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Previous Programs

2016 Physics of the Observer
2016 Awardees

2015 The Physics of What Happens
2015 Awardees

2013 Physics of Information
2013 Awardees

2010 The Nature of Time
2010 Awardees

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2008 Awardees

2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
2006 Awardees

Mr. Peter Byrne
Oxford University Press

Project Title

The Devil's Pitchfork: Multiple Universes, Mutually Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family

Project Summary

The Devil's Pitchfork follows the historical adventures of Hugh Everett III (1930- 1982) who invented a theory of multiple universes that scientists and philosophers take seriously. Everett strove to bring a "rational" order to the interlacing worlds of nuclear war and physics, even as his personal world disintegrated due to his indulgent lifestyle. Using Everett's unpublished papers, and dozens of interviews, the biography paints a detailed portrait of a man who influenced foundational thinking in quantum mechanics by inventing a way of viewing the universe from inside (known as the universal wave function). In addition to his famous interpretation of quantum mechanics, Everett wrote one of the classic papers in game theory; invented computer algorithms that revolutionized military operations research; and he did pioneering work in artificial intelligence. As a Cold Warrior, he designed systems that modeled human behavior and, yet, he was largely oblivious to the emotional damage he inflicted upon his family and lovers and business partners. But he left behind, in recently discovered boxes of dusty documents, a fascinating record of his life, including correspondence with the leading scientific minds of the day that illuminates the often bitter struggle over interpreting the mystery at the heart of quantum mechanics.



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