Do we create the very reality that we observe?

An obscure idea in quantum physics says, “yes!”

My attempt to recreate John Wheeler’s illustration of a participatory universe.
From John Wheeler (1983), Law Without Law. In: Quantum theory and measurement.

Starting at the end

The seeds of the participatory universe were sown in a thought experiment called the delayed choice experiment.

Einstein rings

If you point your telescope in the right direction, you can create a double-slit experiment the size of the universe! In the image below, the “ring” is actually a single star nearly as old as the universe. The line between that star and Earth is blocked by another galaxy somewhere within the many billions of light-years between the star and us. Yet, due to Einstein’s relativity, the light from the star bends around the massive galaxy to reach us. (This sort of gravitational lensing was the first experimental proof of Einstein’s theory, by the way.)

Hubble Sees Cosmic Quintuple. Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Your questions create reality

Recall how the game 20 Questions works. I think of something, and you ask me yes or no questions with the hope of narrowing down my answers to reveal the one thing I was thinking about. Suppose I was thinking about a kangaroo. You ask, “is it bigger than a breadbox?”

Quantum theorist by day, father by night. Occasionally moonlighting as a author.