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theory of the universal wavefunction, many-universes interpretation, Oxford

interpretation or many worlds), is an interpretation of quantum mechanics. Many-worlds

denies the objective reality of wavefunction collapse. Many-worlds then explains the

subjective appearance of wavefunction collapse with the mechanism of quantum

decoherence. Consequently, many-worlds claims this resolves all the "paradoxes" of

quantum theory since every possible outcome to every event defines or exists in its own

"history" or "world"

Proponents argue that MWI reconciles how we can perceive non-deterministic events

(such as the random decay of a radioactive atom) with the deterministic equations of

quantum physics. Prior to many worlds this had been viewed as a single "world-line".

Many-worlds rather views it as a many-branched tree where every possible branch of

history is realized.

The relative state formulation is due to Hugh Everett[1] who formulated it in 1957. Later,

this formulation was popularised and renamed many worlds by Bryce Seligman DeWitt

in the 1960s and '70s.[2][3][4][5] The decoherence approach to interpreting quantum theory

has been further explored and developed[6][7][8] becoming quite popular, taken as a class

overall. MWI is one of many Multiverse hypotheses in physics and philosophy. It is

currently considered a mainstream interpretation along with the other decoherence

interpretations and the Copenhagen interpretation.

In a Sept 2007 conference[9] David Wallace reports a proof by Deutsch and himself of the

Born Rule starting from Everettian assumptions[10] and this has been reported in the press

as support for parallel universes.[11][12] One physicist, Andy Albrecht at the University of

California at Davis, is reported by New Scientist magazine, to have said "This work will

go down as one of the most important developments in the history of science".[12]

Outline

Although several versions of MWI have been proposed since Hugh Everett's original

work,[1] they contain one key idea: the equations of physics that model the time evolution

of systems without embedded observers are sufficient for modelling systems which do

contain observers; in particular there is no observation-triggered wavefunction collapse

which the Copenhagen interpretation proposes. Provided the theory is linear with respect

to the wavefunction the exact form of the quantum dynamics modelled, be it the non-

relativistic Schrödinger equation, relativistic quantum field theory or some form of

quantum gravity or string theory, does not alter the validity of MWI since MWI is a

metatheory applicable to all linear quantum theories, and there is no experimental

evidence for any non-linearity of the wavefunction in physics.[13][14] MWI's main

conclusion is that the universe (or multiverse in this context) is composed of a quantum

superposition of very many, possibly infinitely many, increasingly divergent, non-

communicating parallel universes or quantum worlds.[5]

The idea of MWI originated in Everett's Princeton Ph.D. thesis "The Theory of the

Universal Wavefunction",[5] developed under his thesis advisor John Archibald Wheeler, a

shorter summary of which was published in 1957 entitled "Relative State Formulation of

Quantum Mechanics" (Wheeler contributed the title "relative state";[15] Everett originally

called his approach the "Correlation Interpretation"). The phrase "many worlds" is due to

Bryce DeWitt,[5] who was responsible for the wider popularisation of Everett's theory,

which had been largely ignored for the first decade after publication. DeWitt's phrase

"many-worlds" has become so much more popular than Everett's "Universal

Wavefunction" or Everett-Wheeler's "Relative State Formulation" that many forget that

this is only a difference of terminology; the content of all three papers is the same.

The many-worlds interpretation shares many similarities with later, other "post-Everett"

interpretations of quantum mechanics which also use decoherence to explain the process

of measurement or wavefunction collapse. MWI treats the other histories or worlds as

real since it regards the universal wavefunction as the "basic physical entity"[16] or "the

fundamental entity, obeying at all times a deterministic wave equation".[17] The other

decoherent interpretations, such as many histories, consistent histories, the Existential

Interpretation etc, either regard the extra quantum worlds as metaphorical in some sense,

or are agnostic about their reality; it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the

different varieties. MWI is distinguished by two qualities: it assumes realism[16][17], which

it assigns to the wavefunction, and it has the minimal formal structure possible, rejecting

any hidden variables, quantum potential, any form of a collapse postulate (i.e.

Copenhagenism) or mental postulates (such as the many-minds interpretation makes).

Many worlds is often referred to as a theory, rather than just an interpretation, by those

who propose that many worlds can make testable predictions (such as David Deutsch) or

is falsiable (such as Everett) or that all the other, non-MWI, are inconsistent, illogical or

unscientific in their handling of measurements; Hugh Everett argued that his formulation

was a metatheory, since it made statements about other interpretations of quantum theory;

that it was the "only completely coherent approach to explaining both the contents of

quantum mechanics and the appearance of the world"[2].

interpretation

As with the other interpretations of quantum mechanics, the many-worlds interpretation

is motivated by behavior that can be illustrated by the double-slit experiment. When

particles of light (or anything else) are passed through the double slit, a calculation

assuming wave-like behavior of light is needed to identify where the particles are likely

to be observed. Yet when the particles are observed in this experiment, they appear as

particles (i.e. at definite places) and not as non-localized waves.

