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The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III: Multiple Universes, Mutual Assured Destruction, and the Meltdown of a Nuclear Family [Format Kindle]

Peter Byrne
4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Revue de presse

i The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett III r deserves to be widely read. It is comprehensive as a biography; satisfactory as an introduction to Everettian Quantum Mechanics; illuminating as a study in the psychology of physicists and of operations researchers; and engaging as a human story. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in quantum theory. (Alastair Wilson, Metascience)

The book provides new insights into the development and the later Renaissance of the "many worlds" theory. I am recommending the anthology to anyone interested in the theory's physical or philosophical implications, and in the pro and con arguments [...] (Alexander Pawlak, Physik Journal)

Byrne's narrative compels serious attention, contains much important new material, is greatly enlivened and enhanced by his eagle eye for the telling quotation, and is always interesting and often convincing. It should intrigue any student of twentieth century physics, and is also a valuable resource for anyone concerned with the broader eduction of the scientists and the impact narrowly scientific ways of thinking can have on scientists themselves and on the wider world. (Adrian Kent, American Journal of Physics)

Byrne does an admirable job of weaving together quantum mechanics, nuclear war games and the disintegration of a dysfunctional family in this tale of a talented scientist, but morally compromised man. (Manjit Kumar,)

The book offers a valuable source of primary information about Everett's life and work, with much material not available elsewhere, [and] fleshes out an important part of the quantum physics story. (Science News)

Peter Byrne's meticulously researched biography provides a detailed and intimate look at one of the most seminal figures in 20th century physics and mathematics ... it is a remarkable and long-overdue biography. (Ian T. Durham, The Quantum Times)

Offers a valuable source of primary information about Everetts life and work, with much material not available elsewhere ... this book fleshes out an important part of the quantum physics story. (Tom Siegfried, ScienceNews)

The many worlds theory is still garish after all these years. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to read the story of its creator, himself too obsessed with models to intersect effectively with the real world. (Robert P. Crease, Nature)

Byrne does an excellent job of explaining the theory, why it is necessary and the difficulties it solves (and doesn't). [...] Byrne does not patronise his readers with superficial pen portraits of his characters. We get to know the characters by what they say and what they do. And they say and do some truly remarkable things. [...] This is a strangely beautiful story, expertly told with the dignity, candour and attention to detail it deserves. (New Scientist)

The effort Byrne has put in to understanding the man is impressive ... (Robert Matthews, BBC Focus Magazine)

In this biography, Peter Byrne bravely explores both the life and the science of Hugh Everett, the brilliant creator of the "many worlds" concept who burned himself out at an early age. As Byrne makes clear, Everett's startling achievements in physics stood against his startling deficiencies as a husband and father. (Kenneth W. Ford, retired director, American Institute of Physics)

This book has the potential to become the definitive biography of one of the finest minds of the twentieth century. (David Deutsch FRS, Oxford University)

In this extraordinarily personal biography, Peter Byrne masterfully conveys the life, struggles, achievements, and failures of this fascinating man, whose insights in physics created a new understanding of quantum mechanics, whose secret work helped usher us through the Cold War, and whose inner battles led to his own destruction. (A. Garrett Lisi, physicist, author of 'An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything')

We are grateful to Peter Byrne for this remarkable and remarkably sad story of the life and science of Hugh Everett III. Gifted, but late-to-be-recognized, Everett, while still in his twenties, proposed a new, now somewhat fashionable, interpretation of the quantum theory--the often rediscovered and often misinterpreted, so called, many worlds theory. Byrne gives a lucid and accessible account of many aspects of what has been an extraordinarily puzzling question that has bedeviled the quantum theory since its origin. And he does this with a warts and all reconstruction of Everett's life. An impressive achievement. (Leon N. Cooper, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1972)

Peter Byrne has the skills of a seasoned journalist: an eye for a story, a knack for turning up improbable interviews and previously undiscovered manuscripts, and a thoroughly engaging style. His target here is inherently interesting, and the resulting story is a remarkable achievement. (Jeff Barrett, Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science; University of California, Irvine)

