The idea that our universe may be just one among many out there has intrigued modern cosmologists for some time. But it looks like this “multiverse” concept might actually have appeared, albeit unintentionally, back in the Middle Ages.
When scientists analyzed a 13th-century Latin text and applied modern mathematics to it, they found hints that the English philosopher who wrote it in 1225 was already toying with concepts similar to the multiverse.
The study, published on the pre-print server Arxiv and accepted by the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, has brought together two traditionally quite separate subjects: cosmology and history.
"The results give us a much deeper appreciation of science in the 13th century," said one of the lead authors of the study, physicist Richard Bower of Durham University in the United Kingdom. "From a scientist’s perspective, I find I had previously completely underestimated the depth of logical argument in the Middle Ages."
The international team first translated the original Latin text — called De Luce, which means “On Light,” and written by a philosopher named Robert Grosseteste — into English.
Grosseteste was “one of the most dazzling minds of his generation, lauded by his successors as a mathematical genius, theologian, politician and church leader; he was the bishop of Lincoln from 1235-53,” said the principal investigator of the research, medieval historian Giles Gasper of Durham University.
The scientists then tried to understand what Grosseteste was aiming to explain, and wrote down his ideas as if they were modern mathematical equations. The team used a computer to solve these equations, and to see whether they explained the universe as Grosseteste imagined it.