May 6, 2021

Episode 13 - The one with multiple multiverse theories, Shakespeare's medical knowledge, Wife Carrying and Raspberry Vinegar

This week our Brainy Lecture considers the multiverse and what that might mean for free will. It examines the theory that a big bang occurs in every black hole with each new universe a slightly tweaked version of its parent thus giving a kind of cosmic evolution.

In Sports that Definitely should be in the Olympics we throw our women over our shoulders and feminism back two hundred years as we delve into the murky sport of wife carrying.

Our local news from around the Frenzied and Sustained diaspora comes this week from Hobart plus we include an easy way to locate Hobart on a map.

Grab your cognac as we are making our own Raspberry Vinegar 

In Literally the Last section we marvel at Shakespeare’s mastery of medicine and as a public service we list Will’s coronavirus top ten tips.


Episode 13

Hello, and welcome to Frenzied and Sustained.

In this week’s podcast for a post stupid society our Brainy Lecture considers the multiverse and what that might mean for free will. It examines the theory that a big bang occurs in every black hole with each new universe a slightly tweaked version of its parent thus giving a kind of cosmic evolution.

In Sports that Definitely should be in the Olympics we throw our women over our shoulders and feminism back two hundred years as we delve into the murky sport of wife carrying.

Our local news from around the Frenzied and Sustained diaspora comes this week from Hobart, don’t worry we will help you find it on the map.

This week we give our kingdom for a Raspberry Vinegar that we need for next week’s sauce. It is wonderful in it own right.

In Literally the Last section we marvel at Shakespeare’s mastery of medicine and as a public service we list Will’s coronavirus top ten tips.

You are listening to frenzied and sustained and I  am Ian Spector and this is a 

Brainy Lecture

Models of multiverse 

As we started discussing last week our universe appears, to some degree, designed. It has finely tuned parameters that seem deliberately set for a particular outcome - life.

In evolution we see the force of natural selection allowing chance mutations bestow an advantage that gets propagated and over countless generations, thus allowing sophisticated life to appear.

There is a theory of Cosmic Natural Selection that offers the idea that a new universe comes into being at a singularity of a black hole. Here the formation of a black hole triggers the formation of a new universe “on the other side” in a new big bang.

Those baby universes go on to expand and make their own black holes and hence their own baby universes.

But in their formation the fundamental constants of the baby universes are shifted slightly and randomly from their parent - mutations are introduced.

Some of those shifts improve the baby universe’s ability to form new black holes. Those universes have an advantage in propagating their cosmic genetics, and so gradually the ensemble of all universes get better and better at making black holes, just as biological organisms with helpful mutations can get better at surviving and reproducing.

Now by a huge cosmic probability there’s a correlation between making lots of black holes and making life - both require stars.

The universe that is better at making stars is better at making planetary systems is better at making us.

So this would seem to suggest that any particular universe is not fine tuned for life but has been naturally selected for stars. Well there is a lucky break.

The reproduction mechanism involves a Big Bounce replacing the singularity at the centre of the black hole. Instead there is a quantum effect that causes a massive inflation, think Big Bang, but remember this is within the event horizon of the original black hole so this baby universes herniates into a new region of space time completely sealed off from parent’s universe.

John Archibold Wheeler added that each baby universe had it fundamental parameters adjusted thus introducing selection and variability. Lee Smolin added to this theory the notion that only small adjustments were possible from generation to generation.



Now a natural reaction to your first exposure to Lee Smolin’s cosmic natural selection is to imagine that the business end of his crack pipe must be hot to the touch. How do we get over the first hurdle that black holes spawn universes. How do we set out and test that? Sure there is a certain pleasing symmetry between a Big Bang at the beginning of our universe and a black hole at the end, it is fun to consider that a neutron star type of explosion was the big bang at the start of every universal birth. We certainly have models of these multi universes with the various configurations of string theory's  extra dimensions.

For any theory to be useful to science it must be falsifiable. If something can never be tested to disprove it probably has little value in moving forward the body of human knowledge. Consequently it is not that different from a story. 