This is an exciting book about a man who was ahead of his time by decades, although he did no more than logically apply a well-established theory against all prejudice. Peter Byrne has done an excellent job in unearthing documents, most of them unknown, about the history of Everett's ideas, their reception by the leading physicists from 1957 until today, and the consequences this had for Everett's life. (H. Dieter Zeh, University of Heidelberg)

Présentation de l'éditeur

Peter Byrne tells the story of Hugh Everett III (1930-1982), whose "many worlds" theory of multiple universes has had a profound impact on physics and philosophy. Using Everett's unpublished papers (recently discovered in his son's basement) and dozens of interviews with his friends, colleagues, and surviving family members, Byrne paints, for the general reader, a detailed portrait of the genius who invented an astonishing way of describing our complex universe from
the inside. Everett's mathematical model (called the "universal wave function") treats all possible events as "equally real", and concludes that countless copies of every person and thing exist in all possible configurations spread over an infinity of universes: many worlds. Afflicted by depression
and addictions, Everett strove to bring rational order to the professional realms in which he played historically significant roles. In addition to his famous interpretation of quantum mechanics, Everett wrote a classic paper in game theory; created computer algorithms that revolutionized military operations research; and performed pioneering work in artificial intelligence for top secret government projects. He wrote the original software for targeting cities in a nuclear hot war; and he was
one of the first scientists to recognize the danger of nuclear winter. As a Cold Warrior, he designed logical systems that modeled "rational" human and machine behaviors, and yet he was largely oblivious to the emotional damage his irrational personal behavior inflicted upon his family, lovers, and
business partners. He died young, but left behind a fascinating record of his life, including correspondence with such philosophically inclined physicists as Niels Bohr, Norbert Wiener, and John Wheeler. These remarkable letters illuminate the long and often bitter struggle to explain the paradox of measurement at the heart of quantum physics. In recent years, Everett's solution to this mysterious problem - the existence of a universe of universes - has gained considerable traction in
scientific circles, not as science fiction, but as an explanation of physical reality.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2972 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 447 pages
  • Editeur : OUP Oxford; Édition : 1 (5 juin 2010)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00BEW2QO6
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°134.637 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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4.0 étoiles sur 5 A découvrir 23 février 2014
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
On connait bien les théorie des univers parallèles, des cordes et de l’univers inflationniste développées par Weinberg, Süskind, Böhm, Deutsch, Schrödinger, Witten, Wheeler, Guth, Kaku,Talbot et bien d’autres. Mais on connait mal Hugh Everett, qui en a été pourtant l’initiateur, quand il s’était démarqué en 1957 de la ligne officielle de l’école de Copenhague qui prévalait alors, par une ré interprétation du paradoxe EPR et de la notion « d’effondrement de la fonction d’onde » défendu par son chef de file, Niels Bohr, remettant en cause l’indéterminisme des phénomènes quantiques. Son intuition était géniale et tirait de l’ornière dans laquelle s’était embourbée la physique quantique avec son principe d’incertitude. Il aurait du être consacré. C’était sans compter sur le conservatisme du milieu scientifique. Sa thèse, jugée comme dérive mystique, fut ignorée. Dépité, il se détourna de ses recherches pour travailler pour le complexe militaro-industriel. Déprimé, il se réfugia dans une existence flamboyante jalonnée d’excès en tout genre et mourut en 1982, pratiquement inconnu.Sa fille se suicida, espérant le rejoindre dans un de ces univers parallèles qu'elle pense que les vivants iront après leurs morts! Lire la suite ›
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Amazon.com: 4.7 étoiles sur 5  23 commentaires
33 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A superb book 16 août 2010
Par John K. Clark - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I've just finished this book and its one of the most enjoyable things I've read in a long time. Being a staple of science fiction and the only interpretation of quantum mechanics to enter the popular imagination it's a little surprising that "The Many Worlds of Hugh Everett" by Peter Byrne is the first biography of the originator of that amazing idea. Everett certainly had an interesting life, he was a libertarian and a libertine, became a cold warrior who with his top secret clearance was comfortable with the idea of megadeath, became wealthy by started one of the first successful software companies until alcoholism drove him and his company into the ground. Everett died of heart failure in 1982 at the age of 51, he was legally drunk at the time. He requested that his body be cremated and his ashes thrown into the garbage. And so he was.

