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John Wheeler (1911-2008)

Quantum theory poses reality’s deepest mystery

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11:35am, May 12, 2008

Before his death in April, John Archibald Wheeler was one of the few remaining living legends of physics, from the generation born before the development of quantum mechanics. Wheeler collaborated with Niels Bohr, conversed often with Albert Einstein and was the doctoral professor of Richard Feynman. As a young man Wheeler worked on nuclear fission and the development of the atomic bomb. He then turned to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, pioneering its use in understanding black holes (the name that Wheeler coined in 1967). In his later years Wheeler turned his inquisitive powers to quantum physics, devising imaginative experiments that helped to show how quantum reality undermines the old commonsense ideas of the universe as a predictable machine. Wheeler never gave up wrestling with quantum theory’s implications for the nature of reality. In interviews beginning more than 20 years ago, he articulated some of his thoughts on such matters,

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