Southern Cone Under the British


Parallel Universes

     Alternate historical worlds, such as Auchmuty-Whitelocke World (AWW), are not just set in the realm of the “what if”, the “could have been”, the “would have been”, etc.  They do exist in real life – it’s just that they exist beyond our universe, in parallel universes.  More precisely, they exist in parallel universes that are hypothesized in scientific theories – see Max Tegmark’s articles and Alex Vilenkin’s book (specified at the bottom) for more information.

 

     The reason why I have thought of scientific parallel universes as the settings for what people commonly know as alternate history is that they defictionalize such histories.  This way, they do not exist only as things that could have happened and that in our “reality” are just in our imagination, but they are also totally real to the inhabitants in any of these universes.  We are talking about worlds with identical copies of ourselves and of the mountains, seas, animals, civilizations, and other earthly objects, except that some aspect of the history is a little different.  By setting alternate histories in such universes, these worlds gain a lot more legitimacy as real geographical places that are normally reserved for worlds as we know them, such as the planet Earth and other celestial bodies in our universe.  Thus, one can think of alternate histories as histories that could have happened in our universe, or equally as histories that did happen, in other universes that is. 

 

     One caveat, though, is that this and other alternate histories probably represent what the historical fiction is like in those universes.  In other words, the fundamentals of each alternate history are indeed true for each of those parallel universes, but the details may be different in some way or another from what actually goes on in those places.  For example, in the way that I am presenting AWW, I label what in our world is called “Belgrano”, i.e. a Buenos Aires neighbourhood, as “Bellaire” – perhaps in AWW, it may be actually called “Goodair” or “Bel Air” or “Belmont” for all I know.  For details like this, speculation is the best way to represent different areas in a world like AWW, given that they’re so far away we can never actually travel there.  On the other hand, a fundamental assertion such as Argentina speaking English along with Spanish is pretty much on the mark for AWW.  This fundamental-vs.-detail dichotomy does not detract from the general validity of alternate histories located in parallel universes; this is the best we can do, in the absence of our ability to directly observe such worlds.  

 

     There are two broad theories arguing for the existence of non-fictional parallel universes.  The first one, “many worlds” theory, was brought up by Hugh Everett III back in the 1950s; it states that there are “parallel” universes that are the result of the universe constantly making copies of itself, and is based on quantum mechanics.  The other theory was first proposed by Vilenkin and a few others – that the universe is undergoing eternal inflation from the Big Bang, and that different regions of the universe keep on cropping up as a result of that inflation whereby they develop identical Planet Earths like this one, but with different histories somehow.  These theories are different, but also similar – they are both related to quantum physics.

 

     Not all parallel universes can be the settings for alternate histories such as AWW, or the South winning the American Civil War.  Tegmark identifies at least four levels of parallel universes, two of which pertain to alternate histories.  The first level (Level 1), which conforms to the cosmological concordance theory, is by far the least problematic.  It postulates that those parallel universes are essentially the same, except that initial conditions are different in some sort of event or molecular movement.  These universes are spatially separate from one another and from this universe, but were created in the same big bang.  Any pair of two parallel universes is identical until some event takes place, in which the initial conditions become different between the two universes.  For example, let’s take the British invasions of the River Plate in 1806-07.  In this universe, the British forces were defeated by the Argentine soldiers in Buenos Aires led by Santiago de Liniers.  As a result, Argentina has remained a Spanish-speaking country, developing only a façade of economic development and having severe economic and political problems often.  But in AWW, the British forces won over the Argentine soldiers; therefore, in that universe, Argentina became an anglophone as well as Spanish-speaking country, and has truly developed in many respects, much like Australia or Canada.

 

     The second level of parallel universes relevant to alternate history is Tegmark’s third level (Level 3) – quantum mechanics and string theory.  It doesn’t add anything quantitatively new to Level 1; such universes, in fact, are very similar to Level 1 universes.  The only difference is that Level 3 universes are not spatially separate from this and other universes, unlike Level 1 universes.  Instead, one universe may split into two through a quantum event in which, for example, the British invade Argentina.  In one daughter universe, the British lose (as in ours); in the other, the British win.  The reason why we do not perceive other Level 3 universes is because of the existence of the decoherence barrier.  That barrier ensures that molecules of air from each world interact with one another in such a way that they do not interfere with one another, and so they get separated from one another.

 

     Many people argue against the existence of scientific parallel universes per se, let alone those that house the worlds that we know of as alternate histories. They cite two main factors – Ockham’s razor and the sheer weirdness of the parallel universes concept.  As far as Ockham’s razor is concerned, parallel universes cannot be directly observed; therefore, there is no way of proving or disproving their existence.  The critics of the concept, as well, see the whole notion of universes beyond our own universe as quite strange, since we have known exclusively of our own planet, solar system, etc. for so long that to think of carbon copies of these worlds in other universes is bizarre.  However, I contend that scientific parallel universes, including AWW, exist in the cosmos.  True, it is so far away from here that spaceships would not be able to reach it from this universe, but the evidence in favour of parallel universes has become so strong, especially for Level 1 universes, that they are becoming more believable.  And worlds like AWW really aren’t so weird after all; they are similar in every respect to this one except for a slight divergence in its history.

 

     To check out my blog on alternate histories as parallel universes, go to real-life-alt-history.blogspot.com.

 

     For more information, see the following: Tegmark, Max, “Parallel Universes”, 2003, found at www.hep.upenn.edu/~max/multiverse.pdf; for a less technical discussion, see Tegmark’s Scientific American article (the May 2003 issue – warning: you have to pay to read the whole article online); Vilenkin, Alex.  Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes.  New York: Hill and Wang, a division of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006.

 

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