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Wheeler's description of a bus to illustrate Everett's thesis


Hugh Everett's many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics
John Wheeler Scientist
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I can recall Hugh Everett's thesis, and how I spent most of a night with him, going over [it], trying to word it in a concrete way. But the ideas in the thesis were so strange to many people that they provoked strange names. And particularly, produced a strange name, the Many Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. A certain probability that such-and-such happens and will be in a universe where we see that happening. Or there's certain probability that something else happens and we'll be in a universe where we see that happening. Well, isn't that obvious, you could say. Well, in Everett's mathematical formulation, these possibilities were coexisting and could come together and be extinguished. It was only when what got to the point where one had an irreversible act of observation that one of these became materialized. If there's anything designed to confuse somebody about what quantum mechanics is all about, this does it.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008