Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives

Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives

Ratings: 8.29/10 from 62 users.

Parallel Worlds, Parallel LivesFollow EELS frontman Mark Oliver Everett on his quest to comprehend the theory of parallel universes while unraveling the remarkable life story of his iconoclastic father Hugh - creator of the radical quantum physics theory - in this installment of the popular PBS series Nova.

Dubbed one of the most important scientists of the 20th century by Scientific American, Hugh Everett III proposed the controversial Many Worlds Theory back in 1957.

The basis of that theory is the idea that parallel universes are constantly spinning off from reality as we know it. Though generally ignored at the time, that theory has gone on to become not just a popular topic of study among respected physicists, but the inspiration for such popular films, television shows, and books as Star Trek and The Golden Compass.

As a young boy growing up, Mark never understood why his father was so distant. It wasn't that Hugh didn't care about his family, just that his brain was constantly swirling with ideas and concepts, and that anything that pulled him out of his own thoughts was considered something of a distraction.

Now the last surviving member of his troubled family, Mark interviews his father's old college friends, colleagues, and admirers - including MIT physicist Max Tegmark - in an emotional journey to not only better understand the man he barely knew in life, but also to gain a greater understanding of the ideas that still inspire physicists to this very day.

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41 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Andy

    What a wonderful documentary; enlightening, fun, and poignant. Very well edited and the narration is superb. I'll be sharing this with some fellow rock and science weirdos for sure. Thank you for creating this site. I'm just lovin' it.

  2. Jo

    If we follow the theory of parallel universe then if I am low here I good be high there. So if I which to improve my life now all I need to do it connect and seek the power from the parellel me because after all the parallel me and I are one

    1. chris

      no, you are not one.

  3. toddy potseed

    nice doc. The topic especially the math is more than likely over my head. I need to ask those more familiar with the concept these next two things.

    So, if i understand the idea of parallel universe's at all those times were i just escaped with a couple of scratches and bruises i may haved died in some universe's.. Also, if the idea of time travel is at all posible then ones destination is not in the starting universe , but another.

  4. jimmy kraktov

    It's always made sense to me, even though I really don't understand any of it. This was time well spent.

  5. Smokey Murray

    A simply beautiful documentary charting the discovery of ones father and his life, more than the paralel world theory he created. Moving, inspiring, and thought provoking

  6. susieq6000

    Mark, so glad you got to know your father even better posthumously. He was a "rock-star" in his universe! He did some very important work aside from his Parallel Universe theory, so you have the right to be very proud of him.
    I'm sorry to hear of your loss of your mother and sister too, but I think they
    would all be so proud of you and your music accomplishments too!

  7. Karen

    but of course

  8. Nickname Pending

    music is maths therefore 'e' =genius

  9. Shannon Elizabeth Staley

    Worth a look....funny, smart and well done...........

  10. Shannon Elizabeth Staley

    Pretty good.......I enjoyed it, laughed and learned a lot. Worth a look.

  11. Andre E Bordeleau

    I am simply happy that it turned out happy for Mark, sure I am a big fan of his but I have felt an outsiders sadness and pain in him, now knowing of of the tragic family life he has had and how it turns out in this quest for him, well I am happy for him and he his not such a sad guy like he portrays in his music.bonus I get quantum mechanics a little more to since it was explained nicely for a simpleton like me...great doc from BBC!

  12. cherie

    Anyone read Seth chanelled by Jayne Roberts? Same theory different way of saying it.

    1. Guest

      Yes, have read all of Jane Roberts work in the 80's, "Seth speaks" many times, myself find it strange that the latest scientific paradigms are running parallel to what was inclusion in those books, myself think that the Seth material went much further, then what is in vogue now.
      But don't tell anyone, don't want to classed as a hippie again! (LOL)

    2. Quilan Hanniffy

      The Seth material goes into immense details about this. All channeled texts explain parallel worlds theory as a matter of fact, science is really slow in catching up.

    3. Quilan Hanniffy

      I'm pleased you mention Seth, all channeled texts go into parallel worlds as a matter of fact and go into more details. I often wonder if any scientists know about these texts. It almost seems a separate universe the new age material seems more advanced than science understanding. Seth in particular goes really in depth with it!

  13. KsDevil

    I feel better now. While I sit here watching documentaries, my other parallel universe self is busy getting the chores done. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

  14. Yanis Vergos

    Great doc. Explains the most fundamental modern physics very simply for everyone to understand.

    In a parallel universe of course, i didnt write this because I wouldnt stay home to watch it if my car had worked today. But wait a sec..

    So you who read this, right now, exist in my universe, in my reality which formed my thoughts typed here n right now?

    That's very interesting. So how could it be that both our universes meet right now?

