Documentary review in one tweet
There's not a single quote in this movie I really like. See below for a few that I think are ridiculous.
Let me preface this by saying that I was super hopeful going into this documentary, even with the double punctuation marks at the end of the title. Here's the Netflix description:
When she's thrust from her mundane life into an unfamiliar world, Amanda must develop an all-new perception of her surroundings and the people she interacts with in this quirky film that explores neurological processes and quantum uncertainty.
Sounds interesting, right? Well, it does if you are a nerd who spent significant portions of your life tracing the relationship between quantum mechanics and post-modern literature. The cover image is refreshingly 90s (the whole film feels super 90s, from the jeans to the carpet to the underwear, though it was released in 2003). The deaf Amanda in question is joined on the cover by a chubby, sassy looking African American kid who is, naturally, surrounded by a bunch of basketballs. Remember when this country was still refreshingly unaware of racial stereotypes? No question that this character would be an Asian American girl if the movie was made today, or else the black kid would have a bunch of paint brushes flying around him instead.
At any rate, in spite of high hopes and a cover that promised some good unintentional comedy, the doc proved extremely disappointing. Kind of infuriating, actually. Though it starts out rather well, discussing some of the spooky properties of quantum mechanics, the doc quickly moves into a mild form of insanity. Or at least an extreme form of unlogicality. (No, that's not a real word.)
Here are some actual quotes from the movie:
"There is no 'out there' [external reality] out there, independent of what's going on in here [in the brain]" - Balding Guy in Front of Fireplace
"Do I think you're bad? No, I don't think you're bad. Do I think you're good? No, I don't think you are good. I think you're God." - Blond Woman in What Looks Like a Red Drum Major Uniform.
"There is no such thing as good and bad." - Guy in Front of Obvious Blue Screen
You might be asking, "How can statements like this derive from quantum mechanics?" You might not be. I don't know. But if you are asking it, the only answer I can give you is that they don't. You'll notice I didn't put any names to these quotes, because the doc doesn't supply any. I have no idea who these people are, all I know is that the camera angle is supposed to make them seem like experts. Here's my attempt to explain their logic:
First of all, things get really screwed up in quantum physics; the normal categories of existence that we use to understand things start to disintegrate at a rapid pace. Basically, when you look at the absolutely smallest particles (I'm talking about the pieces that make up electrons and protons), it becomes impossible to pinpoint exactly where a particle is or where its going. That probably makes sense so far; little things are hard to see.
The crazy part is that this uncertainty is not due to a lack of adequate instrumentation. Rather, in quantum mechanics, particles with definite locations and speeds do not exist. Rather, these little bitty pieces exist as a range of possibilities. That's what all the basketballs on the cover are trying to teach you. That, left to their own, these little things act more as tiny waves than tiny basketballs. And their existence is so unstable that we can change them merely by observing them.
What this doc does is take that super interesting idea and decide it means that we are all gods, able to change the universe simply by observing it. Oh, and all religions are lies of course. And morality does not exist. But let's do "good" anyway, even if we have no idea what that means.
You can find a lot of takedowns of the doc on the What the #$*! Do We Know!? Wikipedia page, all of them from scientists, mostly critical of how the doc uses a lot of pseudo-scientific ideas to reach untenable conclusions ("untenable" is a fancy person's word for "stupid"). Although observation may change things at the quantum level, once you get to something the size of, say, an atom, that effect is gone. Matter doesn't really care if you observe it or not. If you stare at a rock, it's just going to sit there. If you stare at The Rock, you'll probably get a People's Elbow to the chest. Either way, you're not God.
2 cold, frosty beers (out of 10)
Your time would be much better spent punching yourself in the leg, or learning how to sew. Sewing, especially, is a valuable skill.
Jordan Jeffers recommends the New Scientist introduction to quantum mechanics if you want to learn more about how weird it is. Feel free to give him electronic encouragement via the little Facebook and Twitter buttons below. It means more to him than you might think.