Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

When Parallel Worlds Collide



By Michael Hall

Bizarre quantum phenomena, such as particles tunnelling through barriers and behaving like waves, can be explained by subtle interactions between our world and others.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Quantum mechanics is so weird that one of its founders, Niels Bohr, said: “Those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it”.

It’s not shocking because of the maths – which is used to describe the workings of the chips in your computer and the laser in your DVD player – but because of something unexpected that the maths tells us: we can only make sense of the world, at small scales, if we fundamentally change our picture of reality in some way.

Indeed, some physicists, including Bohr himself, have seriously suggested giving up reality altogether, asserting that atoms and electrons are just fuzzy clouds of probability that cannot be further analysed. Albert Einstein famously hated this idea, declaring: “God does not play dice!”

Other physicists have come up with alternative suggestions, such as faster-than-light communication, a lack of free will to choose experimental settings, and the splitting of our world into many new independent worlds each time an experiment is performed.

All of these are sufficiently shocking to be able to explain quantum effects. However, my colleagues and I have recently proposed a new picture of reality at the atomic scale that is both elegant in principle and useful for calculations in practice. It is based on the concept of many interacting worlds.


The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.