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October 22, 2019

CATEGORY: Blog [back]
TOPIC: Survival in Many Worlds [refresh]
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Blogger William Orem wrote on Apr. 3, 2010 @ 22:31 GMT


I was recently in danger of my life (really). Out of nowhere last fall I found myself thrust into a serious medical situation requiring immediate surgery, followed by an arduous period of recovery. My chances were good, but by no means certain.

Now I’m fine. In that disorienting manner of 21st century life, a disaster that would have quickly snuffed any of my progenitors over the past 200,000 years was corrected by modern medical intervention, and – albeit with no small effort – I found myself plunked back into my previous existence, once again fit and healthy. Things broke for me in just the right way. The required technology was available; I was in the right place geographically, and financially, to take advantage of it; I had been exercising and eating well for many years, allowing my body to handle the stress; nothing untoward took place.

And yet any number of slips could so easily have spelled my end. People don’t come back from anesthesia. They develop clots that shoot into their brains. They don’t get to emergency rooms in time and bleed out on the gurney; and so on, and on. It seems a little odd—can one experience survivor guilt regarding oneself?—that everything went so smoothly.

But then, I realized, of course it did; Hugh Everett already figured that out.



How? By postulating the existence of multiple parallel universes, each taking off in a new direction every time a wavefunction is collapsed. This is the (in)famous Many-Worlds Interpretation of QM, in which an incredibly huge number of realities contains an equally huge number of Me’s, each of which is experiencing a slight variation on my story. Thus I will necessarily live an astonishingly long life; in fact, one of record-breaking length; indeed, I am going to live as long as it is physically possible for me to live (this may mean centuries). And so will you.

But surely people perish! the voices cry -- every day, by all the terrible ways of which we know. That is unquestionably so. But the point is, none of those people are you . . . and they can’t be.

To see how we get there, consider for a moment the admittedly metaphysical suggestion that at each turn, every possibility allowed by physics is realized in some kind of higher space, making “Me” a more spread-out concept than we generally think it to be. From your perspective I may be run over by a cab tomorrow and cease to exist; very good. From my perspective lightning might blast you to cinders in the next thunderstorm. But from your perspective, *you* cannot be killed that easily, because in a Many-Worlds universe there is another you who stepped back just in time. And that you is still you; except that when *this* you died, *that* you survived. It turns out you didn’t disappear when the lightning flashed; not in the larger sense of You. (Notice that had you both survived but in different ways, that person would no longer be You, but an alternate version whose world-line diverged from yours at that point.)



Now, that surviving You may immediately fall on a pair of scissors cutting out Valentines. But somewhere in the Many Worlds they were those child-safe scissors with the rounded ends.

*That* surviving you gets drunk and stumbles into the path of a wrecking ball; but another You, round scissors still safely in pocket, sneezes at just the right moment to duck.

A trillion trillion deaths may come to different version of you – indeed, they all *do* – and yet none of them stops You, because some version necessarily escapes them all. Whichever becomes the most absurdly lucky, getting every break, making it to a record-setting old age, is the final You. Identical to the others except in its bizarre tendency to avoid mortal shock, that You will live as long as it is physically possible to do so. And that’s the You who is reading this blog post right now.

Having stumbled myself across this happy (?) observation, I was crestfallen to discover that it is already well-known: this is the notion of “Quantum Immortality.” Pity – although I suppose in some branch of the multiverse I got there first.

There’s a caveat to all this speculation, of course. This scenario says nothing at all about *happy* life, except insofar as happiness increases one’s tendency to survive. The severed woman’s head in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die was still alive, so if it’s possible that that kind of technology could intersect with you at any point, and if that you outlives all the others, then that’s what You’ll do. The physicist who attempts the Quantum Suicide Experiment, by the way, should remember that many versions of him will only be maimed by the gunshot, and live long lives of bitter regret, wishing they had gone into a less speculative field.

And then, isolated as we are by our own perspectives, our loved ones will still perish around us at the usual heartbreaking rate (forgive me; even brief time in a hospital bed sends one toward morose meditation). But we all have the cold comfort of knowing that tragically shortened lives come only to others.

If Everett – who must have been surprised to find himself live longer than anyone else in history -- was right.

image: ell brown


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Jason Wolfe wrote on Apr. 3, 2010 @ 23:09 GMT
Dear William,

It is good that you are still with us; my prayers go out to you and your family.

If you feel up to it, I'd like to use Occam's razor and take a hack at the Many Worlds Interpretation and Quantum Immortality. I will give you a fleeting target to strike at merely by saying that there is only one biological 'you'; the other parts of you will always survive the loss of the biological you.

