“It’s effectively a new machine,” said CERN physicist David Charlton of the Large Hadron Collider. After two years of upgrades, the planet’s most expensive physics experiment is set to relaunch at twice the energy of its initial run. And its first sprint was something to behold. In 2012, the Collider discovered the Higgs boson, the particle which allows other fundamental particles in the universe to have mass.
But even though the LHC will now use its 13 tera electron volt (TeV) beams to investigate dark matter and supersymmetry — staples of contemporary astrophysics — it could also undercut longstanding, widely accepted theories, including the Big Bang theory. In a new paper, a team of astrophysicists suggests that miniature black holes that may be discovered by the LHC could detect parallel universes.
“As gravity can flow out of our universe into the extra dimensions, such a model can be tested by the detection of mini black holes at the LHC,” said Mir Faizal of the University of Waterloo. “We have calculated the energy at which we expect to detect these mini black holes in gravity’s rainbow. If we do detect mini black holes at this energy, then we will know that both gravity’s rainbow and extra dimensions are correct.”
That’s right. If the LHC detects miniature black holes — which it had failed to do before at lower energy levels — it could validate the existence of parallel universes under a theory called Gravity’s Rainbow. You may recognize the name of this theory as the selfsame title of Thomas Pynchon’s 1973 novel about the V-2 rocket in WWII. The novel, which is famously difficult, was awarded the 1974 National Book Award for Fiction. It also features (apparently correct) complex equations and longueurs on quantum mechanics.
But where do novel and theory meet? The Gravity’s Rainbow theory is an attempt to reconcile Einstein’s theory of general relativity with quantum gravity, and it posits that “gravity’s effects on spacetime are felt differently by different wavelengths of light, aka different colors in the rainbow,” according to Scientific American. In a nutshell:
The color of light is determined by its frequency, and because different frequencies correspond to different energies, light particles (photons) of different colors would travel on slightly different paths though spacetime, according to their energy.
One issue with the theory of Gravity’s Rainbow, though, is that, if you trace this process backward or forward in time, you never arrive at a singularity. So, no Big Bang:
In neither case is there a singularity—a point in time when the universe is infinitely dense—or in other words, a big bang. “This was, of course, an interesting result, because in most cosmological models, we have singularities,” Awad says. The result suggests perhaps the universe had no beginning at all, and that time can be traced back infinitely far.
Now, astute readers of Thomas Pynchon may point out that the title Gravity’s Rainbow refers not to Big Bang-nullifying theories of the universe testable by an enormous, black hole-detecting collider, but instead to the parabola of the V-2 rocket in flight, or the statistical pattern of rocket impact according to Poisson distribution. Or you might point out that Pynchon did crudely locate the singularity in the human penis. But I would offer the following support that Pynchon did, in fact, predict the theory of Gravity’s Rainbow in the below passage, wherein he posits a rainbowed “Aether Sea” that connects parallel “world[s]-to-world[s]”:
[…] this lack of symmetry leads to speculating that a presence, analogous to the Aether, flows through time, as the Aether flows through space. The assumption of a Vacuum in time tended to cut us off one from another. But an Aether sea to bear us world-to-world might bring us back a continuity, show us a kinder universe, more easygoing. … So, yes yes this is a scholasticism here, Rocket state- cosmology… the Rocket does lead that way—among others—past these visible serpent coils that lash up above the surface of Earth in rainbow light, in steel tetany… these storms, these things of Earth’s deep breast we were never told… past them, through the violence, to a numbered cosmos […]
So, there you have it. Thomas Pynchon predicted parallel universes and killed the Big Bang theory in 1973.