futurism.com | Physicists Weigh In: Could We Ever Travel to a Parallel Universe?

Are Your Carbon Copies Out There?

One very prominent mind twister in both science fiction and real-life science is the concept of parallel universes. This is hardly surprising, since the idea of multiple copies of yourself existing at the same time is both existentially disturbing and thrilling at the same time.

The idea of a multiverse is not considered a scientific theory but rather, as Ethan Siegel of Forbes puts it, “a theoretical consequence of the laws of physics as they’re best understood today.” The idea that space-time begins and stretches infinitely implies that existence is mathematically bound to repeat itself at some point—a notion sometimes called the “quilted multiverse.” Or, forgetting the idea of repetitious cosmic clones, there’s the possibility that multiple big bangs begat multiple space-time bubbles, in a foamy multiversal sea of infinite potentialities.



But what we want to know is: could you ever get to another space-time?

That depends. The American theoretical physicist and string theorist extraordinaire Brian Greene, of Columbia University, argues that the plausibility of multiversal travel—conceding that parallel universes really do exist—hinges on which multiverse concept you subscribe to. If you are an advocate of a multiple big bang multiverse, then that would mean that leaving our universe to travel to another would be just as impossible as travelling back to the time before the big bang that resulted in our universe even happened.

Now, if you believe a quantum physics-dominated notion of parallel universes, then there’s no need to travel to other universes, because you are already inhabiting multiple alternate universes (though not necessarily all of them). Can’t decide which dress to wear? No matter—you’ve worn them both, in two separate parallel universes.

Meanwhile, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku believes that our universe will end up in a “big freeze,” and that technology can one day allow us to travel between universes.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, on the other hand, says that if you come from a universe with higher dimensions, then it could be as easy to move between dimensions as stepping from one room to another. And in string theory—one of the leading contenders in bridging the seemingly insuperable gulf sundering quantum mechanics and general relativity—the assumption is that we actually have far more dimensions in this universe than we previously thought and that we just fail to detect them because they are actually very small, curled up in the infinitely minute, trans-subatomic realms beyond the reach of our instruments.

But how can we prove (or disprove) any of these arguments without gaining first-hand experience of it? Much as many aspects of our universe still remain elusive to us, it’s currently impossible to acquire any proof to confirm which of these hypotheses is right. But while we don’t have the means to definitively prove whether alternate universes do exist, and whether we could traverse borders to move from one to another, it’s highly unlikely that a topic as stimulating as this will disappear anytime soon, either in science fiction or in real-life science.

Meanwhile, physicists are at it. Watch this brief video of physicists going head to head with each other on string theory, Math, and potentially embarrassing alien encounters.


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futurism.com | Here’s How Quantum Gravity Will Change Our Understanding of the Universe

Quantum Mechanics vs. General Relativity

There are two theories that have essentially revolutionized our understanding of physics in the 20th century—quantum mechanics and general relativity.

Quantum mechanics attempts to explain the behavior of the smallest things in the universe—subatomic particles at the nanoscopic level. At this scale, time is universal and absolute.

On the other hand, Einstein’s general relativity posits that time is relative and dynamic—a result of how space, time and matter interact with each other. Following the theory of relativity, the geometry of the “space-time fabric” can be distorted by large masses. Bodies that move through the distorted space-time fabric then appear as if they are being influenced by the gravitational force of the large mass.

Now, to describe and understand what we perceive in everyday life, we turn to physics. General relativity serves to explain the gravitational properties of large objects, which are massive enough that their quantum properties are negligible. Quantum mechanics accurately explains what happens on the smallest scales—but only where masses are insignificant enough that their gravitational effects are practically zilch.

The question is, how do we explain matter that is, at once, very heavy and yet very small? To that end, how will you reconcile the absolute and relative notions of time supported by each theory?

Image Credit: Olena Shmahalo/Quanta Magazine

Reconciling Differences

This gap in our understanding of physics is something that theories of quantum gravity can hopefully explain. And a new breakthrough in the study of quantum gravity gives us a glimpse of how the physics of general relativity and quantum mechanics can be resolved.

“I think we now understand that space-time really is just a geometrical representation of the entanglement structure of these underlying quantum systems,” said Mark Van Raamsdonk, a theoretical physicist at the University of British Columbia.

