Last night I went to see a movie which was advertised as being about quantum physics, called “What the Bleep Do We Know?”. I was expecting something pretty dumb, but am always interested to see what people think about quantum mechanics. The film surpassed all expectations; it was certainly the stupidest thing I can remember seeing in a movie theater, and that’s saying quite a lot (I see a lot of movies…).
There was some sort of plot involving a woman photographer (played by Marlee Matlin), who wanders around and has anxiety attacks. Interspersed with the plot were interviews with various supposed scientists with something to say about quantum physics, consciousness, God, etc. On the whole they were a bunch of complete flakes, although one of them (David Albert) is a philosopher of science here at Columbia. Evidently Albert claims he was taken advantage of, that his interview was heavily edited to misrepresent his views.
The general idea was that since quantum mechanics supposedly says that there isn’t one reality, but an infinite number of possibilities, one just has to be enlightened to an awareness of this, and then you can make whatever you want happen. Somehow the main character of the movie was learning these amazing facts about quantum physics, and this then helps her deal with her anxiety attacks, bad body image and sex addiction (the film really goes off the rails in a bizarre scene where she is the photographer at a wedding party that turns into a grotesque kind of orgy).
The film has a web-site, and there is a long article in Salon explaining that the whole thing is really the production of a cult based in the Pacific Northwest that believes that a woman named JZ Knight is able to channel a 35,000 year old mystic named Ramtha. She does play a large role in the movie and you can read all about her nonsense here.
The whole thing is really moronic beyond belief. One of the scientists interviewed is John Hagelin who, besides being part of the TM cult surrounding Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, presidential candidate of the Natural Law Party, and “Minister of Science and Technology of the Global Country of World Peace” is a rather prominent particle theorist. Prominent if you go by citations that is. His 73 papers are mostly about supersymmetric GUTs and considered quite respectable, with a total of over 5000 citations, including 641 citations for one of them alone.
Hagelin was a grad student at Harvard when I was an undergrad and I met him when we were in the same quantum field theory class. A roommate of mine was interested in TM and I think it was he who introduced us. I remember Hagelin wanting to discuss how quantum field theory could explain how TM’ers were able to levitate, something about how they did this by changing the position of the pole in the propagator. The fact that someone who spouts such utter nonsense can get a Ph.D. from Harvard and be one of the most widely cited authors on supersymmetric models is pretty remarkable.
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