JOHN B. HASTED. THE METALBENDERS.
ROUTLEDGE & KEGAN PAUL, LONDON, BOSTON & HENLEY, 1981
Chapter 25
The manyuniverses interpretation of quantum theory and its implications
It is true that only a minority
of physicists are dissatisfied with the usual interpretation (by Niels
Bohr of Copenhagen) of the quantum theory of measurement, but at least
it can be said that members of this minority have made various proposals
aimed at overcoming our mental distaste for a completely random universe
that is comprehensible only through statistical laws.
Let us consider a stream of electrons
being diffracted by a pair of slits. The familiar wave diffraction pattern
will appear on a fluorescent screen. If one of the slits were blocked up,
there would be no interference between the two waves, and only a single
smudge would appear on the screen. If instead the other slit were blocked
up, again only one smudge would appear. But if both slits were opened again,
a complete set of fringes would build up as more and more electrons reached
the screen.
What about the first electron to
pass through the pair of slits? To which fringe does it contribute? Can
quantum theory tell us where it will go? At present it cannot, and most
physicists would give the opinion that we can never know the answer. The
point of arrival of the first electron is random and that of the second
electron is still random, and so on. But as an increasing number pass through,
the fringe pattern gradually appears. This experiment could in principle
be carried out very slowly, maybe one electron per year; the same principle
would apply, each electron path being unpredictable. In this extreme example,
quantum theory does not seem to be very powerful. The system also seems
to have nonlocality in time. But for predicting the most probable results
of a large number of electrons, quantum theory is extremely powerful; it
has developed to the extent when it can be included as part of engineering.
With the aid of solutions of the Schrodinger wave equation, the probabilities
of events happening can be calculated with precision. These are expressed
as the square of 'probability amplitudes', which are represented by means
of the braket notation:
<electron arrives at y electron
leaves x> or <yx>.
Within the limits of uncertainty
determined by the Heisenberg Principle, and within the limits imposed by
sheer mathematical difficulty, the most probable behaviour of a system
can be calculated. One can extend the calculation to that of the probability
amplitude of the electron leaving x for y. and leaving y for x (two slits
one after the other); this would be represented as the product <xy>
<yx>.
Now consider again the question of
which of two interference slits a single electron passes through. Since
the electron has the properties of a particle, the question is not meaningless;
but quantum theory gives no answer, unless there is some method of detecting
the passage of the electron. For example, a photon might be arranged to
pass behind one of the slits; when it is scattered by the passing electron,
detection of the electron is possible. But this introduces an observer
or
apparatus
into the system, and the probability A> of the apparatus
being in a certain state A must be taken into account, as well as the probability
s> of the system being in a state s. The combined probability is
s,A>= s>A>
The observer is an integral part
of the description of the event, and without the observer there can be
no description and no complete understanding of reality.
A similar difficulty about unpredictability
is encountered in the phenomenon of radioactive decay. Most people will
be familiar with the behaviour of a 'radioactive source', which is a sample
consisting of a species of radioactive atom. When these atoms decay, each
one emits (often by a tunneling process) a highly penetrating particle,
which is a form of nuclear radiation. These particles can be detected by
a suitable type of detector such as the Geiger counter used in the Uri
Geller experiment of chapter 15. The average time taken for a radioactive
atom to decay can be measured if sufficient atoms are available. But the
exact moment of decay of an individual atom can in no way be predicted
by quantum theory. The moments at which the Geiger counter clicks are random
within the bounds set by a probability distribution. The quantum mechanical
description of the system is a linear combination of the wave functions
not only of the undecayed atom but also of the decayed atom. The wave function
is the mathematical expression of the form of the wave for the system,
and it must satisfy the wave equation. Schrodinger went further than demanding
this inclusion of both wave functions; he insisted that the consequential
wave functions must also be included. He illustrated this requirement with
a dramatic example of a cat enclosed in a chamber with a sealed flask of
cyanide poison, which can be broken by a hammer which is released by a
relay activated only by the radiation pulses from a radioactive source.
