Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quantum Universe-Hopping

Now for something completely different...Here's my (only 95% goofy) idea for how to use quantum mechanics to travel between alternate universes. (Okay, maybe 96% goofy...)

According to one interpretations of quantum mechanics (namely, the Many-Worlds Interpretation, due to Everett and later expanded on by Dewitt), the universe is constantly "splitting" into alternate realities.
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You flip a coin, and there is some world in which the coin comes up "heads" and another, almost identical world in which the coin comes up "tails". This is the popularized version of Everett's idea, and there is a lot that can be said about why this popularization is not completely correct, but that would take me too far astray from my (maybe 97% goofy) idea. So assume that this is correct for now.

So if there are these alternate universes, then why can't I see them? What pins me down to this universe? Why can't I travel to the universe in which Gore was elected President in 2000?

The short answer is correlations. My brain, with its billions of neurons, contains lots of information in the form of memories, and this information correlates my state with that of the rest of the universe. If I have memories of some particular historical event (such as that deplorable election) then I'm marooned forever in the universe in which that event occurred, with no hope of rescue. In contrast, the simple carefree electron, with no memory, is free to wander to any alternate universe, blissfully unconcerned about plotline consistency or continuity.

So the solution to the problem of travel to alternate universes is simple: Put yourself into a state that is equally "at home" in both universes, and you can easily slip from one to another. To be specific, close your eyes and completely erase all memories of the 2000 election. Then when you reopen your eyes, you are just as likely to find yourself in the universe in which Gore won as the one in which Bush won. Unfortunately, if you find that Gore won, you won't be able to celebrate this successful application of quantum mechanics, because you will have no memory of it ever having been different. If you have any suppressed unconscious knowledge of your previous universe, then that knowledge will block your successful universe-hopping.

That's the thing that makes it 99% goofy---it really is completely untestable. However, if you are ever in the situation in which your death is imminent (you are in a plane about to crash), then you have nothing to lose --- you might as well try to hop to a universe in which you are perfectly safe.


Blogger RichM said...

However, if you are ever in the situation in which your death is imminent (you are in a plane about to crash), then you have nothing to lose --- you might as well try to hop to a universe in which you are perfectly safe.

I think that was the plot point of one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Alternatively, you could calm your mind by reflecting on the idea that somewhere there is a universe where everything has already worked out for the best, even if it isn't the one you are experiencing.

5:26 PM  
Blogger Kyle McCullough said...

You're assuming that one's memories will precisely match "reality". In my experience that is not always the case. For example, I distinctly remember Gore winning that election. And yet, Bush is President--or was, the last time I checked.

Here's a thought. If someone is falling out of an airplane and manages to remember himself into an alternate, safer, reality, would other people see him simply disappear? Or would some alternate version of himself be sucked in to take his place? Picture this: you're lying in bed, blissfully unaware of the world around you, only tenuously connected to reality (kind of like a conservative), when suddenly you find yourself falling from an airplane. This is completely incongruous with the rest of your memories, so you quickly remember yourself back in bed. This sort of thing could actually be happening all the time. It would explain a lot--well, maybe not a lot, but it would explain something that used to happen to me a lot.

11:09 PM  

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