Weeks after the death of British physicist Stephen Hawking, his final research paper on the nature of our universe and its place in the wider multiverse was published today in the Journal of High-Energy Physics.
Speaking of his collaboration with Hawking, Hertog admitted that he thought it would be their last work together: "I always had the impression that he never wanted to quit and, in a way, this was Hawking". Quantum effects can simply keep this inflation going forever in some parts of the universe, making inflation eternal in the overall picture.
"Now we're saying that there is a boundary in our past", says Hertog in a press statement. After the Big Bang, the universe immediately expanded for a fraction of a second, and then it continued to slowly increase.
However, in their co-publication, Hawking and Hertog say that despite being formed amidst radically different laws of physics, the individual universes may not be that different from one another.
One popular understanding of the Big Bang suggests that the universe is one in a "multiverse" of infinite parallel universes.
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Their results, if confirmed by further work, would imply a significantly smaller range of possible universes.
In the newest paper, which features a complicated combination of quantum physics and string theory math, Hawking and his research partner Thomas Hertog, a professor at Belgium's Catholic University of Leuven, suggested there are likely multiple universes but only universes with physical laws like our own. During a period of rapid expansion (known as inflation), the cosmos swelled from subatomic to golf ball-sized nearly instantaneously-possibly creating various pocket worlds, i.e. the multiverse.
This new multiverse theory is just another on a pile of explanations for how reality may function, but it's looking as if it could be a viable one. This possibility make the possible universes much more manageable and testable, since all of them have depends on similar underlying rules of physics and chemistry. Using string theory, the two theorize that there is a point where eternal inflation begins, and at that point it exists in a timeless state.
"We predict that our universe, on the largest scales, is reasonably smooth and globally finite".
A pre-printed copy of the Hawking's paperwork called "A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation?" has been around for several months.
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Hertog and Hawking used their new theory to derive more reliable predictions about the global structure of the universe.
Prof Hertog believes gravitational waves - ripples in space time first detected in 2015 - could provide a "smoking gun" to test the model.
The expansion of our universe since the beginning means such gravitational waves would have very long wavelengths, outside the range of the current LIGO detectors.
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