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I'm looking for a book I read 10–20 years ago about a physicist who accidentally discovered how to create universes. I think she worked at a collider. (I don't remember if it was a real collider like at CERN or a made up one.) It was through her work there that she made her discovery.

She created lots of universes after the first one, and each had different laws of physics.

I remember it being hard sci-fi, with the types of measurements she performed and the results being described in some detail.

I'm almost completely sure that the main character is a woman, and I picture her as a black woman (though I don't remember if that's how she was described or how I imagined her).

There was a lot more to the story, but I only remember tiny flashes — other people, maybe the government, find out and aren't pleased with what she's doing. I think at least one of the universes shows signs of intelligent life.

I read it in English, and it's full novel (not a short story).

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    Can you remember if it was the whole book or a short story in a collection? What language was it in? Can you remember anything about the cover? Any details of the tiny flashes you can remember would be helpful, it might be that one small thing that triggers someone's memory. Any details at all about the intelligent life? – Wiggo the Wookie May 17 at 14:54
  • Check this out if you haven't already for advice on Story Identification questions scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9335/… – Wiggo the Wookie May 17 at 14:57
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    I added the other bits I remember.. I have no memory of the cover. – user2780043 May 17 at 15:14
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Cosm, a 1998 novel by Gregory Benford. is at least a partial match. As I recall, the main character is a black woman physicist, working at a collider, who accidentally creates a universe, sneaks it out of the lab and takes it home with her. I don't recall the part about her making more universes, but then I don't think I read the whole book. I'll see if I can find my copy or else some reviews or something, and maybe add to this answer.

P.S. I found my copy. From the back cover blurb:

After an accident in a brilliant young physicist's most ambitious experiment, it appears: a wondrous sphere the size of a basketball, made of nothing known to science. Before long, it will be clear that this object has opened a vista on an entirely different universe, a newborn cosmos whose existence will rock this world and test one woman to the limit: the physicist who has ignited this throilling adventure.

The brilliant young physicist is a black woman named Alicia:

A cool breeze whipping by reminded her that spring was still laced with chilly air skating down from Canada. The gust unfurled her bun and sent tendrils playing about her face. She felt she must look even more peculiar than usual, a big black woman with the classic African bulging bust and rear, a blob bobbling along on a spindly bike. Definitely out of place on Long Island. She had never entertained the slightest hope of resembling the willowy models of Vogue; those she regarded as aliens from another world, whom all true human females hated.

She zoomed on her beat-up bike alongside an enormous grassy berm, nearly four kilometers around and buried in the sand and stone of Long Island. Slanting morning beams highlighted the immense curve of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, a giant swollen wrinkle. She had used the acronym RHIC, pronouncing it Rick, for so long that she thought of it as somehow male. Taking in deep breaths, she coasted amid pine trees just showing the light green tips of new growth.

And here, near the end of the book, some talk about other "Cosms" with different physical constants:

She chuckled. "What we just saw wasn't big enough?"

"Granted. I mean, conceptually. Look, do you think the production of Cosms will stop here?"

She thought about Brookhaven, about the sociology of particle physics, of the personalities, of the entire horizon-pushing history of the cultures that had come out of Europe over five hundred years before. "No."

"And the Brookhaven Cosm, it's not quite like ours. It differs slightly in some fundamental parameter, apparently, though we don't know which one yet."

"So?" Lazy warmth, the buzzing slowly getting louder, then fainter, then louder again: a search pattern.

"Any future Cosms we meddlers make can also differ slightly in fundamental numbers. Some will be changes that make life impossible, some will be good for life. Maybe even better than this universe, though ours certainly looks very finely tuned to make life possible."

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    Yes! This is it - thank you. If there's only 1 universe in Cosm, then I'm remembering it wrong - this is definitely the book I was thinking of. – user2780043 May 17 at 15:15
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    In case it's of interest to anyone (@user2780043?), RHIC (which is real) may have been the collider referenced in the story. (I haven't read the story, but the fact that these excerpts mention Brookhaven and Long Island is quite suggestive.) – David Z May 18 at 1:47
  • Wow Nice pull. I had completely forgot about this book. Now I am off to do a reread. – JWT May 18 at 2:59
  • @user14111 Thanks for confirming. (I must say it never occurred to me to personify a collider with a gender! Interesting quote.) – David Z May 18 at 4:32
  • One other universe is created by a rival at the same collider after discovering what she did (she stole the first one), but it has disastrous outcomes. – Moo May 19 at 0:18
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Looks like user14111's answer has the right book, but maybe the multiple universes were from something else. Your question reminded me of Diaspora by Greg Egan.

In it a group of two post-human entities don't so much create universes as find a way to open windows into them. The universes have different laws of physics and they figure out ways to build machines and transfer their consciousnesses into those universes, through them into others, and so on.

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  • In Diaspora there is a chain of universes, alternating 3 and 5 dimensions. Humanity emigrates to the universe two “up” from ours to escape a galactic disaster, and two persons then travel up the chain as far as they can go, looking for traces of the people who left them the technology. – Anton Sherwood May 25 at 4:23

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