It’s a mind-boggling concept fraught with implications about our own universe’s origin, but scientists argue that it may someday be possible to create a new universe not so unlike our own in a lab.
In her elegant and perceptive book, Merali (Visualizing Earth Science, 2009, etc.) unpacks the science behind what we know about our universe’s beginnings and traces the paths that many renowned researchers have taken to translate these insights to new heights: the creation of a brand-new “baby” universe, and not an empty one, either, but one with its own physics, matter, and (possibly) life. While at times the book’s central conceit seems adjunct to the narrative in each chapter, the author’s storytelling makes up for it. Among the most significant scientific advances in the last half-century is the discovery that our universe is inflating exponentially, a theory that led to many more breakthroughs in physics and cosmology. Yet the big question—how did the universe form, triggering inflation to begin with?—remains opaque. Merali, who works at the Foundational Questions Institute, which explores the boundaries of physics and cosmology, effortlessly explains the complex theories that form the bedrock of this concept, and she brings to life the investigators who have dedicated much of their careers in pursuit of fundamental truths. She also neatly incorporates discussions of philosophy and religion—after all, nothing less than grand design itself is at stake here—without any heavy-handedness or agenda. Over the course of several years, she traveled the world to interview firsthand the most important figures behind the idea of laboratory universe creation—e.g., Alexander Vilenkin, who has theorized about “a multiverse of parallel universes, containing an infinite number of clones of each of us”—and the anecdotes she includes surrounding these conversations make her portrait even more compelling.
A rich and wonderful cosmological history that illuminates the scientific possibility of the nearly unthinkable.