Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Universe of Universes

By David Luhrssen
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The cosmos keeps growing larger, extending beyond anything the human eye can see and confounding the limits of reason. First came other galaxies, a starry sea in which our Milky Way is a mere island; then the Big Bang, in which the universe came into being as if from nothing. Now our universe itself cannot contain the cosmos, which may include many universes—a “multiverse.”

The History Channel program “The Universe” has gone boldly into the turbulence of contemporary cosmology, presenting ideas with greater intelligence and panache than most cable documentaries. Fast and highly visual, “The Universe” is a 101 course in developments on the frontier of science.

Season Three, out now on DVD, travels widely over everything from astrobiology and light speed to the prospect of an asteroid colliding with Earth (“It’s not if, it’s when,” intones an expert). Characteristic of the entire series is the episode on parallel universes, with venturesome scientists trying to explain the inexplicable. According to them, there may be four types of parallel universes—some coexisting on the same plane of space as our own and others alongside us in other dimensions. “All that we see is not all there is,” says one, summing up the thesis with a poetic touch suggesting an endlessness of infinities within infinity.

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