Avert the Apocalypse with Quantum Denial

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Common sense tends to dictate that, if you want to avoid impending disaster, you need to get up and do something about it.Whatever fate is staring you down, everyone knows that you can't solve your problem by pretending it doesn't exist.

Unless you're a quantum physicist, of course. According to a recent New Scientist article, University of Amsterdam's Saibal Mitra has joined his fellow scientists in dreaming up ways of preventing a rogue asteroid from wiping out life on Earth. While most cosmic protection schemes involve deflecting incoming civilization busters with rockets and radiation, Mitra has proposed the very quantum approach of simply forgetting that an asteroid was headed our way to begin with.

Sound nonsensical? Welcome to the world of quantum physics. At the heart of all the talk about alternate realties and cats trapped in boxes, the idea is that life is like a Choose Your Own Adventure book. While you may have decided to follow the hero into the haunted castle (where he was eaten by a dragon), somewhere amid those unexplored pages is the one where the hero tramped down to the swamp (and was eaten by trolls). Now imagine that the book contained not just two possible outcomes for the hero, but ALL possible outcomes. Yep, imagine Jorge Luis Borges wrote Choose Your Own Adventure books -- and if you think quantumly about it, there has to be an alternate reality where he did.

Mitra argues that if we could somehow reset our collective memories (kind of like using system restore on a computer) we could gain a second chance and effectively skip over into an alternate reality. Instead of restoring a PC to a state unaffected by a virus, we'd be restoring our minds to a state unaffected by damning knowledge. In the event that we were trying to avoid a rare but cataclysmic event such as an asteroid strike, Mitra insists that we would "almost certainly" jump over into a world where the human race can pass its saving throw.

Or we jump over into a reality where terrible monster gods rule over everything.

About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.