Everything Everywhere All at Once: checking the science
14 March 2023
Nicola Gaston, a professor of physics, on actress Michelle Yeoh moving between parallel realities in Oscar-winning movie.
In the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once, laundromat owner Evelyn Wang enters a parallel universe to obtain martial arts skills from an alternative version of herself. In another universe, she’s a movie star. In yet another, everyone has hot-dog fingers.
So far, so strange.
But could quantum physics, where scientists study the workings of the tiniest building blocks of matter, lend support to the feasibility of the multiverse?
Back in the 1950s, a US graduate student named Hugh Everett, who was seeking to explain physics’ “double slit experiment,” where subatomic particles fired through slits behave in difficult-to-grasp ways, came up with the “many worlds” interpretation.
The idea is that we may be encountering only part of what happens, since the experiments are also generating results in other worlds.
One of New Zealand’s leading physicists, Professor Nicola Gaston, wouldn’t dismiss the multiverse out of hand, but she told Radio New Zealand’s Bryan Crump that she didn’t find the concept satisfying. She was speaking in the podcast Sci Fi/Sci Fact.
Philosophically, infinite parallel universes seemed a recipe for nihilism and fatalism: Blow your head off in Russian roulette in this universe and you could still be living your best life elsewhere.
On a scientific level, oddities in the behaviour of subatomic particles didn’t necessarily scale up, since classical physics was good at describing the workings of our macroscopic world.
Gaston is a professor of physics at the University of Auckland and co-director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.
The institute brings together scientists from the University of Auckland, Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington, the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago, government agency Callaghan Innovation and government research institute GNS Science.
Paul Panckhurst | media adviser
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