At the heart of Professor Tipler's thesis is the conviction that the three fundamental theories of present-day physics -- quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the Standard Model -- are each proven and true, because of the vast quantity of experimental data which backs up each of them. As he states at the outset of his second chapter (p. 6):
Modern physics is based on three fundamental theories: quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the Standard Model of particle physics. In the popular press -- and even in many technical physics journals -- one will find much discussion of other theories, for example, inflation cosmology, superstring theory, and M-theory. Ignore these other theories. They have no experimental support whatsoever. In contrast, quantum mechanics, general relativity, and the Standard Model have enormous support from experiment. All three theories have made predictions again and again over many decades, predictions that are completely counterintuitive to scientists and the average person, and all of these counter-to-common-sense predictions have been confirmed by experiment. A scientist, if he wishes to remain a scientist, must accept the results of experiment, and nothing but the results of experiment.
In Prof. Tipler's view, modern searches for Grand Unification Theories (GUTs), the Theory of Everything -- whatever science calls its Holy Grail for the moment -- are chases after a will-o'-the-wisp. The three theories which science has extensively tested, and which have survived every test thus far to which they have been put, are entitled to an assumption that they are correct, and no further explanations are needed.
What, then, is the problem? Why are scientists unwilling to accept fully the implications of the three tried-and-true great theories which evolved over the last century? Listen to Professor Tipler, once again, in his own words (p. 47):
One of the implications of the laws of physics, an implication that most physicists find philosophically and religiously repugnant, is a necessary consequence of the [well-documented] expansion of the universe: it began a finite time ago . . . in a singularity, where the laws of physics themselves do not apply. The laws of physics do not apply at a singularity because, as the initial singularity is approached from inside space and time, physical quantities such as the density of material go to infinity. The laws of physics, however, can govern only the behavior of finite quantities. In the words of the great cosmologist Sir Fred Hoyle (1915-2001), "The problem with a singularity is that not only do the known laws of physics not apply there, no possible laws of physics can apply there." Hoyle is completely correct; no possible laws of physics can control a singularity. Modern physicists hate the idea that something real could be beyond the power of the laws of physics. . . .
Research among the views of modern physicists bears out the truth of Prof. Tipler's observation. They will go to any length to justify the "origin of the universe" in a "random vacuum fluctuation", which they describe as "simply one of those things that happen from time to time." (E. P. Tryon, "Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation?" Nature 246, at 396 .) According to this account of Sten Odenwald (notice, as you read it, all the weasel-words, such as "perhaps", "and so on", "random", "as yet unknown", etc.):
This proposal by Tryon was regarded with some scepticism and even amusement by astronomers, and was not pursued much further. . . .
In 1978, R. Brout, P. Englert, E. Gunzig and P. Spindel at the University of Brussels, proposed that the fluctuation that led to the creation of our universe started out in an empty, flat, 4-dimensional spacetime. The fluctuation in space began weakly, creating perhaps a single matter- antimatter pair of supermassive particles with masses of 10^19 GeV. The existence of this 'first pair' stimulated the creation from the vacuum of more particle-antiparticle pairs which stimulated the production of still others and so on. Space became highly curved and exploded, disgorging all of the superparticles which later decayed into the familiar leptons, quarks and photons.
Heinz Pagels and David Atkatz at Rockefeller University in 1981 proposed that the triggering agent behind the Creation Event was a tunneling phenomenon of the vacuum from a higher-energy state to a lower energy state. Unlike the Brout-Englert-Gunzig-Spindel model which started from a flat spacetime, Pagels and Atkatz took the complementary approach that the original nothingness from which the universe emerged was a spatially closed, compact empty space, in other words, it had a geometry like the 2-D surface of a sphere, but the dimensionality of its surface was much higher than 2. Again this space contained no matter whatsoever. The characteristics (as yet unknown) of the tunneling process determined, perhaps in a random way, how the dimensionality of spacetime would 'crystallize' into the 6+4 combination that represents the plenum of our universe.
Alex Vilenkin at Tufts University proposed in 1983 that our spacetime was created out of a 'nothingness' so complete that even its dimensionality was undefined. In 1984, Stephen Hawking at Cambridge and James Hartle at UCSB came to a similar conclusion through a series of quantum mechanical calculations. They described the geometric state of the universe in terms of a wave function which specified the probability for spacetime to have one of an infinite number of possible geometries. A major problem with the ordinary Big Bang theory was that the universe emerged from a state where space and time vanished and the density of the universe became infinite; a state called the Singularity. Hawking and Hartle were able to show that this Big Bang singularity represented a specific kind of geometry which would become smeared-out in spacetime due to quantum indeterminacy. The universe seemed to emerge from a non-singular state of 'nothingness' similar to the undefined state proposed by Vilenkin. The physicist Frank Wilczyk expresses this remarkable situation the best by saying that, "The reason that there is Something rather than Nothing is that Nothing is unstable."
And despite all the refinements since 1984 -- inflation theory, dark matter, dark energy, the (revived) cosmological constant -- physics today is no further along in being able to explain how something came out of nothing to make the universe that we inhabit. Its best explanation remains that "Nothing is unstable -- therefore Something had to happen."
Even such an indirect explanation of origins, however, cannot hide the mathematical fact of what Stephen Hawking and James Hartle proved in 1984: the universe as we know it originated in a singularity -- an instant for which there is no known explanation according to the laws of physics, because the laws of physics -- of any conceivable kind whatsoever -- simply have no application to a singularity.
