Cumrun Vafa has just pointed out a new article in the Time magazine to me. The address is
The article starts by explaining who are cranks, and why many scientists turn on their e-mail filters to avoid all contacts with the crackpots. However, the article itself is then becoming increasingly entertaining, frustrating, or irritating, depending on your mood.
It explains that many parameters of the world seem to be adjusted in such a way that life is possible, and roughly speaking, the text proposes four main different explanations why it's so - and the first three explanations are related:
- God. The most obvious explanation of these coincidences is that there exists God who created the world that allowed Him or Her to start to produce the humans to His or Her image at the end of the week. Instead of God, the creator could have also been Zeus or Odin, as some experts propose. Unlike the previous cases in which science superseded God by another explanation, we may have reached the point where God becomes the only savior, the text explains.
- Aliens. Although James Gardner, an attorney from Portland, Oregon may seem as another crackpot, the text argues that there is a widespread consensus that Gardner is a genius instead: people like Martin Rees and researchers from SETI and the Santa Fe institute support him. Gardner's theory says that our Universe (whose technical name is Biocosm TM) has been manufactured by a superior race of superintelligent extraterrestrial beings, the so-called U.F.O. Übermenschen.
- Multiverse. The author uses inflation theory, Darwin's theory, and especially string theory to argue that there are many Universes, and roughly one of them has the right properties for us to be born. Superstring theory was "renamed" to M-theory, and no one except for the specialists should be interested in the reasons why it was renamed. Strange as it sounds, most physicists agree that it is the most likely candidate to unify GR and QM. Shamit Kachru and his friends calculate the number of Universes according to M-theory - because string theory has been renamed - and the result is 1 followed by something like one hundred zeroes (recall that one hundred is 1 followed by two zeroes).
- Rational arguments. At the very end, the article also offers several reasonable voices - like Brian Greene, Steven Weinberg, Alan Guth - who are not sure whether there are very many Universes around, and who still find it plausible that there will be a rational explanation for the currently unknown features of the Universe. In fact, Lenny Susskind at the very end remains a bit open-minded, too - he almost sounds as a voice of reason. The article does not mention Weinberg's anthropic prediction of the cosmological constant, and it also makes other errors in attributing various ideas to the people.