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Fifty years ago this month Hugh Everett III published his paper proposing a "relative-state formulation of quantum mechanics" - the idea subsequently described as the 'many worlds' or 'multiverse' interpretation. Its impact on science and culture continues. In celebration, a science fiction special edition of Nature on 5 July 2007 explores the symbiosis of science and sf, as exemplified by Everett's hypothesis, its birth, evolution, champions and opponents, in biology, physics, literature and beyond.

A commentary from cosmologist Max Tegmark explains why Everett's idea is still gaining ground. A News Feature by Mark Buchanan weighs up the alternative interpretations of quantum physics. A second News Feature records a roundtable debate on the relationship between biology and science fiction. An essay in the Books & Arts section by Gary Wolfe looks at how science fiction anticipated, responded to, and continues to relish parallel universes and alternate realities. Finally, Nature announces the return of its award-winning weekly science fiction short story series with 'Olympic Talent' by Richard A. Lovett, recipient of four Analog magazine readers' choice awards.

Image: David Parkins

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EDITORIAL

Parallel worlds galore

The 50th anniversary of an astonishing scientific hypothesis deserves celebration. So too do the truly astounding tales of a literary genre that anticipated it.

Nature 448, 1 (5 July 2007) doi:10.1038/448001a

NEWS FEATURE

Many worlds: See me here, see me there

Fifty years ago, a physics student dissatisfied with the standard view of quantum mechanics came up with a radical new interpretation. Mark Buchanan reports on the ensuing debate.

Nature 448, 15 (5 July 2007) doi:10.1038/448015a

NEWS FEATURE

The biologists strike back

Time machines, spaceships, atomic blasters — the icons of science fiction tend to come from the physical sciences. But science fiction has a biological side too, finding drama and pathos in everything from alien evolution to the paradoxes of consciousness. Nature brought together four science-fiction writers with a background in the biological sciences to talk about life-science fiction.

Nature 448, 18 (5 July 2007) doi:10.1038/448018a

COMMENTARY

Many lives in many worlds Free access

Max Tegmark

Nature 448, 23 (5 July 2007) doi:10.1038/448023a

BOOKS AND ARTS

Surfing the multiverse

The 'many worlds' of quantum mechanics spawned many more of science fiction.
Gary Wolfe

Nature 448, 25 (5 July 2007) doi:10.1038/448025a

FUTURES

Olympic talent

Fit...for nothing?
Richard A. Lovett

Nature 448, 104 (5 July 2007) doi:10.1038/448104a

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Futures focus

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Archive

Books & arts

Our place in the Multiverse

Joseph Silk

doi:10.1038/443145a


A weird, wired world

Vlatko Vedral

doi:10.1038/441935b


From cats to computers

Alastair I. M. Rae

doi:10.1038/389686a0


House of cards

Peter T. Landsberg

doi:10.1038/388136a0


Aliens unlimited

Lawrence M. Krauss

doi:10.1038/421114a


The truth is in here

Henry Gee

doi:10.1038/403135a0


Science in culture

Greg Bear

doi:10.1038/430147a


Essays

Where might it lead?

Gregory Benford

doi:10.1038/414399a0


Joan Slonczewski: Stranger than fiction

doi:10.1038/426501a


What are clones?

Lee M. Silver

doi:10.1038/412021a0


Letters

Decoherence of quantum superpositions through coupling to engineered reservoirs

C. J. Myatt et al.

doi:10.1038/412021a0


Creation of a six-atom 'Schrödinger cat' state

D. Leibfried et al.

doi:10.1038/nature04251


A complementarity experiment with an interferometer at the quantum–classical boundary

P. Bertet et al.

doi:10.1038/411166a0


Quantum jumps of light recording the birth and death of a photon in a cavity

Sébastien Gleyzes et al.

doi:10.1038/nature05589


Experimental long-lived entanglement of two macroscopic objects

Brian Julsgaard, Alexander Kozhekin and Eugene S. Polzik

doi:10.1038/413400a0


Measurement-induced entanglement for excitation stored in remote atomic ensembles

C. W. Chou, H. de Riedmatten, D. Felinto, S. V. Polyakov, S. J. van Enk & H. J. Kimble

doi:10.1038/nature04353


Storage and retrieval of single photons transmitted between remote quantum memories

T. Chaneliére, D. N. Matsukevich, S. D. Jenkins, S.-Y. Lan, T. A. B. Kennedy and A. Kuzmich

doi:10.1038/nature04315


Quantum teleportation between light and matter

Jacob F. Sherson et al.

doi:10.1038/nature05136


Wave-particle duality of C60 molecules

Markus Arndt, Olaf Nairz, Julian Vos-Andreae, Claudia Keller, Gerbrand van der Zouw and Anton Zeilinger

doi:10.1038/401680a0


Decoherence of matter waves by thermal emission of radiation

Lucia Hackerm´┐Żller, Klaus Hornberger, Björn Brezger, Anton Zeilinger and Markus Arndt

doi:10.1038/nature02276