Physics and cosmology (the study of the origins, evolution and fate of the Universe) are essentially mathematical now, in its theory and its experimental practice (in the case of physics). Current mathematical modeling demonstrates the possibility of the existence of multiple, perhaps and infinite, number of parallel universes. The theory also predicts that in some circumstances these universes can be moved between, can leak into one another, via ‘worm holes’ in the space-time continuum. One is tempted to say, from a commonsense point of view and based on experience, these possibilities are merely artefacts of the mathematics. Even though much of the world can be modelled mathematically it doesn’t mean that the world ‘is’ mathematical. Much of the world can be described in mathematical terms but a description is not the same thing as that being described; a model is not the same as what the model is of and a map is not the same as the terrain mapped. All models, maps, theories, whether constructed with numbers, lines or words, are partial and incomplete representations of something else. To some extent words and mathematical formulae have their own internal logic; they are realities in their own right and have their own rules and customs. It is entirely possible that the multiple parallel universes are modelled by mathematics are possibilities of the maths, not the universe. It is a permanent feature of the use of instrumentation and apparatus in science that the scientist has to distinguish between the pre-existing reality the instrument enables us to see and measure and features that are observable that are caused by the instrument itself, the artefacts. In this case maths is the instrument and the parallel universes it enables us to see, at least theoretically, are artefacts of the instrument, mathematical possibilities rather than actually existing.
But are they?
The films Short Cuts and Sliding Doors suggest there is a real world interpretation of interpenetrating parallel universes, real world analogues. The films suggest ways that multiple biographies, lives, leak into one another and can be consequential for both (some or all). But there are not an infinite number of different personal universes, experience, necessity, contingency and fate. Every life traverses cusps, hinges, moments when decisions (conscious or otherwise) or events. Every door chosen or even unknowingly traversed through opens up a new landscape of possibilities but also closes an infinite number of other doors to many other landscapes. Even the conscious decisions may seem to be trivial at the time, as are the external events that impinge and impact on individuals’ lives and biographical trajectories. When an individual chooses to go through a particular door at the confluence of multiple possibilities and possible choices, this impacts and makes a difference to all the other current interpenetrations into other lives, near and far. One life leaks into other biographies and reconfigure their landscape of opportunity, obstacles, their structure of necessity and contingency. Adding the Short Cutes and the Sliding Doors modes of social interaction, immediate, proximate and afar, we end up with infinite possibilities for personal universes, the lapsed, the actual and the possible.