The popular Netflix show, Stranger Things, explored the idea of an alternate dimension existing in parallel to the human world, called the Upside Down. Many other shows, including the sci-fi classic, Star Trek, and even the sitcom, Community, have explored the possibility of an alternate universe that mirrors our own.
While this idea may seem exclusive to fantasy and science fiction, there are several scientists who believe that a mirror universe could exist, and they’re trying to open it. Though not in the sci-fi Stranger Things kind of way you’re thinking.
Opening a Mirror Universe
Physicist Leah Broussard is one of those scientists. She was planning on conducting experiments in 2019 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in eastern Tennessee to uncover evidence that a mirror world exists right alongside our own .
The experiment would involve sending a beam of subatomic particles down a fifty-foot tunnel, past a powerful magnet, and into an impenetrable wall. If everything goes according to plan, some of those particles will turn into mirror-image versions of themselves and will be able to pass through the wall, which would be evidence that a mirror universe exists.
What Would this “Mirror Universe” be Like?
If it exists, this mirror world would have its own laws of mirror-physics and have its own mirror-history. In this alternate universe you might find mirror atoms and mirror rocks, mirror planets or mirror stars. When put together, these pieces could form an entire world that is just as real as our own, but completely cut off from us .
Where did this Theory Come From?
The research was inspired by some experiments that were conducted in the 1990s, in which particle physicists were measuring how long it took for neutrons to break down into protons after they were removed from an atom’s nucleus .
In one experiment the neutrons were fired out in the stream from a nuclear reactor, and lasted an average of fourteen minutes and 48 seconds. In the other, they were captured by magnetic fields and pushed into laboratory bottle traps. The neutrons in the second experiment only lasted for fourteen minutes and 38 seconds .
Ten seconds may not seem like much of a difference, but in particle physics, it’s a huge deal. All neutrons are exactly the same, and so their behaviour should not depend on where or how they are examined. For this reason, there should be no difference between the experiments at all.
Benjamin Grinstein, a particle-physics expert at the University of California, San Diego, takes discrepancy very seriously.
“It’s not just between two experiments. It is a collection of many experiments done independently by several groups,” he said .
One explanation for this phenomenon is that some of the particles are transforming into mirror matter, and so are “disappearing” from our universe and becoming a part of the mirror world.
Anatoli Serebrov of Petersburg Nuclear Physics Institute in Russia suggested that this could be the case ten years ago- that ordinary neutrons could sometimes cross over into the mirror universe and become mirror neutrons. This, according to Broussard, could explain why some neutrons were disappearing from test equipment .
Astronomers concluded that the universe contains vast amounts of “dark matter”, which has a powerful gravitational pull that helps prevent galaxies from flying apart. This matter cannot be seen, but analyses suggest that it outweighs visible matter by a factor of five.
One explanation of this is that dark matter is hidden in the mirror world, and so is difficult for us to find- essentially, dark matter and mirror matter are the same thing. If this is the case, this means that the mirror universe is significantly larger than our own .
A mirror world could also explain other phenomena, like the lack of isotope 7 in our universe, which physicists believe doesn’t match the quantities that the Big Bang would have created, as well as the detection of high-energy cosmic rays that have come from beyond our galaxy .
We’re Not Likely to Find “Dark People”
Many sci-fi stories have centered around alternate universes wherein there are “evil” versions of ourselves, however Broussard says this is not likely. She says, however, that dark matter is probably just as rich as our own, and is something that needs to be explored.
Not everyone in the science community is on board with this kind of research, however. Sabine Hossenfelder, an author, theoretical physicist and research fellow at the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies, does not believe that there is justification for the existence of such particles, and says that it is “a basic misunderstanding of science philosophy.”
Despite the critics, Broussard says that if she were to discover something like that, it would be a complete game-changer .
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