This source is very weak, so that there is a chance that there will be
a pulse within the natural lifetime of the cat, and a chance that there
will be none. Since the cat is provided with adequate food, drink and air,
the question of whether the cat will live out its natural life or be prematurely
poisoned by cyanide vapour cannot be answered with any certainty; only
the probability could be calculated. Schrodinger insisted that a complete
description of the system must include both the wave function of the living
cat and that of the dead cat.
Since no physical condition exists
to determine causally the state of a particular system at the moment of
measurement, it follows that until a measurement is carried out, a system
is properly described by what is known as a state vector, which is the
linear combination of all possible states of the system. Only after a measurement
is performed can we affirm with confidence that the system, let us say
an atom, is in a certain state. Before the measurement, the atom is collectively
in all the states.
The problem of the quantum theory
of measurement was formulated mathematically by von Neumann(75) and the
short account given by de Witt(76) will be repeated here. The world is
considered to be composed of two dynamical variables, a system s
and an apparatus A. A combined state vector is expanded in terms
of an orthonormal set of basis vectors:
s,A>= s>A>
where s is an eigenvalue of
some system observable and A is an eigenvalue of some apparatus
observable. The state of the world at an initial moment is represented
by:
psi0>= psi>phi>,
which is a combined state vector
with psi> referring to the system and phi> to the apparatus. The learning
of the apparatus about the system requires a coupling between the two;
the result of this is described by a unitary operator U:
psi>= Uphi0>
U acts as follows:
Us,A>= s,A +gs>= s>A+gs>
where g is an adjustable coupling
constant, which is said to result in an observation, the information from
which is stored in the apparatus memory by virtue of its irreversible change
from A> to A + gs>. Using the orthonormality and assumed
completeness of the basis vectors, the initial state vector is found to
become:
psi1>= sum over s Css>phi[s]>
where
Cs=<spsi>
phi[s] >=integral A +gs>phi(A)dA
phi(A) = <Aphi>
This final state vector is a linear
superposition of vectors s>phi[s]>, each of which represents a
possible value assumed by the system observable, the value which has been
observed by the apparatus. The observation is capable of distinguishing
adjacent values of s (spaced by delta
s) provided that A
<< g delta s where delta A is the variance in A about
its mean value relative to the distribution function phi(A)^2. Under
these conditions,
<phi[s]  phi[s']> = delta function
of s,s'
where delta function is the Dirac
delta function. The wave function of the apparatus is initially single,
but splits into a great number of mutually orthogonal packets, one for
each value of s (i.e. s, s', s" etc.).
The apparatus cannot decide which
is the correct value of the system observable, and would have to be supplemented
by a second apparatus to observe the first one; but the second one also
cannot decide, and so must be supplemented by a third; and so on. This
'catastrophe of infinite regression' requires resolution by a fresh approach,
otherwise the whole quantum theory of measurement remains inadequate. One
cannot make predictions about the whole universe, because the universe
must contain all the observers. This infinite regression has an affinity
with Russell's paradox and with Godel's theorem in mathematics. To recapitulate; in the absence of
any observation, matter is in continual fluctuation. When an observation
is made, a single value of the energy is observed, and the physical observables
instantaneously take on certain single values. Until the observation is
made, at a time which is determined by a mental decision of the observer,
no certainty about the physical reality is possible. To a second observer
this system of 'wave function and first observer' appears to be in continual
fluctuation, even when the first observer makes his observation. The second
observer believes that the first observer is in continual fluctuation,
and is split into many copies of himself, even though he is making an observation.
But he must again become singular when the second observer performs.
The conventional escape from infinite
regression is that proposed by the Copenhagen school,(77) which states
that as soon as the state vector attains the form of the equation above
it collapses into a single wave packet, so that the vector  psi> is reduced
to an element s >phi[s]> of the superposition. We cannot predict
which element will be formed, but there is a probability distribution of
possible outcomes. This assumption is not a corollary of the Schrodinger
equation, and it leaves the world in an essentially unpredictable state.
A different proposal was made by
David Bohm(78) with his introduction into quantum theory of 'hidden variables',
which determine the indeterminable quantities but at the same time conform
to the probability distribution. For many years the search for these hidden
variables has continued, but up to the present none has been found. We
are now coming increasingly to believe that the mind is the only remaining
undiscovered hidden variable.
