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May 31, 2008

Invisible Reality

Some of the greatest minds in quantum physics tried to shed some light on their world in "Invisible Reality." Brian Greene's introductory film explored how particles move in the land of the very small -- in waves. "Waves!" he had us all shout. Because of this, there's no way to predict where they will end up -- everything's a bit of a gamble, as illustrated next by a dance that definitely no one in the audience predicted. Women in leotards threw a makeshift die up in the air and hopped about as it landed. The quantum world is a trippy one.

Next, Greene and host Alan Alda were joined by Max Tegmark, Bill Phillips and David Albert. They defended their own ideas on probability: what is real, what isn't, and dare we ask that question anyway? Tegmark cheerfully took the renegade point of view: particles do not travel in waves, and what we think of as probability is actually cloning. Phillips follows the Niels Bohr school of science which is "shut up and calculate"; Albert said, "'shut up and calculate' takes all the fun out of life"; and Greene was the middle man.

The clash of ideas did not escalate beyond "my esteemed colleague is completely unorthodox" -- the scientific equivalent of locker-room towel snapping. But it's clear these men have a history together, as there are only a small group of people who can (kinda?) understand the quantum world.

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Last night's presentation of Invisible Reality was amazing! I learned so much! The way it was presented was understandable to all ages, and being told I was the second youngest there was pretty cool! I can't wait to see the events for the rest of this weekend!

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