In the latest edition of Scientific American (August, 2011), Professor George Ellis asks the question “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” There are many different kinds of multiverse, as I outlined in my review of ‘The Hidden Reality’ by Brian Greene, though Ellis is most interested in those multiverses which occur in the theories of chaotic inflation or the landscape of string theory.

But there is another kind of multiverse discussed by Brian Greene and also alluded to by my colleague Janice Kay here at …

Donnie and Marie wanted to give their mother a special present for her birthday. They thought and thought and after a good long while, Donnie said to Marie, “Why don’t we give her Grandpa?”

Marie looked doubtful, “Grandpa will be lonely without Grandma,” she said. Donnie moved quickly to reassure her, “I’m sure we can afford to give her both.”

Soon after, Donnie and Marie visited the sales office of Second World where they were met by a charming and persuasive salesman.

“Well, young sir and madam,” he began, “How may I be of service to you?”

“We would like our Grandparents please, just before they met for the first time. Is that possible?” Donnie ventured.

The salesman demonstrated his catalogue of running virtual realities, all so detailed they were indistinguishable from the real thing.

“You wanted 2011, when your grandparents were at college together?” He flicked his hand. “How does that look?”

Brother and sister watched a gaggle of students, dressed in their curious tee-shirts and jeans, wandering the leafy avenues which led to gently-classical buildings. The young people were carrying bulky pad-like objects and in some cases wearing budlike ear-pieces.

“Yes!” squeaked Marie, “I’ve seen home movies of Grandma and Grandpa looking just like that!”

“It’s no problem,” said the salesman. “If you’ve got their DNA on file we can recreate them in their late teens and load the avatars with general knowledge and any biographical information our researchers can dig up. They’ll never know they’re not real.

“You have got their DNA, haven’t you?” he said, looking a mite concerned.

Donnie had a think. “Well, Grandpa certainly had his entire genome sequenced later in life, after it got real cheap. The file was left in his personal belongings and I’ve got a copy somewhere on my system.”

He concentrated, flicked his hand and the authenticated genome came up.

Marie chimed in: “I don’t think Grandma ever had hers done, but Grandpa always carried a locket of her hair which was passed down to Mom, and I know where it is.”

“No problem,” the salesman confirmed. “Bring it in here and we’ll sequence it in a flash.”

It turned out that the whole business was both affordable and rapid. On her Birthday, Mom was thrilled by all the presents she got. Finally Donnie and Marie unveiled their masterpiece. The room hushed as a wall shimmered into that long-ago Campus Park on a sunny afternoon. Mom’s eyes lit up in recognition as a gawky male student wandered across to a pretty girl sat against a tree.

As pickup lines go, it wasn’t so bad. He showed her a flower he had just plucked and said in a soft and husky voice, ‘I’m sorry to intrude; I just had to show this flower how beautiful you are.’ And then he gave it her.

“This is the very first time they met,” breathed Marie. “We paused it here so you could share the moment. From here on, things go swimmingly well!”

Mom’s eyes welled with tears of happy anticipation as she foresaw the endless hours she would be sharing with her parents, privy to their every secret intimacy.

“Children,” she exclaimed, “You’ve given me the nicest gift of all!”

Have you noticed any glitches in the matrix recently? Have you examined your memories and been surprised at how little you remember of day-to-day affairs even a few years back?

Given a hundred years of technological progress, the scenario above would be frighteningly easy. I can only advise that you keep your genetic code very firmly to yourself. But of course, it may already be too late!