The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics proposed a process of "collapse"

in which an indeterminate quantum system would probabilistically collapse down onto,

or select, just one determinate outcome to "explain" this phenomenon of observation.

Wavefunction collapse was widely regarded as artificial and ad-hoc, so an alternative

interpretation in which the behavior of measurement could be understood from more

fundamental physical principles was considered desirable.

Everett's Ph.D. work provided such an alternative interpretation. Everett noted that for a

composite system (for example that formed by a particle interacting with a measuring

apparatus, or more generally by a subject (the "observer") observing an object (the

"observed" system) the statement that a subsystem (i.e. the observer or the observed) has

a well-defined state is meaningless -- in modern parlance the subsystem states have

become entangled -- we can only specify the state of one subsystem relative to the state

of the other subsystem, i.e. the state of the observer and the observed are correlated. This

led Everett to derive from the unitary, deterministic dynamics alone (i.e. without

assuming wavefunction collapse) the notion of a relativity of states of one subsystem

relative to another.

Everett noticed that the unitary, deterministic dynamics alone decreed that after an

observation is made each element of the quantum superposition of the combined subject-

object wavefunction contains two relative states: a "collapsed" object state and an

associated observer who has observed the same collapsed outcome; what the observer

sees and the state of the object are correlated. The subsequent evolution of each pair of

relative subject-object states proceeds with complete indifference as to the presence or

absence of the other elements, as if wavefunction collapse has occurred, which has the

consequence that later observations are always consistent with the earlier observations.

Thus the appearance of the object's wavefunction's collapse has emerged from the

unitary, deterministic theory itself. (This answered Einstein's early criticism of quantum

theory, that the theory should define what is observed, not for the observables to define

the theory[18] .)

Since Everett stopped doing research in theoretical physics shortly after obtaining his

Ph.D., much of the elaboration of his ideas was carried out by other researchers and

forms the basis of much of the decoherent approach to quantum measurement.

Advantages

• MWI removes the observer-dependent role in the quantum measurement process

by replacing wavefunction collapse with quantum decoherence. Since the role of

the observer lies at the heart of most, if not all, "quantum paradoxes" this

automatically resolves a number of problems; see for example Schrödinger's cat

thought-experiment, the EPR paradox, von Neumann's "boundary problem" and

even wave-particle duality. Quantum cosmology also becomes intelligible, since

there is no need anymore for an observer outside of the universe.

• MWI allows quantum mechanics to become a realist, deterministic, local theory

making it more akin to classical physics (including the theory of relativity), at the

expense of losing counterfactual definiteness.

• MWI (or other, broader multiverse considerations) provides a context for the

anthropic principle which may provide an explanation for the fine-tuned universe.

• MWI, being a decoherent formulation, is axiomatically more streamlined than the

Copenhagen and other collapse interpretations; and thus favoured under certain

interpretations of Ockham's razor. Of course there are other decoherent

interpretations that also possess this advantage with respect to the collapse

interpretations.

Objections

• The many worlds interpretation is very vague about the ways to determine when

splitting happens, and nowadays usually the criterion is that the two branches

have decohered. However, present day understanding of decoherence does not

allow a completely precise, self contained way to say when the two branches have

decohered/"do not interact", and hence many worlds interpretation remains

arbitrary. This is the main objection opponents of this interpretation raise,[citation

needed]

saying that it is not clear what is precisely meant by branching, and point to

lack of self contained criterion specifying branching to be described.

the measurement is complete. In Dirac notation a measurement is complete when:

where O[i] represents the observer having detected the object system in the i-th

state. Before the measurement has started the observer states are identical; after

the measurement is complete the observer states are orthonormal.[5][1] Thus a

measurement defines the branching process: the branching is as well- or ill-

defined as the measurement is. Thus branching is complete when the

measurement is complete. Since the role of the observer and measurement per se

plays no special role in MWI (measurements are handled as all other interactions

are) there is no need for a precise definition of what an observer or a measurement

is -- just as in Newtonian physics no precise definition of either an observer or a

measurement was required or expected. In all circumstances the universal

wavefunction is still available to give a complete description of reality.

Objections response: the MWI response states no special role nor need for precise

definition of measurement in MWI, yet uses the word "measurement" in part of its

main argument.

MWI response: "measurements" are treated a subclass of interactions, which

induce subject-object correlations in the combined wavefunction. There is nothing

special about measurements (they don't trigger any wave function collapse, for

example); they are just another unitary time development process.

