"Usually quantum fuzziness appears only in ultratiny arenas, on a scale smaller than a golf ball to the degree that the golf ball is smaller than Texas. But nowadays, in labs around the world, scientists are plotting to release quantum weirdness from its subatomic prison. Before too long, quantum news won't be just for the science section anymore-you'll be reading about it on the business pages."
For the better part of a century, attempts to explain what was really going on in the quantum world seemed doomed to failure. But recent technological advances have made the question both practical and urgent. A brilliantly imaginative group of physicists at Oxford University have risen to the challenge. This is their story.
At long last, there is a sensible way to think about quantum mechanics. The new view abolishes the need to believe in randomness, long-range spooky forces, or conscious observers with mysterious powers to collapse cats into a state of life or death. But the new understanding comes at a price: we must accept that we live in a multiverse wherein countless versions of reality unfold side-by-side. The philosophical and personal consequences of this state of affairs are awe-inspiring.
The new interpretation has allowed imaginative physicists to conceive of wonderful new technologies: measuring devices that effectively share information between worlds and computers that can borrow the power of other worlds to perform calculations. Step by step, the problems initially associated with the original many-worlds formulation have been addressed and answered so that a clear but startling new picture has emerged.
Just as Copenhagen was the centre of quantum discussion a lifetime ago, so Oxford has been the epicenter of the modern debate, with such figures as Roger Penrose and Anton Zeilinger fighting for single-world views, and David Deutsch, Lev Vaidman and a host of others for many-worlds.
An independent physicist living in Oxford, Colin Bruce has occupied a ringside seat to the debate. In his capable hands, we understand why the initially fantastic sounding many-worlds view is not only a useful way to look at things, but logically compelling. Parallel worlds are as real as the distant galaxies detected by the Hubble Space Telescope, even though the evidence for their existence may consist only of a few photons.
About the Author
Colin Bruce trained as a mathematical physicist, and returned to the subject after detours via the defense and computing industries. He currently performs research for the European Space Agency and frequently writes about quantum physics and other science topics. Based in Oxford, England, he has been privileged to participate in the seminars at which the modern version of the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics has been debated and refined by its leading proponents. Bruce is the author of several books explaining physics and mathematics in the guise of detective stories, including The Strange Case of Mrs. Hudson's Cat: And Other Science Mysteries Solved by Sherlock Holmes and Conned Again, Watson! Cautionary Tales of Logic, Math, and Probability.