Life after Life: The Countless Versions of You According to Quantum Physics.

February 11th, 1910, on a cold night, Sylvie Todd is in child labor waiting for the doctor to arrive during a snowstorm. But he is unable to arrive on time and the baby, Ursula Todd, dies before she could draw her first breath. However, that very same night, in an alternate version, Ursula Todd is born and along the pages of the novel Life After Life, we witness Ursula Todd growing, but also dying repeatedly in different ways across the span of her many lives, as she experiences the happenings surrounding World War II.

This is the premise used in one of my favorite novels by British author Kate Atkinson, who puts into test the notion of “Eternal Recurrence” discussed by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche in The Gay Science:

What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have live it, you will have to live it once more and innumerable times more” … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”

But even when this possibility sounds entirely fictional, as we delve in the studies of Quantum Physics, the understanding of our reality blurs, and not only the notion of the existence of countless possibilities in parallel realities become plausible, but the fact that all might happen at the same time as we speak, making us wonder if what we experience in our ordinary lives is truly real.

So, can multiple versions of me be living different outcomes to the decisions I’ve made during my life?

When we toss a coin in the air, there is a split possibility, 50% to be heads and 50% to be tails. Quantum Mechanics states that the coin will be equally in both states until we measure it (remove our hand to uncover the result). This property is explained as the wave-particle duality, in which the sub-atomic particles appear to behave in all different possibilities until the act of measuring by the observer collapses the result, crashing both parallel results into a single one, which we denominate as reality. Returning to the example of the coin, it’s like if we toss it in the air, and instead of one, two coins fall over the back of our hand, one heads and one tails, and will remain that way until we uncover the result, “collapsing” both realities into one. But considering both coins were real, where the second coin goes after the result is uncovered? To a different Universe?

There is a Quantum Mechanics interpretation referred as the “Many Worlds” which theorizes the possibility that every time an event with multiple possibilities occurs, our universe splits into different realities, following its own timeline of events.

For people who like to read about physics, this might ring a bell, since there multiple approaches for consider the existence of a multiverse, and according to such theories, every passing second a swarm of universes pops-up into existence like bubbles in the foam formed as the ocean waves clashing at the beach, creating it everything from nothing in similar fashion as our universe did at the moment of the Big Bang.

There is an open debate to demonstrate or refute the existence of this multiverse, by the fact that violates some of the intrinsic principles of the “macro” universe that accounts for gravity, which appears to be at the end, one of the main colliders of possibilities into a single reality. But at the “micro” level of the universe, at quantum level, where the spin state of an electron can be both “up” and “down” at the same time, this theory still can hold true.

Feeding the idea of multiple realities, many people wonder about if these versions of ourselves exist, why can’t we access them in any way? Why, let’s say, we can’t also experience the outcome of going out one night instead of staying at home and watch Netflix? Many argue that once this split of possibilities had occurred, it’s sealed from our experience in this universe, coming back to my allegory with the bubbles, even when two bubbles might be equal in size and shape, the content inside—air—is different, creating a division by the thin membrane separating both spaces.

But at what point an action in one universe can spawn a different one? If we try to explain it within an Euclidean Space (explained further below), in which a vector spawns from its source—let’s say a photon expelled from an electron—and runs parallel, in a finite, homogeneous, isotropic, three dimensional space, the geodesic parallels will tend to diverge in negative curvature. However, findings point that the curvature of our universe assumes positivity, meaning, the two separate, parallel lines should converge. Then why these universes are not contained on itself?

If right now you are just wondering what the f*ck I just trayed to explain, lets imagine a horse race in which two horses are running in parallel, each one following their respective lanes. When the riders arrive to the curve, if the external follows the curvature of the track and the internal keeps running straight without caring for follow the lane, both will collide. Deformity of space-time is the responsible of the clashing of the two horses, bringing the two lanes into collision.

Now, if we assume, we are both riders at the same time, created out from the split decision, one who decided to follow the track’s curvature and the other who decided to keep running straight, why we can’t see each other? Or experience that collision?

My personal theory is that usually we limit our study of the problem using our experience as observers by considering these events happening inside a Euclidean Space (standard for the macro universe), which is a geometrical space defined in its axis by time and space, with time passing equally linear to everybody (unless deformed by the act of gravity). In other words, we believe both horses run parallel at the same time, affected and limited by the time constant, using speed of causality as collider of the events, but physicists had agreed that a quantum level, particle’s perception of time is different—relative. Particles can go back and forth in time, hence living the outcome of colliding but able to go back to the moment of the split decision. Imagine that at the last moment, before starting the race, in the split second it takes to fire the revolver signaling the beginning of the race, horse “A” runs individually in its own timeline until the moment of the collision because decided to go straight, but then also goes back and re-runs the track until the moment of colliding but decides to turn instead avoiding the collision, all this happening before horse “B” even starts the race. Both possibilities popping into existing and then reversing, like bubbles than instead exploding after increasing and colliding, decrease until disappear collapsing on itself [1], just like if nothing had ever happened, keeping the balance of the inside of universe, without creating additional information or energy for later destruction, and being able to trace backwards the entire quantum experience of the universe through a series of “untold stories” nobody knew, and we convince ourselves didn’t happened, until a writer like Kate Atkinson narrates to us all the different lives of Ursula Todd through the pages of Life after Life.

So next time you are about to take an important decision, entertain the idea in your mind that the other you already explored the alternate line of events until its conclusion, you don’t know what the other you saw, because traveled back in time at the moment of the decision without bringing information from the future for not breaking the information-conservation universe’s laws, so you will take your decision as if it was the first time, hoping it was the right one.

Problem is in the universe, there is no “right one,” that is just a label we put to our experiences as observers. This, because judgement only happens when we need to exert a decision. If we could live all seven billion human lives in the planet at the same, there would not be good or bad, because we experienced everything at same time. So, don’t judge your life’s choices, because according to Quantum Physics, most probably we experienced all versions of ourselves, even if we don’t remember it.

M. Ch. Landa


[1] In physics jargon, accepting the existence of an “inflation” field which allowed our universe to expand and gain matter after the Big Bang, for these new universes, instead of a constant and/or increasing energy level on the field, having a negative energy level that could allow time to “bounce back” by impacting the balance of the fundamental forces in universe (Gravity, Electromagnetism, Weak and Strong Nuclear forces) so drastically that could invert the Time and Space axis, as happens under extreme circumstances inside of Black Holes, in which the Time literally “pulls” us, and Space just “happens to us.” This phenomenon could produce a “Time Crunch” to put an end to that Universe, returning it to its basal state at the moment of the split decision, contrary to the proposed theory of “The Big Crunch” for the End of the Universe, in which matter will “crunch” into a single point as it was before the Big Bag. Trick here is Time instead of Matter. A “Time” Crouch could literally rewind the Universe, while the “Matter” Crunch would only collapse it into itself, destroying it along with time.

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