Flashforward cancelled rumors were quite persistent all spring. The Flashforward cancelled outcome looked likely, given the free falling ratings ever since its premiere. However, since it was doing better overseas, some thought it had a good shot to return and cause more blackouts. But in America, the audience was shrinking and shrinking, as hopes were fading for the show to become the new Lost. Now that experiment is over, with Flashforward cancelled after just one year – which none of its infamous blackouts could foresee.
The Thursday night show premiered with a lot of promise, as the premise of the whole world seeing six months into the future intrigued many. But these days, no show other than Lost has been able to follow through on a big mystery premise. The problem wasn’t an inability to provide answers, but that less and less people cared about the endless “destiny vs. free will” debates, or the people having them.
Now with Flashforward cancelled, the Season 1 finale on May 27 will serve as the end of the show. Since the show should definitively answer if everyone’s visions come true on April 29 – and if another blackout will come afterward – there may indeed be nowhere to go after that. However, if the episode does have teasers for a Season 2, they will forever go unanswered.
Once again, ABC failed to develop the next Lost, as they had to give up just before Lost ended. With Flashforward cancelled, it may be another cautionary tale of how mystery shows are harder to make work than they look, if that’s possible.
But although Flashforward is cancelled, the network still has hopes for other mystery programs. V was their second shot at developing a new Lost, although it too met with mixed reviews and backlash after the pilot. However, they have enough faith in this sci-fi remake to give it a second season, unlike Flashforward.
Although V escaped the chopping block, others joined Flashforward in being cancelled. Scrubs’ one-year stint on ABC is over, while the critically acclaimed but low rated Better Off Ted was fired, and the short-lived Monday night comedy Romantically Challenged was let go.
With ABC’s decisions, the final cuts for fall 2010 are now under way, as shows find out if they still have a future, or have to close up shop. As one TV season ends with a slew of big finales, another is just on the horizon.
Since Flashforward is cancelled, it won’t have to see anything else on the horizon anymore – even though that was the show’s whole premise. This leaves just two episodes left for the season and series on May 20 and 27.
As the season progresses, I think Flash Forward is getting better and better. So we now know that the anti-blackout ring is a Quantum Entanglement Device; Janice is working for the FBI, CIA and a secret group; Olivia is the key to the puzzle; Frost used autistic savants in his flash forward experiments since they have detailed memories, and the secret group wants Janice to kill Mark.
So our “secret phrase” for the night was The Antikythera Mechanism. I took this directly from their site.
The antikythera mechanism is currently housed in the Greek National Archaeological Museum in Athens and is thought to be one of the most complicated antiques in existence. At the beginning of the 20th century, divers off the island of Antikythera came across this clocklike mechanism, which is thought to be at least 2,000 years old, in the wreckage of a cargo ship. The device was very thin and made of bronze. It was mounted in a wooden frame and had more than 2,000 characters inscribed all over it. Though nearly 95 percent of these have been deciphered by experts, there as not been a publication of the full text of the inscription.
Today it is believed that this instrument was a kind of mechanical analog computer used to calculate the movements of stars and planets in astronomy. It has been estimated that the antikythera mechanism was built around 87 B.C and was lost in 76 B.C. No one has any idea about why or how it came to be on that ill-fated cargo ship. The ship was Roman though the antikythera mechanism was developed in Greece. One theory suggests that the reason it came to be on the Roman ship could be because the instrument was among the spoils of war garnered by then Roman emperor Julius Caesar.
X-rays of the device have indicated that there are at least 30 different gears present in it. British historian Derek Price has done extensive research on what the antikythera mechanism may have been used for. It was not until 1959 that Price put forth the theory that the device was used in astronomy to make calculations and predictions. In 1974, Price presented a model of how the antikythera mechanism might have functioned. When past or future dates were entered into the device it calculated the astronomical information related to the Sun, Moon, and other planets.
Some of these findings have been confirmed by more recent researches undertaken by scholars and scientists. However, the full extent of the instrument’s functions still remains unknown. Price had also suggested that the antikythera mechanism might have been on public display in a museum or a public hall. Some others have also come up with their variants of the ancient computer, based on Price’s model. Australians Allan Bromley and Frank Percival devised one such model as did Michael Wright, curator of mechanical engineering at the Science Museum, London.
A joint project is also underway to further study this astounding example of the advancements of technology in ancient times. Known as the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, it is a collaboration between Cardiff University, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, X-Tek Systems, UK, and Hewlett-Packard, USA. This project is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and supported by the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece. Since the study started more progress has been made. More than 80 fragments of the mechanism have now been discovered.
Wow! What a shocker. Janis Hawk is a double mole. And, me thinks, will become impregnated by Simon. But that is not my topic of the night. We seem to have misinterpreted what QED means, so I will blog a bit on Quantum Entanglement.
Quantum-mechanical phenomena such as quantum teleportation, the EPR paradox, or quantum entanglement might appear to create a mechanism that allows for faster-than-light (FTL) communication or time travel, and in fact some interpretations of quantum mechanics such as the Bohm interpretation presume that some information is being exchanged between particles instantaneously in order to maintain correlations between particles. This effect was referred to as “spooky action at a distance” by Einstein.
Nevertheless, the fact that causality is preserved in quantum mechanics is a rigorous result in modern quantum field theories, and therefore modern theories do not allow for time travel or FTL communication. In any specific instance where FTL has been claimed, more detailed analysis has proven that to get a signal, some form of classical communication must also be used. The no-communication theorem also gives a general proof that quantum entanglement cannot be used to transmit information faster than classical signals. The fact that these quantum phenomena apparently do not allow FTL time travel is often overlooked in popular press coverage of quantum teleportation experiments. How the rules of quantum mechanics work to preserve causality is an active area of research.
Quantum Entanglement Device
Mythological godtech or clarketech communications device that supposedly employs quantum entanglement for limited FTL communicate at interstellar distances. Said to be in the hands of powers and archailects. It is commonly believed or supposed in cheap virchfiction that a few have over the centuries fallen into the hands of nearbaselines, who have however been able to use them to their useful potential. The reality is that no QED has ever existed; as with FTL it is a myth that is believed by the gullible. It has been known ever since the Atomic and Information ages of Old Earth that actual quantum entanglement cannot be used to send useful information.
More detail for those who can’t sleep
Quantum entanglement, also called the quantum non-local connection, is a property of a quantum mechanical state of a system of two or more objects in which the quantum states of the constituting objects are linked together so that one object can no longer be adequately described without full mention of its counterpart—even if the individual objects are spatially separated. The property of entanglement was understood in the early days of quantum theory, although not by that name. Quantum entanglement is at the heart of the EPR paradox developed by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen in 1935. This interconnection leads to non-classical correlations between observable physical properties of remote systems, often referred to as nonlocal correlations.