    Its all endless paradox if you think like Schroedinger. And a new challenge to be a great mathematician if you have your own thought on the matter.

    Come to think of it, d you know the odds of ur father's single sperm to get all the way into the womb who made u?? less than 1 in the trillion?

    1. PaulGloor

      yeah and as each atom in that radioactive material decays its a new quantum event which creates a new universe where that single atom has not decayed. Its a theory of multiple realities rather than multiple universes and creates an infinity of universes in the blink of an eye. I don't buy it no matter how fancy the math is.

    2. Ann

      I didn't read your message until years later. You have timed traveled.

  15. Mowgli33

    Based on current goings on in American politics I would posit the theory of multiple universes is true and unfortunately those multiple universes have collided in our Congress.

  16. PaulGloor

    The prob I have with this concept of multiple universes is its a serious waste of energy on a universal scale. At every 'quantum event' the theory states that a new universe is created in which the alternate possibility is carried out. This universe and that universe now may have their own quantum events making 4, then 8, then 16... exponentially increasing into infinity. I recall it said in another doc that if you have to invoke infinity in a solution something has gone terribly terribly wrong. Ok, ill buy into a multiverse theory where matter is shared on a quantum level, but not an infinity of split, duplicate universes.

    1. Guest

      I agree, does seem mind boggling, but, every "Planck second" of our progressing "now's", is a new universe formed according to our probabilities of actions, and the probable actions we chose not to take are still viable and formed in alternate universes, with their own probabilities of actions ad infinitum.

    2. Ramus73

      Personally I can't stand the thought that there is another me getting paid/laid more than me :(

    3. Guest

      ramus...just by talking/thinking about this other, you just created him! Go for it!

  17. Memento Mori

    I'll admit its a mind-bending concept to grasp.
    It's not that the universe is MADE of math in the strict sense, but that everything we see and interact with can be represented and expressed THROUGH math. Wind, sunlight, heat, the color of gold, all of this can be represented and understood through the use of mathematics and more specifically, Quantum Mechanics. Therefore, the Universe is, technically speaking, made of math.

    Reality is what you make of it, but there's still something funny going on at the smallest levels of existence that fascinates and puzzles the greatest (and ordinary heh) minds all over the world.

    The proof is in the fact that everything is made up of particles. It would do us no good to just stop there, we'd like to understand the fundamental rules and laws which govern these little bits of matter and energy but the more we look into it, the stranger things become.
    This does have profound implications because, as stated, you and I and everything else is made up of particles which, at the smallest level, act very strange as the double slit experiment continues to show today. The questions remain as to how particles can act so strangely on their own, but when they are arranged in a form of say a human or an apple, they obey very simple and logical laws along with a whole host of other odd and unusual behaviors.

    Just for the record, I'm not a college student nor am I a professor. I'm a high school graduate currently working full time and training for the military, but I love to study the weird Quantum world every chance I get.

    1. Tim

      I like your first sentence about maths ... although we "seem" to have a profound knowledge of maths , I feel there is more to it that we have yet to discover . I know math to us is our way of calculating , but math in its real sense is not about decimal , or hexadecimal , or other derivatives . Maths was made up by us humans to count the passing of time , yet time is a fundamental we barely understand .

      Everything we claim to understand about time and motion is an idealogy made from human mind , to be understood by human mind , there may be so much more to it .... maybe , just maybe we've over complicated it ??? ... we may never truly know the answer to that one . ,

    2. Tim

      I apologise if it looks like I'm making a mockery of your post , not intended . All I'm pointing out is that for anything to be correct , in mathematical terms , there has to be a constant , and in this respect we have no way to measure that . If you live in a variable , and you are subjected to that variant , everything mathematically would seem constant . Or would it ...??? that's the thing , I may just have made a statement that makes me look i*iotic , but can anyone prove me wrong , and could I prove anyone else wrong ??
      I think this is what separates us on this planet , the need to be more knowledgeable . If we had all the answers what next would we do ?? , we are an inquisitive species after all.

  18. Plilip

    This documentary sucked. There is absolutely no proof for parallel universes.
    Theoretical Physics is turning into math and this implies that if you don't understand the math you don't understand reality. What a load of nonsense.
    Michio Kaku has even claimed that, "This even affects morals. I mean, why should I obey the law knowing that in some universe, if I comit a crime I'm gonna get away with it." Hey I'd be happy to send him a card in prison. I've heard Max Tegmark claim that the universe is made up totally of math. Rubbish. Again where's the proof? Where are the experiments? I've seen none

    1. pulunco

      One would hope Plilip that you would obey the laws because you are intrinsically a good person and you are motivated to do the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing not simply because you fear the repercussions of getting caught.

  19. Guest

    Very nice poignant doc.