Also, it is a common misconception to think that branches are completely

separate. In Everett's formulation, they may in principle quantum interfere with

each other in the future,[19] although this requires all "memory" of the earlier

branching event to be lost, so no observer ever sees another branch of reality.

by Everett, there are no 'good observations' as defined by him, and since his

analysis of the observational process depends on the latter, it is void of any

meaning. The concept of a 'good observation' is the projection postulate in

disguise and Everett's analysis simply derives this postulate by having assumed it,

without any discussion.[20] Talk of probability in Everett presumes the existence of

a preferred basis to identify measurement outcomes for the probabilities to range

over. But the existence of a preferred basis can only be established by the process

of decoherence, which is itself probabilistic.[21]

idealised good measurements and the more general bad or approximate cases.[22]

Thus it is legitimate to analyse probability in terms of measurement; no circularity

is present.

theory of everything and, in particular, a successful theory of quantum gravity.[23]

If the final theory of everything is non-linear with respect to wavefunctions then

many-worlds would be invalid.[1][2][3][4][5]

MWI response: all accepted quantum theories of fundamental physics are linear

with respect to the wavefunction. Whilst quantum gravity or string theory may be

non-linear in this respect there is no evidence to indicate this at the moment.[13][14]

Brief overview

In Everett's formulation, a measuring apparatus M and an object system S form a

composite system, each of which prior to measurement exists in well-defined (but time-

dependent) states. Measurement is regarded as causing M and S to interact. After S

interacts with M, it is no longer possible to describe either system by an independent

state. According to Everett, the only meaningful descriptions of each system are relative

states: for example the relative state of S given the state of M or the relative state of M

given the state of S.

Schematic representation of pair of "smallest possible" quantum mechanical systems

prior to interaction : Measured system S and measurement apparatus M. Systems such as

S are referred to as 1-qubit systems.

quantum superposition of states, each one corresponding to an alternative measurement

history of S.

For example, consider the smallest possible truly quantum system S, as shown in the

illustration. This describes for instance, the spin-state of an electron. Considering a

specific axis (say the z-axis) the north pole represents spin "up" and the south pole, spin

"down". The superposition states of the system are described by (the surface of) a sphere

called the Bloch sphere. To perform a measurement on S, it is made to interact with

another similar system M. After the interaction, the combined system is described by a

state that ranges over a six-dimensional space (the reason for the number six is explained

in the article on the Bloch sphere). This six-dimensional object can also be regarded as a

quantum superposition of two "alternative histories" of the original system S, one in

which "up" was observed and the other in which "down" was observed. Each subsequent

binary measurement (that is interaction with a system M) causes a similar split in the

history tree. Thus after three measurements, the system can be regarded as a quantum

superposition of 8= 2 × 2 × 2 copies of the original system S.

universe as splitting at certain times; at any given instant there is one state in one

universe.

Schematic illustration of splitting as a result of a repeated measurement.

Relative state

The goal of the relative-state formalism, as originally proposed by Everett in his 1957

doctoral dissertation, was to interpret the effect of external observation entirely within the

mathematical framework developed by Paul Dirac, von Neumann and others, discarding

altogether the ad-hoc mechanism of wave function collapse. Since Everett's original

work, there have appeared a number of similar formalisms in the literature. One such idea

is discussed in the next section.

The relative-state interpretation makes two assumptions. The first is that the

wavefunction is not simply a description of the object's state, but that it actually is

entirely equivalent to the object, a claim it has in common with some other

interpretations. The second is that observation or measurement has no special role, unlike

in the Copenhagen interpretation which considers the wavefunction collapse as a special

kind of event which occurs as a result of observation.

referred to the combined observer-object system as being split by an observation, each

split corresponding to the different or multiple possible outcomes of an observation.

These splits generate a possible tree as shown in the graphic below. Subsequently DeWitt

introduced the term "world" to describe a complete measurement history of an observer,

which corresponds roughly to a single branch of that tree. Note that "splitting" in this

sense, is hardly new or even quantum mechanical. The idea of a space of complete

alternative histories had already been used in the theory of probability since the mid

1930s for instance to model Brownian motion.

Partial trace as relative state. Light blue rectangle on upper left denotes system in pure

state. Trellis shaded rectangle in upper right denotes a (possibly) mixed state. Mixed state

from observation is partial trace of a linear superposition of states as shown in lower left-

hand corner.

holds all the time everywhere. An observation or measurement of an object by an

observer is modeled by applying the wave equation to the entire system comprising the

observer and the object. One consequence is that every observation can be thought of as

causing the combined observer-object's wavefunction to change into a quantum

superposition of two or more non-interacting branches, or split into many "worlds". Since

many observation-like events have happened, and are constantly happening, there are an

enormous and growing number of simultaneously existing states.

superposition of products of the subsystems' states. Once the subsystems interact, their

states are no longer independent. Each product of subsystem states in the overall

superposition evolves over time independently of other products. The subsystems states

have become correlated or entangled and it is no longer possible to consider them

independent of one another. In Everett's terminology each subsystem state was now

correlated with its relative state, since each subsystem must now be considered relative

to the other subsystems with which it has interacted.

