Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives follows the lead singer of US rock band Eels, Mark Oliver Everett, as he travels across America to learn about the father he never knew – quantum physicist Hugh Everett III.
This year is the 50th anniversary of Hugh Everett's most important contribution to science – a controversial theory of quantum mechanics that predicts the existence of parallel universes, one of the most fantastic scientific predictions ever to have been conceived. The concept of parallel universes is now not only explored by many top physicists, it is also a staple plotline in many science fiction stories.
Hugh wrote the theory as a young PhD student at Princeton University, but, for 20 years, it remained largely ignored by the scientific community. It was only at the end of his life that his visionary work began to be taken seriously.
Hugh died of a heart attack in his home in 1982, where his body was found by his 19-year-old son, Mark. Even though they had lived in the same house, the two of them were alienated and Mark knew nothing about his father's work. "My father never, ever said anything to me about his theories. I was in the same house with him for at least 18 years but he was a total stranger to me," says Mark. "He was in his own parallel universe. He was a physical presence, like the furniture, sitting there jotting down crazy notations at the dining room table night after night. I think he was deeply disappointed that he knew he was a genius but the rest of the world didn't know it."
Featuring an all-Eels soundtrack, this imaginative film for BBC Four follows the wry and charismatic Mark on his emotional journey back into his father's life, meeting his old college pals, family friends and colleagues. It is only by entering the weird world of quantum mechanics that Mark can hope to understand why he was such a stranger to his own father.
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