Yet, even so, it is so hard to accept that all the dials of the great constants in the universe just happened to be set by chance at levels that allowed atoms to form, forget life, just atoms is far from certain. Or that the universe lasted longer than a billionth of a second, or wasn’t a billion Kelvin. So if we are too weirded out by Cosmological Natural Selection what about the next slightly less weird option. Remember, our objective is to avoid having someone’s hand on the knobs adjusting the values and the most obvious way to avoid this is by having a huge number of universes attempted or existing concurrently.

So let’s go back to quantum weirdness and assess anew the theory as a solution for fine tuning.

In Roman construction more stone was used in the foundations below ground level than was visible above it. They placed huge stone blocks on compacted rock, and the walls themselves were several blocks wide at the base tapering inwards slightly as it approached grade. To manage damp the Romans used short stone pillars to support floorboards and ventilated the entire foundation to prevent damp entering the sides and allowed the area under the building to dry out evenly. The Romans certainly knew about foundations.

The Romans never would have built an entire universe on top of the vague quantum fuzziness, enshrouded by probability clouds wrapped in an uncertainty principle. Frankly I am amazed that god could every have got that engineering design through building regs. 

The classic Copenhagen Interpretation says that each quantum decision exists until we detect it and then the wave function collapses and we get a particle in a known position and state. Thus, according to Niels Bohr  objective reality doesn't exist, until it is observed. The act of measuring forces the set of probabilities to randomly assume one possible value. So according to this, by observing the quantum world, we force it to choose one of several possible paths. Prior to this observation, or measurement, the microscopic world exists in a state of all possible paths at once. An electron does not spin up OR spin down. It is in a state of spin up AND spin down, at the same time. 

The Many-Worlds interpretation, on the other hand, postulated by Hugh Everett, says that the entire universe is in a state of superposition. A measurement may look like a particle has some set of properties, but that is not the overall reality. It posits that the world splits every time we think a quantum measurement is made. And that although we may see one thing in our world, there's another world in which another thing has happened. So for example, if we're trying to measure the spin state of an electron, the many-worlds interpretation says that the measuring device becomes entangled with the electron. This causes something called decoherence. The decoherence splits the universe in two, such that in one universe, the device measures spin up, and in the second universe, the device measures spin down. Both universes exist. We just happen to experience one of these universes. We touched on this as an answer to the quantum entanglement affecting a distant particle instantly and seemingly transmitting information faster than the speed of light. In many worlds no message needed to be sent as the choices of measurement of one entangled particle was already known in one of the many worlds and its corresponding particle thus already existed in one of the many worlds with its values.

This kind of decoherence is happening all the time. And in every instance this happens, the universe splits. So this is why it's called many worlds, because many such branches, or splits of the world exist simultaneously. So this both solves and raises new problems.

In the Copenhagen interpretation, there are two sets of rules. One set of rules applies to the system prior to measurement according to a wave equation, which is essentially a set of probabilities for the state of a quantum system, at any one time. And a different set of rules applies to systems after measurement has occurred. 

The many-worlds interpretation has just one set of rules for everything, and that rule is that all systems abide by and evolve over time, according to the Schrodinger equation. And there is no randomness because all possible outcomes are a branch of the many-worlds.

The randomness is just our perception because we only experience one of two branches. Now both interpretations are weird but there's some good points about the many-worlds idea. First it gets rid of the measurement problem. We use the same equations whether we measure something or we don't measure something. There's no special role for the observer. Second, it lets us apply quantum mechanics to the entire universe. This is quite elegant.

And three, there is no chance.

Let us always acknowledge that the Copenhagen interpretation is deeply freaky. How does observation on one side of the universe affect a particle on the other side. And it really does not give much of a hint at what constitutes an observation, one photon? And frankly, Copenhagen is not entirely helpful in providing any explanation about what is going on as the world condenses for the quantum eccentricity to our particular particular world.

