Sunday, March 04, 2007

Quantum Immortality: Do You Live Forever in a Parallel Universe?

Quantum immortality is the name for the speculation that the Everett many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that a conscious being cannot cease to be. The idea is highly controversial.

The idea comes from a variant of the quantum suicide thought experiment. Suppose a physicist standing beside a nuclear bomb detonates it. In almost all parallel universes, the nuclear explosion will vaporize the physicist. However, there is a small set of alternate universes in which the physicist somehow survives.

The idea behind quantum immortality is that the physicist is only alive in, and thus able to experience, one of the universes in which a miraculous survival occurs, even though these universes form a small subset of the possible universes. In this way, the physicist would appear, from a personal point of view, to be living forever. There are some parallels in this with the anthropic principle.


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