I’m having an ontological crisis.
It’s my own fault. I watch documentaries on a whim. This one has been sitting on my Sky Plus box for a while, a BBC4 production about the lead singer of The Eels going in search of his father’s legacy, his father being Hugh Everett, originator of the theory of parallel universes. And it’s a good documentary, but I’ve got a cold and my brain is therefore prone to go to some weird distracted places. And then I decided to have a shower, and I started thinking.
I mean, we think of the sci-fi version of parallel universes, where Superman is evil or Spock has a beard. But wait, if every possible action spins off into a parallel universe, that means EVERY POSSIBLE ACTION. All the different positions of every single atom and particle since the beginning of time till the END of time. A new universe where that particular raindrop fell there instead of here. A new universe when I chose to get up at 7.30 and 1 second, and 7.30 and 2 seconds, and…. Do they have a physical reality in some other, inaccessible dimension? And if they branch off from the different paths taken, does that mean they branch off retrospectively, in which case we’re looking at the moment of creation happening an infinite number of times, surely?! Isn’t that a bit… I dunno, overkill?
And are there limiting factors? Let’s not get too sci-fi, because that muddies the waters of whether the laws of physics are fundamentally immutable or whether they could be subtly different in other universes, thus producing flying men and time travelling policeboxes. No, let’s make it easy – if every possiblity is enacted, does that mean there is a Planet Eastenders?
And if there IS a universe where Eastenders happens, what does this mean for art? Maybe the question isn’t whether or not an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters will produce the works of Shakespeare, but that alongside that they will also transcribe an accurate history of a parallel universe!
This got me thinking about comic book writer Grant Morrison saying that he believes it’s possible to travel to fictional worlds. Okay, I suspect he was saying that to get a reaction, some sort of performance art thing, but why not? If every possibility is enacted, then it’s just a case of finding your way into the parallel universe in which the DC Comics stories actually happened? Impossible, because of the infinite number of worlds to navigate? Well, not really, because those worlds are already the ones most likely to have discovered how to travel between universes. How do I know this? I’ve read the stories!
This therefore explains the guy who met Superman in a taxi cab.
But wait, what if it’s a Schrodinger’s Cat thing, where all these possibilities are held in an indeterminate quantum state until they’re observed? And if they’re fixed, that means there needs to be an observer outside of spacetime, which could be seen as proof of the existance of God. Either that or my understanding of the parallel universe theory and quantum physics in general is fatally flawed, one or the other.
Anyway, I then got out of the shower and went to talk about Heroes with Sudge.