Quantum mechanics holds that observables, for example spin, are indeterminate until some physical intervention is made to measure an observable of the object in question. In the singlet state of two spin, it is equally likely that any given particle will be observed to be spin-up or spin-down. Measuring any number of particles will result in an unpredictable series of measurements that will tend to a 50% probability of the spin being up or down. However, the results are quite different if this experiment is done with entangled particles. For example, when two members of an entangled pair are measured, their spin measurement results will be correlated. Two (out of infinitely many) possibilities are that the spins will be found to always have opposite spins (in the spin-anti-correlated case), or that they will always have the same spin (in the spin-correlated case). Measuring one member of the pair therefore tells you what spin the other member would have if it were also measured. The distance between the two particles is irrelevant.
Theories involving hidden variables have been proposed in order to explain this result. These hidden variables would account for the spin of each particle, and would be determined when the entangled pair is created. It may appear then that the hidden variables must be in communication no matter how far apart the particles are, that the hidden variable describing one particle must be able to change instantly when the other is measured. If the hidden variables stop interacting when they are far apart, the statistics of multiple measurements must obey an inequality (called Bell’s inequality), which is, however, violated both by quantum mechanical theory and in experiments.
When pairs of particles are generated by the decay of other particles, naturally or through induced collision, these pairs may be termed “entangled”, in that such pairs often necessarily have linked and opposite qualities such as spin or charge. The assumption that measurement in effect “creates” the state of the measured quality goes back to the arguments of Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen and Erwin Schrödinger (remember Schrödinger’s Cat from an earlier blog) concerning Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and its relation to observation.
The analysis of entangled particles by means of Bell’s theorem can lead to an impression of non-locality, i.e. that there exists a connection between the members of such a pair that defies both classical and relativistic concepts of space and time. This is reasonable if it is assumed that each particle departs the location of the pair’s creation in an ambiguous state (thus yet unobserved, as per a possible interpretation of Heisenberg’s principle). In such a case, for a given observable quality of the particle, all outcomes remain a possibility and only measurement itself would precipitate a distinct value. As soon as just one of the particles is observed, its entangled pair collapses into the very same state. If each particle departs the scene of its “entangled creation” with properties that would unambiguously determine the value of the quality to be subsequently measured, then the postulated instantaneous transmission of information across space and time would not be required to account for the result of both particles having the same value for that quality. The Bohm interpretation postulates that a guide wave exists connecting what are perceived as individual particles such that the supposed hidden variables are actually the particles themselves existing as functions of that wave.
Observation of wavefunction collapse can lead to the impression that measurements performed on one system instantaneously influence other systems entangled with the measured system, even when far apart. Yet another interpretation of this phenomenon is that quantum entanglement does not necessarily enable the transmission of classical information faster than the speed of light because a classical information channel is required to complete the process.
Sources: Wikipedia.com, http://www.orionsarm.com/eg-topic/45c69ee17eec6
In last Thursday’s episode of Flash Forward titled “Better Angels,” Mark shows Stan the Hydra Monster picture that would eventually end up on his Mosaic wall. The Hydra, as portrayed by 18th century French writer, Pierre Boaistuau, had seven heads and was eventually killed by Hercules.
Mark then segues the conversation into D. Gibbons who he now identifies as one Dyson Frost. Frost we learn is brilliant, reclusive, a Particle Physicist, trained in Engineering at MIT, minoring in Victorian Literature. He had a domineering father who only spoke to him in French even though they grew up in Wyoming. He also became a Chess Grandmaster at the age of 15 (Stan notes the White Queen chess piece they found).
Frost supposedly died in a boating accident in 1990 on a boat named Le Monstre de Boaistuau (The Monster of Boaistuau).
The Hoax of the Venetian Hydra
Many different authors discuss the hydra, among them Boaistuau, in terms of if it is real or if it is just a hoax. Through a sociohistorical analysis of the hydra in Giambattista Basile’s dragon-slayer tale “Lo mercante,” this essay challenges the universalizing interpretation of the dragon as a worthy foil for the hero. In depicting the hero’s struggle with the beast, Basile employs tropes that purposefully recall a creature that was crafted by charlatans and widely discussed in scientific texts (people in the kingdom of his story describe the hydra as having “had the crest of a cock, the head of a cat, eyes of fire, jaws of a race-hound, the winds of a bat, the claws of a bear and the tail of a serpent.”). Basile transforms the epic battle between dragon and slayer into a comic encounter in which the hero confronts a manufactured monster while playfully blurring the boundary between two seemingly disparate genres, the scientific treatise and the literary fairy tale.
Early engravings of the Hydra first appeared in Europe in Konrad Lykosthenes’ Prodigiorium ac ostentorum chronicon, Lykosthenes sought to teach Christians to recognize the divine messages that God transmitted to men through these marvellous occurrences (of the hydra). He also saw the hydra not as the bearer of a specific holy message but instead depicts the monster as the object of international trade.
Pierre Boaistuau’s Histoires prodigieuyses, similar to Lykosthenes, aimed to reform its readers through the contemplation of the prodigfies on it pages, which in turn was intended to spur the reader to expunge his or her own vice. Boaistuau cites Lykosthenes story of the hydra and muses: “If it is a true thing (as it is likely to have been, judging by the authority of the one who describes it) I believe that nature has never produced a more marvellous creature among all the monsters of this earth.”
Since Boaistuau was never able to verify that the defunct king (in Basile’s story) ever actually owned this creature, he tentatively questions its authenticity. although lacking the physical proof of the beast’s existence, Boaistuau concludes this chapter by suggesting that the monster is both a portent and a natural marvel, the most marvellous among all the monsters on earth. undoubtedly, his conclusion is motivated in part by the realization that an assertion of authenticity would be more likely to encourage his readers to reform than would be the unmasking of a hoax.
Source: Magnanini, Suzanne, Fairy-Tale Science: Monstrous Generation in the Tales of Straparola and Basile.
For two weeks in a row, FlashForward had their lowest ratings ever. Now I need to point out that they are going against the NCAA Basketball Tournaments in their time slot. You would have thought the network programmers would have been proactive and waited another month before bringing it back.
I think the two episodes this season have been very interesting. We learned that Simon was an unsuspecting “Suspect Zero.” at the stadium in Detroit. We also know that “D. Gibbons” stole Lloyd’s research and claimed it as his own. Also, we now know that Zoey actually was attending Demetri’s memorial service (he was shot by Mark three times).
Last weeks episode showed how bad ass Aaron really is.
I am hoping to see more, but the networks seem to give less time for a series to take hold. I think FlashForward is worth saving. Are you listening ABC?
