Populating the Landscape

So, because they frown on alcohol or drugs at work, I’m mainlining science instead. Today’s drug of choice is the Calabi-Yau manifold, which I first heard about through the writings of Charles Stross and later through Warren Ellis. Calabi-Yau manifolds are interesting because they may describe the shape of our universe, specifically the ways a universe can fold down from the ten dimensions predicted by string theory to the four of our reality.

I read a rather nice article in the New Scientist a few years ago, which pointed to this paper, discussing the fact that there are many different kinds of Calabi-Yau manifold, each of which folds down in a different way to produce a different universe with different physical laws, only a few of them anything like our universe, with most of them being extremely hostile to our kind of life. The neat bit of the article was the discovery that universes unlike ours can be mathematically transformed into other universes, leading to the possibility that our universe might have started off entirely different. I think this ties in rather neatly with some of the research that suggests certain of our so-called physical constants may have been different in the past, but the article doesn’t make that association itself. Of course, the neat thing for me is that it presents a mechanism with which I can populate the TIME WAR omniverse with universes like ours without having to worry too much about the mathematical unlikeliness of that actually happening.

This also folds in the Leonard Susskind’s concept of The Landscape, a sea of pocket universes whose internal conditions are defined by the myriad solutions offered by string theory, in which the “local weather” is occasionally hospitable to life.

I was lucky enough a few years ago to see Professor Susskind talk about the Landscape at the University of Bristol, and it has to rank among the most the inspiring and mind-expanding talks of my life. Given that this is also one of the men who – with  Gerard ‘t Hooft – suggested that the universe might be a giant hologram, you can see why I like him. He thinks big.


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