Can you explain how quantum eigenstates can produce entire universes out of nothingness, yet hide their gravitational effects as they divide into separate universes?

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Saibal Mitra wrote on Apr. 3, 2010 @ 23:56 GMT
I have some problems with the quantum suicide (QS) idea (while accepting the MWI).

a) You had surgery, but if QS is true, why did the anesthesia work? The QC logic can just as well be applied to temporary unconsciousness leading to the conclusion that you should not experience losing consciousness.

b) If the answer to a) is that the unconscious state does not count only if it will never become conscious, then that looks to be an ad hoc rule that you cannot formalize in the usual way. Suppose you do a variant of the QS experiment in which you can become unconscious instead of dying, so after the experiment you end up in the state:

1/sqrt(2) [|conscious) + |unconscious)]

Then suppose that |unconsious) will be revived, but only after a billion years. Then whether or not that revival of you a billion years later will really happen is supposed to be relevant for assigning the correct probsbility to

|conscious)? That is hard to believe!

I think it is far more natural to assign a probability of 1/2 to |conscious), irrespectective of how the state |unconscious) will end up evolving. The stste

|unconscious) has an amplitude of 1/sqrt(2) and it keeps on evolving under unitary time evolution which preserves the norm of the state. If you are not revived (or with prbsbility less than 1), then that means that the total probability of being alive at all ofter the QS experiment is less than 1.

c) The QS implicitely assumes that the whole multiverse is evolving in time. That is a rather unnatural idea. How on earth can one define a present moment that should be valid not only for our vast universe (which is already untenable) but also for the whole multiverse? It is far more natural to assume that the whole multiverse is static, i.e. the wavefunction of the unverse stays invariant under time evolution.

Then what we experince to be time evolution is what you get if you apply the time evolution operator to only that particular sector of the multiverse we are in. This leads to the picturew of the branching multiverse, but this is then only a local picture. Globally there is no branching, the whole thing stays exactly the same.

But then the probsbility that you are in some given state is determined by some amplitude extracted from that static eternal wavefunction. That amplitude has to be consistent with unitary mappings. The sector in which you survive the QS experiment has a reduced amplitude. There is no escape possible from that conclusion.

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Cristi Stoica wrote on Apr. 4, 2010 @ 12:25 GMT
After one commits quantum suicide, one's consciousness survives, but the odds are that one's body is dead. The conscious survives because the soul survives :-). (Today is the Easter, one of the only two annually days when many of us consider hypotheses like God or afterlife.)

Wait a minute, you may object, there is no experimental confirmation of life after death; this hypothesis isn't even...

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Apr. 4, 2010 @ 14:14 GMT
The Many Worlds Interpretation (MWI) of quantum mechanics is not really a theory in the proper sense. This goes for any interpretation of quantum mechanics, whether Copenhagen, Bohmian “be-able,” and so forth. There is no way one can experimentally test any of these interpretations, and so far attempts to find some testable aspect of them involves an adulteration of quantum theory. MWI is popular these days, or in a sense “hip,” and it does permit one to solve a range of problems involving quantum information, but it is not an effective scientific hypothesis, for there is no way one can probe some subquantal aspect of nature to test these things. Deutsch and others have proposed some scalar field effects and other means by which MWI can be probed, but this in effect changes quantum physics in a way which is not satisfactory.

So while MWI might predict there are a vast number of copies of “me” which exist in the quantum superspace of existence, the idea I will after death hop on another track, say maybe from the first quantum event involving conception (thought of as the instantiation of information in a general wave “collapse”) these idea can’t really be tested. So quantum immortality is a metaphysics, not much more empirically based than other immorality ideas.

Cheers LC

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Bubba Gump replied on Apr. 4, 2010 @ 16:18 GMT
Lawrence is correct. These ideas are all interesting but they fall under the banner of speculation.

For a scientists to go about the business of science, he/she needs a testable hypothesis to work with. When we lack a testable hypothesis all we can do is offer a rational hypothesis or a best-guess. It is usually the case, however, that when we construct a hypothesis under such circumstances, we often do so by staring with assumptions that reflect our own personal metaphysical inclinations about how we think the world should be--or how we want the world to be. It is easy for such theories to end up being part of a popularity contest.

Sometimes, in trying to explore our ideas rigorously, we can be led in a direction that creates an unexpected detour that takes us on a route where we get forced into a hypothesis that can be tested(Planck's Quanta is an example). Sometimes, these unsubstantiated hypothesis end up taking us down a dead-end. All questions are good and imagination is an important component of theory-building; however, we always need to temper this reality with the realization that the ultimate litmus test of any theory, no matter how appealing it may be, is an observation that allows us to verify or negate the theory.