Byrne had an advantage other potential biographers did not, the cooperation of his son Mark, a successful rock musician and composer whose music has been featured in such big budget movies as American Beauty, Hellboy, Yes Man, all three of the Shrek movies and many others. Mark gave Byrne full access to his garage which was full of his father's papers that nobody had looked at in decades.

Everett was an atheist all his life, after his death Paul Davies, who got 1,000,000 pounds for winning the Templeton religion prize, said that if true Many Worlds destroyed the anthropic argument for the existence of God. Everett would have been delighted. Nevertheless Everett ended up going to Catholic University of America near Washington DC. Although Byrne doesn't tell us exactly what was in it, Everett as a freshman devised a logical proof against the existence of God. Apparently it was good enough that one of his pious professors became very upset and depressed with "ontological horror" when he read it. Everett liked the professor and felt so guilty he decided not to use it on a person of faith again. This story is very atypical of the man, most of the time Everett seems to care little for the feelings of others and although quite brilliant wasn't exactly lovable.

Everett wasn't the only one dissatisfied with the Copenhagen Interpretation which insisted the measuring device had to be outside the wave function, but he was unlike other dissidents such as Bohm or Cramer in that Everett saw no need to add new terms to Schrodinger's Equation and thought the equation meant exactly what it said. The only reason those extra terms were added was to try to rescue the single universe idea, and there was no experimental justification for that. Everett was unique in thinking that quantum mechanics gave a description of nature that was literally true.

John Wheeler, Everett's thesis advisor, made him cut out about half the stuff in his original 137 page thesis and tone down the language so it didn't sound like he thought all those other universes were equally real when in fact he did. For example, Wheeler didn't like the word "split" and was especially uncomfortable with talk of conscious observers splitting, most seriously he made him remove the entire chapter on information and probability which today many consider the best part of the work. His long thesis was not published until 1973, if that version had been published in 1957 instead of the truncated Bowdlerized version things would have been different; plenty of people would still have disagreed but he would not have been ignored for as long as he was.

Byrne writes of Everett's views: "the splitting of observers share an identity because they stem from a common ancestor, but they also embark on different fates in different universes. They experience different lifespans, dissimilar events (such as a nuclear war perhaps) and at some point are no longer the same person, even though they share certain memory records." Everett says that when a observer splits it is meaningless to ask "which of the final observers corresponds to the initial one since each possess the total memory of the first" he says it is as foolish as asking which amoeba is the original after it splits into two. Wheeler made him remove all such talk of amebas from his published short thesis.

Byrne says Everett did not think there were just an astronomically large number of other universes but rather an infinite number of them, not only that he thought there were a non-denumerable infinite number of other worlds. This means that the number of them was larger than the infinite set of integers, but Byrne does not make it clear if this means they are as numerous as the number of points on a line, or as numerous as an even larger infinite set like the set of all possible clock faces, or maybe an even larger infinity than that where easy to understand examples of that sort of mega-infinite magnitude are hard to come by. Neill Graham tried to reformulate the theory so you'd only need a countably infinite number of branches and Everett at first liked the idea but later rejected it and concluded you couldn't derive probability by counting universes. Eventually even Graham seems to have agreed and abandoned the idea that the number of universes was so small you could count them.

Taken as a whole Everett's multiverse, where all things happen, probability is not a useful concept and everything is deterministic. However for observers like us trapped in a single branch of the multiverse, observers who do not have access to the entire wave function and all the information it contains but only a small sliver of it, probability is the best we can do. That probability we see is not part of the thing itself but is just a subjective measure of our ignorance.

Infinity can cause problems in figuring out probability but Everett said his theory could calculate what the probability any event could be observed in any branch of the multiverse, and it turns out to be the Born Rule (discovered by Max Born, grandfather of Olivia Newton John) which means the probability of finding a particle at a point is the squaring of the amplitude of the Schrodinger Wave function at that point. The Born Rule has been shown experimentally to be true but the Copenhagen Interpretation just postulates it, Everett said he could derive it from his theory it "emerges naturally as a measure of probability for observers confined to a single branch (like our branch)". He proved the mathematical consistency of this idea by adding up all the probabilities in all the branches of the event happening and getting exactly 100%. Dieter Zeh said Everett may not have rigorously derived the Born Rule but did justify it and showed it "as being the only reasonable choice for a probability measure if objective reality is represented by the universal wave function [Schrodinger's wave equation]". Rigorous proof or not that's more than any other quantum interpretation has managed to do.

