An honest Review of “What the *bleep* do we know?” by Skeptico

What the (Bleep) Were They Thinking?

I decided to see “What The (Bleep) Do We Know!?” (sic!). I had avoided this film, as it looked like what Murray Gell-Mann callsquantum flapdoodle – distortions of quantum physics to support a mystical viewpoint. But the “what the bleep” meme is growing, so I decided I should see it for myself. Now I’ve seen it I can confirm that it does distort quantum physics to support a mystical viewpoint. But it is much more than that. Much worse. Hilariously so, in fact.

This post is rather long, but please read it to the end – there is a surprise there that will astonish you, I promise. But I should start with the science. Or, I should say:

The “science”

The premise of the film is that quantum mechanics proves a conscious observer is necessary to create reality. The conclusion is we literally create reality with our thoughts.

Unfortunately the theory of quantum mechanics does not say this. The film makers are confusing the theory of quantum mechanics with an interpretation of quantum mechanics. This is an explanation to help understand what might be going on, but it is not part of the theory because it is not falsifiable: it cannot be tested in such a way that, if it were false, it would fail the test (without falsifying the whole of quantum mechanics, and therefore all the other interpretations too).

To falsify this interpretation you would have to see what would happen without a conscious observer monitoring the experiment. But that’s Catch-22: you need a conscious observer monitoring the experiment to see what happens. You can’t look at the experiment without looking at it so no one can ever know if this interpretation is true. Even if it were true, extrapolating to “we literally create reality by out thoughts” is applying reductionism to an absurd level.

Don’t believe me? You don’t have to because David Albert, the professor from the Columbia University physics department who was featured in the film, is quoted in Salon.com saying:

I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film … Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed.

(My bold.)

The ironic thing is that the film makers tell us quantum mechanics is oh-so-mysterious and can’t be explained – and then they explain it. I am reminded of Richard Feynman’s famous quote, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. These film makers think they understand quantum mechanics. They don’t, but that doesn’t stop them from making a film explaining it. But it’s just a consciousness-of-the-gaps explanation: we can’t explain it so it must be consciousness.

Any one of the many interpretations could be correct. Or none of them might be correct, and the correct explanation is something not yet thought of. Quantum mechanics is not telling us this is the way the universe necessarily is.

Baaaad examples

So they have the theory wrong, but they must have some good examples, right? Wrong. They have three bad examples. Appallingly bad, actually.

The first was the claim that when Columbus arrived in the West Indies, the natives were literally unable to see his ships. Why? Because they had never seen ships before, so ships did not exist in their reality.

I had to rewind the film to make sure I hadn’t missed the part where they said this was just a fable. But they were stating it as fact. This idea is just too dumb to be considered seriously. Even if true, how could anyone verify it? I have searched the web for the source of this story to no avail, and conclude the film makers just made it up.

The second example was of the supposed “Maharishi Effect.” John Hagelin of the Maharishi University, described how in 1993, violent crime in Washington D.C. was reduced over a two month period, by 4000 people practicing transcendental meditation (TM).

There were many problems with this experiment. One was that the murder rate rose during the period in question. Another was that Hagelin’s report stated violent crime had been reduced by 18% (in the film he says 25%), but reduced compared with what? How did he know what the crime rate would have been without the TM? It was discovered later that all the members of the “independent scientific review board” that scrutinized the project were followers of the Maharishi. The study was pseudoscience: no double blinding, the reviewers were not independent, and the experiment has never been independently replicated. Hagelin deservedly won an Ig Nobel Prize in 1994 for this outstanding piece of work.

The third example was the work of Masura Emoto, who tapes words to bottles of water. The water is chilled and forms into crystals descriptive of the words used. For example, if the word “love” is taped to a bottle, beautiful crystals form; if the words “you make me sick” are used, ugly images appear.

What the film makers didn’t say is that Emoto knows the word used, and looks for a crystal that matches that word (biased data selection). To demonstrate a real effect, Emoto would need to be blind to the word used. James Randi has said that if Emoto could perform this experiment double-blinded, it would qualify for the million dollar prize. (He has never applied.) Such a protocol would show there is no correlation between the words taped to a bottle and the crystals formed within. These experiments have not been performed to a scientific protocol and have never been independently replicated.