Did you catch all that? Essentially, the idea is that the universe of our experience, together with the matter and relativistic space and time within it, arise as emergent properties from quantum bits (qubits) of information, just as the universe of a computer game arises from the digital bits of information in a computer. This is the holographic notion of the universe.

Researchers illustrate how the universe can have a fisheye space-time geometry known as “anti-de Sitter” (AdS) space. As you move away from the center, spatial increments get shorter until eventually the spatial dimension from the center extends to nothing—smacking into a boundary. This boundary has one less spatial dimension than its interior, referred to as the “bulk,” wherein is projected the holographic universe—with all its matter and energy, and wonky time that moves in dramatic ways, bending and curving with space as described in general relativity.

But the entangled qubits residing on the boundary of this AdS space progress according to the ordered, non-relativistic time natural to quantum states; like a computer program executing its commands according to the precise ticks of its internal clock, yet creating a simulated universe within which time can warp and stretch and be as weirdly relative as it wants.

Graphical depiction of anti-de Sitter (AdS) space-time. Credit: Joao Magueijo et al.
Graphical depiction of anti-de Sitter (AdS) space-time. Credit: Joao Magueijo et al.


So far so good. But our universe conforms to a de Sitter configuration, where space stretches the further out you look; and this presents some problems of understanding the emergent qualities of time. The boundary, in this case, appears to be the end of time; somehow, the qubits on the boundary of the de Sitter space give rise to an interior hologram with dynamical time.

As Brian Swingle of Harvard University notes, what all this research seems to uncover is that, “somehow, you can emerge time from timeless degrees of freedom using entanglement.”

And while the team behind the study has yet to discover how this is possible, they hope it will lead to answers about what we don’t yet understand about the physics of our universe.


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futurism.com | Amazon Wants to Change How You Communicate With Your Technology

Intuitive Interaction

Amazon has been serious about developing the future of interactive, speech-activated artificial intelligence (AI); their chatbot Alexa, which resides within the sleek cylindrical exterior of the Amazon Echo device, has already shown the world what the next evolution of our interface with technology will look like.

Last year, in their ongoing quest to better this avant garden tech, Amazon announced that it’s coming out with the Alexa Fund to invest in companies working on “voice technology innovation.” Now, elaborating on that commitment, the internet commerce giant is revealing an accelerator program for startups dabbling in conversational AI.

The Alexa Accelerator, a partnership with startup accelerator TechStars, will focus on areas connected with Amazon’s Alexa. That means companies working on how voice technology AI can be improved and applied to more devices, and striving to change the way we interact with our technology so that it’s more streamlined and intuitive.

But since Amazon wants to stick Alexa in more and more platforms, that actually leaves a pretty large field. The company hasn’t specified just what types of companies or tech concentrations it will be accepting, so teams working on smart cars, smart homes, medical devices, and everything in between could make the final cut.

While open to anyone, only 10-12 companies will be selected for an intensive 13-week program, which will connect them with mentors and experts that can help the startups with how to develop both their product and their organization.

A Talkative Future

Voice technology has really been shaping up to be the “successor” to touch-based devices. It’s more spontaneous and intuitive, and represents the natural evolution of tech interaction, which is why companies want to create AI that can better understand and respond to voice commands—not as easy a task as one might think. Tech giants like Microsoft and Google have been working on improvements to speech recognition and generation, and accelerators like this are only going to make that voice-powered future arrive even faster.

Somewhat surprisingly, Amazon has cornered the market when it comes to voice-activated AI; sales for the Echo family of devices have steadily increased, and developers have responded positively to the technology, especially since Amazon released the free Alexa Skills Kit for cloud- and web-based development.  Over 3,000 new skills have been added to Alexa’s already substantial intellectual heft, which only seems to indicate that the technology will begin to grow exponentially as developers continually broaden the platform’s skill set.

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futurism.com | We Are Entering a Renaissance in Hypersonic Flight

A Research Revival

There is no shortage of technology that seeks to improve transportation. The future will have its hyperloops, fleets of unmanned vehicles, and flying cars; but there’s one industry that seems to have been left behind in terms of innovation, at least in the United States.

Well, things are about to change. We may be on the cusp of a resurgence of hypersonic and supersonic flight in American aviation.

Last month, at the Forum on American Aeronautics at the Mojave Air and Space Port, sponsored by the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, a panel of experts and lawmakers pushed for NASA’s aeronautical program to focus on a new batch of experimental aircraft.