Everett wrote to his friend Max Jammer:
"None of these physicists had grasped what I consider to be the major accomplishment of the theory- the "rigorous" deduction of the probability interpretation of Quantum Mechanics from wave mechanics alone. This deduction is just as "rigorous" as any deductions of classical statistical mechanics. [...] What is unique about the choice of measure and why it is forced upon one is that in both cases it is the only measure that satisfies the law of conservation of probability through the equations of motion. Thus logically in both classical statistical mechanics and in quantum mechanics, the only possible statistical statements depend upon the existence of a unique measure which obeys this conservation principle."

Nevertheless some complained that Everett did not use enough rigor in his derivation. David Deutsch has helped close that rigor gap. He showed that the number of Everett-worlds after a branching is proportional to the conventional probability density. He then used Game Theory to show that all these are all equally likely to be observed. Everett would likely have been delighted as he used Game Theory extensively in his other life as a cold warrior. Professor Deutsch gave one of the best quotations in the entire book, talking about many worlds as a interpretation of Quantum Mechanics "is like talking about dinosaurs as an interpretation of the fossil record".

Everett was disappointed at the poor reception his doctoral dissertation received and never published anything on quantum mechanics again for the rest of his life; instead he became a Dr. Strangelove type character making computer nuclear war games and doing grim operational research for the pentagon about armageddon. He was one of the first to point out that any defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles would be ineffectual and building an anti-balistic missile system could not be justified except for "political or psychological grounds". Byrne makes the case that Everett was the first one to convince high military leaders through mathematics and no nonsense non sentimental reasoning that a nuclear war could not be won, "after an attack by either superpower on the other, the majority of the attacked population that survived the initial blasts would be sterilized and gradually succumb to leukemia. Livestock would die quickly and survivors would be forced to rely on eating grains potatoes and vegetables. Unfortunately the produce would be seething with radioactive Strontium 90 which seeps into human bone marrow and causes cancer". Linus Pauling credited Evert by name and quoted from his pessimistic report in his Nobel acceptance speech for receiving the 1962 Nobel Peace prize.

Despite his knowledge of the horrors of a nuclear war Everett, like most of his fellow cold warrior colleagues in the 50's and 60's, thought the probability of it happening was very high and would probably happen very soon. Byrne speculates in a footnote that Everett may have privately used anthropic reasoning and thought that the fact we live in a world where such a war has not happened (at least not yet) was more confirmation that his Many Worlds idea was right. Incidentally this is one of those rare books where the footnotes are almost as much fun to read as the main text.

Hugh's daughter Liz Everett killed herself a few years after her father's death, in her suicide note she said "Funeral requests: I prefer no church stuff. Please burn be and DON'T FILE ME. Please sprinkle me in some nice body of water or the garbage, maybe that way I'll end up in the correct parallel universe to meet up with Daddy". And so she was.

John K Clark
16 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Strongly recommended 25 juin 2010
Par J. Jenkins - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
What a fantastic amount of research has gone into this interesting book. Peter Byrne is a science journalist and his depth of understanding is as impressive as his to-the-point writing style. Physics fans will know Everett as the one who came up with the 'many worlds' interpretation of quantum mechanics, that is, the idea that each time a measurement is made the universe splits into an infinity of copies depending on what the result is. Up till now I had always thought the idea repulsive for occam's razor reasons, but this book, through exhaustive discussion of the idea, almost has me convinced it is a valid explanation. Certainly to this day there is no conclusive argument against Everett's thesis in theoretical physics and a surprising number of physicists believe in it.