In many worlds everything is completely specified by the Schrodinger Equation and nothing ever deviates from it. There is just one massive Schrodinger Equation for the entire universe that encompasses every quantum decision point. So for us as an observer we just see an electron spin that is left or right but there is another Ian created will see the opposite spin. No wave function collapse as every choice is within the propagating equation.

So where does all the energy come from, how is energy being conserved, why can’t I see this army of New Ians being produced constantly. The answer is so simple it is…

oh no. You are on a branch where I do not have the answer,  the other branch has such a clear solution, plus hard data supporting it, plus reproducible tests. I am so sorry that this rubbish universe gave you rubbish Ian. The others are all writing me positive reviews on iTunes, sharing this podcast with their friends who will all go out tonight and celebrate the one theory of everything. You, sadly, will be left unsatisfied, feeling more confused than ever and perhaps wondering if we will ever know the answer to life, the universe and everything. If only you had chosen the other branch.

At least this branch gets a consolation prize from The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Adams noted: “There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.”

Look out

 A Sauce a sauce, my kingdom for a sauce

Raspberry Vinaigrette

750g very ripe raspberries (other forest fruit can be substituted or added)

620ml white wine vinegar 

65g granulated sugar

100ml vodka or brandy

Put half of the fruit into a non-metallic bowl and pour on the wine vinegar, making sure the fruit is submerged. Cover the bowl with a tea-towel or cling film and leavein a cool place for 24 hours. This is the first maceration.

Strain the first maceration of fruit through a fine-meshed sieve into a clean bowl, pressing very lightly with the back of a ladle to extract as much juice as possible without pushing through any pulp. Add the remaining fruit to the extracted juice, then cover and leave to macerate as before for 24 hours.

Strain the fruit through a fine-meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl or top of a bain marie, pressing in the same way as before, then add the sugar and alcohol, and leave

until the sugar has dissolved. Stand the bowl over a pan

of hot water. Set over a high

heat and bring to the boil. Lower the heat so that the water is just bubbling gently

and cook the vinegar for hour, skimming from time to time and topping up the

bain-marie as necessary. The vinegar should remain at a constant 90°C throughout.

Pour the vinegar into a non-metallic bowl and leave in a cool place until cold.

Strain through a muslin-lined conical strainer and a funnel into a sterilised bottle

and cork it. The vinegar is now ready to use, and will keep for 3 weeks in the fridge.

If you liked that recipe, how about throwing caution to the wind and your swedes in the tumble dryer for the next in our series of 

The world’s worst recipes  - Mangoes Casserole

You will need:

  • 4 gallons of vegetable stock
  • 3 litres of beer
  • 3kg of linguine
  • 2 gallons of cold water
  • 3 mangoes


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C
  2. Barbecue the vegetable stock
  3. Put the beer in the saucepan
  4. Crush the linguine
  5. Throw away the cold water
  6. Curdle the mangoes
  7. Deflate the linguine
  8. The mangoes can only tell the truth, and the linguine can only tell lies
  9. Brine, Braise, Brown and Broil the vegetable stock
  10. Fold the mangoes
  11. Ice the vegetable stock
  12. Zest the linguine
  13. Simmer the beer
  14. Add everything to a large pan, cover and cook for 161 minutes


Are you fed up with non-intelligently designed humans, well we are introducing the new improved Humans 2.0. Ladies, does giving birth give you an owee? Female Humans 2.0 come with a birth canal that is 3cm wider and uses teflon water slide technology and includes a catcher’s mitt for all midwives as those babies will be coming right at you, fast. Are you embarrassed that your iPhone has three lenses and a zoom function yet your comical gelatinous orbs are stuck at 50mm? In Humans 2.0 we include a 7x zoom function, anti dust filter, focus adjuster in case eyes go out of calibration plus built in digital filters to make your friends’ children seem less ugly. Now that’s what I call intelligent design. Did you never master the Heimlich manoeuvre? Don’t bother as we have finally separated breathing from eating, that was some real moronic design. We have totally re-imagined the reproductive system, any city planer would have been fired for putting an amusement park next door to a sewage treatment plant, now all digestion products come out shrink wrapped and smelling of roses, just like the queen. We have moved men’s impulse control from between their legs to their brains and in return we have put the testicles into witness protection at an undisclosed location.

