Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Illusion of Reality

...and a related interview with Rivka Galchen:

You wrote for The Believer on the "many worlds Interpretation" of quantum mechanics -- which also plays a role in your book. Where is the scientific consensus on that these days? Are there many universes? There was recently a 50th anniversary symposium on the subject at Oxford. The BBC made a documentary that seemed to say that there was almost no debate, that everyone takes it as the reality. But it does have pretty big flaws, especially in probability theory. It's an emotionally appealing idea, but it's still open to debate. If there are infinite universes created by every... Decision point. Right, decision point, does that mean that there's a parallel universe where, right now, everything is the same except that half my face is covered in purple polka dots and there's an elephant sitting at the corner table, flapping its wings? Yeah, I think that is what it means. Thank you! I've asked scientists about that and they never answer my question. There are also universes where the laws of our universe don't apply. But that would mean that there'd have to be one -- or infinite ones -- where the "many worlds interpretation" didn't obtain! Hmmm, suddenly we're sucked into a black hole of interpretive vertigo... in other science news, there's also a lot of meteorology in your book. How much do you actually know about the subject? I'm interested in it, but I'm more interested in gross misappropriations of the authoritative language of science. It feels rife with clarity, and yet you don't understand what it means. And I think that's beautiful. (
UPDATE: also check out parts 1, 2, and 3 of the BBC Atom series.

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