Successive measurements with successive splittings

One of the salient properties of the many-worlds interpretation is that observation does

not require an exceptional construct (such as wave function collapse) to explain it. Many

physicists, however, dislike the implication that there are infinitely many non-observable

alternate universes.

As of 2006, there are no practical experiments that distinguish between Many-Worlds and

Copenhagen.

predict probabilities for the occurrence of various events. In the many-worlds

interpretation, all these events occur simultaneously. What meaning should be given to

these probability calculations? And why do we observe, in our history, that the events

with a higher computed probability seem to have occurred more often? One answer to

these questions is to say that there is a probability measure on the space of all possible

universes, where a possible universe is a complete path in the tree of branching universes.

This is indeed what the calculations give. Then we should expect to find ourselves in a

universe with a relatively high probability rather than a relatively low probability: even

though all outcomes of an experiment occur, they do not occur in an equal way.

is hard to find testable predictions of MWI. There is a rather more dramatic test than the

one outlined above for people prepared to put their lives on the line: use a machine which

kills them if a random quantum decay happens. If MWI is true, they will still be alive in

the world where the decay didn't happen and would feel no interruption in their stream of

consciousness. By repeating this process a number of times, their continued

consciousness would be arbitrarily unlikely unless MWI was true, when they would be

alive in all the worlds where the random decay was on their side. From their viewpoint

they would be immune to this death process. Clearly, if MWI does not hold, they would

be dead in the one world. Other people would generally just see them die and would not

be able to benefit from the result of this experiment. See Quantum suicide.

interpretation which postulates that it is only the observers' minds that split instead of the

whole world.

Axiomatics

The existence of many worlds in superposition is not accomplished by introducing some

new axiom to quantum mechanics, but on the contrary by removing the axiom of the

probabilistic collapse of the wave packet: All the possible consistent states of the

measured system and the measuring apparatus (including the observer) are present in a

physically real quantum superposition, not just formally mathematical superposition, as

in other interpretations. (Such a superposition of consistent state combinations of

different systems is called an entangled state.)

the absolute square of the eigenvalue component of the state corresponding to the

eigenvalue a:

no longer has to be considered an axiom or postulate. It can rather be derived from the

other axioms of quantum mechanics. All that has to be assumed is that if the state is

an eigenstate of the observable A, then the result a of the measurement is certain. This

means that a second axiom of quantum mechanics can be removed. Hartle's derivation

only works in a theory (like Everett's) that does not cut away ("collapse") any

superposition components of the wave function. In other interpretations it is not

comprehensible why the absolute square is used and not some other arbitrary, more

complicated expression of the eigenvalue component say, the square root or some

polynomial of its norm.

quantum theory requiring fewer axioms than previously required and thus favoured by

interpretations of the "Occam's razor" heuristic that emphasize simplicity of the

mathematical or logical structure of a theory (as opposed to interpretations that

emphasize a minimal number of hypothesized entities or some other aspect).

One might argue that postulating the existence of many worlds is some kind of axiomatic

assumption, but each world is merely an element in the quantum superposition of the

universal wavefunction; quantum superpositions are a common and indispensable part of

all interpretations of quantum theory, as is most clearly illustrated in the path integral

formulation of quantum mechanics. Everett's theory just considers it a real phenomenon

in nature and applies it to macroscopic systems in the same way as it is conventionally

applied to microscopic systems.

An illustrative example

MWI describes measurements as a formation of an entangled state which is a perfectly

linear process (in terms of quantum superpositions) without any collapse of the wave

function. For illustration, consider a Stern-Gerlach experiment and an electron or a silver

atom passing this apparatus with a spin polarization in the x direction and thus a

superposition of a spin up and a spin down state in z-direction. As a measuring apparatus,

take a tracking chamber or another nonabsorbing particle detector; let the electron pass

the apparatus and reach the same site in the end on either way so that except for the z-

spin polarization the state of the electron is finally the same regardless of the path taken

(see The Feynman Lectures on Physics for a detailed discussion of such a setup). Before

the measurement, the state of the electron and the measuring apparatus is:

The state is factorizable into a tensor factor for the electron and another factor for the

measurement apparatus. After the measurement, the state is:

illustration, understand that the following state is factorizable:

(which might be not so obvious if another vector basis is chosen for the states).

The state of the above experiment is decomposed into a sum of two so-called entangled

states ("worlds") both of which will have their individual history without any interaction

between the two due to the physical linearity of quantum mechanics (the superposition

principle): All processes in nature are linear and correspond to linear operators

acting on each superposition component individually without any notice of the other

components being present.

