Monday, January 24, 2011

DC Comics, The Multiverse and Everything

Grant Morrison believes that the DC Universe is alive and well and trying to tell us something.  And that something may have first been whispered to us via Flash comic books in 1961 (50 years ago!) via the story "Flash of Two Worlds".

The story posits that there are multiple universes, and The Flash (Barry Allen) can travel between them by changing his "vibrational frequency".  He travels to "Earth-2" where he meets the Flash from that world, a Flash he's only read about in comics books, named Jay Garrick.

Maybe writer Gardner Fox wasn't so crazy...

From NPR's science desk, a story on the possibility of multiverses.

From the article:
So if the universe is infinitely large, it is also home to infinite parallel universes.
Does that sound confusing? Try this:

Think of the universe like a deck of cards.

"Now, if you shuffle that deck, there's just so many orderings that can happen," Greene says. "If you shuffle that deck enough times, the orders will have to repeat. Similarly, with an infinite universe and only a finite number of complexions of matter, the way in which matter arranges itself has to repeat."
Deck of cards?  Why...  that has 52 cards in it.  It seems like I've heard that number somewhere...

I'm just saying.
DC's Infinite and 52 Universes


Fantomenos said...

Couple things here:

1. "String theory smooths out the mathematical inconsistencies" is a nice way of saying:

2. That said, Greene's Nova special is a very engaging intro to this stuff, but

3. I think everyone should then read "Not Even Wrong" as a counter-point.

4. The inevitability of DC multiverse-ity is rad. When Silver age Flash reads Golden age Flash stories, that's the coolest thing ever. And then teams up with Superman, who may or not be the same depression era Superman, I mean that's just the best, and reveals

5. THat kids have no problem grappling with this weirdness, and other 4th-wall breaking. Remember when the original Teen Titans are considering whether to bring Beast Boy on and they just address the reader directly? What the...

Anyway, you've clearly pushed some of buttons here, but I gotta get back to work.

Simon MacDonald said...

Imagine if you could move you consciousness between the many worlds at will. Could this explain why positive people tend to get positive outcomes and negative people get negative outcomes? Is this why visualization of goals works?

Poof!!! I just blew your mind.

Seriously though, why not a many worlds interpretation of our cosmos. It certainly is more interesting than a cosmic accident.

The League said...

The more I ponder the multiverse of DC, the more I love the idea (and I've been pondering it on and off since 1986). And while sci-fi has jumped all over the idea (I hear that's the whole basis of "Fringe", but I've never seen it), DC has so embraced the concept that I can't help but think its pretty great when used properly.

Simon MacDonald said...

I just started watching Fringe a few weeks ago and I'm on disk 5 of 7 of season 1. It is pretty good stuff so far. You should really give it a try. The multiple universe stuff really hasn't kicked off yet though.

The League said...

To Fantomenos's point - I don't see a lot of issues for kids as their concept of reality is that its elastic and you're learning how the world works every day. I mean, you think about the mythologies of Star Wars and Star Trek that just sort of made sense when you're a kid. And that's certainly how I felt about concepts in comics, etc...

I was sort of confused when I got into my 20's and friends into comics would say they found the multiverse confusing. To me, it was second nature. But I also grew up knowing there was a parallel universe with an evil Captain Kirk and crew, that DC had once had a multitude of universes that were collapsed into one world, and parallel worlds must exist where one small change meant everything else was different (for example: raccoons evolving instead of apes).

I don't tend to think of it as "oh, this could really be true!", but it is a fascinating mental exercise. And its a fun backdrop for a place like the DCU where Superman can team up with his counterparts to save all of the universes.

horus kemwer said...

I just want to echo Fantomenos' points 1 and 3, and to give a shout out for another alternative viewpoint (one which really emphasizes the dangerous effects of the hipster appeal of string theory) "The Trouble with Physics" by Lee Smolin.

To Simon's comment that "a many worlds interpretation of our cosmos . . . certainly is more interesting than a cosmic accident," I'm not sure that's true - the same type of qualitative arguments which support the multiverse are those which support creationist mythos (here's something really unlikely, how can we make it more likely by positing something in principle unobservable, and thus unfalsifiable?). No bad on God and all, but in the case of Evolution, for example, figuring out how the operations of chance may have worked to produce something which at first seemed very unlikely has proved very fruitful. Of course, for evolution, the unlikely is made more probable by postulating very long time scales - time scales which can receive independent confirmation from other fields (e.g. geology). Not so for the many universes of string theory.

Of course, I don't deny that the multiverse is totally rad as a concept.

The League said...

I've taken just enough science in college to understand that I will let the people who do this for a living sort it out. All attempts by me to understand physics beyond high school went... poorly. I grok geology and biology and a few other fairly concrete things, but my independent readings on physics were way over my head, and forget chemistry.

A few more decades and work at the LHC and elsewhere will parse this out a bit more, but its an interesting time to be alive and have this sort of work going on.