Saturday, December 4

The theory that our Universe was created in a laboratory: when the boundaries between science and science fiction blur

Avi Loeb is not just any astronomer. Former chair of the Department of Astronomy at Harvard University, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and a member of the US President’s Council of Science and Technology Advisors, Loeb is one of the most original and controversial minds in planetary science today.

No wonder: was one of the main defenders of the possibility that Oumuamua, the first observed interstellar object that we have discovered in the Solar System, was an alien ship and he is convinced that the ‘Galileo Project’ is our best asset to find extraterrestrial technology, but those are far from his weirdest ideas. The one now, without going any further, takes the cake.

The least studied answers to the origin of the Universe

On his latest Scientific American column, Loeb briefly reviews the different theories that try to answer what, for him, is “the greatest mystery in the history of our Universe, what happened before the Big Bang.” Then he rolls up his sleeves and goes on to comment on “a less explored possibility”: the theory that the Universe could be an experiment, the laboratory creation of a tremendously advanced technological civilization.

“Since our Universe has a flat geometry with zero net energy, an advanced civilization could have developed a technology that created a baby universe out of thin air through a quantum tunnel,” says Loeb. The controversial astronomer’s thesis postulates that the synthesis between quantum physics and the theory of relativity (one of the “holy grails” of contemporary physics) would allow the development of the technology needed to create “baby universes” in the laboratory.

Although the theory is striking and would help reconcile ideas such as the “anthropic principle” with current physics, all this is unprovable for practical purposes, Sure. However, the theory gives rise to Loeb to construct a classification of civilizations different from the one that Nikolai Kardashev proposed in the 1960s.

Instead of talking about civilizations of type I, II and III according to their use of resources, Loeb speaks of civilizations of class A (capable of reproducing the cosmic conditions that made their existence possible), class B (capable of adjusting the conditions of their immediate environment to be independent of its host star) and class C (the rest). We, according to Loeb, would be in that class C. After all, if the sun died today, we would be unable to recreate the habitable conditions of our planet.

But beyond all this, the ranking is exhilarating because broadens the ways we think about life outside of Earth. They are still “thought experiments” and it is likely that if the author were not Loeb no one would pay any attention to him, however they are the kind of crazy ideas that make us (constantly) resize our place in that cold and inhospitable place called the Universe.

Imagen | Ryo Tanaka

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