“I’m not afraid of death. I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”–Woody Allen
I conjecture: In a Many Worlds quantum multiverse, each individual consciousness represents a distinctly different universe.
Part Two: Quantum suicide and quantum immortality
Warning: Professional stunt blogger. Closed course. Do not attempt at home.
To recap where we left off in our last episode, the first part of Conjecture #5 suggested that, in a universe where the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics holds sway, each conscious entity represents its own distinct universe. I called this Quantum Solipsism. This differs somewhat from Conjecture #4, which suggested that in a universe governed, at least philosophically, by the Copenhagen interpretation, our consciousness represents a composite of all the potential, but not real, universes. This brings us to part two of Conjecture #5.
Bold notions can sometimes breed extreme potential consequences. When Hugh Everett posited the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum weirdness in 1954, he didn’t just espouse it, he lived it. He believed that in a world where every sub-atomic event splits off into a real alternate universe for every possible quantum outcome, that one’s own consciousness would always survive in some of them. Quantum Immortality. So he ate, drank and smoked himself to an early death–at least in the universe of everyone reading this post–by the age of 51. His son expressed anger over his father’s failure to take care of himself. His wife initially did not comply with his wishes to have his ashes disposed of in the trash, though eventually she did. You think his views are extreme? Or did he live on forever in a never ending series of alternate universes? Consider this: the quantum view of the second law of thermodynamics is purely a statistical one. The reason all the air molecules in a room never seem to migrate to one corner is purely a matter of probability. There are staggering orders of magnitude more ways for them to be relatively evenly distributed. But if every possible combination of such molecules actually exists as a real entity, then somewhere there is a universe where you suffocated last night because the air molecules in your bedroom did exactly that while you slept. And somewhere, there is a universe where Hugh Everett’s ashes reassembled themselves and he woke up in a dumpster.
This brings us to the ultimate in extreme ideas. Quantum Suicide. Originally conceived by Hans Morovec in 1987 and further developed by Max Tegmark, it is a thought experiment designed to prove once and for all if the Many Worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is correct. If you recall from my Quantum Weirdness 101-107 series, the Copenhagen interpretation sees the cat as neither dead, nor alive, until an intelligent observer intervenes. The Many Worlds interpretation, sees the the creation of two separate universes, one each for a dead cat and a live cat, and the observer only finds out which one he is in when he looks in the box. The quantum suicide gun re-creates the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment from the point of view of the cat. Theoretically, it could prove the many world’s interpretation, though there are a couple of hitches. If Many Worlds holds true, the subject would be the only one it would be proved to; if it does not hold true, the subject would be dead, period. See the video below for a complete explanation, and as stated in the warning above, do not attempt this at home. I sure won’t. On the other hand, I can think of a few people I wish would try it…
(Video Credit: AliceandBobTV)