As Hamlet said to Resencrantz and Guildenstern “A foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man!” 

What did Shakespeare say about Humans 2.0? I praise you for your Humans 2 spot ought, your reasons at design have been sharp and sententious; pleasant without scurrility, witty without affectation, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange with-out heresy.

Thanks Will, now if I could just get you to write that as an Apple podcast review.

Sports that definitely should be in the olympics 

The fabulous Finnish sport of Wife Carrying.

Eukonkanto originated in Finland. Tales have been passed down of a man named  Ronkainen the Robber. In the late 1800s he lived in a forest, and ran around with his gang of thieves raiding the villages. Ronkainen and his thieves were accused of stealing food and abducting women from villages in the area he lived in, then carrying these women on their backs as they ran away. Wife carrying contests have taken place in Australia, the United States, Hong Kong, India, Germany, the UK (well obviously in the UK) and other parts of the world besides Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia, and the sport has a category in the Guinness Book of Records . Soon Ronkainen’s services were in much demand and the locals would drape jewels, fresh bread and golden harps around the necks of their wives to encourage the robbers to take them away. 

Whilst many countries uphold their own rules for wife carrying, we will start with the classic race, the Finnish Rules sport. The most important rule is Rule 1,   everyone involved must have fun. In fact the rules are the most tightly drafted legal documents ever since someone wrote on fridge magnets something about the right to bear arms blah blah well regulated militia blah blah free state, eggs, milk, coffee, leeks, sweet potatoes.

The onl­y stipulation is that the wife must be more than 17 years of age and weigh a minimum o­f 108 pounds (49 kg). If the wife weighs less than that, she must carry a weighted rucksack to make up the difference. The official length of the track is 831 feet (253.5 meters). The surface of the track includes sections of sand, grass and gravel. There are two obstacles to climb over, as well as a 1-meter- (3.2-feet-) deep water obstacle to wade through.

If a contestant drops his wife, he incurs a 15-second penalty. Indeed, wives are dropped all the time -- that's why they wear helmets. Officials also award special prizes for best costumes, which adds a festive element to the event.

Most competitors now use the Estonian carry technique. This involves one’s wife inserting her face 30cm up her husband’s arse crack and her legs wrap round his head. I asked the Finnish wife carrying council for an explanation of how this was not in contravention with rule 1.

If you are unmarried you can carry your neighbour’s wife or someone you found "further afield.” I can imagine some poor woman perusing the cheese counter in Waitrose when suddenly she is flung over the shoulder of a viking and whisked off through a water feature whilst wishing that bidets had been more widely adopted.

John Farra, 2006 winner of the North American Wife Carrying Championship, trained by running around his yard with an 80-pound (36-kg) bag of cement on his back. Sadly, after winning the championship he left his wife and is now living happily in Waxahachie Texas with Portia, the bag of Portland Cement.

In Local News from the Frenzied and Sustained diaspora

In news from Hobart, Tasmania a 67 year old woman injured herself whist walking on what abc Radio Hobart described as a remote Tasmanian Island. Can I just say that when Mick fawcett from Ambulance Tasmania refers to somewhere as remote, you need to believe him. He lives in Tasmania. Anyway, she hurt herself on the gorgeous Flinders Island but of course it was going to be a challenge to locate her. The responders sent her a link to the wonderful service what3words. This is a service that has identified every 3m square of earth and given them a unique three word sequence. So for example the Eastern Gate of the Taj Mahal is optimally mild spill. The Taj Mahal restaurant in London is name duke ideas. The curious thing about what3words is that the words are totally random, so you can move one step forwards and get a completely different result. So if I look in the window of the Taj Mahal in London I am suddenly at stays loose props. What about murky founding spoonfuls? That is the spot on the cliff where our injured hiker lay, and where she was recovered by a 4WD ambulance and taken to a Flinders Island Health Facility. So wherever you are on earth check out what3words, if you are having a fridge delivered in Flinders, want to meet friends at Blundstone Arena  (cloud tubby grail) just give them three words. You can use the website or the app on any phone. By the way, if you need to contact the uncontacted arrow people they are hanging out at carline greenroom unheated.

