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What the #$*! Do We Know?

Self, meet quantum self

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Quantum is coming, Boise. Prepare thyself. For what, you ask? According to the new Portland-made hybrid documentary What the #$*! Do We Know?, telekinesis, time travel and the ability to walk on water are all possibilities. The end of organized religion and the institution of marriage could follow soon after. Then, if you still have any mind-shards that haven't been blown (to be pronounced like a Portlandian: "Bloohohowwn!") you can use them to spruce up any unsightly water molecules that are laying around the house. More on that later.

The film (pronounced "What the Bleep") is a no-holds-barred fusion of drama, documentary interviews and CGI animation that focuses on the relationship between consciousness, spirituality and physical theories teetering on the edge of science. Quantum physics deals with inexplicable behavior of particles on a subatomic level, utilizing the 1925 Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. As such, it is, in the words of physicist Amit Goswami, the "physics of possibilities," and has been utilized by both scholars and mystics to breathe faith into lab work and science into soul study.

In an apparent attempt to emphasize the unity of the fields, the 14 speakers whose interview snippets pepper the fictional portion of the film are presented sans name, title or qualifications. Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old mystic channeled through the luminously lit woman JZ Knight, is held on par with researchers from Stanford, Yale and Columbia. It's a noble, if maddening, technique, because when someone like the chiropractor Dr. Joseph Dispenza unravels a short speech about sub-cellular emotions and then says "... hence, the human drama," I would like to know at whom my eyes are rolling like two angry electrons.

The story, starring Oscar Winner and Hollywood token-deaf-person Marlee Matlin, puts the ideas spouted by the anonymous chorus into immediate action. She plays a photographer and jilted ex-wife who begins to see the ideas of quantum physics materialize around her through remarkable bursts of animation, and is suitably bewildered. Among the topics breached are cellular-level consciousness, the power of prayer and thought on inanimate objects (water in particular) and how both phenomena can, for better or worse, influence the way in which our brains consciously create our reality.

"There is no out there out there, independent of what is in here," declares quantum physicist Fred Alan Wolf with a laugh, showcasing the mixture of centuries-old philosophical idealism and newly hip Matrix-esque language-riddles that drives the film. Perception is the glue of reality. God is "the observer." Religion and prayer in general are real, effective tools of action, but Christianity is derided by Ramtha as "an ugly, superstitious backwater concept of God." Most of these ideas are presented in an admirably accessible way, even if the new age free-for-all that results seems a little overly smug.

The film ends with a command from Wolf, "Now go ponder that for a while," an appropriately open-ended capstone, because ultimately, the message adhering these existential bombardments is unclear. Most often, it seems simply to be, "Dig this, kiddies, 'cause it's some wild stuff." Other plot points seem to declare, "Love yourself or die of a poisoned bloodstream!" In either case, the question posed by the film's title stands firmly intact at the end--the answer is either "absolutely nothing" or "everything in every possible universe and dimension." Take your pick, then write a book about it. It's the quantum way.

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