Bizarre notions were nothing new to science in the 20th century-- time ticking off differently for different observers, wavicles, quantum tunneling --. who woulda thunk? At the end of the 19th century Lord Kelvin had declared that there was not much more to understand about the nature of the Universe--we were pretty much at the end of the reductionist rope in terms of attempts to explain all observed phenomenon. It's a good thing he didn't survive long into the 20th century as he would have had a coronary.

It shouldn't surprise us then if a future theory that accounts for phenomena starts out sounding like something that originated from the crackpot files. Nor should we blindly dismiss any theory that sound like crackpottery. If the 20th century has taught us anything it is that ultimately, it doesn't matter how bizarre the theory sounds. What matters is, can it be tested? That is the question that is of prime concern to a scientist.

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paul valletta wrote on Apr. 4, 2010 @ 15:40 GMT
Logically, say this is the moment called now, in 2010, a moment ago 2010 is gone, there is no evidence that it exists, still exists? Even another universe pathway would have to have a "now" and a "past"...so how does one monouvre onself into a domain that has not a single molecule?..there is no past in any Universe, every Universe that exists or is theorized to exist can only have a "now"?

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Georgina Parry replied on Apr. 7, 2010 @ 05:31 GMT
Paul,

You said "so how does one monouvre onself into a domain that has not a single molecule."

with respect I think that may be the wrong question.

I do not think there is a past, present or future domain, only 4 dimensional space. This interpretation solves the time travel paradoxes. There is no evidence that past or future realms or domains exist. The historical concept of time fits with brain processing and memory which allows past events to be recalled and future events to be predicted or imagined. It is a biologically generated model that is not necessarily an accurate model of existential physics. The paradoxes indicate that it is most probably an incorrect model, but very useful to the survival of the organism which is able to learn and plan by reference to past and possible future events.

So it is my opinion that one is always already fully within the only existential domain (Now) defined by the 4 spatial dimensions. Changing position within in it, not entering from a different temporal domain. Although space that has already been passed through might be called aft space and space not yet passed through might be called afore space it is all just space and is not completely empty.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 11:13 GMT
Dear Georgina,

I read the different thread , it's interesting all these dicussions.

You say "I do not think there is a past, present or future domain, only 4 dimensional space."

I understand your model, but we have proof about our past dear Georgina the first amino acids, the first cells the differenciation animal vegetal, after the different step with fishs ....reptilians....mamalians ...in fact we have proofs dear Georgina, we have a line of time where we see the evolution and the complexification of the mass systems.

We can thus extrapolate correctly our future and act correctly in the present .

The space time is linked of course but relatively speaking and it's there people confounds about the walls and the globality or locality.

Our present is the same everywhere, only our perceptions is limited with the special relativity, all that was necessary for the perceptible locality and its intrinsic creations, simply.

Thus we can't confound the universal system of the space, the energy increases in a 3D system where the duration is, in the present, constant.

If we take the locomotion, the nutrition and the reproduction, which are bases of the evolution , the system and its duration must rest like it is simply.

If not the mass and its irreversibility aren't taken logically in this line time.

The globality and the locality are the same in the present ,were the same in the past and shall be the same in the future.

The energy thus is purely linked with the mas and the evolution where this mass increases near main centers in rotation, these spheres, cosmologicals and their intrinsic 3d evolution.The past was different in its mass but not in its duration in fact .

Best Regards

Steve

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Georgina Parry replied on Apr. 16, 2010 @ 13:04 GMT
Dear Steve,

I am not saying that we can not think about the past but that it is not a realm that still exists and can ever be returned to. Matter has changed its arrangement in space and does so continuously, but only exists in its current arrangement, imo. There are artifacts, records and memories of former spatial configurations but no existential past realm. I do not deny the usefulness of the historical concept of time. It is as you point out fascinating. Though I still consider it to be a part of -still real- but subjective reality and not the objective material reality of the Universe. Change still occurs in objective material reality but it is spatial change that does not require additional temporal definition, imo.

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Lawrence B. Crowell wrote on Apr. 4, 2010 @ 20:59 GMT
Quantum interpretations are ways we try to make sense out of something which transcends our sensory capacity. Quantum mechanics in many ways is very simple. It is a theory of linear waves, with Hermitian eigenvalues and unitary transformations. In some ways nature could not possibly be simpler. Yet it does not make sense when detected from a classical perspective. We have all these issues of collapse and state reductions which seem to violate quantum theory, as these are not unitary, and we accuse quantum theory for the problem. So we try to patch up quantum “weirdness” with these various interpretations. In some sense this is looking at things upside down. What is strange is the classical world and how it somehow emerges from the quantum substratum of the universe.

