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Journal WillWare's Journal: Saw that "What the Bleep" movie

So I finally saw the "what the bleep" movie a few days ago. My sister has been going crazy about this movie. She thinks it's the greatest thing ever recorded on movie film. Sometimes she goes a little overboard in her enthusiasm for things, particularly when she feels they validate whatever choice she made but felt uncertain about.

The discussion of the limitations of scientific knowledge was great. There's a lot of stuff we don't know. It's true that we don't know what wave-particles are, and it's true that virtual particles pop in and out of existence. That doesn't mean that there are no rules at all in the universe, or that the human pursuit of science has been a complete failure in finding any of those rules.

My sister is exactly the kind of person who will use this movie to reject any scientific knowledge that she doesn't like. What will confuse non-scientists is that the movie suggests that science actually doesn't know anything at all, that all scientific knowledge is suspect or invalid. That's just not true. If it were, planes wouldn't fly and cars wouldn't drive. The technology we use every day has its roots in scientific knowledge, and some of that knowledge is valid.

I did like the message that people have free will (or at least are better off if they act as if they do), and that it's OK to love yourself. Those are great life-affirming messages, and if people want to do affirmations or meditations or visualizations or whatever, that's great. I can't say that I see these as direct corrolaries of ideas in quantum mechanics, as the movie suggests.

It turns out that there are currently several interpretations of quantum mechanics, with varying degrees of acceptance in the scientific community. Majority opinion favors the Copenhagen interpretation, where the wavefunction collapses when observed, so the observer has a special role. In other interpretations, the collapse of the wavefunction is not a special event and so an observer has no special role. Particularly interesting among these is the many worlds interpretation.

In the movie, the special role of the observer is used to suggest a connection between the exotic mystique of quantum mechanics and the everyday utility of a notion of free will. As I said, it's great to promote self-esteem and free will, but the connection of these psychological issues to quantum mechanics seems contrived.

But it's a fun movie, the animations are pretty and amusing and delightful, and I recommend it as a visual and cognitive experience. I don't recommend that everything it says be accepted without exercising one's own thought process. And the movie's website is ridiculously self-serving, but we all expected that.

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Saw that "What the Bleep" movie

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"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"