(Entertainment Weekly) — Sci-fi dramas like ABC’s “FlashForward” may have a tough time attracting new viewers when it returns with originals on March 18.
The freshman drama lost 43 percent of its viewers last fall while the network’s “V” was down 35 percent over four airings. (It also doesn’t help that “FlashForward” is on its third show runner now that co-creator/executive producer David Goyer has decided to leave the show to focus on his film career).
So it’s hardly surprising that none of the Big Four nets have a sci-fi show in development for the 2010-11 season (ABC’s superheroes pilot “No Ordinary Family” starring “The Shield’s” Michael Chiklis comes close).
At least the ABC-owned “FlashForward” (unlike the Warner Bros. owned “V”) has an ace in the hole: It does well in the UK, Italy and Spain, and the robust international sales could sway the network to pick up the Joseph Fiennes series for another season.
ABC may not make a decision on “FlashForward” and “V,” which returns March 30, until right before its upfront presentation in New York this May.
Several ABC dramas, in fact, have yet to receive pickups for another season, though “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice” and “Brothers and Sisters” are slam dunks.
Comedies like “Cougar Town,” “The Middle” and “Modern Family” have already been picked up, while shows like “Ugly Betty” have already been cancelled.
Long shots include “Better Off Ted,” “The Deep End,” “Scrubs” and “The Forgotten.”
Many-worlds is an interpretation of quantum mechanics that asserts the objective reality of the wavefunction, but denies the reality of wavefunction collapse. It is also known as MWI, the relative state formulation, theory of the universal wavefunction, parallel universes, many-universes interpretation or just many worlds.
The original relative state formulation is due to Hugh Everett who formulated it in 1957. Later, this formulation was popularized and renamed many-worlds by Bryce Seligman DeWitt in the 1960s and ’70s.
Proponents argue that many-worlds reconciles how we can perceive non-deterministic events, such as the random decay of a radioactive atom, with the deterministic equations of quantum physics. Prior to many-worlds, reality had been viewed as a single “world-line”. Many-worlds, rather, views reality as a many-branched tree where every possible quantum outcome is realised.
In many-worlds, the subjective appearance of wavefunction collapse is explained by the mechanism of quantum decoherence. By decoherence, many-worlds claims to resolve all of the correlation paradoxes of quantum theory, such as the EPR paradox and Schrödinger’s cat, since every possible outcome of every event defines or exists in its own “history” or “world”. In layman’s terms, there is a very large—perhaps infinite—number of universes, and everything that could possibly have happened in our past, but didn’t, has occurred in the past of some other universe or universes.
The decoherence approach to interpreting quantum theory has been further explored and developed becoming quite popular, taken as a class overall. MWI is one of many Multiverse hypotheses in physics and philosophy. It is currently considered a mainstream interpretation along with the other decoherence interpretations and the Copenhagen interpretation.
Although several versions of many-worlds have been proposed since Hugh Everett’s original work, they all contain one key idea: the equations of physics that model the time evolution of systems without embedded observers are sufficient for modelling systems which do contain observers; in particular there is no observation-triggered wavefunction collapse which the Copenhagen interpretation proposes. Provided the theory is linear with respect to the wavefunction, the exact form of the quantum dynamics modelled, be it the non-relativistic Schrödinger equation, relativistic quantum field theory or some form of quantum gravity or string theory, does not alter the validity of MWI since MWI is a metatheory applicable to all linear quantum theories, and there is no experimental evidence for any non-linearity of the wavefunction in physics. MWI’s main conclusion is that the universe (or multiverse in this context) is composed of a quantum superposition of very many, possibly even a non-denumerablely infinitely many, increasingly divergent, non-communicating parallel universes or quantum worlds.
The idea of MWI originated in Everett’s Princeton Ph.D. thesis “The Theory of the Universal Wavefunction”, developed under his thesis advisor John Archibald Wheeler, a shorter summary of which was published in 1957 entitled “Relative State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics” (Wheeler contributed the title “relative state”; Everett originally called his approach the “Correlation Interpretation”, where “correlation” refers to quantum entanglement). The phrase “many-worlds” is due to Bryce DeWitt, who was responsible for the wider popularisation of Everett’s theory, which had been largely ignored for the first decade after publication. DeWitt’s phrase “many-worlds” has become so much more popular than Everett’s “Universal Wavefunction” or Everett-Wheeler’s “Relative State Formulation” that many forget that this is only a difference of terminology; the content of all three papers is the same.
The many-worlds interpretation shares many similarities with later, other “post-Everett” interpretations of quantum mechanics which also use decoherence to explain the process of measurement or wavefunction collapse. MWI treats the other histories or worlds as real since it regards the universal wavefunction as the “basic physical entity” or “the fundamental entity, obeying at all times a deterministic wave equation”. The other decoherent interpretations, such as many histories, consistent histories, the Existential Interpretation etc, either regard the extra quantum worlds as metaphorical in some sense, or are agnostic about their reality; it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the different varieties. MWI is distinguished by two qualities: it assumes realism, which it assigns to the wavefunction, and it has the minimal formal structure possible, rejecting any hidden variables, quantum potential, any form of a collapse postulate (i.e. Copenhagenism) or mental postulates (such as the many-minds interpretation makes).
Decoherent interpretations of many-worlds use einselection to explain how a small number of classical pointer states can emerge from the enormous Hilbert space of superpositions have been proposed by Wojciech H. Zurek. “Under scrutiny of the environment, only pointer states remain unchanged. Other states decohere into mixtures of stable pointer states that can persist, and, in this sense, exist: They are einselected.” These ideas complement MWI and bring the interpretation in line with our perception of reality.
Many-worlds is often referred to as a theory, rather than just an interpretation, by those who propose that many-worlds can make testable predictions (such as David Deutsch) or is falsifiable (such as Everett) or that all the other, non-MWI, are inconsistent, illogical or unscientific in their handling of measurements; Hugh Everett argued that his formulation was a metatheory, since it made statements about other interpretations of quantum theory; that it was the “only completely coherent approach to explaining both the contents of quantum mechanics and the appearance of the world.”
Interpreting wavefunction collapse
As with the other interpretations of quantum mechanics, the many-worlds interpretation is motivated by behavior that can be illustrated by the double-slit experiment. When particles of light (or anything else) are passed through the double slit, a calculation assuming wave-like behavior of light can be used to identify where the particles are likely to be observed. Yet when the particles are observed in this experiment, they appear as particles (i.e. at definite places) and not as non-localized waves.
Some versions of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics proposed a process of “collapse” in which an indeterminate quantum system would probabilistically collapse down onto, or select, just one determinate outcome to “explain” this phenomenon of observation. Wavefunction collapse was widely regarded as artificial and ad-hoc, so an alternative interpretation in which the behavior of measurement could be understood from more fundamental physical principles was considered desirable.
