This more than interesting article appeared in Vice. Do you feel like you woke up in a different version of your reality?
Cynthia Sue Larson has been on the lookout since July 5, when CERN turned the world’s most powerful particle collider back on for a third time. Larson is looking for “reality shifts and Mandela Effects,” or evidence of multiple universes, timelines, rips in the space-time continuum, or other evidence that reality as we know it has been distorted by the Large Hadron Collider.
“I’ve been paying attention to see whether reports of Mandela Effects might increase, now that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider fired back up again,” Larson, the author of Reality Shifts and Quantum Jumps, told Motherboard. “So far I’ve not yet noticed large-scale reports of new Mandela Effects in the past day or so, though it does seem there is a large and growing interest in the Mandela Effect.”
CERN has noticed.
“I’ve seen a lot of videos go viral making claims about CERN, and when I see that it tells me we need to communicate even further, because they’re getting informed by the conspiracy theories they hear,” Clara Nellist, a particle physicist who works on CERN’s ATLAS, a Large Hadron Collider experiment seeking to learn more about the basic building blocks of matter, the fundamental forces of nature, and what dark matter is made of told Motherboard. Nellist posts on TikTok as @ParticleClara about the Large Hadron Collider and, sometimes, about CERN conspiracy theories. A recent stitch of hers plays out like this:
“Since when does ‘Double STUFFED’ Oreos,” a TikToker says, gesturing to a package that says “Double Stuf” Oreos.
“Look, bro, just because you misremembered something does not mean CERN is going around changing your Oreos," Nellist cuts in. "There are much higher energy particle collisions happening in our atmosphere all the time. What CERN is doing is tiny in comparison. I can promise you we’re not going around changing the labels on your food.”
The Mandela Effect, in which large numbers of people all misremember the same thing about pop culture (it's always been "Double Stuf" Oreos), is a highly interesting conspiracy theory, in part because it is verifiably real. Scientists at the University of Chicago recently described it as “an internet phenomenon describing shared and consistent false memories for specific icons in popular culture." Their paper described an empirically observable phenomenon that persisted across people with no clear explanation. Where things get difficult is when people suggest that CERN—an organization that studies physics phenomena—is cast as potentially causing those phenomena. A mix of conspiracy theorists, researchers like Larson, and regular people have been searching for an explanation for this collective cognitive dissonance and false memory for decades. The International Mandela Effect Conference (IMEC) is a group that broadly studies the phenomenon and held conferences in 2019 and 2020 for people who swear that the “Berenstain Bears” were actually the “Berenstein Bears,” that the Monopoly Man wore a monocle (he doesn’t and never has), that there was a movie called “Shazaam” that featured Sinbad as a genie, and, of course, that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 1980s (he didn’t).
The current leading theory among a subset of true believers is that Mandela Effects are evidence of multiple timelines, universes, ripping of spacetime, or another physics phenomenon. The thinking here is that there actually was a movie called Shazaam for a specific subset of the population who lived in one universe or version of reality, and those people have somehow either collectively switched realities, or reality itself has shifted, and a certain subset of the population has a collective memory of what things were like in the before times, when it was “Looney Toons” instead of “Looney Tunes,” for example.
“I've had the great good fortune to witness thousands of reality shifts and Mandela Effects, including some that have ‘flip-flopped,’ or gone first one way, and then another—which has led me to contemplate that as physicists Leonard Susskind and Raphael Bousso suggested, ‘the many-worlds interpretation and the multiverse of eternal inflation are one and the same thing,’” Larson said.
This theory is particularly popular on TikTok, where a supposed whistleblower account called “cernopeningparalleldimen” has repeatedly gone viral, claiming to millions of people that, for example, the “particle collider is changing the weather around the planet,” or that “CERN is opening parallel dimensions that … causes the change in the climate.” Dozens of other accounts, with millions upon millions of views, have posted conspiracy theories about how the Large Hadron Collider was set to open “wormholes,” “portals,” “mirror dimensions,” “alternate dimensions,” and so-on and so-forth. On the r/conspiracy subreddit, a popular post states “Let the Mandela Effects begin … CERN was successful with the Large Hadron Collider run3. Let’s start archiving possible changes in our ‘new’ reality.” There is no actual evidence that CERN has anything to do with the Mandela Effect, of course. While Larson and the International Mandela Effect Conference board of directors are open to the theory that CERN is responsible for some Mandela Effects, neither believes it can explain the entirety of the Mandela Effects they have experienced. “The CERN topic has definitely been a major topic of discussion lately,” the IMEC Board of Directors, which includes Larson, Jerry "Darkwolf" Hicks, Christopher Anatra ("The Quantum Businessman"), and Shane Robinson, who runs the website "Unbiased on the Fence," told Motherboard in an email. “At IMEC we are very interested in what could be causing this incredible phenomena. We have looked at a variety of possible causes including the CERN theory. CERN is just as valid of a theory as any other at this point, though we cannot officially say for certain that it is the main contributing factor to the Mandela Effect.” Larson separately told Motherboard that the “earliest Mandela Effects were happening long before CERN's LHC fired up, so clearly the LHC is not the only factor to consider with the Mandela Effect.”