Pert scam

The next segment was about neuro-peptides, how they are created in the brain, and regulate other cells in the body. This was presented as another example of how the human brain (consciousness), creates reality. None of this would be new to anyone who has read Candace Pert’s “Molecules of Emotion”. Pert is a talented scientist who went woo woo many years ago for reasons I don’t have time to go into here. (Edited to add: see my May 2005 review of Molecules of Emotion.)  Suffice to say she has made many dubious claims, including this in the film:

Each cell has a consciousness, particularly if we define consciousness as the point of view of an observer.

I think what she saying is that when one cell interacts with another, it fulfills the role of the “observer” in quantum mechanics. Well OK, but by that definition my toaster is conscious. It’s such a general definition of consciousness as to be meaningless: consciousness has to include some degree of self-awareness.  There is no evidence I’ve heard of that individual cells are conscious.

This was followed by someone claiming he literally creates his day with his thoughts, plus some feel-good drivel about god and self that almost put me to sleep. At the end, the main character in the film throws away her prescription meds because, since she creates her own reality, she doesn’t need them. (Don’t try this at home.) And that was it.

Channel No. 5

One thing that puzzled me was who were all the talking heads? I recognized a couple, but who was the bizarre guy who claimed he creates his day just by thinking about it, and who was the heavy-set blonde woman in the boxy red suit making the weird pronouncements in a funny accent? Normally in a documentary, the experts are introduced when they first appear. But here they introduced themafter the end of the film. I was amused to see the guy who creates his own day, was a chiropractor. But when I found out the identity of the blonde woman, my eyes nearly popped out. I figured you wouldn’t believe me if I just told you, so I took a screenshot of it:

Ramthawebpic_2

In case you can’t read the text, it says:

Ramtha

Master Teacher – Ramtha School of Enlightenment

Channeled by JZ Knight

They are stating as a fact, that one of the people you have been listening to for the previous 90 minutes, a main authority for the information being presented, is a 35,000 year old warrior spirit from Atlantis, being channeled by this Tacoma housewife turned cult leader. The woman pictured is JZ Knight, but you are not listening to JZ Knight. You are literally listening to Ramtha. There were people who saw this film and didn’t say, “That’s just a woman putting on a funny accent”. Scary, huh?

At this point the film lost any remaining pretence of being based on any kind of science or facts.

I did a little digging on Ramtha:

Ramtha is a 35,000 year-old spirit-warrior who appeared in J.Z. Knight’s kitchen in Tacoma, Washington in 1977.  Knight claims that she is Ramtha’s channel. She also owns the copyright to Ramtha and conducts sessions in which she pretends to go into a trance and speaks Hollywood’s version of Elizabethan English in a guttural, husky voice.  She has thousands of followers and has made millions of dollars performing as Ramtha at seminars ($1,000 a crack) and at her Ramtha School of Enlightenment, and from the sales of tapes, books, and accessories (Clark and Gallo 1993). She must have hypnotic powers. Searching for self-fulfillment, otherwise normal people obey her command to spend hours blindfolded in a cold, muddy, doorless maze.

Upon further investigation I find the films’ producers, writers, directors, and a number of the featured “experts” are members of the Ramtha School of Enlightenment. The film is a propaganda piece for a cult.

What the (Bleep) Were They Thinking?

I can answer that now. They were thinking that if they made a film using the word “quantum” a lot, plus plenty of feel-good drivel they would (a) make a ton of money (not that they are short of the stuff), and (b) gain more recruits to their loony-tunes cult. This is probably one of the few things they got right.

References

Some further reading if you’re interested.  First a good expose of the film as infomercial for Ramtha, by Salon.com.

A site with masses of information about Ramtha.

A blog with information about some of the talking heads.

A blog with some comments about Hagelin. Read the comments section.

An amusing review of the movie by Orkut Media.

CSICOP’s review of the film.

Skeptic Magazine’s review of the film.

A really good explanation of the real science involved, as opposed to the fanciful “what The Bleep” version of it.

Bloggingheads interview with David Albert about his role in the film and how they edited his piece to distort his views.

And for the other side of the story, read the film makers’ reply to their critics. If you have any remaining doubt about the criticisms of this movie, read this. It is an (unintentionally) hilarious martyr piece where they blame the media for “publicly crucify(ing) people with new ideas”, and where they say the US government and way of life, not Ramtha, is a cult. All the usual fallacies are in evidence: scientists were wrong before so they are wrong now, we only use 10% of our brain, the film’s critics feel discomfort in their mindset (ie it is not the film makers’ fault the film makes no sense, it is ourfault).  Plenty of fallacies and playing victim. Nothing to refute the criticisms.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Tez for reviewing and making suggestions about the quantum mechanics section.

