A quite brilliant piece of TV on BBC 4 tonight. Worth the license fee on its own, Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives traced the journey of Eels front-man Mark Everett uncovering the life of his father, the eminent physicist Hugh Everett III. Everett Snr, in a radical challenge to the Quantum Mechanical orthodoxy of the day, proposed his ‘Many Worlds Interpretation’, in which parallel universes split off at each moment of decision. Derided at the time, he became depressed and withdrawn. He died young, and Mark’s mother and sister followed soon after, his sister taking her own life, writing in her suicide note that she was ‘going to find her father in one of his parallel universes.’ He was a hidden man, who rarely spoke at home. It was only a few years before his death that his theory was finally accepted; it is only through this documentary that Mark discovers just how important a figure in science his father was.
And, strangely, I wrote a poem about Everett’s Many Worlds Interpretation a few weeks ago. Which it seems timely to put here, and add to the probably already huge canon of poetic works on the subject
Perhaps I Prefer The Inefficiencies of This Universe
To The Cold Efficiency of Your Myriad Others
Two clocks moving apart
At light speed never separate
And, in time, are forever together.
As soon as you Equalled the product of m and c-squared,
You locked us in:
No information shall travel faster than light,
Yes, our infinity, given a limit:
46.5 billion light years
To the edge
But you are there, and I here,
And strangely, from each centre elsewhere,
A new spacetime arcs out,
Socking the eye with an infinite number of
And thus, inevitably, an infinite number of you.
Some mother said I was unique, but now
A father’s physics wants me to believe in
Beginning 10 to the 10
to the 29 metres far away.
Too far, and yet too close,
For my comfort.
Hugh Everett III, what have you done?
“The existence of other universes
Said your Many Worlds Interpretation,
Which denied too the objective reality
Of wavefunction collapse.
And I’m like, WTF?
You go on:
“Between 0 and 1:
A single random number
With all its infinite decimals,
Is expressed, computationally,
The computational expression
Of the whole set of numbers
That exist there.”
A universe of infinite parallels
May be more economic
Than a straight, linear,
Somewhere you and I are together,
Though, in this universe, we are apart,
And somewhere else there are more in betweens
Than we could ever fathom.
And that may be more efficient
And now my gourd is swirling,
What is love, and life and us,
Other than to trust in this membrane-thin world,
And chose to forego
In the infinite possibility
Of the efficient multiverse,
And dig long