Babushka dolls and the Multiverse

I’m a science fiction writer, as well as a reader,  so I tend to think about odd things when my hands are busy and my brain is unattended.

Today I was working on my latest rockery project when I found myself thinking about babushka dolls.

babushka dolls

Image courtesy of Color My Brain

The interesting thing about these little babushkas is that they nest, one inside the other. If we had the technology, we could probably keep making them smaller right down to the Planck level. [Wiki : “the Planck length is in principle, … the shortest measurable length…”] Basically that’s incredibly small.

Fractals are the natural equivalent of babushkas.

fractal fern changed

Core image courtesy of Dave’s Garden

“Mandelbrot derived the term “fractal” from the Latin verb frangere, meaning to break or fragment. Basically, a fractal is any pattern that reveals greater complexity as it is enlarged. Thus, fractals graphically portray the notion of “worlds within worlds” …”  [

So what do babushkas and fractal fern leaves have to do with the multiverse? I’m so glad you asked. 😉

The thought that occurred to me while I was lugging those rocks around from one spot to another was… what if the multiverse is like an infinite series of babushkas?

As human beings we see the universe around us as the only universe, however a bacterium must think it is living in the only universe as well!

Yes, yes, I know, bacteria don’t have brains [sic], but when you look at how they live their lives, the parallels between them and us are not so very far-fetched. To a bacterium, one single human body is the universe! They can’t ‘see’ us because we are simply too big.

But what happens if we humans raise our sights from the microscopic and look up, at the billions of stars that inhabit our universe? Is it possible we are just like those bacteria, and can’t see the forest for the trees?

When I think of the stars, all arranged into galaxies, each of which orbits some theoretical centre of the universe, I can’t help thinking of the sub-atomic particles – protons, neutrons and electrons – that make up one atom. Those particles spin around the nucleus of the atom, much like the planets of a solar system or the stars in a galaxy, giving it form and substance. Fractals anyone?

Here, in our universe, if you multiply that one atom by the billions, you might end up with a rock, or a human being. But what would you get if you multiplied all those stars and galaxies by the billions? Would you just end up with star soup? Or might you not end up with a bigger babushka doll?

If there is such a thing as the multiverse then this is how I see it, one universe inside the other, each providing the building blocks for something bigger, grander, more unknowable. And if there is a god, then perhaps she is the biggest babushka of them  all. 😉

-cough- On that metaphysical note I’m going to end this last post for 2012 and wish you all a safe, and very happy New Year!



About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

27 responses to “Babushka dolls and the Multiverse

  • littlemissobsessivesanatomy

    wow…thats brilliant thinking… 🙂


  • jenniferscoullar

    Have often thought our universe could be an atom in some larger place … and LOVE Babushka dolls!


  • metan

    Gardening is the perfect time for those big questions, isn’t it? Those tiny universes we disturb with every rock we move, until the rock moved did the busy inhabitants know there was anything else out there? What happens if someone moves our rock one day?

    The closer you look at things, big and small, the more astounding they become. I am an atheist because I can’t ever believe that a god could create of all of those amazing things.
    I love this scene from the end of Men in Black, of course it isn’t true, but how would we know if it was!


    • acflory

      LMAO… so yes! Which MIB was this from? 1 or 2? Coz you’ve made me want to see it again. 😀

      Re religion. I could never understand why, if this god was omniscient blah blah, it would bother with the petty demands of tiny creatures as insignificant and small as us. I mean, really? A being like that needs to be flattered by something the size of a virus [in the cosmic scheme of things]?

      Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this little discussion and I’m so chuffed you guys weren’t bored by it. 😀

      Happy New Year minus 3 hours and counting!


      • metan

        MIB 1, I think. I was originally looking for a clip of The Young Ones to add to my comment, the episode when an eclair gets dropped on the petri dish containing our universe *splat* but I couldn’t find one… grrrr…. 🙂

        I stopped believing in a god long ago, despite years of sunday school indoctrination, and you don’t want to get me started on the myriad of reasons why!