This would also be true for two non-entangled superposed states, but the latter can be

detected by interference which is not possible for different entangled states (without

reversing the entanglement first): Different entangled states cannot interfere; interactions

with other systems will only result in a further entanglement of them as well. In the

example above, the state of a Schrödinger cat watching the scene will be factorizable in

the beginning (before watching)

This example also shows that it's not the whole world that is split up into "many worlds",

but only the part of the world that is entangled with the considered quantum event. This

splitting tends to extend by interactions and can be visualised by a zipper or a DNA

molecule which are in a similar way not completely opened instantaneously but

gradually, element by element.

Imaginative readers will even see the zipper structure and the extending splitting in the

formula:

If a system state is entangled with many other degrees of freedom (such as those in

amplifiers, photographs, heat, sound, computer memory circuits, neurons, paper

documents) in an experiment, this amounts to a thermodynamically irreversible process

which is constituted of many small individually reversible processes at the atomic or

subatomic level as is generally the case for thermodynamic irreversibility in classical or

quantum statistical mechanics. Thus there is -- for thermodynamic reasons -- no way for

an observer to completely reverse the entanglement and thus observe the other worlds by

doing interference experiments on them. On the other hand, for small systems with few

degrees of freedom this is feasible, as long as the investigated aspect of the system

remains unentangled with the rest of the world.

The MWI thus solves the measurement problem of quantum mechanics by reducing

measurements to cascades of entanglements.

superpositions. Consider for example the vector basis

The linear (and unitary and thus reversible) operation (in terms of quantum

superpositions) corresponding to the matrix

(in the above vector basis) will result in the entangled state

The state transformation of a quantum system resulting from measurement, such as the

double slit experiment discussed above, can be easily described mathematically in a way

that is consistent with most mathematical formalisms. We will present one such

description, also called reduced state, based on the partial trace concept, which by a

process of iteration, leads to a kind of branching many worlds formalism. It is then a short

step from this many worlds formalism to a many worlds interpretation.

For definiteness, let us assume that system is actually a particle such as an electron. The

discussion of reduced state and many worlds is no different in this case than if we

considered any other physical system, including an "observer system". In what follows,

we need to consider not only pure states for the system, but more generally mixed states;

these are certain linear operators on the Hilbert space H describing the quantum system.

Indeed, as the various measurement scenarios point out, the set of pure states is not

closed under measurement. Mathematically, density matrices are statistical mixtures of

pure states. Operationally a mixed state can be identified to a statistical ensemble

resulting from a specific lab preparation process.

Suppose we have an ensemble of particles, prepared in such a way that its state S is pure.

This means that there is a unit vector ψ in H (unique up to phase) such that S is the

operator given in bra-ket notation by

Now consider an experimental setup to determine whether the particle has a particular

property: For example the property could be that the location of the particle is in some

region A of space. The experimental setup can be regarded either as a measurement of an

observable or as a filter. As a measurement, it measures the observable Q which takes the

value 1 if the particle is found in A and 0 otherwise. As a filter, it filters in those particles

in the ensemble which have the stated property of being in A and filtering out the others.

Applying the filter to an ensemble of particles, some of the particles of the ensemble are

filtered in, and others are filtered out. Now it can be shown that the operation of the filter

"collapses" the pure state in the following sense: it prepares a new mixed state given by

the density operator

where F = 1 - E.

To see this, note that as a result of the measurement, the state of the particle immediately

after the measurement is in an eigenvector of Q, that is one of the two pure states

The mathematical way of presenting this mixed state is by taking the following convex

combination of pure states:

Remark. The use of the word collapse in this context is somewhat different that its use in

explanations of the Copenhagen interpretation. In this discussion we are not referring to

collapse or transformation of a wave into something else, but rather the transformation of

a pure state into a mixed one.

The considerations so far, are completely standard in most formalisms of quantum

mechanics. Now consider a "branched" system whose underlying Hilbert space is

where H2 is a two-dimensional Hilbert space with basis vectors and . The branched

space can be regarded as a composite system consisting of the original system (which is

now a subsystem) together with a non-interacting ancillary single qubit system. In the

branched system, consider the entangled state

We can express this state in density matrix format as . This multiplies out to:

The partial trace of this mixed state is obtained by summing the operator coefficients of

and in the above expression. This results in a mixed state on H. In fact, this

mixed state is identical to the "post filtering" mixed state S1 above.

To summarize, we have mathematically described the effect of the filter for a particle in a

pure state ψ in the following way:

• The pure state of the original system is replaced with a pure entangled state of the

augmented system and

• The post-filter state of the system is the partial trace of the entangled state of the

augmented system.

