Life was a lot simpler when there was just one Spider-Man. Okay, so it was a stretch of the imagination to think that a teenager bitten by a radioactive spider might develop superpowers and save the world, but it was manageable. One hero, one world. Simple.

Then, in 2018, Columbia and Sony unleashed Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It was a huge hit—critics and fans were delighted, an Oscar was awarded, and the movie made more money than any other Sony animation in history. What was the key plot device of this barnstorming blockbuster? A multiverse.

Yes, that’s right—the universe, I’m afraid, is old hat. That “uni” sitting at the front of it implies “one,” and it just won’t do any more. The Spider-Verse was a whole new realm; one in which there were countless Spider-Men and Spider-Women, countless New Yorks, countless bad guys, and countless storylines to be exploited—which the writers did to great (and brain-boggling) effect.

As it happens, interactive systems of parallel universes have existed in the world of science fiction for many years—from the big screen and small screen to paperback novels—and they have become a staple for any author looking to play with possibilities and muddle our minds. Thankfully, though, such complex extravagancies need not trouble us here in the real world, for the multiverse is fictional.

Isn’t it?

Leveling Up

The rather surprising answer to that question is: not necessarily. Over the past decade or so, more and more top-level scientists have not only entertained the notion but have bought into it wholesale. According to some of the best minds in the business, there may very well be a lot more going on than just our ...

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