Beautiful minds; Hugh Everett

Two fascinating films about two very beautiful minds, Hugh Everett III and Stephen Hawking.

Hugh Everett III

A documentary on PBS entitled Parallel World, Parallel Lives traces in a deeply personal way, the efforts of the son of Hugh Everett, Mark Oliver Everett, to find out more about his father, who died in 1982, just 51 years old.  Mark Everett is an accomplished musician and much of his music makes it onto the soundtrack of the film. Here’s a brief extract from an article from Scientific American.

Hugh Everett III

Hugh Everett III was a brilliant mathematician, an iconoclastic quantum theorist and, later, a successful defense contractor with access to the nation’s most sensitive military secrets. He introduced a new conception of reality to physics and influenced the course of world history at a time when nuclear Armageddon loomed large. To science-fiction aficionados, he remains a folk hero: the man who invented a quantum theory of multiple universes. To his children, he was someone else again: an emotionally unavailable father; “a lump of furniture sitting at the dining room table,” cigarette in hand.

Here’s a taste of the film from YouTube.

But you may prefer to watch the whole programme, courtesy of Top Documentary Films.

A fascinating programme and one which shows great courage and bravery from Mark Everett in dealing with his memories and emotions about a brilliant but emotionally flawed father.

Thursday, Stephen Hawking.

10 thoughts on “Beautiful minds; Hugh Everett

  1. The question is: what happened? The multiverse answer is that, whatever it is, it happened in one universe, and it did not happen, in another universe. And if it is not a matter of discrete choice, as in a 2 slit experiment, an uncountable number of universes will be created. In other words, if one wants a proof of the insanity of some of today’s physicists, the multiverse is all we need. According to this lamentable spasm of the mind, during every single, smallest amount of time imaginable, an uncountable infinity of universes appear.

    OK, the inflationary universe has the same problem, and is about as insane. But being surrounded by mad men does not excuse one’s own insanity. So we shall laugh.


    1. Dear Patrice, the challenge presented at this end, in terms of how to evaluate your comment, is that your anonymous profile (that is truly respected, by the way) makes it impossible to determine your academic and social backgrounds. Therefore are you replying from the position of a great thinker, or of a great thinker with significant scientific and philosophical accreditations?
      Your writings are powerful and impressive but nonetheless to assume (as I read into your approach) that the world of quantum physics is a ‘done deal’ is not something I can share. I anticipate that you will feel similarly ready to laugh on Thursday when I publish some words on Stephen Hawking. 😉
      My best wishes to you.


      1. Thoughts have to learn to stand on their own. The authority fallacy (if you forgive this neo sentence) is no ersatz for truth.

        Some (previously) immensely respected physics Nobel prizes were member of the Nazi party before Hitler. That did not make their physics any less insane.

        Most top thinkers of the scientific revolution in the 17C were not respected tenured professors at the university (although Galileo and Newton were, not so for Kepler, Bruno,Descartes, Fermat, Pascal, Leibnitz…). We have no historical distantiation to judge what’s going on now.

        I respect some of the work of Hawking. And certainly respect him tremendously as a person (although he dumped his wife for his nurse).

        I appreciate the fact you tease me with Quantum Mechanics as a “done deal”. I actually believe that QM is the most precise theory we have, but it’s most certainly false or crazy as Newton basically said about his own theory of gravitation, and pretty much for the same reasons… This shows that I have to express myself more clearly…

        In any case QM got no traction with the Quantum computer, so far. To say the least, many questions have been found to not be answered…

        As far as accreditations are concerned, I will refer to the PhDs of Qaddafi’s children, and the movie “Ghostwriter”. Speaking of Harvard, what about Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”, of an incredibly low scholarly level, and the numerous professors there on Qaddafi’s payroll? Does that mean they were accreditated by Qaddafi?

        I am quite familiar with academia, and I think too much credit is given, quite often.

        I am going to put a more extended version of my various remarks on my site, insisting on the fact QM, however impressive, is no deal. The multiverse was a desperate attempt to make it a deal, precisely, as it was made to eschew the problem of the non existence of a detailled mechanism of wave packet collapse. [Ironically I was once punished on a “philosophy” site for saying that QM was a live subject of research; I never went back to that site, which has academic pretentions: they had told me they checked with physics professors…]

        Best wishes to you too, and I look forward chewing on Hawking very slowly… meanwhile I shall put my anti-multiverse blast on my site…



    1. Kristin, welcome to Learning from Dogs, and thank you for the comment.

      My son-in-law is Norwegian and just under a month ago, they had their first child, a son named Morten!


  2. Dear Paul:
    Kristin’s four star comment was brief!

    Science is not just inspirational, it can lead to new models of thought. especially when it is true, that is, real science.

    However some science fantasy from the very best has masqueraded as science (“The First Three Minutes”, “The God Particle”). That could have a deleterious effect on the popular imagination, when people realize that, after all, nobody was there to keep time when light was not bouncing off walls, because there were no walls, and actually there were no particles yet.

    Or that Nobel Prize winners have a found a “God Particle” probably because they took themselves for god, but after all, nobody has seen it, and some Nobel guy was just trying to sell books.

    Science is amazing, and there is enough real science out there to not need to conflate it with fantasy. Abusing the public with non sense is no way to instill long term awe.

    The multiverse is particularly galling, as it is the ultimate outrage to Occam’s Razor. The latter is the principle of not adding superfluous hypotheses. The multiverse hypothesis adds universes, and even a continuum of universe, in each instance of the most fundamental process.

    Why? Because, although Quantum Mechanics is the most precise theory, it seems observer dependent. And in truth, it is geometrical-context dependent (the geometry being from functional analysis, not just the usual n-dimensional spaces the public is familiar with). That is not under-stood. Many physicists got ‘headaches’ from the situation. (Quantum) Computer engineers don’t have that luxury, and they are trying to master the subject (after relabeling some of the classical terms: “collapse of the wave packet” has become “decoherence”, for example, because the former is attached to the foundational quarrels of the 1920s to 1950s, which ended with some name calling of Einstein and the like.)

    I talked about this subject with some of the most famous actors. My personal approach is under the label “non-local hidden variables”. It may well turn out that such a theory is needed to accomplish Quantum computing.


    1. I wrote about the Eels song Fresh Feeling this week in my blog, just came across yours as I was looking for images of his dad, and also about Hugh Everett II, and linked to this youtube video, which I´ve just watched. Definitely fascinating stuff.


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