Everett’s Ph.D. work provided such an alternative interpretation. Everett noted that for a composite system – for example a subject (the “observer” or measuring apparatus) observing an object (the “observed” system, such as a particle) – the statement that either the observer or the observed has a well-defined state is meaningless; in modern parlance the observer and the observed have become entangled; we can only specify the state of one relative to the the other, i.e. the state of the observer and the observed are correlated after the observation is made. This led Everett to derive from the unitary, deterministic dynamics alone (i.e. without assuming wavefunction collapse) the notion of a relativity of states.
Everett noticed that the unitary, deterministic dynamics alone decreed that after an observation is made each element of the quantum superposition of the combined subject-object wavefunction contains two “relative states”: a “collapsed” object state and an associated observer who has observed the same collapsed outcome; what the observer sees and the state of the object have become correlated by the act of measurement or observation. The subsequent evolution of each pair of relative subject-object states proceeds with complete indifference as to the presence or absence of the other elements, as if wavefunction collapse has occurred, which has the consequence that later observations are always consistent with the earlier observations. Thus the appearance of the object’s wavefunction’s collapse has emerged from the unitary, deterministic theory itself. (This answered Einstein’s early criticism of quantum theory, that the theory should define what is observed, not for the observables to define the theory). Since the wavefunction appears to have collapsed then, Everett reasoned, there was no need to actually assume that it had collapsed. And so, invoking Occam’s razor, he removed the postulate of wavefunction collapse from the theory.
A consequence of removing wavefunction collapse from the quantum formalism is that the Born rule requires derivation, since many-worlds claims to derive its interpretation from the formalism. Attempts have been made, by many-world advocates and others, over the years to derive the Born rule, rather than just conventionally assume it, so as to reproduce all the required statistical behaviour associated with quantum mechanics. There is no consensus on whether this has been successful.
Everett, Gleason and Hartle
Everett (1957) briefly derived the Born rule by showing that the Born rule was the only possible rule, and that its derivation was as justified as the procedure for defining probability in classical mechanics. Everett stopped doing research in theoretical physics shortly after obtaining his Ph.D., but his work on probability has been extended by a number of people. Andrew Gleason (1957) and James Hartle (1965) independently reproduced Everett’s work, known as Gleason’s theorem which was later extended.
De Witt and Graham
Bryce De Witt and his doctoral student R. Neill Graham later provided alternative (and longer) derivations to Everett’s derivation of the Born rule. They demonstrated that the norm of the worlds where the usual statistical rules of quantum theory broke down vanished, in the limit where the number of measurements went to infinity.
Deutsch et al
An information-theoretic derivation of the Born rule from Everettarian assumptions, was produced by David Deutsch (1999) and refined by Wallace (2002-2009) and Saunders (2004). Deutsch’s derivation is a two-stage proof: first he shows that the number of orthonormal Everett-worlds after a branching is proportional to the conventional probability density. Then he uses game theory to shows that these are all equally likely to be observed. The last step in particular has been criticised for circularity. Other reviews have been positive, although the status of these arguments remains highly controversial. It is fair to say that some theoretical physicists have taken them as supporting the case for parallel universes. In the New Scientist article, reviewing their presentation at a September 2007 conference, Andy Albrecht, a physicist at the University of California at Davis, is quoted as saying “This work will go down as one of the most important developments in the history of science.”
Wojciech H. Zurek (2005) has produced a derivation of the Born rule, where decoherence has replaced Deutsch’s informatic assumptions. Lutz Polley (2000) has produced Born rule derivations where the informatic assumptions are replaced by symmetry arguments.
MWI removes the observer-dependent role in the quantum measurement process by replacing wavefunction collapse with quantum decoherence. Since the role of the observer lies at the heart of most if not all “quantum paradoxes,” this automatically resolves a number of problems; see for example Schrödinger’s cat thought-experiment, the EPR paradox, von Neumann‘s “boundary problem” and even wave-particle duality. Quantum cosmology also becomes intelligible, since there is no need anymore for an observer outside of the universe.
MWI is realist, deterministic, local theory, akin to classical physics (including the theory of relativity), at the expense of losing counterfactual definiteness. MWI achieves this by removing wavefunction collapse, which is indeterministic and non-local, from the deterministic and local equations of quantum theory.
MWI (or other, broader multiverse considerations) provides a context for the anthropic principle which may provide an explanation for the fine-tuned universe.
MWI, being a decoherent formulation, is axiomatically more streamlined than the Copenhagen and other collapse interpretations; and thus favoured under certain interpretations of Ockham’s razor. Of course there are other decoherent interpretations that also possess this advantage with respect to the collapse interpretations.
Common objections and misconceptions
MWI states that there is no special role nor need for precise definition of measurement in MWI, yet uses the word “measurement” repeatedly through out its exposition.
MWI response: “measurements” are treated a subclass of interactions, which induce subject-object correlations in the combined wavefunction. There is nothing special about measurements (they don’t trigger any wave function collapse, for example); they are just another unitary time development process. This is why no precise definition of measurement is required in Everett’s formulation.
The many-worlds interpretation is very vague about the ways to determine when splitting happens, and nowadays usually the criterion is that the two branches have decohered. However, present day understanding of decoherence does not allow a completely precise, self contained way to say when the two branches have decohered/”do not interact”, and hence many-worlds interpretation remains arbitrary. This is the main objection opponents of this interpretation raise, saying that it is not clear what is precisely meant by branching, and point to the lack of self contained criteria specifying branching.
MWI response: the decoherence or “splitting” or “branching” is complete when the measurement is complete. In Dirac notation a measurement is complete when:
where O[i] represents the observer having detected the object system in the i-th state. Before the measurement has started the observer states are identical; after the measurement is complete the observer states are orthonormal. Thus a measurement defines the branching process: the branching is as well- or ill- defined as the measurement is. Thus branching is complete when the measurement is complete. Since the role of the observer and measurement per se plays no special role in MWI (measurements are handled as all other interactions are) there is no need for a precise definition of what an observer or a measurement is – just as in Newtonian physics no precise definition of either an observer or a measurement was required or expected. In all circumstances the universal wavefunction is still available to give a complete description of reality.
Also, it is a common misconception to think that branches are completely separate. In Everett’s formulation, they may in principle quantum interfere (i.e. “merge” instead of “splitting”) with each other in the future, although this requires all “memory” of the earlier branching event to be lost, so no observer ever sees two branches of reality.
There is circularity in Everett’s measurement theory. Under the assumptions made by Everett, there are no ‘good observations’ as defined by him, and since his analysis of the observational process depends on the latter, it is void of any meaning. The concept of a ‘good observation’ is the projection postulate in disguise and Everett’s analysis simply derives this postulate by having assumed it, without any discussion.
