Friday, 23 March 2001 18:02 (ET)

 Our universe not alone, say scientists

  BOSTON, March 23 (UPI) -- Spanish and American astrophysicists claim the
 universe we inhabit contains an infinite number of other universes like our
 own, called O-regions, that we will someday be able to contact.

  Jaume Garriga, of the University of Barcelona, and Alexander Vilenkin, of
 Tufts University, call the concept "many worlds in one."

  As they explained to United Press International, these universes are
 likely similar to our own -- share similar life forms, for instance --
 because they share a key feature with our world: a finite number of distinct
 histories. A history is the way something has evolved in time and will
 continue to evolve. Until now, physicists have never been able to make such
 an assertion.

  The team will publish their hypothesis this fall in the journal
 Gravitation and Quantum Cosmology.

  Are these ideas far-fetched?  Alan Guth says no.

  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology physicist told UPI, "Do I think
 that the ideas are viable? Definitely yes. In fact, I very much admire the
 precision with which the ideas are expressed. I consider the work of Alex
 Vilenkin and his collaborators to be the leading work in this field."

  He explained, "What is new in their article is the realization that the
 total number of possible histories for each universe is finite."

  An infinite number of universes like our own is a concept Guth -- one of
 the foremost authorities on a concept called the inflationary universe --
 finds startling.

  "That's a pretty mind-boggling conclusion," Guth told UPI from his
 Cambridge, Mass. office.

  The idea that an infinite number of universes exist gives rise to some
 interesting, and troubling, implications.

  "Whenever a thought crosses your mind that a terrible calamity might have
 happened," Vilenkin told UPI, "you can be assured that it has happened in
 some of the other O-regions."

  Furthermore, since some O-regions have histories identical or nearly
 identical to our own, "if you nearly escaped an accident here, then you were
 not so lucky in some of the O-regions with the same prior history," he said

  The worlds Garriga and Vilenkin imagine are not entirely calamitous, and
 may even be amusing.

  "Distant copies of ourselves play all sorts of different roles" in these
 other worlds, Vilenkin said.  In fact, "there are infinitely many O-regions
 where Al Gore is president and -- yes -- Elvis Presley is still alive!"

  According to Vilenkin, Guth's work gave rise to the idea of many worlds in
 the first place. Guth formulated the now well-accepted idea that the
 universe is expanding -- or inflating -- and published the best-selling book
 "The Inflationary Universe" in 1997.

  As the visible universe expands, or inflates, it gives birth to new
 universes. Since inflation is eternal, new universe creation is also

  "In an eternally inflating universe, anything that can happen will happen;
 in fact, it will happen an infinite number of times," Guth told UPI.

  Guth also believes the many-worlds hypothesis has profound philosophical

  "We already know that our planet is merely a tiny speck in a vast cosmos,
 but now we are being told that we do not even hold a unique copyright on our
 own identities," Guth told UPI. "Instead, each of us is actually only a
 single copy of an infinite number of beings that are completely identical to

  (Reported by Mike Martin in Columbia, Mo.)
 Copyright 2001 by United Press International.
 All rights reserved.



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