        Happy soon-to-be New Years! 😀


  • candy korman

    Smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller…
    Larger and larger and larger and larger…

    A philosophical end to 2012 and a new, and even tinier, doll for 2013?


  • sweetmother

    i liked this post. to go from nesting dolls to the universe/ mulitverse is a huge and interesting leap. thoroughly enjoyable and highly readable as always. xo, sm


  • lorddavidprosser

    I’ve a suspicion that if we live inside God we’re probably his dyspepsia and any century now the bicarb of soda is going to come flush us out.
    It’s funny that all of us can see the beginning of a piece of string and the end of a piece of string and thus imagine the total but we can’t manage that with the universe or the multi verse because when you conjure up an end in your mind it doesn’t work. Run into a brick wall, what’s on the other side? Suddenly reach blackness, well how far does it go?
    I always thought that man was too vain in believing himself the only species on the only occupied planet. Maybe the aliens are just too big for us to see or too small to notice, I wonder how they’ve solved your Babushka dilemma or whether they left someone at home with a sleepless night ahead of them thinking about it.
    I wish you a Wonderful 2013.


    • Ilil Arbel

      Hi David, I totally agree with you that we must cause a lot of indigestion to God… nothing can be nastier than humans… nevertheless I wish you and the family a wonderful, miraculously healthy and happy year.


    • acflory

      -dance- Yes! Language and philosophy, in turn, are inextricably linked to our biology and how our brains are wired. Little surprise then that we always have to ask what’s on the other side of the wall.

      You know why I’m an atheist? Because I couldn’t help asking ‘if god created us, then who created god?’

      The one thing our brains seem to shy away from is the acceptance of the random. We need order, and so we make it, however we can.

      One day I am going to write a post about embracing chaos. 😀


      • Ilil Arbel

        That’s why I am not an atheist but an agnostic. God may or may not exist, and since there is no proof, I cannot firmly believe in his existence or his absence.

        I’d love a post about embracing chaos. Excellent idea to start the year with — I won’t have to make any resolutions.


        • acflory

          I’ll leave the butterfly effect alone – that’s been done to death – but maybe something about randomness. And you most certainly should make resolutions! With a bit of random -cough- luck -cough- one or two might even succeed. 😉

          Happy New Year [almost]!


  • Ilil Arbel

    Great minds… I had always the suspicionj that if God exists, we live inside him/her/it. Religion is based on the glimpses some strange people had of the tissues, the organs, and beyond. But the biggest Babushka is not enough because what is outside this great Babushka? So the multiverse may have some kinks in it that we cannot grasp. Love this article. Happy New Year and I miss your e-mails!


    • acflory

      Exactly! This is one of those intersections where language and philosophy entangle.Words like ‘beginning’ and ‘before’ imply boundaries, yet simply by setting those boundaries we create a situation where we wonder what is outside those boundaries and so another babushka is born.

      I don’t indulge in this kind of thinking often because it can soon feel like falling up into the night sky, but it’s New Year’s Eve so let’s live a little!


      • Ilil Arbel

        I am basically willing to accept the fact that my three-dimensional brain cannot grasp a multi-dimensional universe. And language, limiting as it is, is our only tool for comprehension, so I have to live with the fact that my knowledge will never be precise. But I do indulge in this quite often, I must admit…


        • acflory

          -nods- Our language is defined by the way our brains work so we will always end up bashing our heads against a wall but, like you, making the attempt to push through is a glorious indulgence. 😀


  • Carrie Rubin

    We went to St. Petersburg a couple years back (it was a stop on a Baltic cruise–wonderful vacation), and we now own several sets of nesting dolls. Thanks to your article, I will now look at them in a whole new way. It is mind boggling to think we are merely one tiny “doll” in a continuous collection of others.

    Have a happy New Years!


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