As much as we might like to think that our collective knowledge has unlocked most of the mysteries of the universe, we’ve really only got a hold on a tiny fraction of the knowledge required to fully understand it all—and it’s a weak hold at best. But every once in a while a new theory comes along that completely upends everything we thought we knew and sends us down a new path that just might hold the key to all our unanswered questions. These theories often express ideas that are just too abstract or staggering to be accepted by the larger scientific community at the time, but, over the years, as more discoveries are made and certain pieces fall into place, sometimes even the wildest theories have been proven to be right all along.
While none of the hypothesis we present to you here have ever been conclusively verified, they haven’t been totally dismissed yet either. So why not decide for yourself which of these mind-blowing scientific theories you think has the most potential to pan out.
12. The Ekpyrotic Universe Theory
Providing an alternative to the widely accepted Big Bang theory, the ekpyrotic universe theory suggests that, unlike the Big Bang which supposedly began from a singularity, our universe is actually two universes that smashed into each other. It’s thought that this collision had the effect of “resetting” our universe and, after that point it started expanding just like in the Big Bang. However, instead of infinitely expanding forever, the theory asserts that one day the universe will begin to contract, inevitably leading to what some astrophysicists refer to as the Big Crunch. Then, all the speed and energy involved in the Big Crunch then creates another monumental collision, which results in the universe being reset again so the cycle can repeat itself for all eternity.
11. The Existence of White Holes
Everyone knows about black holes and how their immense gravity sucks in everything around them, including light. But what about white holes? Theoretically, they’re the exact opposite of a black hole and instead of sucking in matter they spit it out. But scientists have never observed one (likely because they would only exist in extremely hypothetical situations), so it’s unclear if a white hole would function like the tail end of a black hole, a wormhole, or something else entirely. If a white hole really were spewing out matter that was sucked into a black hole, that matter would have to avoid merging with the singularity and somehow be preserved. Currently, we don’t really know exactly what happens to matter that gets sucked into a black hole because all the black holes we’ve observed have an event horizon that prevents us from seeing them directly. The only reason why we can infer the locations of black holes in our universe is because we notice the gravitational effects they have on the objects around them. Which means that if we ever hope to prove the existence of white holes in the future we may need to reconfigure our understanding of the laws of physics—which would certainly be a tall order.
10. The Fermi Paradox
Originally put forth by physicists Enrico Fermi and Michael H. Hart, the Fermi Paradox contests that if the Drake Equation is correct and there are actually millions of intelligent life to be found in our very own Milky Way galaxy, then it makes sense that we should have picked up some sort of signal from at least one of them by now. This argument has been referred to as the Great Silence.
A number of interesting theories have risen over the years that provide an explanation for this Great Silence, among them, perhaps the most interesting and imaginative one suggests that we’re all living out our lives in a Matrix-like computer simulation.
9. The Simulation Theory
This theory supposes that we all might be living in a computer simulation created by an alien race in some distant galaxy. While it may sound like an idea dreamed up by someone who has watched too many sci-fi movies, there are actually prominent scientists and physicists who not only think the Simulation Theory is possible, they’re working on experiments to prove it. In particular, a team of German physicists are trying to create their own programmed simulation of our universe.
Surprisingly, a recent string theory discovery made by theoretical physicist S. James Gate lends further credibility to this theory. Basically, Gate found what is essentially computer code buried deep within the equations we use to describe our universe. And it’s not just any code, it’s an extremely unusual self-dual linear binary error-correcting block code. So it would seem that error correcting 1s and 0s are embedded in the quantum core of our universe. “Wake up Neo. . . The Matrix has you.”
8. The Universe is a Hologram
Rather than an elaborate computer simulation, this theory suggests that the universe we see is nothing more than a hologram generated by the universe itself. The idea is that when we look up at the night sky, the distant stars and galaxies we see are really more like an image projected on a wall. This holographic principle could provide the explanation as to why the universe appears flimsy when broken down to the most basic of energy scales. Keep in mind that a holographic image is produced when you cover an object with the light from a laser and then a second laser jumps off the the reflective surface of the first later. Another light source then illuminates the image to produce the holograph. It’s thought that if variations in gravitational waves is caused by different patterns of light, then it would simulate this holographic image creation process. And if this theory is ever proven correct, it would mean we need to alter a lot of our perceptions of what we think we know about the universe.
7. Black Holes Can Give Birth to Entirely New Universes
With their mysterious nature and ominous light devouring capacity, it’s not surprising that black holes are often looked upon as the dark reapers of the universe. But this theory suggests that a black hole might actually be the mother of our universe. The idea is, when matter gets pulled into a black hole, the intense gravity compresses it to a single point so dense that it gets spit back out and forms an entirely new universe from that very same matter. So it would follow that a universe with a lot of black holes would essentially be a nursery for baby universes. Though it’s very difficult to pinpoint the exact locations of black holes in our universe, due to them being rendered invisible by their event horizon, some astronomers think the reason for this could be because we’re merely the product of another universe’s black hole—a concept that falls in line with theories that propose we are living in a multiverse.