Quantum interpretations are not falsifiable, for to test them requires looking by mysterious means behind what we might call the quantum horizon of uncertainty. So far at least we have no understanding of how that is possible. Interpretations might have their utility to some extent. Even Bohm’s approach to QM has great potential as a way of working on quantum chaos problems, even if it is terrible in the relativistic domain where particles are generated at high energy. So these don’t appear falsifiable in any direct way.

Sadly physics has gotten rather skewed down the road of interpretationism. Even in statistical mechanics there are heated arguments over whether the Jaynes approach with Bayesian statistics is or is not preferable to the ensemble approach initiated by Boltzmann which has a frequentist interpretation. This seems to my mind to lead to a sort of sterility to the study of physics.

Cheers LC

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Cristi Stoica replied on Apr. 4, 2010 @ 21:47 GMT
Considering the current usage of the term in quantum mechanics, my guess is that an interpretation is an extension B of a theory A, so that B cannot be empirically distinguished from A. For example, Bohm's theory is an interpretation so long as the hidden variables cannot have observable effects. MWI is an interpretation because the other worlds cannot be observed. If they could, we would have a (falsifiable) theory.

Maybe we can add that the purpose of the additional elements (in B-A) is to provide meaning to the theory A. The meaning is usually provided by comparison with other stuff we think we understand better. Bohm's interpretation adds pointlike particles with well defined positions and momenta, MWI adds other universes. (Religion brings in an entity, obtained by idealizing humans, in order to provide meaning to our existence, to answer some fundamental questions about our purpose and fate here. Continuing the parallel, religion is an interpretation of our existence and that of the physical universe, in the sense in which MWI is an interpretation of quantum mechanics.)

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Lawrence B. Crowell replied on Apr. 7, 2010 @ 03:24 GMT
Cristi: Interpretations are basically metaphysical interpretations of physics which does not have a direct connection to our ordinary way of viewing the world.

Cheers LC

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Cristi Stoica wrote on Apr. 4, 2010 @ 21:53 GMT
In order to explain electromagnetism, gears and elastic ether were proposed. Special relativity seems to work well without these, replacing them with vector and tensor fields on a geometric spacetime. Relativity seems not to need interpretations (it has good geometrical interpretations though).

I do not advocate that QM does not need interpretation either. But this is not a problem of interpretation, what we need are answers. The problems of measurement, of classical level, of apparent state vector reduction maintaining all conservation laws characteristic to the unitary evolution, all these need genuine answers, and we don't have them in the standard QM.

It is often claimed that quantum mechanics makes perfect sense from mathematical viewpoint, but people need interpretations because they cannot think too abstract. But in fact there is no consistent mathematical solution to these problems of quantum mechanics. Only operational rules of what we get in various conditions. If QM would have a mathematical answer to these problems, no matter how abstract, it would be enough, like it was for the theory of relativity.

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Jason Wolfe wrote on Apr. 5, 2010 @ 07:11 GMT
It think its helpful to try to make real world analogies for QM, relativity, etc. It leads us to clues; to good questions that can give fruitful answers. What's wrong with using both hemispheres of our brain to explore physics? What's wrong with using both our creativity as well as our logic?

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Cristi Stoica replied on Apr. 5, 2010 @ 08:22 GMT
Dear Jason,

I totally agree with you. Analogies are definitely good, and thought experiments, various interpretations and mechanical models, metaphors, philosophy, even arts and religion, are very good tools in helping our minds to grasp the reality. Everyone is free to use them and to explain his/her thoughts using such metaphors. MWI is such a metaphor, and it is very useful. And I even like it, as a metaphor and as a possibility which cannot yet be falsified.

Best wishes,

Cristi

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Jason Wolfe replied on Apr. 5, 2010 @ 18:55 GMT
Dear Cristi,

That is the first step. The second step is the hard part, You have to tale all these various creative ideas and let them compete, to fight it out. These ideas have to undergo the harsh conditions of reality to see if they can survive an onslaught of facts. They must pass through ten thousand Occam razors. Many tears will be shed as we watch our dearest ideas die and become food for other ideas. Only a few will survive. They will be both accurate and understandable.

