Friday, August 23, 2002

How much does consciousness shape the universe? - An interview with John Archibald Wheeler dealing with quantum theory on his intuitions (supported by evidence, of course) that the universe is largely shaped by our perceptions of it. He's old, he knows he doesn't have very many years left, and so he's dedicated whatever ones he does have left to the big questions. Very admirable. Other physicists make appearances, like Andrei Linde, who tells this charming story:

"You know, if you say that we're smart enough to figure everything out, that is a very arrogant thought. If you say that we're not smart enough, that is a very humiliating thought. I come from Russia, where there is a fairy tale about two frogs in a can of sour cream. The frogs were drowning in the cream. There was nothing solid there; they could not jump from the can. One of the frogs understood there was no hope, and he stopped beating the sour cream with his legs. He just died. He drowned in sour cream. The other one did not want to give up. There was absolutely no way it could change anything, but it just kept kicking and kicking and kicking. And then all of a sudden, the sour cream was churned into butter. Then the frog stood on the butter and jumped out of the can. So you look at the sour cream and you think, 'There is no way I can do anything with that.' But sometimes, unexpected things happen."

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