colorado Boulder.

But don’t worry; you won’t need the brilliant science mind of one of your infinite doppelgangers to understand Greene’s talk, titled “The Hidden Reality: From Unification to Multiverse.” He presumes no physics background and will use professional animations to help illustrate all those quirky or counterintuitive concepts.

“I’ll definitely give background for people who perhaps don’t have any familiarity with the subject,” Greene says. “Animation has a wonderful capacity to give a visual sense of ideas that otherwise might be completely impenetrable. It’s a key way that someone with no background can leave the talk with at least a rough sense of the amazing things modern physics has revealed.”

 

IF YOU GO

WHAT: 48th George Gamow Memorial Lecture

WHO: Dr. Brian Greene, New York Times best-selling author, physicist and co-creator and host of the four-part NOVA special, “The Fabric of the Cosmos”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26

WHERE: Macky Auditorium, University of Colorado Boulder campus

TICKETS: Free and open to the public

INFO: http://phys.colorado.edu/welcome-department-physics or 303-492-6952

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