Multiple branching

In the course of a system's lifetime we expect many such filtering events to occur. At each

such event, a branching occurs. In order for this to be consistent with the branching

structure as depicted in the illustration above, we must show that if a filtering event

occurs in one path from the root node of the tree, then we may assume it occurs in all

branches. This shows that the tree is highly symmetric, that is for each node n of the tree,

the shape of the tree does not change by interchanging the subtrees immediately below

that node n.

In order to show this branching uniformity property, note that the same calculation carries

through even if original state S is mixed. Indeed, the post filtered state will be the density

operator:

This means that to each subsequent measurement (or branching) along one of the paths

from the root of the tree to a leaf node corresponds to a homologous branching along

every path. This guarantees the symmetry of the many-worlds tree relative to flipping

child nodes of each node.

systems in terms of relative states. In fact there is a wider class of operations which

should be considered: these are called quantum operations. Considered as operations on

density operators on the system Hilbert space H, these have the following form:

where I is a finite or countably infinite index set. The operators Fi are called Kraus

operators.

Theorem. Let

Then

is such that

where the Hilbert direct sum is taken over copies of H indexed by elements of I. We can

consider such maps Φ as imbeddings. In particular:

imbedding and a partial trace.

This suggests that the many worlds formalism can account for this very general class of

transformations in exactly the same way that it does for simple measurements.

Branching

In general we can show the uniform branching property of the tree as follows: If

and

where

and

This also shows that in between the measurements given by proper (that is, non-unitary)

quantum operations, one can interpolate arbitrary unitary evolution.

Branching

Dr. David Deutsch along with Oxford colleagues have demonstrated mathematically that

the bush-like branching structure created by the universe splitting into parallel versions of

itself can explain the probabilistic nature of quantum outcomes. In the New Scientist

article on the discovery, Andy Albrecht, a physicist at the University of California at

Davis, is quoted as saying "This work will go down as one of the most important

developments in the history of science." Deutsch and his Oxford colleaques are thus seen

to apparently bolster March - May '07 internet postings of Dr. David Anacker (to physics

cogniscenti including Lisa Randall,Lee Smolin, David Deutsch, G. T'Hooft, S. Glashow,

S. Weinberg, M. Kaku, L. Susskind, et.al.) via internet archive earlier establishing

agreement between predictive statistics of the Everett and Copenhagen interpretations.[12]

There is a wide range of claims that are considered "many worlds" interpretations. It is

often noted by those who do not believe in MWI[25] that Everett himself was not entirely

clear as to what he meant; however MWI adherents believe they fully understand

Everett's meaning, pointing to his stated belief in quantum immortality (which requires

absolute belief in the reality of all the many worlds) and the reality of all components the

uncollapsed universal wavefunction[26].

"Many worlds"-like interpretations are now considered fairly mainstream within the

quantum physics community. For example, a poll of 72 leading physicists conducted by

the American researcher David Raub in 1995 and published in the French periodical

Sciences et Avenir in January 1998 recorded that nearly 60% thought many worlds

interpretation was "true". Max Tegmark (see reference to his web page below) also

reports the result of a poll taken at a 1997 quantum mechanics workshop. According to

Tegmark, "The many worlds interpretation (MWI) scored second, comfortably ahead of

the consistent histories and Bohm interpretations." Other such unscientific polls have

been taken at other conferences: see for instance Michael Nielsen's blog [3] report on one

such poll. Nielsen remarks that it appeared most of the conference attendees "thought the

poll was a waste of time". MWI sceptics (for instance Asher Peres) argue that polls

regarding the acceptance of a particular interpretation within the scientific community,

such as those mentioned above, cannot be used as evidence supporting a specific

interpretation's validity. However, others note that science is a group activity (for

instance, peer review) and that polls are a systematic way of revealing the thinking of the

scientific community.

A 2005 minor poll on the Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics workshop at the Institute

for Quantum Computing University of Waterloo produced contrary results, with the MWI

as the least favored.[4]

One of MWI's strongest advocates is David Deutsch.[27] According to Deutsch the single

photon interference pattern observed in the double slit experiment, can be explained by

interference of photons in multiple universes. Viewed in this way, the single photon

interference experiment is indistinguishable from the multiple photon interference

experiment. In a more practical vein, in one of the earliest papers on quantum

computing,[28] he suggested that parallelism that results from the validity of MWI could

lead to "a method by which certain probabilistic tasks can be performed faster by a

universal quantum computer than by any classical restriction of it". Deutsch has also

proposed that when reversible computers become conscious that MWI will be testable (at

least against "naive" Copenhagenism) via the reversible observation of spin.[29]

Asher Peres was an outspoken critic of MWI, for example in a section in his 1993

textbook with the title Everett's interpretation and other bizarre theories. In fact, Peres

questioned whether MWI is really an "interpretation" or even if interpretations of

quantum mechanics are needed at all. Indeed, the many-worlds interpretation can be

regarded as a purely formal transformation, which adds nothing to the instrumentalist (i.e.