Literally the Last Section

In the centre of the mammalian brain there is a bunch of plumbing that creates, stores and drains cerebrospinal fluid. In between the two lateral ventricles there is the third ventricle and they are linked via the foramen of Monro and posteriorly to the aqueduct of Sylvius. Coincidentally, in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Grishnakh was a foramen of Monro and he fell into the aqueduct of Sylvius whilst trying to stab Merry. The walls of the third ventricle is lined with  a thin tough membrane called the Pia Mater. 

I mention this because in Love’s Labour’s Lost the teacher Holofernes explains that his gifts “are begot in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of the pia mater”.

So not only does Shakespeare know about a small structure in the middle of the brain he also makes a connection between it and memory.

Shakespeare makes at least nine references to the circulation of blood, even though William Harvey did not announce it to the world in 1616.

In fact let’s have a Shakespeare Covid-19 quote top 10

In at Act 4 Scene 1 of Timon of Athens “I shall beat thee, but I should infect my hands”

Another new entry at Henry VI Part2 Act 3 Scene 2 ““He shall not breathe infection in this air”

Second week at Act 2 Scene 3 of The Merry Wives of Windsor “In these times, you stand on distance, your passes, stoccadoes and I know not”

Down to Coriolanus Act 3 Scene 1 with “Pursue him to his house, and pluck him thence: Lest his infection, being of catching nature, Spread further.”

A climber this week up Henry IV part 1 place to Act 4 Scene 1 with “Sick now! droop now! this sickness doth infect The very life-blood of our enterprise”

Second entry in the charts for Coriolanus Act 1 Scene 4 and “You may be abhorr’d and one infect one another Against wind a mile” (a mile - Martius sure knew how to social distance)

Act 3 Scene 2 for Hamlet, back in the charts with “It is now the very witching time.. when churchyard yawn and hell itself breathing out

Contagion to the world”

Great to see Macbeth at  Act 3, Scene 6 with their socially distant “Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance His wisdom can provide.”

A PPE reminder from Cymbeline Act 5 Scene 5 is “By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too”

And at scene 1 for the fifth act running is Macbeth in  “It is her accustomed action with her, to seem thus washing her hands, I have known her continue this a quarter of an hour”

And if that is not convincing enough it appears that Camillo knew about asymptomatic spread in The Winter’s Tale’

There is a sickness  Which puts some of us in distemper, but  I cannot name the disease; and it is caught  

Of you that yet are well.

It is curious how Shakespeare picked up his knowledge. Shakespeare had lived in London in the early 1590s. The city at that time was a prolific breeding ground of disease because of crowded, unsanitary conditions. Rubbish littered the streets. Residents emptied chamber pots out windows. Brothels incubated syphilis. Dung clogged gutters and drains. Flies and rodents carried bacteria and viruses from one section of the city to another. Hygiene was almost nonexistent. Oh, sorry, that was the Northern line on Monday, but Elizabethan England was no joke either.

And if you are frustrated by the travel restrictions currently in place around the world spare a thought for Romeo and Juliet. Now I am the first to admit that their plan was hopelessly complicated and almost bound to fail. After the Capulets arrange for Juliet to marry Count Paris against her will, Friar Laurence devises a scheme to thwart the Capulets' plan. Juliet is to drink a drug that will render her unconscious and make her as pale and cold as a corpse for more than forty hours. Believing her dead, the Capulets will then place her in the family burial vault (presumably after a funeral). Meanwhile, Friar John will carry a message to Romeo, who is living in banishment in Mantua, explaining what has taken place. Romeo will secretly return to Verona and, after Juliet awakens, run away with her. All goes well after Juliet swallows the drug. However, because authorities mistake Friar John for a plague victim before he can leave Verona, they quarantine him in a house and seal the doors. Consequently, the message explaining the Friar Laurence's scheme never reaches Romeo. In the meantime, Romeo's servant—unaware of the friar's scheme—travels to Mantua and informs Romeo that Juliet has died. Despondent, Romeo buys a poison, returns to Verona, and takes the poison at the burial vault so he can die next to his beloved. When Juliet awakens and discovers Romeo's body, she kills herself with Romeo's dagger. It has always baffled me why they did not miss out the first eight steps and just run away with Juliet.

