Effect: Are Alternative Universes Colliding?
Maldela alive in 1998.
Is this a serious scientific enigma, or just another
internet conspiracy theory?
A few years ago in the late 2000's Fiona Broome,
a writer and self-described paranormal researcher, was surprised
to find that Nelson Mandela was still alive. Mandela, a South
African human rights activist that had spent many years in jail
and later became president of the country, died in 2013, but
Broome had vivid memories of him dying in prison in the 1980's.
As Broome recalled:
See, I thought Nelson Mandela died in prison.
I thought I remembered it clearly, complete with news clips
of his funeral, the mourning in South Africa, some rioting in
cities, and the heartfelt speech by his widow.
Then, I found out he was still alive.
At first Broome chalked this up to a faulty memory,
but later, while hanging out at Dragon Con (an Atlanta Science
Fiction and Comic book Convention) she met a number of people
who seemed to have the same memories.
Broome became interested enough in the phenomenon
that she launched a website and quickly discovered that many
other people seemed to have memories of past events that didn't
seem to jive with the history books. She called this experience
The Mandela Effect.
Probably the most well-known example of the Mandela
Effect is the case of the Berenstain Bears. The Berenstain Bears
was a children's book series launched in 1962 and written and
illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain. The series was widely
read and loved by several generations of children. The Mandela
Effect comes into play because many, if not most people, remember
the series when they were growing up being spelled the Berenstein
Bears, with an "e" instead of an "a."
In fact, a number of people have claimed to have
materials - VHS tapes and screen captures of websites - showing
the "a" instead of the "e."
Another popular example of the Mandela Effect
is the logo for the Ford Motor Company. According to historical
records the logo has always featured a curl at the end of the
crossbar in the "F" character. However, many people, don't remember
it that way and believe it has somehow been changed.
Bears series: Berenstain or Berenstein?
Ford isn't the only company logo that supporters
of the Mandela Effect alleged has been changed. They point to
the "Jiffy" peanut butter product. Lots of people remember "Jiffy"
but I you won't find it on any supermarket shelf in the United
States. That's because the product is actually "Jif" not Jiffy.
In another case of a celebrity death, many people
seem to remember the preacher Billy Graham's demise and seeing
his funeral on the television. However, as of this writing,
the Reverend Graham is still alive and though aged, is still
So what is happening here? Do people just have
bad memories, or is something else going on?
Broome and other supporters think that maybe a
collision of alternate universes is to blame. They believe that
there are many universes, each one slightly different from another
(for example, in one universe the book series is spelled "Berenstain
Bears" and in another it's "Berenstein Bears"). When these universes
come together the past gets mixed up allowing people to remember
the spelling in alternate ways.
As crazy as this sounds, science does suggest
that there may be multiple universes. The "many-worlds interpretation"
of quantum mechanics resolves some odd aspects of that theory
by suggesting there may be a very large (perhaps even infinite)
number of universes, and everything that could possibly have
happened in our past, but did not, has occurred in the past
in one or more of the other universes.
However, there is no evidence that these multiple
universes (if they do exist) can interact with each other in
a way to produce the Mandela Effect.
Another theory held by supporters of the Mandela
Effect is that we are living in a virtual world (similar to
the one dramatized in the movie "The Matrix") and the Mandela
Effect is the result of changes being made to this virtual world.
While both the "many-worlds interpretation" and
the "virtual world" theory are intriguing ideas, they
are beyond our ability to test in any scientific way. They also
seem unsatisfactory solutions to the question of the Mandela
Effect because they fail a scientific rule-of-thumb known as
Occam's Razor is a problem-solving principle attributed
to William of Ockham who was a fourteenth century English Franciscan
friar, scholastic philosopher and theologian. The principle,
stated in layman's terms is ""the simplest explanation is usually
the correct one."
If we apply Occam's Razor to the Mandela Effect
we have to ask if multiple universes or is a faulty virtual
world the simplest solutions to the conundrum, or are there
other more straightforward possibilities? Or as the astronomer
Carl Sagan often asked, don't "extraordinary claims require
Scientists know that people's memories can be
faulty. In fact, among police experts its well-known that eye
witness accounts are the least accurate type of evidence, even
though they are often the most persuasive to juries.
Why is this? We like to think our brains record
our experiences like a video camera records the world. When
a video recording is played back we can expect that unless the
recording has been tampered with, we are seeing the world exactly
as the camera saw it. The problem is that our minds are not
mechanical recording machines. Our brains have limited storage
space and only things that are important are recorded long term.
Try to remember what you had for breakfast two weeks ago last
Tuesday. Most people (unless they have the same thing every
Memories are also unlike video recording because
every time we access a memory there is really, really good chance,
given the way our brains store this information that we may
change the memory a bit. Think of the fisherman that each time
he tells the story about "the big one that got away" the fish
seems to get a bit larger.
The combination of these two effects result in
something referred to as "Confabulation." When we don't have
a complete memory we fill in the missing parts with something
that seems logical to our brains and because of the way our
brains are wired this can result in the original memory being
changed a bit.
How would confabulation account for something
like the "Berenstain Bears?" One of the things that people don't
store in their brains all the time is unusual spellings, especially
if the spelling isn't important to the overall memory. While
reading a Berenstain Bears book people would be much more likely
to remember that storyline than notice and remember that the
spelling of the name was a bit odd. When they try and remember
the spelling of the name their brains just fill in the most
common spelling which is with an "e" instead of the "a". The
source of this "Mandela Effect" is much more likely a false
memory than some clash of alternate universes.
Graham is not in the public eye, but still alive as of
Feburary 2017.( CC BY 2.0 Paul M Walsh).
Making the "Berenstain Bears" case even more complex
is that there have undoubtedly been instances were official
Berenstain Bears materials have been misprinted with the incorrect
spelling simply because the writer and editor failed to check
the proper spelling and assumed the more popular "Berenstein"
Confabulation may also explain other Mandela Effects.
For example, while the Reverent Billy Graham is still alive,
his wife, Ruth Graham died in 2007, and her death was covered
in some TV news. People may be connecting her funeral, with
his decision to retire from his famous crusades in 2005. Knowing
that he has been out of public life and seeing news coverage
of her funeral they may have confabulated the two together to
assume his death.
It seems much more likely that Mandela effect
is a trick of our own memories than a collision of universes
or a virtual world. It also suggests that our individual memories
aren't particularly bad as so many people seem to remember certain
event wrong. It simply shows we are human and our memoies, as
much as we would like them to be perfect, are not.
Copyright Lee Krystek 2017. All Rights Reserved.