Infinite repetition, the idea that planets and living beings must be repeated an infinite number of times, cannot be logically deduced from current physics and cosmology theories. Credit: NASA/Apollo 17

You don’t exist in an infinite number of places, say scientists

January 25, 2013 by Lisa Zyga

(—If you’ve read about how modern cosmology may imply that, in an infinite universe, the existence of planets and the life forms that live on them must be repeated an infinite number of times, you may have been just a little bit skeptical. So are a couple scientists from Spain, who have posted a paper at criticizing the concept of the infinite repetition of histories in space, an idea closely related to the concepts of “alternate histories,” “parallel universes,” and the “many worlds interpretation,” among others.

Francisco José Soler Gil at the University of Sevilla and Manuel Alfonseca at the Autonomous University of Madrid have looked at two different proposals – one based on classical cosmology and the other on quantum mechanics – that contend that we live in an infinite universe in which history is repeated an infinite number of times in space. They have picked apart both proposals and argue that both are highly speculative, despite often being presented as plausible ideas. Moreover, they argue that we really don’t know whether we live in an infinite universe, as a finite one seems equally likely.

The basic idea of the infinite repetition of histories in space is that, if you take yourself right now and change one thing (say make your red shirt a blue one), then there’s another you somewhere who is exactly the same except for that one difference. Change your shirt to purple, and that’s a third you. Change the drink in your hand from soda to tea, and there’s another one. Plus, there are copies of all of these universes – an infinite number of copies. In their paper, Soler Gil and Alfonseca quote the popular science book “The Music of the Big Bang, The Cosmic Microwave Background, and the New Cosmology” by Amedeo Balbi: “In an infinite universe, every possible event does happen. Not just that: it happens an infinite number of times.”

This infinite repetition idea can be found in early philosophy, ancient mythology, and today’s sci-fi literature. But can it be derived from physical theories about the universe, and does it have a place in science?

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