6. The Many Worlds Theory
Speaking of the multiverse, the many worlds theory has a slightly different explanation for the existence of countless other universes. Using quantum mechanics, it affirms the objective reality of space but infers that matter cannot be condensed to the point of singularity. So rather than having new universes spontaneously popping out of black holes, the many worlds theory proposes that every time we make a decision, a new universe is born. So basically every time you have to make a choice, whether it’s paper or plastic, coffee or tea, debit or credit, you’re essentially creating a new universe where you made the opposite choice. Each decision you make is then played out in full until it comes time for you to make another decision, by which another universe would branch out from. If this does in fact occur, that would mean there are a seemingly infinite number of universes out there for every decision every person has ever made.
5. The Heat Death of the Universe
This theory follows from the second law of thermodynamics and proposes that if the universe was infinite, it should also be infinitely old. In other words, if a star is seen to be one million light years away, it could only be there if the universe was at least one million years old (assuming the speed of light is constant). Therefore, in an infinitely old universe, heat death would suggest that eventually the entire universe will have the same uniform temperature, at which point the universe will remain stagnant. However, this idea would only make sense if the speed at which the universe is expanding has always remained constant. An aspect that other ideas, like cosmic inflation, would be in direct conflict with.
4. Observing Dark Energy is an Act of Murder
Theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss once stated that every time we look at dark energy, we’re killing the universe. According to astrophysicists, dark energy makes up an estimated 70 percent of all the energy in the entire universe and holds the secrets to many of the unexplainable peculiarities we see in deep space.
Krauss suggests that the Big Bang was initiated when some unusual high energy with gravity repellent properties decayed into zero-energy; and it was the process of going from a false vacuum to an ordinary vacuum that resulted in the creation of our universe. In quantum mechanics there’s something called the quantum Zeno effect which states that if an unstable object is regularly observed, it will never decay. From this, Krauss’s argument follows that if dark energy is continuously observed, we are keeping it unstable and reducing the universe’s lifespan by forcing it back to that state when it was a false vacuum. But with so many of the mysteries of our universe pointing to dark energy as the key to understanding them, you can bet your bottom dollar that astronomers and physicists aren’t going to stop studying it anytime soon. Let’s just hope those effects are negligible.
3. The Panspermia Theory
Panspermia is a Greek word that translates literally as “seeds everywhere.” The panspermia theory states that the “seeds” of life are present throughout the universe and can be propagated through interstellar space or even intergalactic space through natural means. A growing number of people are even subscribing to the hypothesis that life on Earth may have begun from the “seeds” carried to our planet by meteorites and comets originating from the vast reaches of the cosmos.
The recent discovery of various extremophiles (organisms that can survive in extreme environments we previously thought were incapable of supporting life) here on Earth has contributed a great deal of credibility to this theory. It’s now known that life as we know it can survive in environments of extreme heat, extreme cold, intense radiation and lack of oxygen. All conditions an organism might experience while stowing away on an interstellar comet or meteor.
2. The Singularity
Ray Kurzweil is a prominent futurist who wholeheartedly believes that in the coming decades humanity will experience what he refers to as a technological singularity by which we will learn to transcend biology itself and all the limitations (including death) associated with it. Kurzweil reasons that truly intelligent civilizations (which he believes humanity to be) are destined to evolve into super-intelligent, possibly machine-based beings whose computational powers grow exponentially.
The idea is that once we hit this so-called “singularity” our technology will be so advanced that we’ll be making revolutionary new breakthroughs on practically a daily basis. We’ll be able to harness the power of our own sun in order to accomplish amazing interstellar feats once only dreamed of in science fiction. In this world, things like cyber brains, dyson spheres and teleportation devices aren’t just possible, they’re practically inevitable.
Of course, this theory has plenty of skeptics, including Noam Chomsky, who believes it to be nothing more than a science fiction enthusiast’s dream. While others simply believe we humans will carelessly destroy ourselves before ever reaching the singularity.
1. Retroactive Precognition
In 2011, Dr. Daryl J. Bem of Cornell University published a highly contentious paper titled “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect.” The paper describes a series of experiments conducted by Bem in an effort to discover precognition (knowledge of future events). Working on the assumption that there are, what he refers to as, “anomalous processes of information or energy transfer that are currently unexplained in terms of known physical or biological mechanisms,” the evidence Bem gathered led him to conclude that future events could indeed affect a person’s cognition in the present.
In one study, Bem rounded up 1,000 college students and tested each of their ability to correctly intuit random information. Another study involved a reverse memory test in which participants were asked to categorize random words that they later had to commit to memory. Astonishingly, the results from this test showed that students were more likely to recall words in the present if they made a point of memorizing them in the future.