World’s Luckiest Man and the Fine-Tuned Universe

Frane Selak is a otherwise ordinary 91-year old Croatian music teacher, yet he has cheated death at least seven times, while winning over 1 million in the national lottery. Meanwhile, the “Many Worlds Interpretation” of Physics implies that we evolved to live in a particular universe “Fine-Tuned” to support human life. Putting the two together poses a nagging question…are the rest of us living in Frane Selak’s especially Fine-Tuned Universe?

Why did fate choose Frane Selak to be so fortunate?

There have been lucky people throughout history, who seem to have been selected by the hand of fate for greatness. George Washington had several horses shot out from under him, took bullets through his clothing, and survived several diseases. Teddy Roosevelt survived an assassin’s bullet when it hit his eyeglass case. Harrison Ford was a carpenter on the set of “Star Wars” when discovered by George Lucas. Charles Lindbergh survived four plane crashes using parachutes. (Garner,2016) Yet the luck of Frane Selak is almost otherworldly, making anyone else’s luck seem happenstance by comparison. He seems to have been selected by a divine hand as a Book of Job-ian experiment (or to exist in his own finely-tuned universe?) to cheat death. Here is his record:

1) In 1962, Selak was riding in a train when it flew off the tracks and crashed into a river. An unknown person pulled him to safety, while 17 others perished. Selak suffered a broken shoulder and hypothermia.

2) In 1963, during his first and only plane ride, he was blown out of a malfunctioning door, landing in a haystack below. 19 others died in the resulting plane crash.

3) In 1966, he was riding on a bus that crashed into a river, killing four, while he swam to safety with minor cuts and bruises.

4) In 1970, his car caught fire while he was driving, and he managed to escape before the fuel tank exploded.

5) In 1973, his fuel pump leaked onto the engine, causing another fire, which singed his hair, but left him otherwise unharmed.

6) In 1995, he was struck by a bus in Zagreb, but was unharmed.

7) In 1996, he avoided a head-on collision with a United Nations truck, which caused him to crash into a guardrail which gave way. He was again unharmed.

8) In 2003, he won $1,100,000 in the lottery. That same year, he married for the 5th time. (Newsgram.com,2020)

What makes this even more remarkable is that Frane Selak was not a dare-devil, soldier, or adventurer, just an ordinary music teacher, who remains philosophical and humble about his experiences.

Enter now the “Many Worlds Interpretation” (MWI) of Physicist Hugh Everett, which theorizes that the quantum uncertainty we see at tiny realms exist at larger realms (as opposed to Niels Bohr’s “quantum collapse theory” which says our world is the one and only). Not only have many physicists begun to subscribe to Everett’s theory over the years (including Stephen Hawking), but this theory has begat spin-off theories. Part of what makes MWI so attractive is that it eliminates many of the apparent paradoxes of Physics, including Schrodinger’s Cat (the cat doesn’t have to be simultaneously alive and dead in MWI, it simply goes into two different worlds) and similarly, backwards time travel (the grandpa-killing paradox is conveniently resolved by MWI). An illustrative “thought experiment” using MWI involves a scientist who builds a “quantum death chamber”, which branches his reality into life or death, depending on a quantum event (let’s say an electron’s location, which could simultaneously be two different places). If the experiment was run repeatedly, one version of the scientist would experience immortality, while the other versions would experience death. And now this is where it gets REALLY interesting. (Byrne,2008),(Wilkins, 2012)

The physics resulting from the Big Bang seem to have been finely-tuned to the stability of stars and human life

Many physicists studying the effects of the Big Bang have stumbled upon an interesting (or eerie) anomaly. Since the energy of the Big Bang essentially determined the nature and abundance of the elements (and the particles composing them), how is it that many physical values seem “finely tuned” for stars (and humans) to exist? Some examples (per Astrophysicist Martin Rees), are as follows:

1) The slow conversion of hydrogen to helium, which fuels our Sun and the other stars. This is made possible by the strong force (which holds atoms together). If this force were much stronger, all the hydrogen would’ve been consumed during the first few instants of the big bang, precluding the formation of stars.

2) The ratio of the electromagnetic force to the force of gravity is 10 to the 36th power (10 with 36 zeros after). If it were smaller, only a small and short-lived universe would have existed.

3) If the energy state of the life-giving Carbon-12 nucleus were much lower, there would be insufficient Carbon available to support life.

4) If the Cosmological constant was larger, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for stars (and life) to be stable.

There are several other examples (supporting the so-called Fine-Tuned Universe), and similar questions have been posed since 1913 (by Chemist Lawrence Joseph Henderson), and later by Physicists Robert Dicke in 1961, and Fred Hoyle in 1984. Physicist Paul Davies has said, “There is now broad agreement among physicists and cosmologists that the Universe is in several respects ‘fine-tuned’ for life”. Stephen Hawking has noted, “The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron…The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life”. (Siegel,2019)

The concept of Parallel Universes is thought likely, yet poorly understood at present. Are they as real as our own, or are they shadow universes? Do they exist only as statistical anomalies? Can they be proven?

Of course, there could be many explanations for the fine-tuned Universe. Two of the main ones are a Universe that was “perfectly” created for us by God or Aliens, so as to create a dandy sort of “zoo” for us lucky humans. An explanation favored by Physicists involves the Multiverse, and elements of MWI. This universe, like the survivor of the quantum death chamber, would prevail after all the “imperfect” universes fell away into other, perhaps real or unreal universe possibilities. These Multiverse theories sometimes take on a “natural selection” feel (a universe that is constantly adapting, leaving other universes behind). In this era of ever-larger colliders, particle physicists hope to someday find evidence for parallel universes. Of course, there is nothing precluding the possibility that parallel universes exist in tandem with a God or Alien created universe. To be fair, there are also theories that the universe only seems fine-tuned according to our perceptional bias, or failure to understand relationships between physical constants (which is awaiting a successful Unified Field Theory). (Zyga, 2010)

So now, back to Frane Selak, who has also been called the “luckiest unlucky man in history”, since if he was really lucky he wouldn’t have been subjected to all those near-misses. However, his “luck” is uncanny, which makes one wonder if we are living in a reality, or “universe” particularly attuned to the preservation of Mr. Selak, in which the rest of us are minor actors. At this point, we must consider that each of us is also remarkably lucky to even be here (given the number of planets that don’t support life, the number of unsuccessful sperm/eggs, the fact that we’re human, etc etc) so perhaps Frane Selak’s lucky universe is a subset of our lucky universe. As such, the definition of “luck” might be a kind of endless quantum death chamber experience, where a conscious “you” always believes “you’ve survived”, while there are countless other “yous” who have not survived, and tucked in other universes. Each of us may live in a “personalized” universe, in which we are subject to tests and travails (a function of our struggle to evolve) but always “luckily” surviving. Watching others unluckily not survive might be like watching their alternate universe, while somewhere they survive in their own “lucky” universe. But since all possibilities exist, you see a few Frane Selaks running around, either displaying the occasionally rare statistical odds of a given universe, or put there by God, Aliens, or both, to give us hope.

It would seem that science is late in explaining the phenomenon of luck, which in Selak’s and the Cosmos’ case is off the charts. For too long, science was content to believe that everything that happened was within statistical probability. But now, thanks to the application of quantum physics to everything, plus a kind of quantum-cosmic evolutionary theory, we have another possibility to compete (or collaborate) with the age-old God and/or Aliens theories. So now we can rest easy at night knowing that everything may be challenging, but with great outcome in our personalized Universes?

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Vern Scott

Scott lives in the SF Bay Area and writes confidently about Engineering, History, Politics, and Health