Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Mandela Effect

If you grew up in an English-speaking country, you may have read the Berenstein Bears books. They are a collection of books telling very sweet stories about a family of bears. If you asked someone who had read those books as a child to spell out the title, most people would spell it as Berenstein. Funnily enough, the actual spelling of the family of bears was Berenstain Bears. Not a single book was printed under Berenstein Bears.

This caused a massive debate on the internet. Why did so many people misremember the spelling (with such confidence) of such a beloved book? One theory is that according to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics, there exists an infinite number of parallel universes. Therefore, it is possible that people who remember the spelling as “Berenstein” come from a parallel universe and somehow crossed into the current universe where the spelling has always been “Berenstain” at some point.

Of course, the most logical answer is that our memories are not as trustworthy as we think. The Berenstain Bears is a classic example of collective false memory, also referred to as the Mandela effect. This name comes from a similar phenomenon where many people reported having memories of the South African president Nelson Mandela passing away in the 1980’s, rather than 2013 when he actually died. The most likely reason people think the name is spelled “Berenstein” is that “-stein” is a much more common suffix to a Jewish name and we are more used to it.

We still do not have a perfect model of how memory works, but there is substantial evidence that memory recall is not perfect and can easily be manipulated.

For example, in one study, a group of people were shown a childhood photo of themselves standing next to Bugs Bunny at Disneyland. A third of people reported that they had a clear memory of that day, some even coming up with elaborate stories of how the day went. However, the photo had been falsified by the researchers with a failsafe way of proving it – Bugs Bunny is the intellectual property of Warner Brothers and has never featured inside Disneyland.

A simpler example is when someone is asked to recall something through a presupposition, such as asking “What shade of green was the perpetrator’s shirt?” which automatically leads to person to falsely think that the shirt was green.

We are all the product of our past experiences and thoughts. But can we really trust the past if we cannot trust our own memories? Perhaps it is more comforting to believe that we are from a different timeline.

Posted in Philosophy

Quantum Immortality

The famous Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment illustrates the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. Quantum physics is an extremely complicated field of study, but the gist of the Copenhagen interpretation is that a probability remains in a superposition – that is a state where many possibilities exist at the same time – until it is observed, when it collapses into a certain state.

For example, imagine a cat that is locked in a box sealed with a vial of poison, that is set to break open only 50% of the time. Until the box is opened, we do not know if the cat has been killed by poison or not. Therefore, the cat can be said to be both alive and dead at the same time (Erwin Schrödinger initially devised the experiment to mock the Copenhagen interpretation).

There is a fascinating theory that takes this strange thought experiment one step further. Another interpretation of quantum physics is the Everett many-worlds interpretation. This explains that instead of the wavefunction collapsing (i.e. producing a single result such as alive or dead) on observation, two parallel universes are created instead: one universe where the cat died and another universe where the cat is still alive. Essentially, it states there are infinite universes containing every permutation of possibilities that can exist and that whenever a probability is observed, we enter a specific universe.

This is a very confusing concept to grasp, so let us return to the cat in the box. According to the Copenhagen interpretation, the cat has a 50% chance of surviving the experiment the first time. From then on, the chance of the cat being dead grows exponentially with every experiment. However, according to the many-worlds interpretation, no matter how many experiments we perform, there always will be a universe where the cat miraculously survived each one. From the cat’s perspective, it would not know of the universe if it had died. Therefore, the only universe where the cat is able to tell this story to its friends at the end of the day is one where it survives every single experiment

Now let us apply that to our own lives. Imagine that you are crossing the road and a bus is about to hit you. If there is even a 1% chance you might survive this event, your quantum self will move to a universe where it is possible (otherwise you would be dead and your consciousness ceases to exist). By extrapolation, you can never really die as a version of you will forever live on, beating improbable odds until a point where there are literally no possible universes you could be alive.

Quantum immortality is a thought experiment that relies on the many-worlds interpretation. However, it is also extremely difficult to prove wrong. The only way you could confirm this is if you attempted to kill yourself over and over (quantum suicide) and failed each time. But if you were wrong, you would die and not be able to tell anyone. Ergo, you cannot rule out the possibility that you will live forever.

The scariest part of the theory is not that you are potentially immortal. It is that quantum immortality does not account for your well-being – just your consciousness. If an accident were to leave you horribly disfigured but alert, it would still satisfy quantum immortality. You could be trapped in a motionless body for the rest of eternity, unable to communicate to anyone. Yet quantum immortality will keep you alive, forever and ever.

(Infinity Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama)

Posted in Science & Nature

Grandfather Paradox

Is time travel possible? In 1943, a science fiction writer called René Barjavel posited the following paradox.

A man travels back to the past and kills his biological grandfather before he meets his grandmother. Thus, his grandparents would not have sired a son (the man’s father) or daughter (mother), which then suggests the man could not have been conceived. If so, who killed the grandfather? As there was no one to kill the grandfather, he would have had a child and the man would ultimately be born, travelling back to the past and killing his grandfather. This paradox suggests that time travel is impossible.

Some people use the parallel universe theory to argue against the paradox. They suggest that as soon as the man travels to the past to kill his grandfather, an alternate universe is created where the grandmother meets a different man and the course of time is changed. This is a valid theory but the grandfather paradox still holds strong in disproving time travel. However, the grandfather paradox only states that travelling back in time is impossible; it says nothing about time travelling to the future.

Posted in Life & Happiness


Have you ever had a moment when something so unbelievable, so improbable that you never would have imagined it would happen, happened? When something you could only dream of actually happened in real life? When something so impossible that you must have stepped into a parallel universe for that thing to happen? The feeling that such a moment brings is indescribable.

Success is not about money and power. Success is not a product of luck. To become successful, one must change their state of mind first. The most crucial thing to understand is that the only limit is that there are no limits. Only when you dare to go past what is possible will you attain anything worthwhile. “To the impossible?” you may ask. No, true success lies beyond the impossible. A place where the possible and the impossible meet to become: the possimpible. Only when you have become the master of the possimpible will you be able to confidently say that you have succeeded in life.

Nothing, and everything is possimpible.