String theory, which is very accurate, but totally incomprehensible, will be devoured by some science fiction/fantasy/occult concept that feeds on factual physics information and digests it. It leaves behind little intellectual surprises for the public.

It's all quite horrible to watch. But it gets the job done.

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Cristi Stoica replied on Apr. 6, 2010 @ 06:34 GMT
Dear Jason,

Suggestive picture.

I see the scientific method as having three main parts of equal importance.

That which Popper and his followers put most of the emphasis, the testability of theories, is only the second one. It was inspired by Einstein's general relativity, which made bold but testable predictions. But the "artistic part" of Einstein's method, the thought experiment, is equally important.

This is the first part, which Popper mentioned, but did not explore enough: the way we create our hypotheses. It is useful that, together with the testable hypotheses, to be presented also the more interpretative, pictorial and imaginative parts, the ones able to make us grasp the cold equations.

Kuhn showed that, together with the testable hypotheses, we also create and promote visions, which eventually condensate in paradigms, and we tend to reject the ideas which seem to contradict the paradigm, even if they are supported by the experimental data. Although scientists believe that they promote only testable hypotheses, they, more or less conscious, load the theories with their own visions.

This is why the third part is equally important: to distinguish clearly between the first two. Use pictures as often as you can when you create hypotheses and when you try to explain them, but make clear where the analogy stops working. Ask others to accept only what is testable or provable, and acknowledge only as useful helper the pictorial part. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

In relation to MWI, I think that it is beautiful and important, but I would not agree with extreme positions such as that of David Deutsch in his "The Fabric of Reality", who consider that physicists who don't accept MWI as reality either don't understand quantum mechanics or are not sincere with themselves. His book is wonderful, but I think that he fails to apply the third step, and by this he promotes a dictatorship of the MWI paradigm.

Best regards,

Cristi

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Anonymous wrote on Apr. 5, 2010 @ 19:53 GMT
ET Phone Home

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Jason Wolfe replied on Apr. 5, 2010 @ 22:22 GMT
I don't get your point.

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Member Ian Durham replied on Apr. 11, 2010 @ 16:40 GMT
I think it's a joke. It doesn't seem to make sense, but it actually does (a bit) if you've read Neal Stephenson's Anathem.

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Steve Dufourny replied on Apr. 18, 2010 @ 09:17 GMT
Hooome hoome hooome the finger in the sky.

Steve

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Member Ian Durham wrote on Apr. 11, 2010 @ 16:42 GMT
William,

Glad you are safe and sound! You're in Boston, right? Indeed, we are spoiled in New England with excellent medical facilities.

Ian

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Constantinos wrote on Apr. 15, 2010 @ 22:08 GMT
If there are many parallel universes then, going back some 100 years to the time of Planck and Einstein, (quanta and photons), consider a Universe where Planck's Law (or variation of it) is an exact mathematical identity (a tautology) that describes the interaction of energy. To enter this parallel Universe and the Physics that describes it, click here!

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T H Ray wrote on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 11:30 GMT
William,

Glad to find you back on this timeline with us, healthy and happy.

At least one physicist (Hawking?) that I recall, pronounced MWI "trivially true." I think it does come down to statistical interpretation. That is, as Lawrence alludes to, Bayesian analysis gives us the freedom to believe--if we assign value to personal belief, there is always 100% probability that you survived.

The constraints of mechanics are less generous. In a frequentist world--and ours does appear to be such a world--the dice are never at rest until one reads them. So one will never know that one's survival dipped to probability zero.

I know it to be a myth that one never dies in one's dreams, because I have had such an experience. No, I didn't wake up in my bed when I died; I had the distinct experience of fatal injuries, of losing consciousness, of reawakening in a different location, all within the dream. When I did wake into this world, it was with a profound sense of well being.

I agree with you, William. All things considered, survival is 100% probable.

We can never simultaneously read all the faces of all the dice when they are rolling; we do, however, know that they are loaded in our favor until we die. And how could we expect to know what death is, when we haven't even yet figured out what life is?

Tom

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Anonymous replied on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 17:10 GMT
The death is like the life ......linked in an universal dance towards harmony.

Kalil Gibran said ...How can you understand the secret of the life if you have fear of the death, because the death and the life are like the ocean and the river .....a little like that, it was my favorite book at the age of 16 .

Very interesting book about the universality, its name is the Prophet.

The death is simply a part of the whole ....locomotion nutrition reproduction....evolution......we live thus we are ,we think thus we are ,we evolve thus we are.....All is linked since the begining simply and there is an ultim aim in this equation,the sphere and its spheres.

Sincerely

Steve

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