MWI response: Everett’s treatment of observations / measurements covers both idealised good measurements and the more general bad or approximate cases. Thus it is legitimate to analyse probability in terms of measurement; no circularity is present.
Talk of probability in Everett presumes the existence of a preferred basis to identify measurement outcomes for the probabilities to range over. But the existence of a preferred basis can only be established by the process of decoherence, which is itself probabilistic or arbitrary.
MWI response: Everett analysed branching using what we now call the “measurement basis“. It is fundamental theorem of quantum theory that nothing measurable or empirical is changed by adopting a different basis. Everett was therefore free to choose whatever basis he liked. The measurement basis was simply the simplest basis in which to analyse the measurement process.
We cannot be sure that the universe is a quantum multiverse until we have a theory of everything and, in particular, a successful theory of quantum gravity. If the final theory of everything is non-linear with respect to wavefunctions then many-worlds would be invalid.
MWI response: all accepted quantum theories of fundamental physics are linear with respect to the wavefunction. Whilst quantum gravity or string theory may be non-linear in this respect there is no evidence to indicate this at the moment.
Conservation of energy is grossly violated if at every instant near-infinite amounts of new matter are generated to create the new universes.
MWI response: Conservation of energy is not violated since the energy of each branch has to be weighted by its probability, according to the standard formula for the conservation of energy in quantum theory. This results in the total energy of the multiverse being conserved.
Occam’s Razor rules against a plethora of unobservable universes – Occam would prefer just one universe; i.e. any non-MWI interpretation.
MWI response: Occam’s razor actually is a constraint on the complexity of physical theory, not on the number of universes. MWI is a simpler theory since it has fewer postulates. See the “advantages” section.
Unphysical universes: If a state is a superposition of two states ΨA and ΨB, i.e. Ψ = (aΨA + bΨB), i.e. weighted by coefficients a and b, then if b << a, what principle allows a universe with vanishingly small probability b to be instantiated on an equal footing with the much more probable one with probability a? This seems to throw away the information in the probability amplitudes. Such a theory makes little sense.
MWI response: The magnitude of the coefficients provides the weighting that makes the branches or universes “unequal”, as Everett and others have shown, leading the emergence of the conventional probabilistic rules.
Violation of the principle of locality, which contradicts special relativity: MWI splitting is instant and total: this may conflict with relativity, since an alien in the Andromeda galaxy can’t know I collapse an electron over here before she collapses hers there: the relativity of simultaneity says we can’t say which electron collapsed first – so which one splits off another universe first? This leads to a hopeless muddle with everyone splitting differently. Note: EPR is not a get-out here, as the alien’s and my electrons need never have been part of the same quantum, i.e. entangled.
MWI response: the splitting can be regarded as causal, local and relativistic, spreading at, or below, the speed of light (e.g. we are not split by Schrödinger’s cat until we look in the box). For spacelike separated splitting you can’t say which occured first — but this is true of all spacelike separated events, simultaneity is not defined for them. Splitting is no exception; many-worlds is a local theory.
Schematic representation of pair of “smallest possible” quantum mechanical systems prior to interaction: Measured system S and measurement apparatus M. Systems such as S are referred to as 1-qubit systems.
In Everett’s formulation, a measuring apparatus M and an object system S form a composite system, each of which prior to measurement exists in well-defined (but time-dependent) states. Measurement is regarded as causing M and S to interact. After S interacts with M, it is no longer possible to describe either system by an independent state. According to Everett, the only meaningful descriptions of each system are relative states: for example the relative state of S given the state of M or the relative state of M given the state of S. In DeWitt’s formulation, the state of S after a sequence of measurements is given by a quantum superposition of states, each one corresponding to an alternative measurement history of S.
Schematic illustration of splitting as a result of a repeated measurement.
For example, consider the smallest possible truly quantum system S, as shown in the illustration. This describes for instance, the spin-state of an electron. Considering a specific axis (say the z-axis) the north pole represents spin “up” and the south pole, spin “down”. The superposition states of the system are described by (the surface of) a sphere called the Bloch sphere. To perform a measurement on S, it is made to interact with another similar system M. After the interaction, the combined system is described by a state that ranges over a six-dimensional space (the reason for the number six is explained in the article on the Bloch sphere). This six-dimensional object can also be regarded as a quantum superposition of two “alternative histories” of the original system S, one in which “up” was observed and the other in which “down” was observed. Each subsequent binary measurement (that is interaction with a system M) causes a similar split in the history tree. Thus after three measurements, the system can be regarded as a quantum superposition of 8= 2 × 2 × 2 copies of the original system S.
The accepted terminology is somewhat misleading because it is incorrect to regard the universe as splitting at certain times; at any given instant there is one state in one universe.
The goal of the relative-state formalism, as originally proposed by Everett in his 1957 doctoral dissertation, was to interpret the effect of external observation entirely within the mathematical framework developed by Paul Dirac, von Neumann and others, discarding altogether the ad-hoc mechanism of wave function collapse. Since Everett’s original work, there have appeared a number of similar formalisms in the literature. One such idea is discussed in the next section.
The relative-state interpretation makes two assumptions. The first is that the wavefunction is not simply a description of the object’s state, but that it actually is entirely equivalent to the object, a claim it has in common with some other interpretations. The second is that observation or measurement has no special role, unlike in the Copenhagen interpretation which considers the wavefunction collapse as a special kind of event which occurs as a result of observation.
The many-worlds interpretation is DeWitt’s popularisation of Everett’s work, who had referred to the combined observer-object system as being split by an observation, each split corresponding to the different or multiple possible outcomes of an observation. These splits generate a possible tree as shown in the graphic below. Subsequently DeWitt introduced the term “world” to describe a complete measurement history of an observer, which corresponds roughly to a single branch of that tree. Note that “splitting” in this sense, is hardly new or even quantum mechanical. The idea of a space of complete alternative histories had already been used in the theory of probability since the mid 1930s for instance to model Brownian motion.
Partial trace as relative state. Light blue rectangle on upper left denotes system in pure state. Trellis shaded rectangle in upper right denotes a (possibly) mixed state. Mixed state from observation is partial trace of a linear superposition of states as shown in lower left-hand corner.
Under the many-worlds interpretation, the Schrödinger equation, or relativistic analog, holds all the time everywhere. An observation or measurement of an object by an observer is modeled by applying the wave equation to the entire system comprising the observer and the object. One consequence is that every observation can be thought of as causing the combined observer-object’s wavefunction to change into a quantum superposition of two or more non-interacting branches, or split into many “worlds”. Since many observation-like events have happened, and are constantly happening, there are an enormous and growing number of simultaneously existing states.
