The Mandela Effect

Man, I sure do get a lot of mail from physics fans. Let’s see what today’s haul is,

shall we, Albert?

We got another one about the Mandela effect. This is just getting out of hand.

What? You don’t remember the Mandela effect? The Nelson Mandela one?

You don’t, huh? Okay, well, the Mandela effect is this pretty crazy idea that pops

up from time to time.

The name comes from Nelson Mandela, who was a political activist in Africa. He fought

against the horrible apartheid system in South Africa and was incarcerated from the 60s to


Some people claim to remember him dying in prison in the 1980s when, in reality, he was

released from prison, helped overturn apartheid, and went on to be the President of South Africa

for five years. He eventually died in 2013.

It seems that some people combine their fuzzy and obviously unreliable memories of Mandela’s

death in the 1980s with his subsequent release and presidency and somehow conclude that we

are somehow sliding between parallel universes.

Can you believe that, Albert?

These people have a variety of ideas about how the transfer between parallel universes

occurs, from some sort of natural phenomena, to it being caused by the Large Hadron Collider

in Europe.

Crazy, huh?

And that’s not the only example people cite. People remember the name of the Berenstain

Bears books- that’s with an “A I N”- as once being Berenstein Bears- that’s with

an “E I N”.

Or a lot of people will swear that in the original version of the Star Wars movie “The

Empire Strikes Back” that Darth Vader said “Luke, I am your Father” when what he

really said was

“No, I am your Father.”

There are tons and tons of claims like those that you can find on the internet if you want.

It’s really quite depressing.

And Albert, this is just obviously silly. I mean, even if we actually were sliding between

parallel universes- and, of course, we’re not- how is it that our memories could survive

the change? I mean, memories are preserved in our brain. And those memories would change

as we shifted from one universe to another.

And then, there are a few people who claim our bodies are getting transported to other

universes where things were always different. But thinking that that could happen without

anyone noticing is really approaching tinfoil territory.

The best proof of this is the Berenstain Bears example. You could go to every library on

the planet and ask people to dig out their books and every one of them would be of the

A-I-N version. People who believe in the Mandela Effect would say that this makes sense because

either we moved into a world in which the spelling was always right or because the change

occurred everywhere in our universe.

But if we moved into another universe, we’d also move into one in which our brains always

lived in the A-I-N universe. And if the change occurred in our universe, you have to remember

that books are made of molecules just like our brains.

Unless the change was somehow confined to those just particular books, the changes to

the brain atoms and the book atoms would have to be the same. We certainly wouldn’t remember

this differently.

So this Mandela Effect thing is simply silly and just isn’t true. I’m telling you Albert,

I wish people would just get over it and stop sending me mail and email about it.