The concept of parallel worlds and altered realities has always inspired many books, movies and television shows. While some people view these theories as nothing more than science fiction, scientists and philosophers have been working hard to change our perception of reality and accept that there may be more to the universe than that which we currently experience.
Here are 11 theories that question everything we have accepted to be true…
- The Holographic Principle
This theory is based on the idea that the universe is actually just a 3D projection on a 2D plane of information, however due to the scale we are unable to perceive the 2D surface.
A physicist in Illinois, Craig Hogan, is currently studying this specific theory, looking to either prove or disprove its existence. He is building two holometers to measure the smallest spaces within our universe, Planck units. The theory is that the holometers, stacked on top of one another, will scan for Planck noise. Once they have detected this ‘noise’, he will separate the two machines and run the experiment again. If the noise isn’t correlated between both holometers, that could indicate a limit to the space/time resolution
Presentism is the belief that neither the past nor the future exist, and are merely imagined concepts. Present objects are the only objects that exist. By this theory when an individual is alive and here, they are present and as such exist. Once a person’s body ceases to be present, shortly after they die, they then cease to exist. On the other end of the spectrum, a child who has not yet been conceived cannot yet exist, thus the future can’t exist before it happens.
- The Brain in a Jar
The Brain in a Jar thought experiment is an updated version of Rene Descartes’ Evil Demon, which was originated by Gilbert Harman. The experiment was based on the idea of a person’s brain which had been removed from their body and suspended in a vat of life-sustaining liquid. The mad scientist or aliens responsible connected the neurons of this brain to a computer which could provide it with electrical impulses that replicated those that our brains regularly receive.
The computer would then be simulating reality, and the brain would be able to have normal, conscious experiences despite not having a body to actually live out these experiences. For example, the brain may believe that it is walking, or experiencing other events in the real world. The conclusion of the experiment is that we cannot confirm the actual existence of anything outside of our own consciousness.
A philosophical theory, Solipsism states that only that which exists within one’s own mind is sure to exist, and that anything that happens outside of one’s own mind, such as the external world and the minds of others, cannot be known and therefore may not exist.
Does this theory sound too far fetched? Consider this – people who take mind altering drugs, such as LSD claim to have touched some of the most convincing hallucinations. We don’t claim that these visions are ‘reality’, so who is to say that what we perceive around us isn’t anything more than an intricate dream?
- Fictional Realism
The concept of Fictional Realism is that when faced with an infinite number of universes, then everything must exist somewhere. It then stands to reason that all of our favorite fantasy and fiction characters actually exist in an alternative universe.
The Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains, “This view entails, among other things, that to say, for instance, that some white elephants exist is to say that some white elephants have the property of existence (or, to put it the other way around, that not all white elephants are nonexistent) – a consequence that might strike some as strange.” So what does this mean for Harry Potter or the crew from the Enterprise? By this theory, they are real in a universe in which all the right pieces come in place.
Phenomenalism is the belief that physical object cannot exist in themselves, but rather as a phenomenon of consciousness. What does this mean? That an object only exists while you are aware of it, and believe in its existence. There is no existence without perception.
Take your smartphone, for example. While you are actively looking at, touching, using your phone, you are thinking about it and acknowledging its existence, and for that reason it exists in that moment. However, when you sit it down and walk away, it ceases to exist until either you, or someone else, interacts with it.
Eternalism is a philosophical concept of time, which is the exact opposite of presentism. This theory states that all points in time are equally real, existing simultaneously. Each moment in time exists in and of itself, determined by the observer. What you see around you depends on what point you are looking at.
By this theory dinosaurs, the Prohibition Era and the swinging 60’s all exist simultaneously at the same time that you do. Time is nothing more than another dimension, and the future is “already here”.
- Subjective Idealism
George Berkeley, an Irish philosopher, has come to be referred to as the ‘father of Idealism.’ This theory explains that only minds and mental contents exist. It denies the existence of an objective reality, stating instead that reality is completely dependent upon the minds of those that perceive it. Thus, material things do not exist.
Berkeley believes in the existence of an omnipotent and omnipresent God. Per his theory, an object is real so long as it is being perceived by a mind. The omniscient God perceives everything, and as such all real beings exist.
- The Multiverse Theory
While many of us have heard of the idea of parallel realities, and worlds similar to ours, this theory is based on the idea of there being an infinite number of universes, comprised of everything that exists including the entirety of space, time, matter, energy and the physical constants and laws that describe them.
Each decision in life that you make, determining this universe, can in turn be seen in another universe as if you had decided to go down a different path. For example, in this universe you may be a lawyer, however in another universe you chose instead to pursue a career in education. In a third universe, your parents may have never even been introduced, and as such you were never born.
- Plato and Logos
Plato was a monist, which means that he believed that everything is made up of one single substance. This means that he believed that animal feces, precious metals and basic cotton were all made of the same material, just in a different form. This has, to a degree, been proven to be true with the discovery of molecules and atoms.
He also theorized that beyond our current perception of reality, there is another reality of “perfect” forms. He explained that by studying philosophy we have the opportunity to glimpse how things ‘truly are’, the perfect versions of everything that we perceive in our lives.
- The Great Glaciation
The concept of Great Glaciation looks at the future of our universe, and what is yet to come. It theorizes that the universe has a limited supply of energy, which will eventually run out. There is a heat energy that is created by the motion of the particles around us, even the smallest of particles. Eventually this particle motion will slow down, and one day completely cease. This hat loss will result in the entire universe devolving into a frozen state.