“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!

Explore posts in the same categories: Movies, Physics

4 Comments on ““What the *bleep* we know?” — A new type of film: a bad movie and a crap documentary in a single DVD.”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Well, I have watched this film from what I would have to call (for lack of a better word) a more simplistic point of view. I have a bad taste in my mouth after reading many of the cricitcal and analytical blogs posted by those who presented themselves as being well versed paticipants in the studies of quantum physics, mathematics, etc. I feel as if the commentary throughout this film, the ideas, and the misc. theories presented by the guests featured have ruffled many a tail feather in the circles of mathematically thinking beings out there. I do not recall the message that we HAD TO BELIEVE ANY or ALL of what was conveyed at any point through out this entire film. The message that I did walk away with was one that encouraged us to THINK ABOVE and BEYOND what we THINK that we know to be TRUE in this life. To challenge what we as a society have been force fed to think and believe by the over powering elements that surround us, and to WALK and NOT RUN through life with a VERY OPEN MIND.

  2. Davi Says:

    Hi Amanda,

    The good side of this film, as you pointed, is to show that many of the current common beliefs may be wrong and that modern physics has some curious features very far from the common sense. Nevertheless, “What the bleep (..)” is not philosophically neutral, it indeed states some interpretations of modern physics which are far from the standard ones and (here comes the bad part) does not mention that those interpretations are not the accepted by the majority of the physics community (including the most proeminent researches). It speaks to the public with scientific authorit as if all those statements were obvious for the great physicists, but are not, many of them are indeed regarded as false. The connection with quantum theory and everyday life proposed in the film is nonsense. Moreover, the film talks and talks about quantum theory, but never explains what is quantum mechanics; as I said, it uses the word “quantum” as if it were a magical word. Nothing of modern physics can be learned with “What the bleep(…)”. It only teaches idiossincrat interpretations with a very vague connection to quantum theory.

    I’ll stop here. If I were Lubos, now probably I’d also blame them for being left-winged, but that’s other story. :-)

    Best wishes,
    Davi.


  3. Loved the movie. It’s a good start to think about your own paradigm’s

  4. infencied Says:

    I’m frequently looking for new posts in the WWW about this subject. Thankz!


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