I was listening to the National Public Radio (NPR) show Science Friday today and heard an intriguing interview with a University of Chicago astrophysics professor named Michael Turner. (See transcript here: “More to the Universe Than Meets the Eye.”) The first topic discussed was a proposition in a new European Physical Journal article (“Magnetic Anomaly in UCN Trapping: Signal for Neutron Oscillations to Parallel World?“) that “a particle might be able to morph into its invisible twin and pass into a parallel world and back again, turning into a mirror of itself.” Turner said the following about this hypothesis:
…the idea that is talked about in this paper is that there’s kind of a parallel universe out there with very similar laws of physics to ours, but it only communicates with our universe by a very feeble interaction. So it’s almost invisible. So it could be occupying the same space. But without very sensitive experiments, we cannot perceive that. And this paper talks about such an experiment done at a laboratory in Grenoble, France, where they bottle neutrons. They bottled about a half million neutrons in an ultracold neutron trap, and they monitored them for about five minutes, and they see some of them disappear…And so the idea is that the neutrons in that bottle are morphing into their mirror or their shadow counterpart in this shadow world, and then they come back. This is all done by a magnetic field – not in our world, but in the shadow world. And to say the least, this is a really extraordinary claim.
Well, the idea of another parallel invisible universe and extra dimensions outside of the four perceived by human senses (height, width, depth, time) has long been a staple of science fiction, theoretical physics, philosophy, and theology. In fact, recently it even crept into the debate in California over government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.
In an opinion piece published in the August 18, 2011 San Diego Daily Transcript (“Lemmon Distorts Information in Column Supporting PLAs“), amateur astrophysicist Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction theorized the existence of other dimensions:
With his Aug. 15 commentary (“The truth about project labor agreements”), San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council business manager Tom Lemmon has departed this known time-space continuum.
He actually believes he can convince the San Diego business community to support the idea that local governments should require contractors to sign project labor agreements with his unions before working on taxpayer-funded construction projects.
Christen realized this was an extraordinary claim and humbly acknowledged the limitations of human experience to explain the situation:
Let me rebut only his most outrageous distortion, as there isn’t enough space in our normal spatial dimensions to answer the routine distortions that comprise the rest of his commentary.
Later in the commentary, Christen again recognized – and regretted – our own human limits of perception in this known universe:
Unlike Lemmon, the researchers for this study were forced to operate within time and space commonly experienced by the rest of us. It takes years to prepare a research paper worthy of publication in a credible academic journal…It’s regrettable that the researchers were dimensionally incapable of considering the bid performance of that first project labor agreement fiasco at the San Diego Unified School District.
But Christen wrapped up his cutting-edge observations with optimism that time would yield new results and greater understanding:
These numbers are so obviously awful that they can even be understood in dimensions beyond our perception.
Anyone jumping ahead in linear time can see overwhelming support from the San Diego business community for the upcoming ballot measure to ensure fair and open competition for projects of the city of San Diego.
Obviously Eric Christen was able to bend the space-time continuum and successfully predict – almost ten months before the election – that the business community would support what would become Proposition A, which was approved by 58% of voters on June 5.