A proposal was in fact made by the
theoretical physicist, Eugene Wigner,(79) that the infinite regression
could be arrested by the intervention of mind. This was almost the first
appearance of mind in modern physics; it was accompanied by a mathematical
description of the conversion from a pure to a mixed state arising from
possible nonlinear departures from the Schrodinger equation when consciousness
intervenes. Wigner also proposed that an experimental search be made for
unusual effects of consciousness acting on matter. It is my own conviction
that the clue to paranormal phenomena lies embedded in quantum theory.
An important formulation was made
nearly twenty years ago by Everett, Wheeler and Graham.(80) They attempted
to deny the collapse of the state vector, and take the full mathematical
formalism of quantum mechanics as it was originally presented. The world
could be represented by a vector in Hilbert space, a set of dynamical equations
for a set of operators that act on the Hilbert space, and a set of commutation
relations for the operators; always provided that it were possible to decompose
the world into systems and apparatus. Hilbert space is the complex analogue
of Euclidean space, namely a space in which a system of orthogonal straight
line coordinates is possible. Complex vectors epsilon(i) satisfying orthogonality
relations (epsilon(i), epsilon(k)) = delta function of i,k are
employed
Every vector psi is a linear function
of the unit vectors:
psi=sum over k of psi k * epsilon
(k)
and
psi k = (psi, epsilon(k))
This proposal forces us to believe
in the reality of all the simultaneous universes represented in the superposition
described by the above equations. These universes cannot communicate physically
with each other, because the vectors are mutually orthogonal. In threedimensional
space it would be possible to have only three mutually orthogonal sets
of vectors, but in a manydimensional Hilbert space many such vectors could
simultaneously exist, so that there is here the basis for simultaneously
existing universes which cannot communicate physically with each other.
Simultaneous universes have always been a subject which has fired the highest
flights of human imagination. One has only to think of Milton, Dante, or
in recent times of Jean Cocteau's Orphée. It is not the existence of many simultaneous
universes that is the most difficult concept to believe, but the continual
splitting of one universe into an infinite (or very large) number each
time an observed quantum transition occurs. We can hardly conceive of how
many simultaneous universes there must be if this can really happen. For
this reason Schrodinger refused to accept the consequences of the fully
formal quantum mechanics.
I will repeat the proposal in the
words of de Witt:(81) The universe is constantly splitting into a stupendous
number of branches, all resulting from the measurementlike interactions
between its myriads of components. Moreover, every quantum transition taking
place on every star, in every galaxy, in every remote corner of the universe
is splitting our local world on earth into myriads of copies of itself.
What is really uncomfortable about
this formulation is the invasion of our privacy. We do not like the idea
of countless (>l0^100) doppelgangers of ourselves, increasing in number
all the time, even if they can never communicate physically. Perhaps they
could communicate telepathically. But at least a proof can be given, in
quantum mechanical terms, of the fact that we cannot feel the splits in
physical terms. Some comfort can be taken from the
experience of physics, that it is only in microscopic, atomic, terms that
quantum theory gives different results from classical mechanics. In the
limit of large numbers of energy quanta within one system  that is in
the limit of large quantum numbers there is correspondence between quantum
and classical mechanics. In classical, macroscopic, surroundings the universes
all look the same, and this is surely less uncomfortable. Nevertheless
there are quantumdetermined events, such as the mysterious death of Schrodinger's
cat in the chamber, which differ from one universe to another. If macroscopic
objects were able to make quantum transitions, then the situation would
be very much more precarious. There is a whole field of physics in which
macroscopic quantum effects occur  namely the physics of very low temperatures,
close to absolute zero, where superfluids and superconductors exhibit their
extraordinary properties. Theorists who have worked in that field, such
as Frohlich,(82) are alive to the possibility that quantum theory may apply
macroscopically even at room temperature. If we can describe a macroscopic
object by a single mathematical expression, a wave function, when its temperature
is close to absolute zero, then for very short periods of time macroscopic
wave functions might have significance at higher temperatures, where the
movements of the atoms obscure the regularity of the system.