“There was a period where engine technology had just sort of stagnated—a point where all materials technology was going along at about the same pace,” said panelist Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Bedke. “There just wasn’t much happening. But suddenly, in all sorts of areas that apply to aerospace, things are happening.”

The Supersonic Hype

The push for supersonic and hypersonic flight continues to be the immediate goal of aviation research, especially since there hasn’t really been any supersonic passenger aircraft since 2003, when the famous Concorde was decommissioned. As re-elected Los Angeles representative Steve Knight (R-Calif.), who was part of the panel, observed: “In 1967 was the last time we went hypersonic in an airplane,” referring to the X-15 flight piloted by his father, William J. “Pete” Knight.

Credits: NASA / Lillian Gipson
Credits: NASA / Lillian Gipson

A supersonic aircraft moves at speeds exceeding Mach 1 (about 1,235 km/h), while anything attaining Mach 5 or greater is considered hypersonic. There isn’t a shortage of ideas or tests to achieve both. The X-planes include the US Air Force’s X-51A Scramjet, NASA’s X-57 Maxwell, and a few others. Some have already completed their tests, like the X-48, but are still kept in the pipeline.

Furthermore, with NASA’s revival of its X-Plane program earlier this year, supersonic flights are on the way. It just needs enough support from both the government and the private sector to make sure it takes off. And it seems that we are indeed poised for a new evolutionary leap in the velocity capacity and requirements of our aircraft—the slow, gasoline-guzzling, air-breathing leviathans of the past five or so decades are beginning to seem ever more antiquated and unsuited to the needs of 21st Century economies and militaries.

With the advent of private space interests, and the growing economic and military interest in LEO and beyond, it’s likely that more advanced aircraft technology is inevitable. Air-breathing, combined-cycle rocket/ramjets—like the SABRE engine designed for the proposed Skylon single-state-to-orbit spaceplane—will dramatically lower the costs of transporting men and matériel to LEO; and the commercial, in-atmosphere corollaries to this technological revolution will not be long in development.

For now, the pace of hypersonic evolution is slow; but once the new “aerospace race” begins between the great powers of the US, Russia, and China, look for things to really start heating up in the coming decades.

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futurism.com | New Autonomous Drones Are on Their Way, And They Can Carry Humans

Drone Power

Drones are fast becoming a ubiquitous part of our lives. From their early beginnings as top secret military technology, they are now used in a variety of ways—including photography, delivery, and even home and commercial security.

Now, a company wants to take them in an entirely new direction: personal transport. Flyt Aerospace is building drone systems that can transport humans and cargo, by joining multiple drone rotors to each other.

Drone delivery is usually confined to small cargo—in other words, small objects that fit inside a box. But the guys at Flyt want to scale that up, hoping eventually to transport objects as big as a human being.  If successful, the technology has the potential to transform the way we travel and even the very structure of our cities; it could relieve traffic congestion and revolutionize the logistics of transport and delivery.

Their most successful project, the Flyt 16, can do just that, by using 16 propellers powered by lithium batteries. The drone weighs ~159 kg (~350 lbs) fully loaded, and can fly about 10 minutes with a person in it (but that’s just 2-3 feet off the ground).

But it’s the goal that really shines here. Flyt wants to perfect the “flying” part of the drone, leaving the undercarriage to the user. That means building a working flight system that can operate with heavy loads, and developing harnesses that can be used for cargo, people, or whatever else you can imagine.

A New Age of Flight

Flyt is just one of the many new and fantastic ways people are redefining flight. Many different projects have resurrected the idea of a jetpack, leading to systems like the JB9 or the golf cart jetpack.

Also, Solar Impulse 2 has proven the viability of solar-powered aircraft. One day, we could very well find ourselves traveling in planes powered solely by the Sun’s energy, leading to craft that can stay aloft for years at a time. Not to mention that some are tricking out planes with robotic systems; one DARPA experiment is even testing robot co-pilots that can control aircraft on their own.

A new age of flight is dawning, and human travel is increasingly becoming 3-dimensional—even on the smallest scales of personal transport. We can’t wait to see what happens next!

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futurism.com | This Watson-Powered Robot Will Help a Growing Population

MERA is here to assist the elderly.

The post This Watson-Powered Robot Will Help a Growing Population appeared first on Futurism.

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futurism.com | This Watson-Powered Robot Will Help a Growing Population

MERA is here to assist the elderly.

The post This Watson-Powered Robot Will Help a Growing Population appeared first on Futurism.

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