The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-06-06
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
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Peter Byrne tells the story of Hugh Everett III (1930-1982), whose "many worlds" theory of multiple universes has had a profound impact on physics and philosophy. Using Everett's unpublished papers (recently discovered in his son's basement) and dozens of interviews with his friends, colleagues, and surviving family members, Byrne paints, for the general reader, a detailed portrait of the genius who invented an astonishing way of describing our complex universe from the inside. Everett's mathematical model (called the "universal wave function") treats all possible events as "equally real", and concludes that countless copies of every person and thing exist in all possible configurations spread over an infinity of universes: many worlds. Afflicted by depression and addictions, Everett strove to bring rational order to the professional realms in which he played historically significant roles. In addition to his famous interpretation of quantum mechanics, Everett wrote a classic paper in game theory; created computer algorithms that revolutionized military operations research; and performed pioneering work in artificial intelligence for top secret government projects. He wrote the original software for targeting cities in a nuclear hot war; and he was one of the first scientists to recognize the danger of nuclear winter. As a Cold Warrior, he designed logical systems that modeled "rational" human and machine behaviors, and yet he was largely oblivious to the emotional damage his irrational personal behavior inflicted upon his family, lovers, and business partners. He died young, but left behind a fascinating record of his life, including correspondence with such philosophically inclined physicists as Niels Bohr, Norbert Wiener, and John Wheeler. These remarkable letters illuminate the long and often bitter struggle to explain the paradox of measurement at the heart of quantum physics. In recent years, Everett's solution to this mysterious problem-the existence of a universe of universes-has gained considerable traction in scientific circles, not as science fiction, but as an explanation of physical reality.

Author Biography

Peter Byrne is an investigative reporter and science writer based in northern California. He has written for Scientific American, Mother Jones, Salon.com, SF Weekly, North Bay Bohemian, and many other magazines and newsweeklies. He has received national recognition for his investigative reporting, including from Investigative Editors & Reporters and Project Censored. He a member of the Foundational Questions Institute, which has supported this book with a large grant. He has made presentations on Everett at University of Oxford, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and University of California, Irvine. He consulted on (and appeared in) the BBC4 production about Everett, Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives. He is curating the Everett papers.

Table of Contents

Forewordsp. xi
Introduction: The Story of Qp. 3
Family Origins: a Sketchp. 10
Katharine: the Dark Starp. 17
The Scientist as a Young Manp. 25
Stranger in Paradisep. 42
Game World
Demigodsp. 55
Decisions, Decisions-the Theory of Gamesp. 61
Origin of MADp. 68
von Neumann's Legacyp. 72
Quantum World
Quantum Everettp. 81
More on the Measurement Problemp. 92
Collapse and Complementarityp. 102
The Philosophy of Quantum Mechanicsp. 109
Everett and Wheeler
Wheeler: the Radical Conservativep. 117
Genesis of Many Worldsp. 131
Alone in the Roomp. 136
Tour of Many Worldsp. 144
The Battle with Copenhagen, Part Ip. 160
The Battle with Copenhagen, Part IIp. 169
The Chapel Hill Affairp. 178
Possible World Futures
Preparing for World War IIIp. 187
From Wargasm to Looking Glassp. 195
Falloutp. 202
A Bell Jar Worldp. 209
A Vacation in Copenhagenp. 216
Assured Destruction
Everett and Report 50p. 227
Everett and the SIOPp. 238
Behind Closed Doorsp. 249
Death's Other Kingdomsp. 262
Beltway Bandit
Weaponeeringp. 277
The Bayesian Machinep. 287
The Death of Lambdap. 292
Many Worlds Reborn
DeWitt to the Rescuep. 301
Records in Timep. 314
Austinp. 321
Wheeler Recantsp. 326
American Tragedy
The Final Yearsp. 337
Aftermathp. 349
Everett's Legacy
Modern Everettp. 359
Everett goes to Oxfordp. 373
Epilogue: Beyond Many Worldsp. 385
Glossaryp. 389
Acknowledgmentsp. 395
Bibliographyp. 399
Indexp. 417
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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