The man representing the common thread linking these influential scientists and important scientific concepts, John Archibald Wheeler, passed away on April 13th, 2008, at the age of 96. During his scientific career, John Wheeler worked on topics ranging from nuclear explosions to quantum mechanics to black holes and the nature of space-time. He collaborated with Albert Einstein, Neils Bohr, and many other influential scientists. Additionally, he supervised the graduate research of many (Feynman, Thorne, and Everett) who would become leaders in their fields.
Wheeler’s scientific legacy demonstrates his willingness to address hard questions—even ones that he found philosophically uncomfortable. His encouragement of Everett’s work in quantum mechanics provides a great example.
Unlike the everyday “classical” world which we experience, the quantum mechanical world operates in a bizarre fashion. A thought experiment by Erwin Schrödinger, among the earliest to study quantum mechanics, demonstrates the strangeness. Imagine a cat confined to a box. A scientist puts one undecayed atom of a radioactive material inside the box. This material has sufficient power to kill the cat when the atom decays. At any given time, there is some probability that the atom has decayed and some probability that it has not. All this makes sense in a classical picture.
However, according to quantum mechanics, the atom exists in a state described as a combination of its original state and its decayed state. While that may make sense for the atom, the condition of the cat depends on the state of the atom. The cat also exists in a combination of a live state and a dead state! Yet when someone observes the cat, it will either be dead or alive. How the quantum world gives the observations of our “classical” world has been debated for nearly one hundred years.
The argument advanced by Hugh Everett forms the basis of the Level III multiverse. Briefly, observers will see the cat in one of two possible states—dead or alive—with some probability associated with each outcome. Everett argued that whenever a quantum event has multiple possible outcomes, each outcome actually occurs, resulting in new universes that never again interact!
Many arguments exist for and against this “many worlds interpretation” (MWI) of quantum mechanics. The MWI does present challenges to RTB’s model. However, like Wheeler, RTB scholars hope to address challenges head-on. Research into this difficult issue provides avenues to better understand how God created the universe and as well as additional tests to validate and refine RTB’s cosmic creation model. Based on its track record, we expect our creation model to pass these quantum challenges with flying colors.