Master of the multiverse

The garden swing is, was and will be a favourite place for Stephen to spend time. The photo is another of Alex Turner's.

I found this today, and thought it interesting. Of course Stephen’s understanding of the theory predates Everett’s by many years – well at least it does in this universe.


Time is a garden of forking paths where all the infinite possibilities inherent in every moment are played out simultaneously.

That’s according to a short story by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges. The Garden of Forking Paths was published in 1941, 16 years before the American physicist Hugh Everett came up with his Relative State Formulation, the gist of which is that every possible outcome of every possible event exists in its own “history” or “world”.

Everett postulated the existence of an incredibly enormous – perhaps infinite – number of universes, and theorised that every possible event that never occurred in our particular past occurred in the past of these parallel universes. Same with the future. Without getting too technical, Everett explained the subjective appearance of wavefunction collapse by the mechanism of quantum decoherence. Everett’s formulation was renamed the “many-worlds interpretation” (MWI) by the theoretical physicist Bryce DeWitt in the 1960s. Many-worlds regards reality as a many-branched tree (similar to the garden of forking paths) where every possible quantum outcome occurs.

The many-worlds interpretation has enormous implications for poker players. It means that you win every single hand you ever play, ever have played, and ever will play. Of course, some – in my case most – of these wins occur on parallel worlds (“macrorealms”), and the “you” that is “here” “now” is never aware of them. Unless, of course, you obtain the ability to travel from one parallel world to another.

There is a way of doing this: commit quantum suicide. The act involves entering a machine which kills you – by lethal gas, massive electric shock, poison injection, etc – if a random quantum decay event happens. If the many-worlds interpretation is true, you will still be alive in the worlds where the decay didn’t happen. And in the worlds where you actually die you will no longer be a conscious entity, which is handy if you have a lot of unpaid bills.

To master this method of bridging the multiplicity of multiverses, you have to die over and over again. Every time you lose at poker, commit quantum suicide. You’ll eliminate all the negative worlds and eventually (perhaps after a few thousand quantum deaths), the probability is good that you will find yourself in one of the parallel worlds where you win every hand of poker you play. Of course, in this world you may also discover that you are a hyper-intelligent poker-playing Himalayan mountain goat named Gneeeel with four human hands and a neck as long as a giraffe’s.

Or you may even find yourself playing poker with Hugh Everett. (The phycisist whose theory this is . remember?). Everett, who believed in quantum immortality, died in 1982 of a heart attack at the age of 51. He was overweight, and drank and smoked heavily. Everett’s daughter Elizabeth committed suicide in 1996. She said in her suicide note that she was going to a parallel universe to be with her father.

From by Caspar Greeff.

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