Frank Tipler's answer to this conundrum is: "Get over it -- accept the singularity which all of our mathematics and physics are showing us actually happened. The theories are correct, and are verified by mountains of data. Instead of rejecting the theory and scrambling around to find one or more hypothetical alternatives, for which there is zero experimental support, be a real scientist and work with the data which the world has given you." For him, the singularity at the creation of the universe symbolizes something much bigger than the numerical infinities it invokes. As he lays out the physics, and summarizes the laws that cannot be violated, that singularity at the very beginning, plus a concomitant singularity at the end of the universe as he projects it, and a third singularity which connects those two singularities throughout all space and time, over multiple universes, constitute the Trinity of the Christian religion.
Now do you see why his theories are so controversial, and why he has been shunned by his colleagues? Let me continue with the exposition of his claims.
Apart from the initial singularity at the beginning of the universe, Prof. Tipler's next most controversial point is the conclusion that to be consistent with itself and the Standard Model, quantum mechanics requires that there be not just one, but many, many universes -- in point of fact, one for every quantum state in which a universe of our given size (and number of elementary particles) could be. The collection of all such universes is what he calls a multiverse. Its existence was first postulated by graduate student Hugh Everett in 1957, as a means of explaining the strange paradoxes of quantum mechanics.
Perhaps you are already familiar with some of those paradoxes, involving the passage of electrons or photons through barriers which result in a scattering, or interference pattern, that according to common sense would be impossible. (For a tongue-in-cheek overview of quantum paradoxes, see this article.) In his second chapter, Prof. Tipler revives a very descriptive explanation, originally given by Werner Heisenberg in 1930, of how phenomena such as light can behave as both waves and particles at the same time. As transformed by Tipler, the explanation posits a straight plane wave of water, running in infinite length from north to south, traveling from east to west, and encountering an equally infinite array of pillars or columns, each ten meters apart. On the top of each column is a form of "detector", initially colored red, which changes to blue if a wave sweeps over it. Looking down on the array from above, one would initially see a regular grid of red dots in the ocean.
Heisenberg in 1930 proved mathematically that there would have to be at least one row of pillars in the array which would be topped by the wave. The result would be a straight line of blue dots, moving from east to west, amid the red grid. In other words, the motion of the wave through the array would appear to the observer above exactly like the track of a particle!
What Heisenberg could not show was whether more than just one row of pillars would be topped by a wave that was sufficient to top at least one of them, even though common sense would say that there must be other such rows. And according to Tipler, the explanation lies in the phenomenon of superposition, which is the hallmark of a multiverse: in fact, every row in the array is topped by the wave, but our human bodies are limited to perceiving just the array which is in the particular universe which they inhabit. In the multiverse, each of us has a physical analogue -- a duplicate, down to the smallest quantum detail, of ourselves in each and every other universe -- which perceives the row in that universe to be overlapped by the wave, and so on and so forth, throughout each of the rows in the vast array we have posited. As Prof. Tipler explains (pp. 13-14):
Everett pointed out that we are also subject to Schrödinger's equation, which means that we are also both particles and waves. Our wave function is subject to superposition, just as the wave functions of electrons and water molecules are. So if we really want to determine what we will actually observe, we have to take into account our quantum mechanical nature also. We can't just suppose the electrons and collections of atoms obey Schrödinger's equation and we don't. After all, we are nothing but large collections of atoms and electrons.The key idea is to apply superposition not only to electrons and atoms but also to us. . . .Now Everett noticed the crucial point: we can determine what would happen to the entire array by linear superposition of all the rows of columns. If we superpose, we find necessarily that all are overlapped (or triggered). But we don't see them all overlapped or triggered because our sensory apparatuses are designed to see only one! . . . Nevertheless, quantum mechanics says these other lines of triggered columns are present in reality. And they are seen. They are seen by analogues of ourselves in parallel universes.
And now, Professor Tipler delivers the punch line (p. 14):
This conclusion is termed the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. However, interpretation is a misnomer, because it is the only interpretation of quantum mechanics. As Everett emphasized, the many worlds, which is to say, the other universes with analogues of ourselves, must necessarily exist if linear superposition applies not only to electrons and atoms and collections of atoms -- and innumerable experiments show that it does -- but also to those particular collections of atoms called human beings. We are no exception: the physical laws apply to everything.As the quotations with which I began this chapter [from Stephen Hawking, Murray Gell-Mann, Steven Weinberg, Anthony Leggett, Philip Anderson, Richard Feynman, and Leon Lederman -- all winners of the Nobel Prize in physics] show, even Nobel Prize-winning physicists have trouble accepting the many-universes implication of quantum mechanics, or, more precisely, the linear superposition property of quantum mechanics. But make no mistake: if quantum mechanics is true, the many universes necessarily exist. The mathematics of quantum mechanics gives no alternative. . . .
The multiverse, then, is a fact of reality, required by the only theory of the microcosmos which has been tested and borne out in literally thousands and thousands of experiments. At the same time, there is zero experimental evidence for such notions as inflation, M-theory, or strings -- all of which, in one way or another, are born out of a desperate attempt to evade having to deal with the singularity at the heart of the Big Bang.
There is much more to cover, but I will do so in additional installments. I find it easier to take Frank Tipler in smaller morsels.