What is a Multiverse?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Some theorists believe that we live in what is known as a multiverse, a collection of universes which do not appear to interact with each other. This theory is only one among many used to explain the mysteries of the cosmos, with some people avidly supporting it, while others argue that the multiverse theory doesn't hold water, and that there is only in fact one universe: the one in which we live. The idea of the multiverse is so appealing that the concept has been widely used in science fiction and fantasy.

The multiverse theory suggests that our universe is only one of many.
The multiverse theory suggests that our universe is only one of many.

While some scientists can agree on the multiverse theory, they can't always agree on how the multiverse actually works. There are a number of competing theories to suggest how the multiverse is arranged, and what its properties might be. Some theorists suggest that the multiple possible universes are all the result of cosmic splits made in response to major choices, while others propose the idea that the multiverse is related to the singularity which lies at the heart of black holes. These theories are only two among many, so it's easy to see how complex the multiverse theories can get.

Some theorists suggest that a multiverse is related to the singularity which lies at the heart of black holes.
Some theorists suggest that a multiverse is related to the singularity which lies at the heart of black holes.

According to most proponents of some form of a multiverse theory, the multiple universes do not and perhaps cannot interact with each other. In the case of parallel universes, which include the same people, locations, and creatures, interaction could cause serious problems, as people encountered their parallel selves. In other instances, universes within a multiverse might be mutually incompatible, so if people attempted to cross over, they would be unable to do so, or they would die once they arrived.

Researchers who support the multiverse theory put forward a number of arguments to support it, many of which are drawn from quantum physics, a branch of physics which is designed to deal with complex theoretical material. Equally valid critiques of the theory are also drawn from this branch of physics, illustrating the many ways in which knowledge can be used, in this universe, at least.

Authors sometimes find the concept of the multiverse immensely appealing. In science fiction and fantasy, a multiverse can add to the air of the fantastic, allowing the characters to explore totally alien or eerily familiar worlds as the story moves on. Typically, novelists ignore the generally agreed upon idea that the universes within a multiverse do not interact with each other, in favor of using crossings between universes as a plot device.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


The reason you have an imagination is so that you may affect the universe that you know for sure does exist.

Every day I get up and wonder if this is the universe that is meant for me, because every day the universe I wake up to is changed slightly from the one I went to sleep in, and yet I do not believe in a multi-verse. There is too much to experience and learn in this one. If another universe existed slightly out of phase with this one I suspect ghosts would be a manifestation of it. But I also suspect that our imaginations have little to do with it other than the 'seeing' of the ghosts.


There can be a connection between our imaginations and the multiverse. What if stuff we're imagining is actually taking place in a parallel universe? I'm just wondering.


@animegal - That is a pretty fascinating theory. I wonder how many people have considered the possibility that all of the places we have thought about in fantasy, our science fiction and our mythology, could actually be real?

I would love to visit so many of the amazing places I have read about in books and seen in movies, though there are of course places that no one would ever want to actually see.

When I think about the idea of multiverses it really brings up some deeply philosophical questions about our own existence and how we are tied to the greater universe at large. I wonder if somewhere out there aliens are dreaming of earth and making art out of the strange images in their minds of skyscrapers and humans?

Has anyone ever read a fantasy book that struck you as uncannily similar to a dream you have had, or a place you have visited?

I am really starting to wonder about how much of our imagination could be based off some universal information feed we have access to.


The idea of multiverses have been the basis of a lot of the fan fiction I have read over the years.

There are many that believe that the fantastical places and creatures we create, such as those found in the Lord of the Ring universe and even the Star Wars universe, are actually real places and real things.

There is a theory bouncing around that those who are sensitive to other plains of existence are able to tap into these worlds with their imaginations and tell us about them. Almost like having a window in your subconscious to the other things that exist outside our own universe.

I am not sure if this is true or not, but there are so many amazing things right here on our own planet that we have trouble explaining, and we know so little about things outside our planet, I guess anything is possible.


@JaneAir - Star Trek is another TV series that features parallel universes. I think there are a few episodes in every Star Trek series that feature this as a plot device.

I'm always entertained when they make an episode with the "Mirror Universe." This universe is supposed to be the "dark mirror" to their own universe.

In the Mirror Universe, everything seems to be backward. Evil triumphs, and characters who are good are evil. It's always entertaining when people from one universe meet their double from the other universe. They often don't have much in common!


@KaBoom - I enjoy it when science fiction writers throw in a parallel universes too. My favorite is when someone interacts with their double from another universe, and they are nothing alike!

For example, in the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the characters creates a parallel universe by making a wish. In one of the episodes one of the people from the parallel universe gets transported to their world by mistake.

She is the double of one of the main characters, except she is a vampire. She runs around creating mayhem and fooling people into thinking she's the girl from that universe.

She ends up solving a few problems for her double before they send her back. I always thought that episode was a really fun one!


I love when parallel universes are used in science fiction plots! When I was younger "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman and its two sequels were among my favorite books.

The multiverse plays a big role in the plot of that series. The main character, Lyra, is from a universe much like ours. However, in that universe peoples souls exist outside of their bodies in the form of a small animal.

In the series Lyra travels to our universe, as well as a few others. I'm always very interested in what authors and writers come up with when the invent parallel universes!

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