Stack Exchange Network

Stack Exchange network consists of 175 Q&A communities including Stack Overflow, the largest, most trusted online community for developers to learn, share their knowledge, and build their careers.

Visit Stack Exchange

A parallel universe or alternative reality is a hypothetical self-contained separate reality coexisting with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a "multiverse", although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality.

A parallel universe or alternative reality is a hypothetical self-contained separate reality coexisting with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a "multiverse", although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute reality.

While the terms "parallel universe" and "alternative reality" are generally synonymous and can be used interchangeably in most cases, there is sometimes an additional connotation implied with the term "alternative reality" that implies that the reality is a variant of our own. The term "parallel universe" is more general, without any connotations implying a relationship, or lack of relationship, with our own universe. A universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, one in which there are no relativistic limitations and the speed of light can be exceeded – would in general count as a parallel universe but not an alternative reality.

Fantasy has long borrowed the idea of "another world" from myth, legend and religion. Heaven, Hell, Olympus and Valhalla are all “alternative universes” different from the familiar material realm. Modern fantasy often presents the concept as a series of planes of existence where the laws of nature differ, allowing magical phenomena of some sort on some planes. One of the first science fiction examples is John Wyndham's Random Quest about a man who, on awaking after a laboratory accident, finds himself in a parallel universe where World War II never happened with consequences for his professional and personal life, giving him information he can use on return to his own universe.

Typically, parallel universes fall into two classifications. The first may be more accurately called a "diverging universe" whereby two versions of Earth share a common history up to a point of divergence. At this point, the outcome of some even happens differently on the two Earths and the histories continue to become more different as time elapses since that point, such as the episode "Parallels". The second type is where despite certain, often large, difference between the two Earths history and/or culture, they maintain strong similarities. In such cases, it is common that every person in one universe will have a counterpart in the other universe with the same name, ancestry, appearance, and frequently occupation but often a very different personality, such as the episode "Mirror, Mirror".

See also:

Further reading

Source: Parallel universe (fiction) on the English Wikipedia.

history | excerpt history