statistical) rules of the quantum mechanics. Perhaps more significantly, Peres seems to

suggest that positing the existence of an infinite number of non-communicating parallel

universes is highly suspect as it violates those interpretations of Occam's Razor that seek

to minimize the number of hypothesized entities. Proponents of MWI argue precisely the

opposite, by applying Occam's Razor to the set of assumptions rather than multiplicity of

universes. In Max Tegmark's formulation, the alternative to many worlds is the

undesirable "many words", an allusion to the complexity of von Neumann's collapse

postulate).

multiple parallel universes are non-communicating, in the sense that no information can

be passed between them. Others[29] claim MWI is directly testable. Everett regarded MWI

as falsifiable since any test that falsifies conventional quantum theory would also falsify

MWI[5].

According to Martin Gardner MWI has two different interpretations: real or unreal, and

claims that Stephen Hawking and Steve Weinberg favour the unreal interpretation.[30]

Gardner also claims that the interpretation favoured by the majority of physicists is that

the other worlds are not real in the same way as our world is real, whereas the "realist"

view is supported by MWI experts David Deutsch and Bryce DeWitt. However Stephen

Hawking is on record as a saying that the other worlds are as real as ours[31] and Tipler

reports Hawking saying that MWI is "trivially true" (scientific jargon for "obviously

true", which Gardner seems not to realise) if quantum theory applies to all reality[32].

Roger Penrose agrees with Hawking that QM applied to the universe implies MW,

although he considers the current lack of a successful theory of quantum gravity negates

the claimed universality of conventional QM.[23]

Main article: Parallel universe (fiction)

The many-worlds interpretation (and the somewhat related concept of possible worlds)

have been associated to numerous themes in literature, art and science fiction.

Some of these stories or films violate fundamental principles of causality and relativity,

and are extremely misleading since the information-theoretic structure of the path space

of multiple universes (that is information flow between different paths) is very likely

extraordinarily complex. Also see Michael Clive Price's FAQ referenced in the external

links section below where these issues (and other similar ones) are dealt with more

decisively.

Another kind of popular illustration of many worlds splittings, which does not involve

information flow between paths, or information flow backwards in time considers

alternate outcomes of historical events. According to many worlds, most of the historical

speculations entertained within the alternative history genre are realised in parallel

universes.

Speculative implications

It has been claimed that there is an experiment that would clearly differentiate between

the many-worlds interpretation and other interpretations of quantum mechanics. It

involves a quantum suicide machine and an experimenter willing to risk death. However,

at best, this would only decide the issue for the experimenter; bystanders would learn

nothing. The flip side of quantum suicide is quantum immortality.

Another speculation is that the separate worlds remain weakly coupled (e.g. by gravity)

permitting "communication between parallel universes". This requires that gravity be a

classical force and not quantized.

which is the view that the possible worlds used to interpret modal claims actually exist.

Unlike philosophy, however, in quantum mechanics counterfactual alternatives can

influence the results of experiments, as in the Elitzur-Vaidman bomb-testing problem or

the Quantum Zeno effect.

See also

• Fabric of Reality

• Interpretation of quantum mechanics

• Many-minds interpretation

• Multiverse

• Multiple histories

• Quantum decoherence

• Quantum immortality

Quantum Mechanics, Reviews of Modern Physics vol 29,

(1957) pp 454-462.

Wheeler Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, Battelle

Rencontres: 1967 Lectures in Mathematics and Physics

(1968)

Reality, Physics Today,23(9) pp 30-40 (1970) also April

1971 letters followup

4. ^ a b Bryce Seligman DeWitt, The Many-Universes

Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, Proceedings of

the International School of Physics "Enrico Fermi"

Course IL: Foundations of Quantum Mechanics,

Academic Press (1972)

The Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum

Mechanics, Princeton Series in Physics, Princeton

University Press (1973), ISBN 0-691-08131-X Contains

Everett's thesis: The Theory of the Universal

Wavefunction, pp 3-140.

in Quantum Theory, Foundation of Physics, vol. 1, pp.

69-76, (1970).

transition from quantum to classical, Physics Today, vol.

44, pp. 36-44, (1991).

and the quantum origins of the classical, Reviews of

Modern Physics, 75, pp 715-775, (2003)

September 21-24, 2007

Everett interpretation: state of play, David Wallace - Oxford

University, 21 Sept 2007

12. ^ a b c Merali, Zeeya (2007-09-21), "Parallel universes make

quantum sense", New Scientist (no. 2622),

<http://space.newscientist.com/article/mg19526223.700-parallel-universes-

make-quantum-sense.html>. Retrieved on 2007-10-20 (Summary

only).

