Testing typicality in multiverse cosmology

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Physical Review D, ISSN: 1550-7998, Vol: 91, Issue: 10

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Azhar, Feraz
American Physical Society (APS); American Physical Society
Physics and Astronomy
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article description
In extracting predictions from theories that describe a multiverse, we face the difficulty that we must assess probability distributions over possible observations prescribed not just by an underlying theory, but by a theory together with a conditionalization scheme that allows for (anthropic) selection effects. This means we usually need to compare distributions that are consistent with a broad range of possible observations with actual experimental data. One controversial means of making this comparison is by invoking the "principle of mediocrity": that is, the principle that we are typical of the reference class implicit in the conjunction of the theory and the conditionalization scheme. In this paper, we quantitatively assess the principle of mediocrity in a range of cosmological settings, employing "xerographic distributions" to impose a variety of assumptions regarding typicality. We find that for a fixed theory, the assumption that we are typical gives rise to higher likelihoods for our observations. If, however, one allows both the underlying theory and the assumption of typicality to vary, then the assumption of typicality does not always provide the highest likelihoods. Interpreted from a Bayesian perspective, these results support the claim that when one has the freedom to consider different combinations of theories and xerographic distributions (or different "frameworks"), one should favor the framework that has the highest posterior probability; and then from this framework one can infer, in particular, how typical we are. In this way, the invocation of the principle of mediocrity is more questionable than has been recently claimed.