If a system is composed of two or more subsystems, the system’s state will be a superposition of products of the subsystems’ states. Once the subsystems interact, their states are no longer independent. Each product of subsystem states in the overall superposition evolves over time independently of other products. The subsystems states have become correlated or entangled and it is no longer possible to consider them independent of one another. In Everett’s terminology each subsystem state was now correlated with its relative state, since each subsystem must now be considered relative to the other subsystems with which it has interacted.
Successive measurements with successive splittings
Comparative properties and experimental support
One of the salient properties of the many-worlds interpretation is that observation does not require an exceptional construct (such as wave function collapse) to explain it. Many physicists, however, dislike the implication that there are infinitely many non-observable alternate universes.
as of 2006, there are no practical experiments that distinguish between Many-Worlds and Copenhagen. There may be cosmological, observational evidence.
In the Copenhagen interpretation, the mathematics of quantum mechanics allows one to predict probabilities for the occurrence of various events. In the many-worlds interpretation, all these events occur simultaneously. What meaning should be given to these probability calculations? And why do we observe, in our history, that the events with a higher computed probability seem to have occurred more often? One answer to these questions is to say that there is a probability measure on the space of all possible universes, where a possible universe is a complete path in the tree of branching universes. This is indeed what the calculations give. Then we should expect to find ourselves in a universe with a relatively high probability rather than a relatively low probability: even though all outcomes of an experiment occur, they do not occur in an equal way. As an interpretation which (like other interpretations) is consistent with the equations, it is hard to find testable predictions of MWI.
There is a rather more dramatic test than the one outlined above for people prepared to put their lives on the line: use a machine which kills them if a random quantum decay happens. If MWI is true, they will still be alive in the world where the decay didn’t happen and would feel no interruption in their stream of consciousness. By repeating this process a number of times, their continued consciousness would be arbitrarily unlikely unless MWI was true, when they would be alive in all the worlds where the random decay was on their side. From their viewpoint they would be immune to this death process. Clearly, if MWI does not hold, they would be dead in the one world. Other people would generally just see them die and would not be able to benefit from the result of this experiment. See Quantum suicide.
The universe decaying to a new vacuum state
Any event that changes the number of observers in the universe may have experimental consequences. Quantum tunnelling to new vacuum state would reduce the number of observers to zero (i.e. kill all life). Some Cosmologists argue that the universe is in a false vacuum state and that consequently the universe should have already experienced quantum tunnelling to a true vacuum state. This has not happened and is cited as evidence in favour of many-worlds.
The many-worlds interpretation should not be confused with the similar many-minds interpretation which defines the split on the level of the observers’ minds.
There is a wide range of claims that are considered “many-worlds” interpretations. It is often claimed by those who do not believe in MWI that Everett himself was not entirely clear as to what he believed; however MWI adherents (such as DeWitt, Tegmark, Deutsch and others) believe they fully understand Everett’s meaning as implying the literal existence of the other worlds. Additionally Everett’s reported belief in quantum immortality, requires belief in the reality of all the many-worlds represented by the components of the uncollapsed universal wavefunction.
“Many-worlds”-like interpretations are now considered fairly mainstream within the quantum physics community. For example, a poll of 72 leading physicists conducted by the American researcher David Raub in 1995 and published in the French periodical Sciences et Avenir in January 1998 recorded that nearly 60% thought many-worlds interpretation was “true”. Max Tegmark also reports the result of a poll taken at a 1997 quantum mechanics workshop. According to Tegmark, “The many worlds interpretation (MWI) scored second, comfortably ahead of the consistent histories and Bohm interpretations.” Other such polls have been taken at other conferences: see for instance Michael Nielsen‘s blog report on one such poll. Nielsen remarks that it appeared most of the conference attendees “thought the poll was a waste of time”. MWI sceptics (for instance Asher Peres) argue that polls regarding the acceptance of a particular interpretation within the scientific community, such as those mentioned above, cannot be used as evidence supporting a specific interpretation’s validity. However, others note that science is a group activity (for instance, peer review) and that polls are a systematic way of revealing the thinking of the scientific community.
A 2005 minor poll on the Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics workshop at the Institute for Quantum Computing University of Waterloo produced contrary results, with the MWI as the least favored.
One of MWI’s strongest advocates is David Deutsch. According to Deutsch, the single photon interference pattern observed in the double slit experiment can be explained by interference of photons in multiple universes. Viewed in this way, the single photon interference experiment is indistinguishable from the multiple photon interference experiment. In a more practical vein, in one of the earliest papers on quantum computing, he suggested that parallelism that results from the validity of MWI could lead to “a method by which certain probabilistic tasks can be performed faster by a universal quantum computer than by any classical restriction of it”. Deutsch has also proposed that when reversible computers become conscious that MWI will be testable (at least against “naive” Copenhagenism) via the reversible observation of spin.
Asher Peres was an outspoken critic of MWI, for example in a section in his 1993 textbook with the title Everett’s interpretation and other bizarre theories. In fact, Peres questioned whether MWI is really an “interpretation” or even if interpretations of quantum mechanics are needed at all. Indeed, the many-worlds interpretation can be regarded as a purely formal transformation, which adds nothing to the instrumentalist (i.e. statistical) rules of the quantum mechanics. Perhaps more significantly, Peres seems to suggest that positing the existence of an infinite number of non-communicating parallel universes is highly suspect as it violates those interpretations of Occam’s Razor that seek to minimize the number of hypothesized entities. Proponents of MWI argue precisely the opposite, by applying Occam’s Razor to the set of assumptions rather than multiplicity of universes. In Max Tegmark‘s formulation, the alternative to many-worlds is the undesirable “many words”, an allusion to the complexity of von Neumann’s collapse postulate.
MWI is considered by some to be unfalsifiable and hence unscientific because the multiple parallel universes are non-communicating, in the sense that no information can be passed between them. Others claim MWI is directly testable. Everett regarded MWI as falsifiable since any test that falsifies conventional quantum theory would also falsify MWI.
According to Martin Gardner MWI has two different interpretations: real or unreal, and claims that Stephen Hawking and Steve Weinberg favour the unreal interpretation. Gardner also claims that the interpretation favoured by the majority of physicists is that the other worlds are not real in the same way as our world is real, whereas the “realist” view is supported by MWI experts David Deutsch and Bryce DeWitt. However Stephen Hawking is on record as a saying that the “other worlds are as real as ours” and Tipler reports Hawking saying that MWI is “trivially true” (scientific jargon for “obviously true”) if quantum theory applies to all reality. Roger Penrose agrees with Hawking that QM applied to the universe implies MW, although he considers the current lack of a successful theory of quantum gravity negates the claimed universality of conventional QM.
Speculative physics deals with questions also discussed in science fiction.
