Nowadays we come across with these two terms - parallel universes and multiverse. I wonder if this is the same thing or its two entirely different principles because the names are a bit confusing to me. Can anybody please shed some light on this?

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    $\begingroup$ According to wiki: The various universes within the multiverse are sometimes called parallel universes. $\endgroup$ Apr 9, 2014 at 13:53

2 Answers 2


I'd like to see the notion "parallel universe" restricted to universes similar to each other in some sense. This applies best to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum theory. Two universes in this sense can be almost identical, just different in a couple of quantum states.

Two such parallel universes could be interpreted (in the simplest case) as two elements of a Hilbert space. A Hilbert space defines a metric as a measure of distance between two elements (here applied to universes). This may be seen in some analogy to points (universes as analog) in an Euclidean plane (many-worlds multiverse as analog). Here the notion "parallel" can make some sense. At least, it's possible to compare the items in some way (by the distance between two points/universes).

Talking of universes as parallel in the very general case of items in a multiverse, when there is no similarity at all between these items, would be a bit too lax in my eyes.

  • $\begingroup$ In the latter case of general items in a multiverse, I would suggest "alternate universe". $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Apr 9, 2014 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ @called2voyage Above some level of generality there is no way anymore to put everything into one self-consistent notion. Even the notion "universe" gets undefined at some point. We could call it "objects of an omega-universe" comprising all meta(n)-levels for finite n. But structures beyond can be defined. No structure comprising all meta(n)-levels for arbitrary transfinite n can be defined. Hence the notion of an all-comprising level-IV multiverse is nonsense. But "alternate universe" is ok for me, as long as we talk about (yet) "usual" theories within a set theory framework. $\endgroup$
    – Gerald
    Apr 10, 2014 at 18:46
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    $\begingroup$ Right, certainly not meant to be all encompassing but for anything which we can coherently refer to as a universe but which cannot be coherently referred to as parallel (using the constraints you cited), then I think "alternate" is an appropriate modifier. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Apr 10, 2014 at 19:06

In my own mind the multiverse could consist of either multiple universes occupying the same "space" (as in different dimensions) and/or different areas of space where what we consider to be our own universe is only one "bubble", outside of which are an infinite number of other bubbles, possibly created by their own Big Bangs.

The first variant above is what I would refer to as parallel universes, i.e. not the "bubbles". Or to put it another way, The different universe instances in the multiverse could be parallel.

Note that my understanding of current hypothesis and theories in this area is very limited. These are just my own thoughts.

  • $\begingroup$ Please do not use flags for technical inaccuracies or a wrong answer. Use the downvote and comment features for this. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Apr 16, 2014 at 21:00

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