Quantum Suicide
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Basic Information

Quantum Suicide is a thought experiment that probably should never be realized. It would seek to test whether or not there was validity to the Many Worlds Interpretation.

To conduct the experiment, one would need a suicide machine, built to exacting specifications. It'd need to be a machine that had a high probability of killing you, and preferably no chance of injury less than death. The trigger mechanism that determined whether or not you died would need to involve measuring the spin of subatomic particles, so as to capture quantum mechanics at it's most basic and pure form. And it's important that no one else can observe what you're doing, so make sure the machine has no windows. If this sounds a little like Schrödinger's cat, it's on purpose - you're filling the role of the cat.

The idea is that every time that 50/50 chance to die is invoked, two universes would be created. In one you'd be dead, quickly and painlessly and unaware. In the other, you'd be alive, and free to start the experiment again. Assuming your nerve holds up, you'd keep resetting the machine and trying again. After a few hundred tests, if you were still alive, it could be taken as likely proof that Quantum Immortality exists, and people don't actually die. Of course, to be certain, you'd want to run a full diagnostic on the machine, and get an engineering buddy to look it over and verify that you just "flipped heads" 100 times in a row without a single "tails". That still doesn't quite prove it, but it's a strong argument that no one ever dies - just other people think they did.

Meanwhile, you've created a universe where you died on the first try, a universe where you lived through the first test but died in the second, a universe where the third attempt killed you, etc. Conveniently, you never experienced those various alternate realities. You can infer that no one ever experiences their own death.

A more direct version of the experiment would be to detonate a powerful nuclear bomb at your feet. You should only be able to experience the realities where the bomb fails to detonate or some sort of miracle saves you. Just hope you don't end up in a reality where somehow you survived with crippling (but non-lethal) radiation poisoning.

Now comes the tricky part - convincing the world that you're right. You'll need to record the results, and allow for reputable scientists and engineers to check your work and your machine. Whatever you do, though, don't let them try to duplicate your experiment. They can still die in your reality - and once someone's done so with your machine, you'll probably be held responsible. Immortality doesn't sound that great when you're in prison. So, maybe you'd best keep the results of this test to yourself. And of course, there's the possibility that the Many Worlds Interpretation is wrong, Quantum Immortality doesn't exist, and using such a suicide machine is just suicidal. Forget I ever mentioned it.

See Also:
Mad Scientist
Quantum Immortality



Game and Story Use

  • There is an outside chance that you might convince the world that you were right, and thus avoid imprisonment. And if there's a chance, no matter how small, that means there's an alternate reality where it happens.
    • But if so, things could get pretty crazy there. What would happen to society if people believed they were immortal? Especially if others could still see them die. On the plus side, after the initial chaos, it might be the end of war. However, there'd still be folks who do terrible things "because it's not really murder anymore". Heck, anytime you're enemies piss you off, you'd just nuke 'em, cause it's not like they're gonna die or something. Some people might get poisoned - but not in some reality somewhere, right? Like I said, forget I ever mentioned it. This idea is dangerous and crazy.
  • What if an entire cult gets this idea, and sets out to prove it at once with a machine that kills them all simultaneously? Jonestown looks mundane by comparison. Perhaps the PCs are called in to investigate a suicide cult that did just this. Examining the evidence suggests that they failed to kill themselves 97 times, and died on the 98th attempt. Do the PCs assume dumb luck, or does this unlikely streak of probability mean they were right? Are you just occupying the 98th universe they'd made - with them still making the 99th and 100th as we speak?
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