This is from my QUANTUM CINEMA column in Mr. & Ms. Magazine, May – June 2008 issue:
I have just finished watching for the nth time the documentary What The Bleep Do We Know? Enthusiasts of the documentary The Secret, which has since been made into a book, should watch this one as it would give the principles of The Secret more scientific grounding.
What The Bleep Do We Know? had its theatrical release in the United Kingdom in May 2005. But the DVD became a top seller even before that time. Like The Secret, it has now reached the status of a cult film with its followers forming clubs and publishing newsletters. And of course, it has its group of detractors, too.
In order to compete with feature films, documentarists or documentarians have resorted to using dramatizations. This is usually the case now for documentaries in the Discovery or National Geographic TV channels. What The Bleep Do We Know? is a documentary with a narrative segment that illustrates further what the interviewees and the narrator are talking about.
Academy Award- winner Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God) stars in this segment as a photographer who feels like a victim in life. She is a mute who recently divorced her philandering husband and is bored with her job. But one fine day, she experienced a quantum leap.
Although the film talks incessantly of quantum physics, it does not however explain precisely what quantum theory or quantum mechanics is. Rather, it explains the implications of quantum mechanics / physics. The interpreters of quantum mechanics are physicists, physicians, a theologian and America’s leading medium. Three people directed the film – Betsy Chasse, William Arntz and Mark Vicente.
The film’s intention is to provoke the viewer to think. It begins with a voice over: “In the beginning was the Void, teeming with infinite possibilities—of which you are one”. This is accompanied with images of what could be the Big Bang – the beginning of the Universe, according to scientists.
The narrative segment begins with Matlin at a train station. She boards the train, closes her eyes and as the camera closes up on her face, the narrator says, “Are all realities existing simultaneously?” The narrator bombards the viewers with so-many thought-provoking questions: Why do we keep re-creating the same reality? Isn’t it amazing that we have options and potentials that exist but we are unaware of them? Is it possible that we are conditioned to our daily lives, so conditioned to the way we create our lives that we buy the idea that we have no control at all?
WHAT THE PHYSICISTS SAY
The film’s panel of experts claims that quantum physics brings in a new paradigm of reality, knowledge and meaning.
Dr. Amit Goswami, a Physics professor at the University of Oregon says: “Quantum physics calculates only possibilities, but if we accept this, then the question immediately comes — who, what chooses among those possibilities to bring the actual event of experience? So, we directly, immediately see that Consciousness must be involved. The observer cannot be ignored.”
Dr. Fred Alan Wolf, physicist and author of Taking the Quantum Leap, asks: “Are people affecting the world of reality that they see?” And he answers, “You bet they are! Every single one of us affects the reality that we see even if we try to hide from that and play victim. We all are doin’ it!” Dr. Wolf is also in The Secret.
Dr. William Tiller, Professor Emeritus of Material Science and Energy at Stanford University says. “Our purpose here is to develop our gifts of intentionality and learn how to be effective creators.”
For Dr. Goswami, an individual’s purpose is “To acknowledge the Quantum Self; to acknowledge the place where we really have choice; to acknowledge Mind.”
The film emphasizes that we participate in creating reality. The brain, says the narrator, processes two billion (2,000,000,000) bits of information per second. But we are aware of only two thousand (2,000) bits of information per second. We are unaware of 1,999,998,000 bits of information per second. We perceive only a very tiny portion of what is going on around us.
An optimist will see only the positive side of things while a pessimist will see only the negative side of things. Each individual’s brain becomes very selective in choosing that precious 2,000 bits of information per second that would make up one’s reality.
Also, the arrangement of neural connections in the brain constantly changes. Over 70% of the connections between brain cells change every day. Changing our responses to stimuli changes these connections. We do not have to be victims of our own undoing. We can do something — we can ensure that these changes in neural connections make us more creative, intelligent, and versatile.
THE NEW PHYSICS
Quantum mechanics is just one aspect of the New Physics which has now united the subatomic world of electrons, photons, neutrinos, positrons, quarks, and the astronomical world of stars, galaxies, superclusters, black holes, quasars, wormholes, dark matter, etc.
Quantum mechanics was formulated in the early part of the 20th century by scientists like Niels Bohr, Max Planck and Werner Heisenberg yet its philosophical implications have still to be grasped by most people. The film – What the Bleep Do We Know?- tries to impart such awareness to the public at large and ends with a challenge: “Don’t just take it at face value. Test it out and see whether it’s true!” (end)
Published in Mr. & Ms magazine, Dec. 2007