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Some physicists hypothesize there’s a ‘mirror universe’ hiding in space-time

Sensational headlines often muddles the findings. Same happened with an obscure 2018 paper which argued that our universe may be having a mirror reflection across time, a companion universe that stretches beyond the Big Bang. Paper never got published in a peer-reviewed journal. The assertion that NASA discovered a parallel universe seemed to have been first envisaged by British tabloid The Daily Star, and the story was then lapped up by British and American outlets, including The New York Post.

Our universe’s “mirror”

In order to appreciate how The Daily Star arrived at its weird, viral claim, it’s essential to understand the claims of two distinct papers from 2018, one by Latham Boyle (a physicist at The Perimeter Institute in Ontario, Canada) and other by John Learned (a University of Hawaii astrophysicist). The paper by Latham Boyle and his colleagues published in December 2018 in the journal Physical Review Letters (post an appearance on the arXiv server in March that year), hypothesized a mirror universe — a reflection of our own universe across time. “I think nobody else understands the full sweep of what they have composed,” stated John Learned, the co-author of the second paper, which builds on Boyle’s theory.

Boyle’s work seems more like an expansion pack meant to plug holes in the theory that articulates the dominant origin story of the universe: Lambda-Cold Dark Matter (ΛCDM). ΛCDM explains the cosmos using two fundamental ideas:

  • First, an unknown dark energy results in the expansion of the universe. If this expansion is rewinded far enough backward in time the whole universe will occupy a single point in space.
  • Second, a concealed dark matter gravitationally tugs on all stuff in the universe, yet releases no light. This dark matter possibly accounts for the mass of vast majority of the universe.

“ΛCDM is basically the only game in town,” Learned stated. “It works in many cases, but there are some somewhat disturbing lapses in the modeling.” ΛCDM is unable to provide explanation for existence of matter as it hypothesizes that matter and antimatter would have formed at exactly equal rates after the Big Bang, and annihilated each other, leaving absolutely nothing behind. Boyle and his colleagues’ hypothesis unwinds the ΛCDM story further back in time, diving into the singularity at the beginning of time and coming out the other side.

Here’s how Boyle’s team sees their hypothetical theory: Envisage today’s universe as a wide, flat circle, sitting atop yesterday’s slightly smaller circle, which sits atop yet-smaller circle of the day before that, Boyle stated. Just stack up all the circles this way from today back to the Big Bang, and you’d end up with a cone standing upside down on its point end.

While observations go no further back than the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), normal cosmological models go a little bit further back but still tend to come to a sudden halt at the Big Bang. Not in Boyle’s scheme. It extends to the second universe (mirror universe) that extends away from the big bang.

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