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Spin is the story of Ray, a scientist who becomes obsessed with the physics of the accident that nearly killed him. For me, the essence this story is the struggle of a person who is unable to face his own fears and retreats from his life into a world of abstractions in which he feels safe.

The seed for Spin came from an event in my life. When I was twenty-one, I was suddenly forced to face my own mortality, and the fear that incident created in me has colored the way I’ve approached my life ever since. By coincidence, many of my friends went through similar experiences around the same time, so I also started thinking about how people with different backgrounds deal with their mortality in different ways. People with a strong religious perspective seemed to have the least fear of death, but among the people I know that kind of deep faith is rare. I have a scientific background, so I guess it was natural that I would turn to science in trying to come to terms with this paralyzing fear.

One sleepless night, I was struck by the idea that quantum physics could be interpreted to imply that, within my frame of reference, I was immortal. I immediately dismissed the idea as a far-fetched product of my vague, college-level understanding of the underlying physics, but in a strange way it gave me a lot of comfort. At the same time it was an extremely solipsistic way of looking at the world, and I became intrigued by that contradiction. It also touched on another theme that interests me, which is that we know so much about how the universe works that it can seem mechanistic and meaningless.

So I set out to write the script, and with a bit of trepidation I began studying the relevant physics. I was afraid my ideas would be so ludicrous as to invalidate the whole thing. To my surprise, I discovered that this strange idea that had come to me in the middle of the night had actually been proposed before, and is known among physicists as quantum immortality. It’s used as a thought experiment, and isn’t taken seriously as an interpretation of the physics, but I was amused that some actual physicists had speculated on the same ideas as me.

Although it is a movie about how a person with a scientific world-view deals with his mortality, Spin is not, at its heart, about science. In the end, I think that Ray’s reaction to his accident is not so different from how a deeply religious person might react to similar events. We live in a world where lofty ideals quite often take precedence over the mundane concerns of everyday life, and sometimes to the point where such abstractions are valued over human lives. Spin is not about science or religion, but about humanism. It’s about avoiding the trap of losing oneself in ideas—fighting to stay connected to the messy, dangerous, painful, priceless world of real life.

David Marmor