Monday, 21 June 2010

Quantum Immortality

Well in a deviation from my usual direction of rant about something for several pages of size 11 font, I’ve decided to do a bit more of an informative post today, since I’m withholding judgement about the state of England’s chances in the world cup until after the match with Slovenia on Wednesday. Well not really, since I think a group of monkeys could have probably played better than England. But then again I don’t give two hoots about football anyway, so a group of monkeys could get through to the finals for all I care.

Anyway, quantum mechanics. The basic premise of this experiment is you have a machine gun trained at a scientist, and an assistant sat by a button. Every time the assistant presses the button a quantum flip occurs. A quantum flip is a truly random event. It has a 50% chance of being up or 50% chance of being down. If the result of the flip is up, the machine gun fires at the assistant, killing him. If the result of the flip is down, the machine gun remains inert. According to the theory behind this experiment, when such an event happens with several random outcomes, the universe ‘splits’ into several parallel universes, and each outcome occurs down a different branch. What makes this experiment so interesting though, is to consider it from the viewpoint of the scientist looking down the barrel of the machine gun. When his assistant presses the button, the universe splits. The scientist is killed immediately in one branch, the one where the machine gun fires, and in the other he merely hears a clicking sound as the gun fails to fire (and very possibly flinches and wets himself too). But from his own viewpoint, surely he could only ever witness the reality where he is not killed. After all, he is killed in the other reality, and therefore cannot witness anything. So, according to this theory, he can only ever witness the reality where he remains alive. In short he can never witness himself die. That’s pretty much immortality, from his own point of view anyway. No matter how many times the button is pressed, he just doesn’t die. He has to believe he is immortal. But what about all those other realities that also occurred every time the button was pressed? In all those realities, the assistant saw the scientist die. This presents an interesting concept. If we can never witness our own death that means we must all be immortal.

So, taking this theory to a wider area, how many realities must there be in total? Every time anything happens in the world, the universe splits into every possible outcome. Every possible action that every person, animal or atom could possibly have taken are all being played out every second, as well as all the combinations thereof. It’s a staggering number.

As far as the immortality goes, you might say “well people die all the time”. Well yes, they do, from your own point of view. Not from theirs in another reality however. And not from yours in another reality either. It’s a quite a hard concept to wrap your mind around this one. I’ll leave you to think about it.

“In a parallel universe I would have shot you by now”


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I saw the movie quantum of solace and now would play Quantum Immortality.