Murch: There’s a great game–I forget whether we’ve talked about it–Negative Twenty Questions?
Ondaatje: No, we haven’t talked about it.
Murch: It was invented by John Wheeler, a quantum physicist who was a young graduate student of Niels Bohr’s in the 1930s. Wheeler is the man who invented the term “black hole”. He’s an extremely articulate proponent of the best of twentieth-century physics. Still alive, and I believe still teaching, writing.
Anyway, he thought up a parlour game that reflects the way the world is constructed at a quantum level. It involves, say, four people: Michael, Anthony, Walter, and Aggie. From the point of view of one of those people, Michael, the game that’s being played is the normal Twenty Questions–Ordinary Twenty Questions, I guess you’d call it. So Michael leaves the room, under the illusion that the other three players are going to look around and collectively decide on the chosen object to be guessed by him–say, the alarm clock. Michael expects that when they’ve made their decision they will ask him to come back in and try to guess the object in fewer than twenty questions.
But in Wheeler’s version of the game, when Michael leaves the room, the three remaining players don’tcommunicate with one another at all. Instead, each of them silently decides on an object. Then they call Michael back in.
Michael asks Walter: Is the object bigger than a breadbox? Walter–who has picked the alarm clock–says, No. Now, Anthony has chosen the sofa, which is bigger than a breadbox. And since Michael is going to ask him the next question, Anthony must quickly look around the room and come up with something else–a coffee cup!–which is smaller than a breadbox. So when Michael asks Anthony, If I emptied out my pockets could I put their contents in this object? Anthony says, Yes.
Which is the other possible result: Failure–the game can break down catastrophically. By question 15, let’s say, the questions asked have generated logical requirements so complex that nothing in the room can satisfy them. And when Michael asks Anthony the sixteenth question, Anthony breaks down and has to confess that he doesn’t know, and Michael is finally let in on the secret: The game was Negative Twenty Questions all along. Wheeler suggests that the nature of perception and reality, at the quantum level, and perhaps above, is somehow similar to this game.
And just like that, the film decides that it is time to get made. And I thought I had something to do with the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of it. Duh.
Its amazing how so many things come together exactly right, to create that one magical scene.
Dileep was born a hindu. He converts to Islam, bags an academy award and says glory be to god.
I dont believe I am actually writing a post, showing off a movie ticket I bought! but its true…scrambled my way to possibly the last two tickets available for this weekend….yeah its 3:00 AM…but hey, what better time to watch “The Dark Knight”?
3 reasons why I cannot wait for the sun to set (and it has barely dawned!):
a. Growing up, vacations and comic books always went together. Thankfully, me and sis had this pretty simple but effective system to split the piles of Amar Chitra Katha and the few DC comics that were around the house – She got to take what she wanted and the leftovers were all mine!!! Thankfully, she was not a massive super hero fan. Small mercies! and for some reason, I was always drawn to the dark, hooded, masked men – Phantom and Batman. I think it was the lack of ‘inevitability’ of those stories, which fascinated me. And ofcourse the Villains!
b. Christian Bale. Easily the most talented actor in Hollywood at the moment. Unfortunately, he is largely unknown for some of his best work, like the ‘Machinist’ for example. It is the most shocking transformation anybody ever went through for a role. Check out his pics below from ‘Machinist’ and ‘Batman Begins’, the two movies he did back to back – in that order.
3. Nolan! I was so intrigued by Memento, that after seeing it, I immediately downloaded the film and tried to re-cut it in the reverse to see how it turned out….but naah, it was too much work ;( …will probably take it up as a post-retirement project!! I digress….the reason I love Nolan is because he is one of the few writers out there who makes his film work mostly by ‘out thinking’ the audience…’The Prestige’ is a fine example. If there is one thing you can be sure of in a Nolan film, it is that you definitely would have had the rug pulled from undernneath, by the time you exit the theatre…..and its probably the only time in life, when its an amazing feeling!