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Michael Caine Explains the End of ‘Inception’, but Should He Have?

You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.

One of my most popular articles ever was the one I wrote following the release of Inception titled “Wake Up! Let’s Talk about ‘Inception’ – Here’s My Interpretation. It gave me an opportunity to work out my theories on the film and its ending and allowed readers to discuss their personal interpretations. At this moment it has over 440 comments and serves as the most read article on the site for 2010. Why? Not because my interpretation was some whirlwind interpretation, but because people wanted to read not only my opinion, but share their interpretations and read the opinions of others.

This was the beauty of Inception and Christopher Nolan’s decision not to end the film with a clear cut answer as to whether the top fell or continued to spin. It’s the reason you heard groans in the theater followed by laughter as audience members were waiting to see if it would fall and once they realized Nolan wasn’t going to tell them there was excitement and giddiness at the idea of the unknown.

Nolan was leaving it up to our imagination and our interpretation of what’s real and what isn’t. Who is the true architect and is Dom still dreaming or are those really his kids? Well, they look like the same kids but are they wearing different clothes? IMDb lists two separate sets of child actors for his kids. And so on, and so on. The debate continues and no one knows whether they’re right or wrong and that’s what makes it so great.

But wait. Hold on. Being the society we are, we’re unwilling to accept this idea of the unknown. Hell, we have our freaking iPads and WhatsamaGoogles and we damn well should be able to figure this out. So and so is on Twitter and he’ll probably tell us the answer.

First there were the endless number of charts made to “explain” Inceptionas if the dream levels were what was causing debate. Then there were the clever folks behind “plot hole”images that can’t even spell Michael Caine’s name correctly let alone understand Cobb’s wish wasn’t just to be the guy his kids visit in France on occasion, but to have an ongoing and active role in their lives and be their father again. I’m not positive, but I don’t think the authorities would take too kindly to a grandfather exporting his grandchildren out of the country to live with their fugitive father. The folks hunting Cobb down would certainly use that against him and something tells me this might raise a red flag. Moving on…

Next it was Dileep Rao over at Vulture adding his two cents, but this was merely his interpretation. Considering he was part of the cast his interpretation was interesting, but it was nonetheless an opinion no better than the rest of ours and doesn’t necessarily take things too far. However, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland began pulling the curtain backin early August and now Michael Caine has attempted to reveal the whole shebang as if Nolan handed him his playbook. And yes, if you don’t want your interpretation ofInception spoiled you should probably skip the next paragraph and continue reading below the image.

In an interview with BBC Radio’s The Chris Moyles Show (via Screenrant) Caine is quoted saying, “[The spinning top] drops at the end, that’s when I come back on. If I’m there it’s real, because I’m never in the dream. I’m the guy who invented the dream.”

Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not reallylooking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.
Photo: Warner Bros.

So there you have it. Mystery solved. The key to Borden’s journal has been revealed and the magician’s trick explained.

Ironically, just as I was reading Caine’s quote I was watching Criterion’s upcoming Blu-ray release of Ingmar Bergman’s The Magician and on the disc there is a short interview in which Bergman is asked about the “intention” of his latest film, Persona. You may find Bergman’s answer interesting:

If I’ve really managed to make a film that has sparked a debate it would be very tactless of me to barge in on that debate and talk about what I really meant by the film.

It would be tactless toward the audience, because I’m sure they all have their own interpretations, and tactless towards those commenting on it in the media, who might feel hurt if they found they’d misinterpreted the film.

Therefore I prefer not to say anything at all.

I played my part in this debate when I made the film.

As far as being “hurt”, as Bergman puts it, it isn’t that I feel hurt as much as I feel Caine is cheating people who may now find it useless to explore the film further, as they look for their own explanation and find it impossible to shake Caine’s words from their head. Personally, my interpretation suits me just fine and I will be watching the film again looking for further evidence to either back it up or shoot it down in support of another theory. So while I agree with Bergman’s statement, I think the one thing he’s missing is that no matter what, an artist’s intentions may be when it comes to their art, it doesn’t mean it’s the “only” way to view or interpret said art.

