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Quantum weirdness is a sign of many ordinary but invisible universes jostling to share the same space as ours, according to a bold new idea

The wave function has collapsed – permanently. A new approach to quantum mechanics eliminates some of its most famous oddities, including the concept of quantum objects being both a wave and a particle, and existing in multiple states at once.

In short, the approach removes the wave function and demotes the equation that describes it. In its place are a huge but finite number of ordinary, parallel worlds, whose jostling explains the weird effects normally ascribed to quantum mechanics.

Quantum theory was dreamed up to describe the strange behaviour of particles like atoms and electrons. For nearly a century, physicists have explained the peculiarities of their quantum properties – such as wave-particle duality and indeterminism – by invoking an entity called the wave function, which exists in a superposition of all possible states at once right up until someone observes it, at which point it is said to "collapse" into a single state.

Physicist Erwin Schrödinger famously illustrated this idea by imagining a cat in a box that is both dead and alive until someone opens the box to check on it. The probability that the cat will survive is given by the Schrödinger equation, which describes all the possible states that the wave function can take.

The Schrödinger equation predicts the outcomes of experiments perfectly. But many physicists are uncomfortable with seeing the wave function as a fundamental aspect of reality, preferring to treat its companion equation as a calculating device and seeking a deeper theory to explain what is really going on.

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