August 3rd, 2008 | Comments Off on What the bleep did I know. Honestly.

I have just wasted the past two hours of my life watching What the Bleep Do We Know?! I’d heard about this movie sometime after its initial release and got interested because, well, it purported to be a movie about quantum physics. And reality. This was about the time of my Matrix phase, so it seemed like a perfect fit. I never did get to go see it in theatres, but when I saw it on the library shelf the other day…

Well, it seemed harmless enough at the time.

First of all: Yeah, I harp on about misrepresentations of science a lot. I know. I can’t help it. And no, I’m not a physicist. But I have had to suffer through my share of physics-thinly-veiled-as-chemistry courses, which gives me a decent enough base to tell you this:

Most of what is in that movie is complete and utter bunk.

To be fair, it’s not all bad–things like Feynman’s path integral are adequately treated–but it’s the wacko, Rhonda Byrne Secret-like propaganda that gives me the shivers.

Look, physical reality exists. It’s kind of funky that atoms (and by extension, all matter) are mostly empty space, but when a supposedly insubstantial rock hits a supposedly insubstantial you, it still hurts. It’s not because you think it hurts. Frankly, this quantum-new-age-solipsism really, really bothers me. If reality were as simple as willing it into existence, the world would be completely different.

[edit: I will concede that the “observer effect” is not really something I fully understand, but you can’t transpose quantum-scale phenomena into the world we perceive.]

The experiments with the labelled water are actually a perfect example of “You will find what you seek, if only because you’re completely blind to everything else” which is emphasized at length in the first part of the movie. The photos look like snowflakes to me, so I think they’re of frozen water… and you know what they say about snowflakes! No two alike. You could easily find a “Love” snowflake in the “I will kill you” water and vice versa.

I need to look up that Washington, D.C. study which supposedly reduced crime rates by 25%, but somehow I doubt that claim can be substantiated.

But the most grating aspect of the film was the presentation of JZ Knight–channeling “Ramtha”–as an expert. It got to the point where everytime she was onscreen, I muttered, “What are you talking about?” The tipping point was when she talked about how we have wonderful technology these days–“antigravity magnets and zero-point energy”–which prompted a quick, “WOMAN, DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT ZERO-POINT ENERGY IS?!” (Hint: it’s not a technology we’re going to be harnessing anytime soon.)

I also have issues with electrons “winking into and out of existence”. Remember, I’m a chemist(-in-training). Despite what anyone else will tell you, much of chemistry is concerned with what those flaky electrons are doing at a given moment. Electrons are the basis of chemical bonds. Chemical bonds define molecules. Molecules define… well, you get the picture. The idea that they just arbitrarily disappear is a little much. If the filmmakers are trying to get the point across that we don’t really know whether an electron is a particle or a wave (hint: it’s both!), they needn’t have resorted to such misleading statements.

Then again, I’m not really sure what the point of this film was. Promotion of positive thinking? Inspiring Rhonda Byrne to write The Secret? Persuading the general population that JZ Knight is really Ramtha, whose theories have been validated by academics?

Scientific accuracy aside, all the random CG sequences were quite annoying, and seemed to serve no purpose other than the wow the viewer (and possibly lull them into ascribing more authority than deserved to the film? Hmmm.)

Anyway. I didn’t know bleep, but at least now you do.

Tags: ,
Posted in ramblings