“What the *bleep* we know?” — A new type of film: a bad movie and a crap documentary in a single DVD.
Introduction. A friend of mine who is a high school physics teacher asked my opinion about the movie “What the bleep do we know” (2004): link1 , link2 (just now I saw that it has a follow-up ). Only a couple of weeks ago I saw this movie. This movie has also been released here in Brazil.
The purpose of “What the bleep do we know” is to talk about 20th century physics and its relation to our everyday life; including relation with religion, mysticism and some ethics issues. Curiously, some of the scientists which appear in the movie have a very good curriculum.
The Film. The film starts as a sensationalist documentary, it uses a lot of words and effects but nothing is said. Then the story of a deaf woman starts. It’s said that our understanding of the world is much narrow (a triviality) and, supposedly according with quantum theory, everything can be made possible (a wrong statement, at least accordingly with the standard interpretations of quantum theory).
After this anarchic stage, where everything is claimed to be possible as a consequence of quantum theory (in spite of the quantum decoherence ), the film adventures itself into clear mysticism, while the deaf woman supposedly learns more about xxth century physics and how to have a better life. At this point I just jumped to the final part.
Conclusions. Perhaps some of the speakers are much more intelligent than I am, and even more intelligent than some outstanding physicists (which is hard to believe, but it’s possible a priori). Now I will not question if their interpretation is correct or false, for even if it is miracously true, the film, as a documentary, still is crap. I don’t see any problem in conveying nonstandard interpretations of science, physics, biology or whatever, but it should be presented in an honest way; I mean, the authors should have said that there are other interpretations, also they should explain something of the quantum theory, starting with basic features, not presenting many quantum effects in an incomprehensible amalgam of ideas, giving a magical status to the word “quantum”.
I would like to stress that quantum mechanics and quantum field theory DO make predictions which were and still are verified with high accuracy (much higher than any classical experiment). The statement that everything is possible is wrong. Likewise the statement that physics needs observers with souls or consciousness to measure some physical phenomenon. Similar conjectures do have appeared in the very begging of quantum mechanics, but were soon abandoned since these strange and troublesome assumptions are not necessary. Quantum theory is really very different from classical physics and it is incompatible with common sense, but it teaches us nothing about religion or ethics. At most, one can use a quantum phenomenon as an analogy in order to convey some idea pertaining to nonscientific areas; but it will prove nothing, and in regard to analogies it is as useful as the old fashioned Newtonian mechanics, or anything else.
Useful references. For those interested in the meaning of quantum mechanics, from a non-technical perspective and a more philosophical one, forget the film “What the bleep do we know” and search for books like Werner Heisenberg – Physics and Philosophy or Roland Omnès – The philosophy of contemporary science (both have editions in Portuguese). The Wikipedia has a good amount of information on the 2 standard interpretations of quantum physics: Consistent Histories (it’s a modern variation of Copenhagen Interpretation ) and Many-worlds interpretation . — Have fun!