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The Everett Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics

Book Description

Hugh Everett III was an American physicist best known for his many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, which formed the basis of his PhD thesis at Princeton University in 1957. Although counterintuitive, Everett's revolutionary formulation of quantum mechanics offers the most direct solution to the infamous quantum measurement problem--that is, how and why the singular world of our experience emerges from the multiplicities of alternatives available in the quantum world. The many-worlds interpretation postulates the existence of multiple universes. Whenever a measurement-like interaction occurs, the universe branches into relative states, one for each possible outcome of the measurement, and the world in which we find ourselves is but one of these many, but equally real, possibilities. Everett's challenge to the orthodox interpretation of quantum mechanics was met with scorn from Niels Bohr and other leading physicists, and Everett subsequently abandoned academia to conduct military operations research. Today, however, Everett's formulation of quantum mechanics is widely recognized as one of the most controversial but promising physical theories of the last century.

In this book, Jeffrey Barrett and Peter Byrne present the long and short versions of Everett's thesis along with a collection of his explanatory writings and correspondence. These primary source documents, many of them newly discovered and most unpublished until now, reveal how Everett's thinking evolved from his days as a graduate student to his untimely death in 1982. This definitive volume also features Barrett and Byrne's introductory essays, notes, and commentary that put Everett's extraordinary theory into historical and scientific perspective and discuss the puzzles that still remain.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Copyright
  4. Contents
  5. Preface
  6. Part I Introduction
    1. Chapter 1 General Introduction
      1. Everett and His Project
      2. Everett’s Target: The Measurement Problem
    2. Chapter 2 Biographical Introduction
      1. Basement Treasure
      2. Life of Everett: The Short Story
      3. Origins of the Theory
      4. To Split or Not To Split
      5. Operations Research
      6. The Theory Matures
    3. Chapter 3 Conceptual Introduction
      1. The Quantum Measurement Problem
      2. Everett’s Proposed Resolution
      3. Interpretations of Everett
      4. On the Faithful Interpretation of Everett
  7. Part II The Evolution Of The Thesis
    1. Chapter 4 Minipaper: Objective versus Subjective Probability (1955)
    2. Chapter 5 Minipaper: Quantitative Measure of Correlation (1955)
    3. Chapter 6 Minipaper: Probability in Wave Mechanics (1955)
    4. Chapter 7 Correspondence: Wheeler to Everett (1955)
    5. Chapter 8 Long Thesis: Theory of the Universal Wave Function (1956)
      1. Introduction
      2. Probability, Information, and Correlation
      3. Quantum Mechanics
      4. Observation
      5. Supplementary Topics
      6. Discussion
      7. Appendix I
      8. Appendix II: Remarks on the Role of Theoretical Physics
    6. Chapter 9 Short Thesis: “Relative State” Formulation of Quantum Mechanics (1957)
      1. Introduction
      2. Realm of Applicability of the Conventional or “External Observation” Formulation of Quantum Mechanics
      3. Quantum Mechanics Internal to an Isolated System
      4. Concept of Relative State
      5. Observation
      6. Discussion
    7. Chapter 10 Wheeler Article: Assessment of Everett’s “Relative State” Formulation of Quantum Theory (1957)
  8. Part III The Copenhagen Debate
    1. Chapter 11 Correspondence: Wheeler and Everett (1956)
      1. Wheeler to Everett, May 22, 1956
      2. Wheeler Notes on Conversation with Petersen, May 3, 1956
      3. Wheeler to Everett, May 26, 1956
      4. Wheeler to Everett, September 17, 1956
    2. Chapter 12 Correspondence: Wheeler, Everett, and Stern (1956)
      1. Stern to Wheeler, May 20, 1956
      2. Wheeler to Stern, May 25, 1956
      3. Wheeler to Everett, May 25, 1956
    3. Chapter 13 Correspondence: Groenewold to Everett (1957)
      1. Groenewold to Everett and Wheeler, April 11, 1957
    4. Chapter 14 Correspondence: Everett and Wiener (1957)
      1. Wiener to Wheeler, April 9, 1957
      2. Everett to Wiener, May 31, 1957
    5. Chapter 15 Correspondence: Everett and Petersen (1957)
      1. Petersen to Everett, April 24, 1957
      2. Everett to Petersen, May 31, 1957
    6. Chapter 16 Correspondence: Everett and DeWitt (1957)
      1. DeWitt to Wheeler, May 7, 1957
      2. Everett to DeWitt, May 31, 1957
    7. Chapter 17 Correspondence: Everett and Frank (1957)
      1. Everett to Frank, May 31, 1957
      2. Frank to Everett, August 3, 1957
    8. Chapter 18 Correspondence: Everett and Jaynes (1957)
      1. Everett to Jaynes, June 11, 1957
  9. Part IV Post-Thesis Correspondence and Notes
    1. Chapter 19 Transcript: Conference at Xavier University (1959)
    2. Chapter 20 Notes: Everett on DeWitt (1970)
    3. Chapter 21 Notes: Everett on Bell (1971)
    4. Chapter 22 Correspondence: Jammer, Wheeler, and Everett (1972)
      1. Jammer to Wheeler, January 11, 1972
      2. Wheeler to Jammer, March 19, 1972
      3. Jammer to Everett, August 28, 1973
      4. Everett to Jammer, September 19, 1973
    5. Chapter 23 Transcript: Everett and Misner (1977)
    6. Chapter 24 Correspondence: Everett and Lévy-Leblond (1977)
      1. Lévy-Leblond to Everett, August 17, 1977
      2. Everett to Lévy-Leblond, November 15, 1977
    7. Chapter 25 Correspondence: Everett and Raub (1980)
      1. Everett to Raub, April 7, 1980
  10. Part V Appendixes
    1. Appendix A Everett’s Notes on Possible Thesis Titles
    2. Appendix B Early Draft Outline for Long Thesis
    3. Appendix C Universal Wave Function Note
    4. Appendix D Handwritten Draft Introduction to the Long Thesis
    5. Appendix E Handwritten Draft Conclusion to the Long Thesis
    6. Appendix F Handwritten Revisions to the Long Thesis for Inclusion in DeWitt and Graham (1973)
    7. Appendix G Handwritten Notes on Everett’s Copy of DeWitt and Graham (1973)
  11. Concluding Notes
  12. Bibliography
  13. Index