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The real secret

Marlee Matlin in
What the Bleep:
a “quantum fable”
with too much
Hollywood and too
little science?

Hit films like The Secret serve up a strange mix of New Age and
quantum physics. Yet, a physicist asks, do they really understand
what science and spirituality are all about?
by peter russell
COURTESY OF Lord of the Wind Films, LLC

You create your own reality. Just really provide the proof for these claims? one particular state. A popular interpre-
“think positive,” and you’ll get yourself Quantum physics describes the so- tation of this is that the act of observation
a new car, a great job, the perfect partner called “observer effect,” which refers to the affects physical reality, “freezing” it into a
and lots of money. That’s a message heard impact the mere act of observing can have certain state. Hence the claim that you cre-
more and more frequently, most promi- on the phenomenon being observed. Phys- ate your own reality, and the importance of
nently in popular documentaries like The icists speak about this as the “collapse of holding a positive vision of a desired out-
Secret, following the success of What the the wave function.” The wave function de- come.
Bleep Do We Know!? scribes the probabilities of a particle being The original formulation, however, put
To offer concrete evidence for their observed in any of its possible states. When forward by Nobel Prize-winner Wern-
claims, the filmmakers point to discover- an observation is made, the wave function er Heisenberg, states that is your knowl-
ies in quantum physics. But does physics “collapses” and the particle is observed in edge of the system that collapses. Nothing

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in the real world actually changes; the only the two particles could now affect each oth- unfair with respect to people who are ill or
thing that changes is the uncertainty in your er. Because the correlation is instant, some poor. The message of The Secret suggests
knowledge. people see this as proof of faster-than-light- they too are responsible for their own fate.
Nevertheless, there is a sense in which communication, or of an undiscovered Does this mean that the thousands in Bang-
you do create your own reality: You cre- field beyond time and space through which ladesh made homeless by floods are suffer-
ate your own experience of reality. Take, we are all connected and through which we ing because they did not have a positive vi-
for example, your ability to see. Light en- communicate. sion?
ters the eye, triggering nerve impulses that Most physicists, however, tend not to
travel to the brain. There, these impulses jump to that conclusion so easily, because The strangest thing about such
are analyzed and put together into an im- they don’t fully understand how this phe- films is that they are parading spirituali-
age. You think you see the world, but what nomenon happens. They use terms like ty, yet are, in fact, supporting the very op-
you’re seeing is a reconstruction of the “entanglement,” meaning that the relation- posite. With their focus on acquiring ma-
world. The same applies to all your sens- ship between the particles is somehow pre- terial wealth, they reinforce the dangerous
es: You hear your own listening, etcetera. served over long distances. idea that whether or not you’re happy and
In this way, you’re creating your own per- There is a non-local relationship, which at peace in your life depends upon what
ception of reality. cannot be understood in our current way of you have, what you do and how other peo-
How you perceive reality depends in a thinking. Yes, something unusual is hap- ple see you.
large part on your attitude. A positive at- pening, but I don’t think we should grasp Yet almost all the great spiritual teach-
titude is clearly a good starting point and hold of these phenomena from sub-atomic ers through time have said that whether
may in part explain why things sometimes you are happy ultimately depends on how
turn out the way you want. you feel about yourself on the inside, not
I have discovered, for instance, that whether you have a nicer car or a better-
when I’m rested, centred and clear, things paying job than someone else.
work out well. But I don’t believe this is Telling people they can achieve happi-
because I am “creating” the world around ness by acquiring more things just rein-
me. It happens because I have put myself forces the mindset that’s leading us to ex-
into a good state of mind to pick up oppor- tract more and more out of the planet and
tunities. that will ultimately drive our culture to ex-
tinction. The Secret would have had a more
Another phenomenon powerful spiritual message if it had helped
from quantum physics that people realize this.
is often misunderstood is the A change in consciousness is a change
issue of “non-locality.” Quan-
tum theorists predict that ob-
COURTESY OF, FROM TOP: Lord of the Wind Films, LLC; TS Production LLC

servations in one place can

affect observations a long dis-
tance away. Einstein had reject- Are we really creating
ed this as “ghostly action at a
distance” and concluded some- our own reality?
thing was wrong with quantum
In the early 1980s, Alain Aspect,
a French physicist, carried out the first ex- physics to explain what may be happening in perception—a change in how we see
periments to test the prediction. He showed at our own level of existence. things. The real secret—and it’s only a se-
that when two particles are created with I’m not saying we shouldn’t think posi- cret because we keep forgetting it—is that
correlated quantum states (for example, tively, or that we’re not interconnected. All we always have a choice in how we see, ex-
both having the same spin) and are then I’m saying is it’s incorrect to use current perience and interpret reality. That is what
separated by a long distance, their quan- physics research to validate these claims determines whether or not you’ll be happy
tum states remain correlated. When Aspect and it’s highly misleading to present them and find peace.
measured the spin of one particle, causing as the ultimate truth, or the “Great Secret,”
its wave function to collapse into one par- of the universe. Such grand assertions give Peter Russell is a British scientist
ticular state, he found that the wave func- people a false sense of hope. with a degree in physics, author of many
tion of the second particle collapsed into And, on the contrary, the claim that we books and producer of three films
the same state, although there was no way create our own realities may also be very on consciousness.

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