Of course whilst sitting at his writing desk looking out over London Shakespeare would have been able to observe a kaleidoscope of mental illness. So it is no surprise at the amount of dementia we see in his works. King lear probably had Pick’s disease, Hamlet may have been pretending to be insane but the details of the illness in either case are well etched. Lady Macbeth went nuts through guilt. She also had obsessive compulsive disorder with all her hand washing, or perhaps was merely following government advice. In Twelfth Night Sir Andrew Aguecheek, according to The Lancet, is suffering from portal systemic encephalopathy, with his impaired brain function being linked to the copious amount of red meat he consumes. The British Medical Journal diagnoses Edgar in King Lear with schizophrenia from his propensity to wear multiple layers of clothing.

Richard III was a psycho, and he knew it.

Not surprisingly syphilis featured frequently in Shakespeare’s works. In fact pox is mentioned in Cymbeline, Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II, Henry V, Hamlet, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Measure for Measure, Othello, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

Rosalind from As You Like It is very much in the Nurse Ratched school of mental illness treatment.  ‘Love is merely a madness, and I tell you deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do’.  Just before we leave Rosalind, in Act III she is a little embarrassed about Orlando’s poetry and she found the fact that he carved it into a tree childish. Can I just ask the question, considering the number of trees thus defiled over the ages, who are all these people bringing knives to a date.

And finally there is a lot of depression in Shakespeare. 

In the opening scene from The Merchant of Venice, the merchant Antonio confides to some friends:

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad:

It wearies me; you say it wearies you;

But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,

What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born,

I am to learn;

And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,

That I have much ado to know myself.

Antonio’s friends try to diagnose his problem, but the merchant 

denies he is sad because of business or love.

Salarino simply sums up Antonio’s problem:

Then let us say you are sad,

Because you are not merry

In Scene II Portia reflects Antonio’s mood.

By my troth, Nerissa, my little body is aweary of

this great world.

Nerissa tells Portia she has no right to be sad since her  good fortune outweighs any misery. I am sure this is the  advice some people give their friends suffering from  depression. But for those suffering from depression it is not simply a matter of counting our blessings when all they can do is focus on their problems.

In Hamlet, the melancholy Dane confides in his two school friends:

I have of late--but

wherefore I know not--lost all my mirth, forgone all

custom of exercises; 

This negative attitude naturally leads Hamlet to contemplate suicide.

To be, or not to be…

In Macbeth the new king’s depression is brought on by his sinful acts. Macbeth echoes the sentiments the depressed often feel:

...I am sick at heart...

...I have lived long enough…

At one point Macbeth asks a doctor if he cannot cure this disease.

Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased,

Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow,

Raze out the written troubles of the brain

And with some sweet oblivious antidote

Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff

Which weighs upon the heart?


The doctor replies:

Therein the patient

Must minister to himself.


I think that Macbeth had rather hoped for the full 40mg qd dose of Citalopram

And that is the end of literally the last section. It is also the end of this week’s podcast. In next week’s Frenzied and Sustained our Brainy Lecture we look at gene splicing with Crispr to understand the process and the potential as well as the risks. We welcome back out Songs under the Microscope with a special misheard lyrics edition and Literally smouldering in Literally the Last Section is my book review of 50 Shades of Grey.

We are well inside the top ten most listened to podcasts in the world, we have subscribers in 50 countries and 462 cities. If you suggest Frenzied and Sustained to someone this week I will give you a new joke. Sound reasonable. I will go first.

How many freudians does it take to change a light bulb. 2 One to screw in the lightbulb and the other to hold his pen…   ladder