New Brunswick, N.J. (Dec. 20, 2018) – Rutgers experts can provide insight on the possibility of multiple universes – also known as the multiverse – as portrayed in the movie “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.”

Rutgers physicist Tom Banks was one of the first people to propose a model for a multiverse. He doesn’t think his original model still makes sense, but he and Willy Fischler, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin, proposed a mathematically sensible model for a multiverse years ago.

“I call these theories semi-respectable because there is very little one can do to test them,” said Banks, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “In all theories of this type that I know, the contact between different universes is limited, and when it occurs it’s either a tiny signal in the cosmic microwave background, or a total catastrophe with one or both of the interacting universes eventually being destroyed.”

“Given the nature of these models, the likelihood that there are other universes almost like our own, as in the Spider-Man movie, is infinitesimally small, and even if there were such a place, we couldn’t get any definitive signal from it,” Banks said. “All of the other multiverse models that I’m aware of would have similar conclusions about the Spider-Verse. They're very different from our model, but we’d agree on this point.”

“I’ve read a lot of sci-fi and I enjoy it even when I know the science concepts in it are absurd,” he added. “As long as the story is good, I’m happy.”

Dean Zimmerman, chair of the Department of Philosophy and founder and director of the Rutgers Center for the Philosophy of Religion in the School of Arts and Sciences, said “the idea of a multiverse creates a new twist on the problem of evil, and whether an all-good, all-powerful God is in charge.

“The many-worlds interpretation of some quantum physicists and modal realism of cosmologists would include worlds filled with horror and misery, which no sane God would tolerate,” Zimmerman said. “On the other hand, theories of a multiverse as an eternally inflating field that spins off baby universes are compatible with a theological vision of an infinitely creative Being working on canvases the size of worlds – maybe many featuring intelligent beings like ourselves. It may turn out that our world is fairly middling, among the many universes that were good enough for God to create.”

Barry Loewer, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Philosophy, said “physicists and philosophers have cooked up a number of proposals claiming that there are many possible worlds as real as this one. Unfortunately for Spider-Man, none of these permits travel between the worlds.

“The most interesting idea comes from quantum mechanics, which is the fundamental theory of atoms and light and everything, including cats and Spider-Men, composed of them,” Loewer said. “In the 1950s, doctoral student Hugh Everett proposed a ‘superposition’ theory, which means that a cat, for example, is dead in one world and alive in another world. Everett's idea was rejected at first, but now many physicists endorse it. I and philosopher David Albert are known for something called ‘the many minds interpretation of quantum mechanics,’ which says that everything physical evolves as physicist Erwin Schrödinger said, but minds evolve probabilistically so that they always perceive a definite outcome. We thought this up to emphasize the problem that many worlds has with probability. We didn’t believe it for a minute.”

Banks is available to comment at [email protected]

Zimmerman is available to comment at [email protected]

Loewer is available to comment at [email protected]


Broadcast interviews: Rutgers University–New Brunswick has broadcast-quality TV and radio studios available for remote live or taped interviews with Rutgers experts. For more information, contact Neal Buccino [email protected]


Rutgers University–New Brunswick is where Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, began more than 250 years ago. Ranked among the world’s top universities, Rutgers’s flagship university is a leading public research institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. It is home to internationally acclaimed faculty and has 12 degree-granting schools and a Division I Athletics program. It is the Big Ten Conference’s most diverse university. Through its community of teachers, scholars, artists, scientists, and healers, Rutgers is equipped as never before to transform lives.