13. ^ a b Steven Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory: The

Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature (1993),

ISBN 0-09-922391-0, pg 68-69

Annals of Physics Vol 194 #2 (1989), pg 336-386

Quantum Foam, ISBN 0-393-31991-1. pp 268-270

Wavefunction", chapter 6 (e)

the theory which you use. It is the theory which decides

what can be observed." Albert Einstein to Werner

Heisenberg, objecting to placing observables at the heart

of the new quantum mechanics, during Heisenberg's

1926 lecture at Berlin; related by Heisenberg in 1968,

quoted by Abdus Salam, Unification of Fundamental

Forces, Cambridge University Press (1990) ISBN 0-521-

37140-6, pp 98-101

Many Worlds or Many Words?, 1998. To quote: "What

Everett does NOT postulate: “At certain magic

instances, the world undergoes some sort of

metaphysical 'split' into two branches that subsequently

never interact.” This is not only a misrepresentation of

the MWI, but also inconsistent with the Everett

postulate, since the subsequent time evolution could in

principle make the two terms...interfere. According to

the MWI, there is, was and always will be only one

wavefunction, and only decoherence calculations, not

postulates, can tell us when it is a good approximation

to treat two terms as non-interacting."

20. ^ Comments on the Everett FAQ, added comment May 13,

2003

Baker, Princeton University, 11 April 2006

Wavefunction", chapter V, section 4 "Approximate

Measurements", pp. 100-103 (e)

Beyond the Classic-Quantum Dichotomy. Sciencewatch.

Retrieved on 2007-10-21.

Systems, American Journal of Physics, vol 36 (1968), #

8

and Worlds, Oxford University Press, 1999. According

to Barret (loc. cit. Chapter 6) "There are many many-

worlds interpretations."

Parallel Universes And Its Implications, Penguin Books

(1998), ISBN 0-14-027541-X

principle and the universal quantum computer,

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A 400,

(1985) , pp. 97–117

29. ^ a b Paul C.W. Davies, J.R. Brown, The Ghost in the

Atom (1986) ISBN 0-521-31316-3, pp. 34-38: "The

Many-Universes Interpretation", pp83-105 for David

Deutsch's test of MWI

on the rocks" [1] where Hawking states that the other

worlds are as real as ours

Theory? Bayes and the Born Interpretation. arXiv, Cornell

University. Retrieved on 2007-10-20. Page 1: "It is well-

known that if the quantum formalism applies to all

reality, both to atoms, to humans, to planets and to the

universe itself then the Many Worlds Interpretation is

trivially true (to use an expression of Stephen Hawking,

expressed to me in a private conversation)."

Further reading

• Jeffrey A. Barrett, The Quantum Mechanics of Minds and Worlds, Oxford

University Press, Oxford, 1999.

• Julian Brown, Minds Machines and the Multiverse, Simon & Schuster, 2000,

ISBN 0-684-81481-1

• Asher Peres, Quantum Theory: Concepts and Methods, Kluwer, Dordrecht, 1993.

• Mark A. Rubin, Locality in the Everett Interpretation of Heisenberg-Picture

Quantum Mechanics, Foundations of Physics Letters, 14, (2001) , pp. 301-322,

arXiv:quant-ph/0103079

• David Wallace, Harvey R. Brown, Solving the measurement problem: de Broglie-

Bohm loses out to Everett, Foundations of Physics, arXiv:quant-ph/0403094

• David Wallace, Worlds in the Everett Interpretation, Studies in the History and

Philosophy of Modern Physics, 33, (2002), pp. 637-661, arXiv:quant-ph/0103092

• Paul C.W. Davies, Other Worlds, (1980) ISBN 0-460-04400-1

• John A. Wheeler and Wojciech Hubert Zurek (eds), Quantum Theory and

Measurement, Princeton University Press, (1983), ISBN 0-691-08316-9

• James P. Hogan, The Proteus Operation, Science Fiction involving the Many-

Worlds Interpretation, time travel and World War 2 history., baen; Reissue edition

(August 1, 1996) ISBN-10: 0671877577

External links

• Michael Price's Everett FAQ -- a very clear presentation of the theory with some

additional insights

• Against Many-Worlds Interpretations by Adrian Kent

• Everett's Relative-State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics

• Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

• Max Tegmark's web page

• Many Worlds is a "lost cause" according to R. F. Streater

• The many worlds of quantum mechanics

• Numerous Many Worlds-related Topics and Articles

• Henry Stapp's critique of MWI, focusing on the basis problem

• Translation of Schrödinger's Cat paper.

• Everett interpretation on arxiv.org

• Scientific American report on the Many Worlds 50th anniversary conference at

Oxford

• Highfield, Roger (September 21, 2007), Parallel universe proof boosts time travel

hopes, The Daily Telegraph,

<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/09/21/sciuni121.x

ml>. Retrieved on 2007-10-26.

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