Quantum suicide thought experiment
It has been claimed that there is a thought experiment that would clearly differentiate between the many-worlds interpretation and other interpretations of quantum mechanics. It involves a quantum suicide machine and an experimenter willing to risk death. However, at best, this would only decide the issue for the experimenter; bystanders would learn nothing. The flip side of quantum suicide is quantum immortality.
Another speculation is that the separate worlds remain weakly coupled (e.g. by gravity) permitting “communication between parallel universes”. This requires that gravity be a classical force and not quantized.
Similarity to Modal Realism
The many-worlds interpretation has some similarity to modal realism in philosophy, which is the view that the possible worlds used to interpret modal claims actually exist. Unlike philosophy, however, in quantum mechanics counterfactual alternatives can influence the results of experiments, as in the Elitzur-Vaidman bomb-testing problem or the Quantum Zeno effect.
The many-worlds interpretation could be one possible way to resolve the paradoxes that one would expect to arise if time travel turns out to be permitted by physics (permitting closed timelike curves and thus violating causality). Entering the past would itself be a quantum event causing branching, and therefore the timeline accessed by the time traveller simply would be another timeline of many. In that sense, it would make the Novikov self-consistency principle unnecessary.
Many-worlds in literature and science fiction
Main article: Parallel universe (fiction)
A map from Robert Sobel‘s novel For Want of a Nail, illustrates how small events – in this example the branching or point of divergence from our history is in October 1777 – can profoundly alter the course of history. According to the many-worlds interpretation every microscopic event is a branch point; all possible alternative histories actually exist.
The many-worlds interpretation (and the somewhat related concept of possible worlds) have been associated to numerous themes in literature, art and science fiction.
Some of these stories or films violate fundamental principles of causality and relativity, and are extremely misleading since the information-theoretic structure of the path space of multiple universes (that is information flow between different paths) is very likely extraordinarily complex. Also see Michael Clive Price’s FAQ referenced in the external links section below where these issues (and other similar ones) are dealt with more decisively.
Another kind of popular illustration of many-worlds splittings, which does not involve information flow between paths, or information flow backwards in time considers alternate outcomes of historical events. According to the many-worlds interpretation, all of the historical speculations entertained within the alternate history genre are realized in parallel universes.
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I have gotten a bit behind with my write-ups on Flash Forward since I have been out of town. I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio in San Francisco on Friday and will be blogging about that over the next few days.
Jeff “Doc” Jensen of Entertainment Weekly has some theories about Flash Forward. I loved to read his theories on LOST each week, so I am leaving you with his latest musings on Flash Forward.
In the new issue of Entertainment Weekly now on newsstands, you’ll find a story written by yours truly in which I geek out on my new TV obsession, the ABC sci-fi drama FlashForward. If you’re new to the show, here’s what you need to know: On Oct. 6, the planet blacked out and for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, and everyone on earth saw a brief vision of their respective futures. The saga’s center is FBI agent Mark Benford (Shakespeare In Love’s Joseph Fiennes), who during his brief quantum leap saw himself investigating an elaborate conspiracy behind mankind’s perplexing power nap. The day glimpsed in all the flashes: Thursday, April 29, 2010. (Yep, the show will air that night.) Will Mark’s faithful wife Olivia (Lost’s Sonja Walger) find herself in bed with another man? Will vaguely sinister scientist Simon Campos (Dominic Monaghan, another ex-Lostie) strangle a dude to death? And will FBI agent Demetri Noh (Star Trek’s John Cho), who saw only darkness during his flash, be (gulp) dead? “The high concept pitch is simply this: if you were given a glimpse of your future, what would you do with it?” says FF’s exec producer David S. Goyer. “If you see something bad, can you change it? If it’s good, how do you make it come true?”
One of the things I love best about the series is the explicit and implicit references to science, literature, philosophy, and pop culture. When investigated, these references suggest all sorts of possibilities about what’s really going on in the saga, or at the very least add some cool or ironic shading to the story. For example: we’ve been told that Agent Noh will be killed on March 15. That also happens to be the date of Julius Caesar’s murder. More on the nose with FlashForward: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, in which a seer tells the Roman leader to “beware the Ides of March,” i.e. March 15. Is that just the writers having some smarty-pants fun—or are they planting a cue that a Brutus-like colleague will betray Agent Noh?
Here’s another example—a little more tenuous, but if you follow my Doc Jensen work on Lost, you know that making pseudo-intellectual leaps are part of what I’m all about. In FlashForward’s third episode, Agent Benford traveled to Germany to interview a Nazi war criminal who claimed to know something about the true nature of the global blackout. The old Nazi was being held at Quale Prison, and as it happens, the word quale is directly linked to a philosophical term dealing with—in wikipedia’s words—“the subjective quality of conscious experience.” (The fact that FlashForward would name a prison after such a heady concept is pretty provocative. Is the show trying to suggest that objective reality is unknowable and mankind is fundamentally at odds with each other because we are locked into our unique, idiosyncratic perspectives of the external world?)
Are you with me?! I hope so, because in the weeks to come, I plan on doing even more obsessing about FlashForward here at EW.com, beginning with a complete TV Watch recap of the next episode, airing Dec. 3. Until then, here’s are some additional references (legit and perceived my crazy eyes) that FlashForward has made during its first nine episodes—and some theories about what they could mean.
Of course, Dominic Monaghan (Charlie) and Sonya Walger (Penelope) are living, breathing embodiments of Lost. Both actors played characters linked to Desmond Hume. During the show’s third season, the ex-Hatchman became super-charged with The Island’s electromagnetic energy and began having flash-forwards of Charlie’s death. He also went back in time and tried to change his destiny. David Goyer—a big Lost fan—slipped a billboard for Oceanic Airlines into the pilot, inspiring fans to wonder if both shows exist in the same universe. At the very least, they may share a similar philosophical idea: that no matter how much you try to change predestined events, fate will get what it wants.
“Across The Universe” by Rufus Wainwright
Like Lost, Cold Case and so many other shows, FF has a penchant for episode-ending slow-motion montages, set to rousing score or a thematically loaded pop song. One of my faves was Wainwright’s cover of this classic tune by The Beatles, heard in the Oct. 29 episode “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps.” In the 1999 Robert J. Sawyer novel that inspired the series, the blackout/flash-forwards are caused, in part, by an anomaly in deep space—literally “across the universe.” Coincidence? Nay! I say: Synchronicity! As in…
“Ghost In The Machine” by The Police
Agent Benford is a fan of the band and wore a T-shirt featuring this album’s artwork to an undercover operation—infiltrating an underground club catering to “ghosts,” people in the FF universe who didn’t see anything in their flash forward and thus believe they are destined to die before that date. According to band lore, the album was inspired by Sting’s fixation with Arthur Koestler, an egghead who postulated that people, events, and time are psychically linked via the concept of Synchronicity described by Carl Jung. (The Police song “Synchronicity,” from the album of the same (also inspired by Koestler), is a FlashForward theory unto itself; check out the lyrics here.) Koestler’s books include The Ghost In The Machine, The Roots of Coincidence (a book that has had a big influence on sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book writers), and Janus: A Summing Up, an exploration of systems theory that says that a larger whole or “holarchy” is make up of individual components called “holons” that also contain systems within themselves, or something like that, or maybe nothing at all like that, and yes, I don’t have any clue what any of this means. Bookmark that Janus name—we’ll be coming back to it in a minute.
