Many Worlds, Many Comics

The Digital Cuttlefish looks at the Archie comics, and waxes poetic:

Two paths play out in a comic book,
When Archie walks down memory lane
“The road not taken” is the hook;
So now, the writers take a look
And re-write Archie’s life again,

This time with Betty as his bride;
Veronica the woman spurned,
Who once upon a time, with pride,
Was wed to Archie. Thus allied,
They lived while many seasons turned.

Why am I commenting on this, given that what little I know about Archie I learned from The Comics Curmudgeon and Chasing Amy? Because he goes on to talk about the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum physics, citing Emmy as a reference. The Cuttlefish, you see, won an advance copy of How to Teach Physics to Your Dog in the poetry contest.

If you’d like an early look at the explanation of how Many-Worlds works, you, too can enter to win an advance copy of the book– just donate to my DonorsChoose challenge, and send me the confirmation email. You’ll be entered into a random drawing for an advance copy of the book. And, as a bonus, you’ll help deserving school children by giving their teachers money to buy badly needed supplies.

In some branch of the unitarily evolving wavefunction of the universe, all public schools in this country have ample funding to carry out their mission. That branch is not the one we live in, though, and kids and teachers can use some help. So if you’ve got some spare cash lying around– any amount will do– please consider donating.


  1. #1 Neil B ♪
    October 12, 2009

    Well, I’ve tried to get the point of many-worlds and couldn’t make it work. Admittedly I view it at a rather middle-brow level, but I have a Socratic challenge to the idea. (Such challenges have the benefit, the poser doesn’t need to understand the idea in full depth. The point is to draw out debate, not “disprove” what is challenged.) The MWI, however interpreted, doesn’t IMHO take the following challenge into account: whatever you say the “separation” of possible outcomes consists of, it is usually taken to happen at the moment a “measurement” is made. So we have one world/region/part-of-representation(like for density matrix)-being-confused-with-a-true-spatial-region carrying the one possible result (click in counter A) and the other region carrying the other result (click in counter B), etc. But then MWI supporters insist they don’t think “measurement” is a special event (well, the whole point is to avoid “collapse” as a special event) and often say, the Schrodinger equation somehow keeps on going.

    Well … that looks awfully ironic and suspect. I’ve tried arguing against that per se (as in my namelink), but consider another tack: if I have e.g. a Mach-Zehnder interferometer with an initial beamsplitter BS1 and the recombiner BS2, the usual notion is to claim that after the waves (whatever that really is meanwhile) recombine to make intensity patterns showing interference, the click after BS2 involves splitting of the alternatives.

    Hmmm – but my challenge is: since the first, BS1 represents a type of “choice” in the classical sense – to send a photon one way or the other – why doesn’t the first, BS1 cause a “split” into worlds or whatnot before the two tracks can meet back up again? If it did that, then there wouldn’t be two beams “in the same world” to meet up and cause the interference pattern (or whatever makes the right statistics if we split up to see both outcomes anyway!)

    See the trouble? If you try to defend against that by saying, BS1 isn’t a real measuring type device and it’s the counters that “really measure”, then you’re back to picking quantum aristocrats v. plebes. MWI was supposed to democratize the whole thing, and keep it all swirling around. It seems to me, either the first BS1 should split into worlds not just beams, or that nothing should.

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