Sure, Caine is just one of the actors and it isn’t as if Nolan started blabbing, but considering Caine’s role in the film many will take his word to be the final word. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ll be hearing Chris Nolan explaining the ins and outs ofInception or confirming Caine’s statement any time soon. I would expect to hear him talk about Inception‘s ending just as much I anticipate he’ll offer a final explanation for the existence of a certain tattoo in Memento.

As for Caine’s interpretation, I’ve already swept it under the rug. In my interpretation of the film it doesn’t matter if the top falls or not so I guess his reasoning makes no difference either way to me. In fact my interpretation could actually shoot his down in terms of explaining whether or not the end of the film is a dream or not.

Nevertheless, that’s besides the point, I only hope anyone that reads his opinion does the same as I have and just pass it off as another opinion and leave it at that. When movies leave the door open for the audience to make their own interpretation, and engage us along the way, there are few things better if you ask me.

 

– 

The Mystery Of Inception’s Ending Solved?

The Mystery Of Inception's Ending Solved? image
Everyone who’s seen Inception has walked out of the theater with one question on their mind: Was Cobb still in the dream?
When the movie ends Cobb totem is still spinning and we’re left to wonder whether or not it stops. I’ve always believed that he was still dreaming, in large part because of his kids.

When the movie ends Cobb is reunited with his children for the first time after a long separation. But to me, it appeared as though they hadn’t changed from his vision of them in his dreams. They appear to be around the same age as the kids in his memory and they even seem to be wearing the same clothes as the kids in his dream. That would seem to be impossible if Cobb is truly in reality since, the odds that they’d both happen to be wearing exactly the same outfits as his fantasy version of them, are pretty slim.

But The Playlist has uncovered an interview with Inception costume designer Jeffrey Kurland who claims that, even though they may not seem different, the kids clothes are in fact not the same. He insists, “the children’s clothing is different in the final scene… look again…”

That’s huge. If the kids clothing really is different then Cobb, who always imagined them the same way when in a dream, is no longer in a dream and actually in reality. On my second viewing of the film I tried to play close attention to what they were wearing in the movie’s final scene, and to me the clothing looked identical. But Kurland dressed them, and since he would know, I’m inclined to take his word for it. I doubt this will end the ongoing debate, but for me at least, that pretty much solves the mystery of Inception. Cobb isn’t dreaming, the totem does spin off the table after the credits, and reality triumphs in the end.

– By Josh Tyler

The Architect

Interpretation of the Architect from The Matrix Reloaded 

Matrix Reloaded is filled with information, ideas, and amazing visuals that all have a reason for being there. Some ideas are new, some conflict with information from The Matrix, and some are just confusing as hell. We’ve seen it a bunch of times (and on IMAX too – wow!), and there’s still plenty of room for multiple interpretations of what’s on the screen. Though these interpretations are still fairly fresh, we wanted to start publishing some of our ideas.