In FlashForward, Jericho is a military contractor that provides private armies to the highest bidder. Their soldiers apparently played a role in the attempted killing of Aaron Stark’s daughter, Tracy, in Afghanistan. I also suspect they are providing goons to the conspiracy that perpetrated the global blackout. Of course, Jericho was also the title of the short-lived, intensely loved cult drama that imagined the aftermath of a cataclysmic nuclear attack on the United States.
Trying to make sense of Jericho’s treacherous attack on his daughter, Aaron likened the situation to a “Baldacci novel.” David Baldacci is the best-selling author of hugely successful books like The Collectors and Absolute Power, political potboilers that usually involve elaborate government conspiracies. Application to FlashForward: I’m thinking President Segovia (played by Peter Coyote)—who is (or was) tight with Assistant Director Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance)—knows much more about the global blackout than he’s telling. And remember Senator Clemente (Barbara Williams), the congresswoman who was leading the subcommittee investigation into the flash-forward event? She was no friend to Segovia and Wedeck, yet the president made her his new vice president—presumably to stifle her persecution of Wedeck’s Mosaic team. No, it’s not very realistic that a president would appoint a hated political rival as his No. 2—unless, of course, Segovia and Clemente aren’t the bitter enemies they appeared to be. I’m thinking that yes, Senator Clemente is in on the conspiracy, too. So what’s the conspiracy? Here’s the clue that sketches the big picture:
The “bad man” from little Charlie Benford’s spooky vision and one of many cryptic clues gleaned from Agent Benford’s flash forward. The name undoubtedly refers to Dave Gibbons, co-author of the subversive superhero saga Watchmen, whose intricate mystery plot concerns (SPOILER ALERT!) a conspiracy to encourage world peace by staging a fake alien invasion. And like FF, Watchmen stuffed coded clues and tell-tale non-sequiturs in the margins of its story. I’m thinking that the power players behind the global blackout were attempting to do something similar—usher in a new era of world peace by staging a global cataclysm designed to cause everyone to rethink their lives, the way they live their lives and the political, religious, and philosophical barriers that divide us. The bipartisan union of President Segovia and Senator Clemente is symbolic and representative of the narrative the conspiracy was/is trying to promote throughout the world. The two-faced, double-edged nature of this scheme to engineer planetary rebirth via planetary catastrophe is reflected in our next clue…
Janice is the name of the FlashForward character who saw herself having a baby on April 29… even though she’s a lesbian who is currently not in relationship and had been deeply ambivalent about even having kids until recently. Janice sounds exactly like Janus, the two-faced Roman deity of open gates and closed doors, of beginnings and endings. Janus is a deeply ironic, very paradoxical dude—both hopeful and ominous. That’s very Janice. Speaking of double-sided clues…
Mosaic’s search for “D. Gibbons” led him to Pigeon, Utah, where he encountered a mystery man, coined “The Chess Player” by fans, in an abandoned doll factory. Before escaping, the chess player said, “He who foresees calamities, suffers them twice over.” That’s a famous quote from Porteus, an 18th-century English clergyman and noted abolitionist. His other major claim to fame was introducing something called “The Sunday Observance Act,” a “blue law” that regulated the ways people in England could spend their recreational time on Sunday. This is could be a double-faced clue. On one hand, we have an ostensible bad guy, quoting a guy linked to a righteous cause (ending slavery) and famous for forcing a righteous way of life on society (the Sunday Observance Act)—another possible proof on the aforementioned world peace conspiracy. But is The Chess Player part of The Blackout Conspiracy—or working to subvert it? The Porteus quote is darkly ironic. And coming from The Chess Player, it sounds like a warning or threat. Possibilities: If The Chess Player is trying to promote the conspiracy, he might have been trying to tell Benford that trying to solve the mystery of the blackout calamity will only produce another calamity—the ruin of its peace-promoting effect. But if The Chess Player is trying to fight the conspiracy, he might have been trying to tell Benford that flash-forward event had backfired—or will backfire when it reaches its fulfillment on April 29. FYI: Porteus is associated with another ironic quote that could be applied to FlashForward and my “Conspiracy of Peace” conspiracy theory: “War its thousands slays; peace its ten thousands.”
The Chess Player left behind some clues for Mosaic, including a chess piece—the white queen, which provocatively intersects with all sorts of fantasy and geek pop. The White Queen is a character from Through The Looking Glass—a scatter-brained figure that lives her life backwards and struggles to live in the present. (“Jam-yesterday or Jam-tomorrow, but never Jam-today.”) That’s fitting for a show whose people got mind-scrambled during the global blackout and are now playing out futures that may have already come to pass—who are constantly being reminded and challenged to bravely defy fate by “living in the now.” However, “White Queen” is the handle of several prominent characters in comic book land, including the morally ambiguous X-Men foil Emma Frost (who can see into other people’s heads) and another baddie, Sat-Yr-9, an unhinged femme fatale from an alternate reality Earth. Yes, it is unlikely FlashForward was deliberately trying to forge a connection to the latter character. But she does embody a high concept theory in quantum physics that was explicitly referenced by Dominic Monaghan’s Simon Campos character: the idea that all possible realities actually exist. (See: the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment, used by Campos to seduce the blonde lady on the train.) I won’t beat this dead (Schrödinger’s) cat further by bringing this full circle and explicating the link between Alice In Wonderland and quantum mechanics, or how the whole notion of white and black chess pieces illustrate the binary either/or dynamics of alternate reality logic. However, and fittingly, I will ask you to entertain at least two possibilities: 1. That what everyone saw in their flash-forward was actually a peek into an alternate reality; and 2. That per the implications of Schrödinger’s Cat, which says that reality isn’t created until directly observed by the viewer, that the future sketched by the flash-forwards is now locked into place as a result of being directly observed by everyone in the past via the global blackout. Got that? Thought so. Also see: A Christmas Carol SPOILER ALERT! David Goyer says Charles Dickens’ classic novel—about a grinch who’s shown a vision of his (possible) future—looms large in the Dec. 3 episode.