David Bohm and his colleagues(83)
have proposed that there is a characteristic time t ~= h/kT for
which a macroscopic wave function has reality. Here h is the Planck
constant, k the Boltzmann constant, and T the temperature.
This time will be appreciable at very low temperatures, but very short,
2 * l0^13 sec, at room temperature. Only certain types of atomic and nuclear
transition can take place in such a short time, but the remote possibility
of macroscopic quantum phenomena in solids at room temperature remains.
Normally within a solid object the localized wave functions may not be
considered as assembling coherently into a single macroscopic wave function;
but local coherence domains might develop, the boundaries changing with
time and with the characteristic time t determining the rate of the process.
This concept has as yet no experimental basis in solid state physics, but
it opens up many possibilities. What is proposed is a continual fissionfusion
process; the fission of macroscopic wave functions into microscopic ones,
and their subsequent fusion into other macroscopic ones. But it is not
clear that the temperature
T is the thermodynamic temperature.
What has prompted such interest in
macroscopic wave functions has been the realization by many physicists
of the nonlocality of quantum theory, of both photons and particles possessing
restmass. The EinsteinRosenPodolsky paradox is at last coming to receive
the attention due to it. The situation envisaged, and now confirmed experimentally,
is that in the dissociation of a twoparticle system into single particles,
with the latter travelling in space, the relative polarizations of the
particles become determined and related only at the instant of measurement
at two remote locations. This instant can be made sufficiently short for
no communication between the two particles by (virtual) photons to be possible;
therefore the quantum description of the situation is nonlocal over the
space of the experiment.
The extreme position which it would
be possible to adopt is that of considering the whole universe to be described
by one single wave function; there would be myriads of stationary states,
and until an observation was made, the universe could be written as a linear
combination of all of them. This is equivalent to the statement that the
universe contains only a single electron, and it provides some justification
for the experimentally observed constancy of electronic charge and restmass.
In Copenhagen quantum theory, using
the wave equation, we can predict the passage of a system of unique energy
Eo into a mixture of states, each with its own unique energy Eabc, but
each possessing a certain calculable probability of being the state to
which the first state has been changed; at any instant the energy is equal
to Eo = a*Eb + b*Eb + . . . But at the instant of observation a discontinuous
change occurs in the system by which it collapses from a mixture of states
into one state only.
But in the manyuniverse formulation,
the wave function does not collapse at the moment of an atomic transition;
rather, it splits into an infinite number of wave functions, each in its
own set of Hilbert space coordinates, and each differing from the others
in its energy, Ea, Eb, etc. The observer, in his particular universe,
is capable of measuring this energy, but another observer, in a different
but physically incommunicable universe, would measure a different energy.
Since it is purely a matter of chance which universe the observer is in,
the particular result he obtains appears to him random. But if he repeats
a similar observation a sufficient number of times, then his result is
predictable by the waveequation (from which the aforementioned a, b, c,
etc. are derived), because all sets of coordinates are equally probable.
The collapse of the state vector is avoided by postulating that within
a single universe only the initial and final states are real, the mixture
having no reality unless an infinity of universes is taken into account.
The proposal inherent in the manyuniverse
theory, that each atomic transition in our own insignificant bodies causes
the remotest galaxies to split into an infinite number, has resulted in
the theory having only a very limited acceptance among physicists. Perhaps
it would be more satisfactory if bounds were placed upon the local universes.
But such bounds would introduce physical effects akin to surface phenomena,
and normal effects of this type are as yet unknown to physics. The original
EverettWheelerGraham theory assumed that there was one observer in one
universe, the same universe which contains the observed phenomenon.
But if we were to allow ourselves
the luxury of a dualistic system, with nonmaterial, or at least transspatial
minds, then there would be powerful possibilities for the interpretation
of physical psychic phenomena.
