, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 143-146
Date: 11 Jan 2011

The human story behind Everettian quantum mechanics

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Hugh Everett III (1930–1982) was an unappealing character with a remarkable mind. His Princeton doctoral thesis on the foundations of physics transformed our understanding of quantum–mechanical reality, and he made original contributions to military operations research and to game theory. His domestic life was less inspiring; he died young after a lifetime of over-indulgence in food, alcohol, tobacco and sex, leaving behind a somewhat dysfunctional family with which he had little emotional connection.

For good reason, then, this biography by Peter Byrne focuses mainly on Everett’s work on quantum theory. Byrne’s ambition is a lofty one: to explain the ins and outs of Everettian quantum mechanics—including treatments of decoherence and of probability—without using any mathematics and while simultaneously telling a family history. Given the subtlety and difficulty of the conceptual material, he inevitably meets with limited success in explaining it unambiguously—readers totally unfamiliar