John Wheeler Passes Away

Pioneering physicist John Wheeler has died aged 96. Wheeler was one of the last ‘legends’ from the Manhattan Project era: he coined the term “black hole”, taught many of the great ‘second generation’ physicists including Richard Feynman, and co-authored the established textbook on Einstein’s general theory of relativity.

Those who are interested in the ‘fringes’ of science may have found Wheeler to be a bit of an enigma. He famously petitioned the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), requesting the expulsion of parapsychology which he believed was a pseudoscience. This despite his own reputation as being somewhat anti-establishment, and also having proposed theories suggesting that ‘reality’ was composed of more than just the physical, and that consciousness was in some way intrinsically involved in the process.

As science writer John Horgan noted: “He has helped gain acceptance — or at least attention — for some of the most out­landish ideas of modern physics, from black holes to multiple-universe theories…he delights in being ahead of — or at least apart from — the pack.”

Wheeler’s consideration of similarities between physics and information theory – he famously coined the term ‘It from Bit’ – also provide avenues for contemplating the possibility of psi effects (and also provide crossover into ufologist Jacques Vallee’s theories somewhat). And his delayed choice experiment is enough to make anybody question their conception of reality…

Sci-Am has a reprint of John Horgan’s excellent 1991 profile of John Wheeler which is well worth checking out.