For example,
we might speculate that the unconscious mind possesses the facility of
receiving 'transspatial' information from the corresponding minds in other
'universes'. Since, because of the orthogonality, physical signals cannot
pass from one universe to another, we would be forced to assume that the
unconscious mind has transspatial properties and is able to communicate
with physical reality in other universes only through other unconscious
minds. On the parallel universe model, millions of copies of each individual
have parallel existences, but are entirely isolated physically from each
other by the orthogonality, which prevents the passage of physical signals
between universes. Let us propose that each one of these individuals possesses
his own mind, and that communication between these corresponding minds
is sometimes possible. No individual knows of the existence of his many
alter
egos. But if he were able to adopt the mind of one of these
alter
egos, he would then take the other universe to be his reality, without
knowing that any change had occurred. Moreover, at the moment he successfully
does this, one might suppose that his neighbours' minds (the observers'
minds) could also come to be dominated by those of their own
alter egos,
so that they would also take the other universe to be their reality. All
observers could now notice whatever physical differences there might be
between the two universes. The differences could be that psychic phenomena,
metalbending, psychokinesis or teleportations have taken place. This principle could be extended
in complication in two ways. First, there is no reason to limit the number
of universes to two only, one before the mental change and one after. The
only situation in which we know the universe to be singular (locally) is
at the moment at which datum of an atomic physics experiment is recorded.
This is a comparatively rare moment, so why should we not propose that
we all pass through life in a continual state of subtending many universes
at the same moment of time? Since these universes are in nearly all respects
identical, we have hitherto imagined them to be a single universe. Sometimes
a unique universe forces us to notice it, and it is then that we say that
an atomic physical phenomenon has occurred.
Second, it might be that some of
the universes are partially incomplete in the sense that the mind only
knows of their existence locally. the mind might actually impose spatial
boundaries on some or all of its local universes. These boundaries could
be the 'surfaces of action' at which we have observed metalbending action
to take place. Outside the boundaries, that universe would not exist. If
the boundary were made to move through space by the action of the psychic's
unconscious mind, with which the observers' minds concur, then one universe
will actually grow, contract or change shape; and the surface effects continually
resulting from such changes would make up the metalbending structural
and quasiforce action. The change of shape is not noticed in other ways,
because so many universes are superposed that no mind regards any one of
them as incomplete. If the observers' minds do not concur, then no physical
changes can be measured, and the event is hallucinatory. The fusion and
fission of wave functions(83) into macroscopic size would also be necessary
to this interpretation of physical psychic phenomena.
I include these speculations in order
to show the extent to which it would be necessary to go in order to explain
physical psychic phenomena with the aid of quantum physics.(84) I have
in fact carried the speculations a good deal further, but I will not indulge
myself at this stage, other than in a summary:
1. Teleportations could be interpreted
using the hyperdimensional character of the manyuniverses model. It may
be that such hyperdimensionality is strongly indicated by the discovery
in the 1960s of the nonconservation of parity.
2. Metalbending and structural change
could be interpreted in terms of the reorganization forces which must occur
in the creation or annihilation of atoms at the interuniverse boundaries
or 'surfaces of action'. The configurations of these surfaces would have
to be very complicated, showing turbulence perhaps down to atomic dimensions.
3. Quasiforces would have to be
interpreted in terms of a rapid series of local transformations into universes,
each one with its own individual momentum, each slightly greater than the
last. The rate of change of momentum would then have the appearance of
a force acting on the transformed object.
4. For psychic acoustic phenomena,(85)
psychometry, optical and electromagnetic phenomena and even the insensitivity
of the human body to great heat, similar interpretations could be considered.
But if we allow ourselves the luxury
of such speculations, then we must be prepared to accept the nightmare
universes that could have evolved in continually increasing numbers since
the 'big bang'. Precisely how many degrees of orthogonality different from
our own these would have to be is difficult even to conjecture.
Since most people (including, probably,
the proponents of the original manyuniverse quantum theory) would stop
short of this, they find themselves drawn inevitably to the denial that
physical psychic phenomena exist at all. That is why the spearhead of research
must be not in theoretical formulations but in physical observations. My
purpose in including this chapter has been to show just how difficult it
is for a physicist to incorporate physical psychic phenomena within existing
physical theory. Once the difficulties are faced, however, a wide variety
of alternative hypotheses about the nature of what we have called 'primary
events' can readily be envisaged.