The Architect
For a lot of people one of the most confusing scenes in Reloaded is Neo’s discussion with The Architect. Coincidentally, this is probably the most critical scene in the movie. Everything that’s come before is put into question by what the Architect says, and everything yet to come in Revolutions will be influenced by his message. Keep in mind that The Architect may be deliberately misleading Neo. We don’t buy that. We’re assuming he has no reason to mislead Neo, and are taking what he says as truth.
The Matrix Reloaded: The Architect
The Architect is the ‘father’ of the Matrix. He’s an entity from the machine world and he designed the original ‘failed’ Matrix and the current ‘successful’ one. The first Matrix failed because it was too perfect. It was a virtual paradise, a utopia for humanity. Unfortunately, humans are not accustomed to living in a perfect world, and the test subjects rejected the simulation because it just wasn’t right. The second Matrix he designed more closely resembled the ‘real world’ of 1999: it was hard, it was dirty, it had death, violence, war, atrocities, and everything else a flawed species would likely create for itself. This one also failed, but for reasons that the Architect couldn’t figure out. Another machine program (one created to investigate aspects of the human psyche) stumbled upon the reason for the second failure: a lack of choice. If humans were offered a choice, even one felt at an unconscious level, then over 99% would accept the Matrix and live in the virtual world, unknowingly powering the machines. The remaining percentage would choose the other option, becoming a ‘free mind’ destined to become part of the human resistance based in Zion.
The Matrix Reloaded: Neo & The Architect
Neo is understandably floored by this revelation. Zion is another level of control by the machines over humanity. It was designed by the machines as a destination for the malcontents that reject the Matrix – a place for them to believe they are free, and deceive them into thinking they have an opportunity to free the world. In fact, the machines have a necessary cycle, one that’s been played out five previous times: Zion is built up by those who free themselves from the Matrix, the war intensifies, the One is located, trained, and directed by the prophecy to the Source, the machines destroy Zion, the One picks 23 people to free from the Matrix to begin rebuilding Zion (with no prior knowledge that Zion ever existed), and the cycle begins anew. This is the sixth time this has happened. Neo is the sixth One. The machines have destroyed Zion five times before. This cycle is likely what the movie’s title refers to – each time the cycle begins again, the Matrix is reloaded. It’s also a necessary evil for the Matrix – until the Architect can achieve 100% acceptance of the Matrix and eliminate the need for the One, this cycle must play out as described or the system will become unstable and crash.
The Architect offers each One a choice: behind door number one is the continued existence of humanity. Behind this door the current version of Zion is destroyed, but the One selects 23 people to build the next version. Humanity lives on in a cycle of controlled futility as the machines allow them their ‘rebellion’. Prior Ones were chosen because of their deep connection to humanity – this connection ensures that they choose the door that leads to the continued existence of humanity. The other door leads to continued resistance, which ensures a massive system crash of the Matrix killing everyone in it. Since Zion is about to be destroyed either way, this choice results in the extermination of mankind.
The key difference this time around is that Neo loves Trinity – his connection to fellow humans is there, but its intensity and focus is stronger than any previous One. This leads Neo to an unexpected (by the machines) choice – he doesn’t choose the door to ‘save’ Zion, he chooses the other door and he’s the first to do so. In making this choice, all bets are off. Everything changes. This is not a path the machines expect, and it may not be one they are fully prepared for. Ultimately, making this choice to reject the cycle of machine control is likely the one chance humanity actually has to break free of the machines and overthrow their masters.
These revelations throw into question everything we (and Neo) learned in the first movie. The prophecy isn’t true: the One is not meant to free mankind, just to further ensure their servitude to the machines. This will have a profound impact on Morpheus, as his whole existence is based on the prophecy. His entire purpose is to find and train the One. We’ll have to see how he handles it in Revolutions.
The Matrix Reloaded: The Architect's Monitors
Also, it’s very likely that the path of the One is meant to end with him/her becoming the beginning of the prophecy in each version of the Matrix. The end IS the beginning. Consider what Morpheus tells Neo in the first Matrix: “When the Matrix was first built there was a man born inside that had the ability to change what he wanted, to remake the Matrix as he saw fit. It was this man who freed the first of us and taught us the truth – When he died, the Oracle prophesied his return and envisioned that his coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix.” It seems likely that this “man born inside” is simply the previous One, fulfilling his last duty to the cycle, before it begins anew.
Some side notes regarding The Architect: his wall of video monitors actually appears briefly in the first movie! Immediately after Neo is apprehended at MetaCorTechs, and before he is interrogated by Agent Smith, the camera slowly zooms in on several video monitors showing Neo sitting in the interrogation room. The Architect was watching Neo even before he was awakened by Morpheus and his crew. Also, I believe the encounter with The Architect, or the close proximity to the Source, produced a change in Neo – I believe this encounter is responsible for Neo’s newfound ability in the ‘real world’ when he stops the sentinels near the end of Reloaded. But not all believe as I do…

BRUNO- MY REVIEW!

Hi Folks,

I watched Bruno today, after all the hype and sarcasm about the film, I finally watched it. Well it started off well, throughout the film, there was an effort to make it funny. People were laughing for sometime but I guess after a while the film just got boring. I really think they could have made it reallly funny by changing the story a bit and making the film a bit short, it was a bit too elongated.

I really appreciate the acting the guy has done but I feel that it is not worth watching it even once as I felt like leaving the theatre during the half of the movie.

If you want to watch it you can go ahead but please go with a fresh mind , and see it with a perspective of “non-sense” as if you see it for humor, you will get that less in that film. I suggest better watch Mr Bean rather than Borat or Bruno..well that is my view , I am open to your views about this film…

So if I have to rate this film I would give it a 1/2 out of 5..

Enjoy 😀

Bruno Film Poster

Bruno Film Poster