  20. Søren Dahse

    I really liked the slid experiment in this docu, I finally felt like I understand it completely now. Unlike in the other docus, this one doesn't explain what isn't happning, but only what is happening, and by that I mean that they don't explain what they thought would happen, cause I always mix it all up a week after I have watched it.

    Also cool beard, I didnt think the George Michael look would look ok on anyone anymore.

  21. Eric Tchadej

    Really cool documentary. As a fan of the Eels; and a layman, but still a fan of quantum mechanics, I found this fascinating.

  22. Myk Lab

    cool e. The two lines of light are not a presumption. During experimentation there are two lines when the protons are observed passing through the slits, more when not observed. This is why light is considered to behave both like a particle, and a wave. Light protons travel in straight lines.

  23. NAND Gate

    A great little documentary about one of the most important hypotheses in history. There was something annoyingly smug and irreverant about the son, but that is just me.


    1. oompaul

      Agreed - 'smug and irreverant'.

  24. Cool E Beans

    Good observation, pulunco. Not having your insite I would conclude that the cat is always either dead or alive but not both. This is simply an either or scenario. If the cat is alive when you open it then it never died but if it is dead then the only thing to determine is when did it occur.

    It is only a presumption that the protons would make a pattern of two stripes and not necessarily a given. The tennis ball graphic shows the balls being shot out at different angles, thereby passing through the slits and either passing cleanly through or bouncing off of the edges of each slit on one side or the other. If the protons are launched in the same manner, you would have to know if they would bounce off of the edge of a slit and bounce as a tennis ball would.

    Another thing you would have to know is the path that it takes. Another presumption is that they leave the laser in a streight line with no variance. What if the normal movement of a proton is spiral in nature. Think of a spring or slinky. The proton leaves the laser along the path of the wire of a slinky moving around in a circle and forward, passing through each slit either on its way up or down through each slit. Due to the frequency of the protons, each one that passes on its way up strikes the film at the top of its path of travel and each one that passes on its way down strikes the film at the bottom of its path of travel. Those protons passing through the bottom slit on their way down would create a low band of hits, the protons passing up through the bottom and down through the top slit would create a middle band and the protons passing through the top slit on their way up would create a high band. None would strike in the middle two areas as these would not have passed through the slits in the first place.

    Changing the end distance of the film may be a way to determine if this has any bearing but the adjustment would have to be in fractions of the length of one rotation.

    1. Robert M

      Close, but a better way to describe it might be, that until you 'Observe' the experiment, it is in a state in which the cat is both alive and dead. It's the observation that tips the hat. And in the case of quantum mechanics it more a problem of scale, where everything is so small, that if you are to interact with it, by so much as observing it, you 'Act' in this way on the object to change the outcome of the experiment.

      The small things, atoms and divisions thereof, in this way get their 'Special' physics and math calculations, but this is more just an issue on probabilities. If you know what all the odds are, you can map them. In this way you can have a general idea of what the outcomes of your experiment should or could be, if you were in fact able to observe them without changing the results.

      In the case of poor kitty, this would be the odds of radioactive decay, or halflife / over time. Hope this helps :)

    2. Tim

      If I simply looked directly at you , put aside that it's an experiment , would you live or die ? . I know the cat is in a state of death possibility , but isn't chance and probability exactly the same ?? ... I mean ... when I look at you is a car on collision course with you ? , do you have a stalker about to shoot you , are you going to have a heart attack ... Normal everyday thinking would suggest you would be just fine if I simply gazed upon you. Maybe thinking of it on this level is what makes the difference ? Indeed the world does work in mysteriously odd ways , and many things happen that defy logic , OR DO THEY ? ... maybe our understanding of logic is way off the mark , or just maybe the chance element is what makes it so incalculable , well that's not just a maybe but probably a fact .... chance is chance and the parameters are endless , even if you only consider the aspects we "are" aware of .
      This isn't an argument of your statement , about right or wrong ?? I don't know , but I like your statement . This is what I like about these debates .... we don't REALLY know . There are a lot of different angles and perceptions on this , and no matter how wacky one idea seems , it is no more or less valid than the next .

    3. Tim

      I like that way of thinking , correct or not it's a healthy argument ,.Nobody ever theorised ( AFAIK) , one way or the other , that matter , or these massless protons travel in a true and direct line .... and even if they calculated and found a direct straight line , could this be because these spirals are so speedy , that they're e un-traceable . Also take into account that if the particles can be in more than one place at the same time , is there a ricochet effect of one particle , against the same particle in a different position , but on a collision course , plausible ? ... man I love this stuff ... and believe me I'm no brainiac .

  25. pulunco

    Nice little documentary with a pleasing aesthetic. I don't know, I always thought that the cat itself would act as an observer in the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment.