Reviewed Mar 19, 2012
Fred Hasselman’s review:
DO NOT BE AMAZED, INTRIGUED OR OTHERWISE BAFFLED
The only good thing about this movie is its title because the people who made it do not understand ANYTHING about modern physics and complexity science.
I'll try to summarize why you should not even start to be impressed by this movie by raising one very crucial point: INTERPRETATION of scientific theories is irrelevant to the evaluation of how ACCURATE a scientific theory describes the universe we live in.
There are three ways to evaluate a scientific theory about reality: (i) Predictive power; (ii) Empirical accuracy; (iii) Descriptive power.
(i) A theory should have predictive power: A scientific theory should be able to predict measurement outcomes (phenomena that can be 'verified' to exist by conducting an experiment). For instance, cosmic string theory (a theory that is mathematically perfectly accurate and proposes that many kinds of elementary particles hypothesized to exist in reality should be described as a string vibrating at different frequencies in multiple dimensions) has an extremely low predictive power. We just do not have the technology to measure the phenomena string theory predicts. In the words of the experimental physicists: "Nice maths boys, but if we can't measure it, it does not exist to us."
(ii) The second way to evaluate a theory is the empirical accuracy of a theory: How much does the measurement of a variable deviate from the theoretically predicted value of that variable mentioned in (i)? Suppose we could measure cosmic strings. String theory would say a neutron is just a cosmic string vibrating at a frequency: X_theory. The empirical accuracy would be (X_theory - X_measured). We want this difference to be as low as possible, zero! The theory in which the difference is between predicted and observed values is smallest is the theory that most accurately describes the reality we live in. Theories of human behavior such as proposed in psychology and the life sciences are notoriously bad at achieving any form of empirical accuracy.
Which of the current scientific theories is the theory that best describes reality according to (i) and (ii)? ... Quantum physics! In quantum physics the difference between what the theories of the quantum world predict for a measurement outcome (something you calculate from formulas) are extremely close to the values that are actually measured. By comparison: achieving this accuracy in predicting the temperature at your location every hour would yield a 10 day-hourly forecast that is exactly correct according to a regular thermometer.
(iii) HELLO! ... still with me? I'll get to the point right now: If quantum physics is the most accurate scientific theory about reality human minds have ever come up with in the entire history of human existence... isn't it strange to use theories about the quantum world to argue for: "What the #$*! do (k)now!?"
Nope it's not. It's not weird because the makers of this film fell prey to the interpretation fallacy of theory evaluation. They are not using the predictive power and empirical accuracy of quantum physics as a basis for the movie, they use the explanatory, or descriptive power of the theory. Explanatory power deals with the extent to which we can interpret what the theory is all about in terms of familiar sensory experiences. The point is, explanatory power has no influence whatsoever -NONE- that is, on the predictive power and accuracy of a theory. It doesn't matter if it appears to make no sense to our daily experience (bi-locality, entanglement, superposition, communication at a distance) as long as it is mathematically correct-(i) and we can asses by means of measurement-(ii) such that the predicted version of reality is not far from the measured version of reality. We should accept that... despite all the hard-to-visualise-mathematical-weirdness.
INTERPRETATION IS IRRELEVANT!
There are at least 14 perfectly defendable different interpretations of quantum physics (see f.i. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpretations_of_quantum_mechanics ). The interpretations that suggest the mind of the observer actually influences what can be measured/exists in reality are just a small subset of all the proposed interpretations. All of those interpretations however have the same unprecedented predictive power and empirical accuracy when it concerns describing phenomena of the quantum world. Which interpretation you use is irrelevant for its success, the maths is the same for each interpretation. Whether us human beings can interpret it or not is actually very, very trivial...
It has to be said though, quantum physical theories have a very low explanatory power: "It's nice the universe works that way... but why???" If that were the message of the movie, I'd be happy. It's not...the answer to this question will NOT be answered by this movie or its sequels, nor by members of the movement of followers it spawned.
Watch BBC's "the Atom" or a Horizon doc like this one: gu.com/p/2ka3j if you want really want to be informed about these exciting matters.
You still have to use your creativity, imagination and free spirit to be able to understand all this amazing quantum stuff though!