Note: This blog post contains spoilers for the 2022 film, Everything Everywhere All at Once (directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert and produced by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Mike Larocca, Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert, Jonathan Wang and Peter Tam Lee).
Everything Everywhere All at Once takes you on a wild cinematic ride when Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh) discovers she is connected to multiple versions of herself in parallel universes. She navigates this multiverse to save her real world from destruction.
Aside from perplexing sausage fingers, googly eyes and the idealisation of a bagel, the film explores ideas central to quantum physics.
Overlapping reality with quantum superposition
The film depicts the quantum concept of superposition. This is through Evelyn being one person in multiple, parallel universes.
The plot suggests each action in a parallel universe exists simultaneously. That is until something collapses the superposition and determines the actual outcome.
Helping to unpack the idea of superposition is our Quantum Science Leader, Dr James Quach.
“Physicists tend not to use parallel universes to explain superposition, but instead reference the idea of something being both up and down, heads and tails, or a cat being both alive and dead,” James said.
“In computing, a classical ‘bit’ can only be in one of two possible states at any given time: on or off.
“In contrast, a quantum bit (qubit) can be on or off but also be in a superposition of these two states, meaning it is both on and off at the same time,” he said.
Not an easy concept to get your head around. But in this case, understanding the impact of the concept is probably more important for us mere mortals, than the how.
Quantum computers promise incredible power compared to classical computers. They’re on the verge of revolutionising various scientific fields such as cryptography, materials science and drug discovery.
Superposition is also key to new technologies involving quantum sensors and communication systems. These technologies take advantage of the sensitivity of quantum systems to measure and transmit information with unprecedented accuracy and security.
The impact of superposition on the future is difficult to predict. But it will almost certainly have significant implications for science and technology. It may even change our core understanding of how the world works.
Untangling quantum entanglement
The other quantum concept referenced throughout Everything Everywhere All at Once is entanglement.
Superposition is the idea of being in several states/universes at the same time. Entanglement, on the other hand, is the interconnectedness of the different versions of Evelyn. She discovers that she’s entangled with herself in other universes. She is connected to her other selves even though she’s in different locations.
This entanglement allows Evelyn to communicate with her other selves in different universes and share memories and emotions with them. Which means they can work together to prevent a parallel universe version of her daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) from destroying the entire multiverse.
The film’s exploration of quantum entanglement is an interesting and creative interpretation of the concept. But what does this actually mean for us in real life?
“The idea of entanglement suggests two or more particles become linked in such a way that their physical properties are interdependent, even when they are physically separated,” James said.
“It has numerous potential applications, which will drive the growth of many emerging fields, including quantum computing, quantum communication, and quantum cryptography.
“Quantum entanglement is beginning to help computers work faster, makes communication channels more secure and is measuring things more precisely,” he said.
And there’s also the way that quantum entanglement challenges our fundamental understanding of the nature of reality. As well as the relationship between the observer and the observed in the quantum world. As such, it has the potential to upend our understanding of the universe and the laws that govern it. No biggie, right?
But best leave that for another day. Everything Everywhere All at Once may have helped us better contend with the mind-boggling ideas behind quantum physics. Or not.
If you find the quantum physics in this film exhilarating, you might want to consider a quantum career at CSIRO. You’ll get to play a key role in this emerging global industry, including sensing, communications and computation.
14th March 2023 at 5:53 am
The fundamental crux of quantum Physics is missing in this article. The power of belief. Quantum Physics is beyond technology. It’s the human mind and observation element proven in the double slit theory and in many other applications eg. Dr Joe Dispenza’s work of seeing people vision a new reality and it is unexplicably drawn to them. Plus countless ‘non surgeries’ being performed by the belief in the mind of the patient the “placebo” effect. Dr Greg Bradden has a brilliant body of work on the quantum field. Look up NASA chandra observatory too. In my experience it’s rather inspiring to apply the quantum in our own day to day lives.
13th March 2023 at 7:40 pm
The frankly unforgivable “two places at once” nonsense** /and/ the most common mistake in purported explanations of entanglement (failing to distinguish it from classical correlation*). Nice going.
Sarcasm aside, Quach and CSIRO are far from alone in this sort of thing and that’s one of the things that makes it so appalling and embarrassing*. This widespread ignorance among physicists of the conceptual and mathematical basics of quantum mechanics urgently needs remedying. For physicists to so often be making mistakes that even the founders of QM managed to avoid in the 1930s (and today our understanding is vastly better and there’s much less excuse for it) is a scandal.
* So many times I’ve come across ordinary members of the public picking up on this: “if that’s quantum entanglement then how’s it any different than [some ‘Bertlmann’s socks’ equivalent]”. And of course it isn’t any different when so carelessly incorrectly described. Werner and Wolf have said that the “surprisingly many” of these bogus explanations fail “the ping pong ball test”.
** See also Scott Aaronson’s and Zach Weinersmith’s SMBC comic strip “The Talk”.
13th March 2023 at 4:56 pm
How effectively the movie pulls off this visually and via storytelling is what may make this interesting or appalling.
I consider 2001 a space odyssey to be the guiding light in this respect. As upon it’s release, it was that final fraction of the film which struck me the most. Without presuming Kubrick’s intentions, it was how i interpreted that key to the story. And what an event it was.
My 7 year old son watched the film with me so many decades later, and it certainly held his attention much more so than i could have anticipated. Particularly as he has ADHD, the new crime of century.
He doesn’t like to be bored, and society no longer instructs via, or indeed allows boredom in at any second of our pampered lives.
13th March 2023 at 1:01 pm
Yes and no of course
13th March 2023 at 11:19 am
Fascinating, mind boggling and slightly petrifying 😂