What makes this biography absolutely impossible to put down is the life of the man. Briefly he completed his thesis on many worlds in Princeton as a young man and was promptly hired by US defence to come up with algorithms and mathematical calculations relating to nuclear war, kind of like Oppenheimer, but with a far more dramatic result. The author repeats the irony or appropriateness, of the many worlds theorist coming up with different scenarios of complete nuclear war between the US and Russia, some of which destroy both countries, some of which lead to a 'win' for the US, etc. Many simulations involved destroying China too, to punish it or teach it a lesson. In addition he was an alcoholic and a terrible father and husband with multiple affairs, and died at an early age from a heart attack. Both children suffered but his son Mark Everett went on to become a famous indie songwriter with the Eels. He is the one who allowed the writer access to all the papers from his father.

The research that has gone into the book is really impressive. In the middle Byrne very carefully documents the scenarios of nuclear war that were entertained in the cold war and various calculations used by politicians. I guarantee anyone who remembers something of the cold war will be horrified at how coldly the theorists and warmongers calculated the hundreds of millions dead from a 'first strike' or retaliation strike. (More recent calculations I think in Sci. Am. show even a hundred 'small' weapons would probably lead to 10 years nuclear winter and most of humanity perishing so their calculations were seriously awry.)
Another irony was the constant use of game theory eg the prisoner's dilemma to construct mathematical ideal options for war. Here the mathematicians including Everett ignored the crucial point that cooperation is the best strategy in most of these games. Cooperation was completely left off the table by the strategists.
It scares us to see how close the world came to 'mutual assured destruction' back then. If the world were stressed enough, I have no doubt those days will return, the nuclear weapons are still with us, tens of thousands stockpiled all over the world.
In any case we need to remember these mistakes of the past, and it's a huge service to have written a book that is so entertaining and enlightening. I usually never read biographies, and I'm glad I made an exception with this one.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 What a monumental effort! 6 novembre 2011
Par Paul Taylor - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I was a physicist doing a PhD in the early 70's when Hugh Everett's Many Worlds interpretation of quantum theory was coming into vogue. What a monumental effort Peter Byrne has made in pulling this book together. It was a bit hard to follow its pattern at first, but I got into the rhythm of oscillating between Everett's many worlds quantum theory, his family, and his career with cold war calculations, along with many interesting footnotes.

Its very illuminating and an important work for the general public, with its penetration of the cold war thinking and the dance with annihilation. Its also important for scientists and philosophers, not the least those who are continuing on the many worlds trail Everett started down, but who may have no awareness of his character or connections with the cold war.

Great work.
4 internautes sur 4 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Excellent science coverage, evokes an era, moving personal stories 17 février 2012
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I have subscribed to the "many worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics since I was a physics graduate student in the 80s. This book does an excellent job discussing the philosophy of quantum mechanics and the importance of Everett's contribution, without using any mathematics at all. A lot of time, effort, and careful scholarship went into the physics and philosophy in this book. After I finished the book, I pulled up a couple of research papers by David Deutsch (a leading expert on quantum computing and today one of the leading promoters of Everett's interpretation of quantum mechanics) I had downloaded a few years ago (probably after reading his book "the Fabric of Reality") and this time I understood them!

The book also evokes the era of the Cold War. Everett's work in nuclear war simulations reminded me what it was like to grow up in the 60s and 70s, when the United States and Soviet Union had forces sufficient to destroy each other on a hair trigger. It evokes the era on an office and social level, as well. In some respects the story is a little bit like the TV show "Mad Men" with quantum physics and nuclear weapons.

There is a compelling personal story that in many ways is rather dark. As a fan of Everett's theory, I have always been curious about the man. He left academic physics research to do computer simulations for the military after he finished the Princeton PhD thesis containing his interpretation of quantum mechanics, so he was something of a mystery to other physicists. His personal story gives me some perspective on my own life and people I know.

I also highly recommend the BBC documentary "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives" (distributed by the PBS NOVA series in the US), which focuses on his son Mark, a successful musician, trying to understand the father he never really knew years after he was gone.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great book 15 février 2013
Par Faluvegi Balazs - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
Everett's life should be made into a movie, and this book contains everything for a great script. I've seen the PBS documentary, read a lot about Everett, but 80% of Byrne's content was new for me too, thanks to his dedication and thorough research.
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