I am hesitant, sometimes, to expound upon the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, for fear of something I call the Deepak Chopra effect. (I won’t give you a hyperlink to the guy, because I don’t want to increase any traffic to any website he’s associated with.) The Deepak Chopra effect is this:
If you talk about some weird aspect of quantum mechanics, they will come.
Who are “they”?
They are the Deepak Chopras of the world: people who make money by peddling vague new age philosophies.
Suppose you’ve made up some sort of new religion. You want followers, people to buy your books and watch your DVD’s and attend your seminars and drink your Flavor Ade and buy your T-shirts. (Yes, Deepak Chopra sells T-shirts.) What better way to attract attention, to give your puerile ideas a veneer of respectability than to cloak them in the mystique of quantum mechanics? Quantum mechanics is weird—everyone knows that—but almost no one really knows the details. PhD physicists don’t grow on trees, after all. Therefore, if you appeal to quantum mechanics to cover up the stench of your ideology, you will most likely get away with it.
I’m tempted to write some computer code that invents Chopra-esque prose. The output would look like this:
Your [mind] and [eternal light] have been exquisitely formed by [the cosmic warmth] to help you fulfill [your potential matrix] and your [soul capability]. This is because [wave-particle duality] and [the principle of decoherence] prove that your [neo-human consciousness] transcends the [body-mind paradox] to inhabit the [weak nuclear force] under the auspices of [string theory].
Easy, right? Yet Deepak Chopra is the one worth $80 million dollars. Sigh.
So back to the many-worlds interpretation. What could someone like Chopra ever do with such an idea? How could he co-opt the multiverse to scratch out a few more ducats? I shudder to think on it.
People have been using the strange ideas of physics for a long time now, with predictable results. Take this garbage: “What the #$*! Do We Know!?” I wish I had been blogging in 2004 when this farce came out; my review of the movie would have been six words: “Nothing about physics, that’s for sure.” Yet part of the blame rests with physicists themselves: they bandy about strange ideas amongst themselves, with nary a thought about how the public at large will perceive said ideas.
Consider Schrödinger’s cat, for example, the popular notion of which is as follows: a cat can be alive and dead at the same time! Weird! And yet when Schrödinger first proposed this “paradox” his intent was to attack the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, by pointing out an obvious absurdity. I know of no physicist on the planet who seriously believes a cat can be alive and dead at the same time. And yet Chopra and others like him point to such quantum weirdness and use it to excuse all manner of hooey.
But what about many worlds? Isn’t it just as crazy, just as loony, as anything Chopra peddles to the masses?
Well, no. It’s weird, sure. But it is based in peer-reviewed science, and is an active topic of investigation to this day. (I doubt anyone’s in a lab somewhere, trying to verify Chopra’s claims.) Many worlds is an interesting mathematical structure to explain our universe, but it doesn’t really affect anyone’s life. It’s not even relevant to how anyone should live their life. It should certainly never be used to prop up a shaky religion.
My advice to you, Dr. Chopra, is to quit using physics to bolster your claims. After all, I don’t use your only field of expertise (endocrinology) to support my idea that Matt Damon is really a cyborg, do I? Then again, maybe I could start a religion—
[Note: my book Why Is There Anything? is now available for download on the Kindle!]
(Photo credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Schrodingers_cat.svg)