John Archibald Wheeler was an American theoretical physicist. He was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission. Together with Gregory Breit, Wheeler developed the concept of the Breit–Wheeler process. He is best known for linking the term "black hole" to objects with gravitational collapse already predicted early in the 20th century, for coining the terms "quantum foam", "neutron moderator", "wormhole" and "it from bit", and for hypothesizing the "one-electron universe".
Wheeler speculated that reality is created by observers in the universe. "How does something arise from nothing?", he asked about the existence of space and time. He also coined the term "Participatory Anthropic Principle" (PAP), a version of a Strong Anthropic Principle. In 1990, Wheeler suggested that information is fundamental to the physics of the universe. According to this "it from bit" doctrine, all things physical are information-theoretic in origin.
An attempt to illustrate the universe’s reflective, metacognitive nature.
January 1, 1988
≈ 50 minutes
The quantum, strangest feature of this strange universe, cracks the armor that conceals the secret of existence. In contrast to the view that the universe is a machine governed by some magic equation, we explore here the view that the world is a self-synthesizing system of existences, built on observer-participancy via a network of elementary quantum phenomena. The elementary quantum phenomenon in the sense of Bohr, the elementary act of observer-participancy, develops definiteness out of indeterminism, secures a communicable reply in response to a well-defined question. The rate of carrying out such yes-no determinations, and their accumulated number, are both minuscule today when compared to the rate and number to be anticipated in the billions of years yet to come. The coming explosion of life opens the door, however, to an all-encompassing role for observer-participancy: to build, in time to come, no minor part of what we call its past-our past, present, and future-but this whole vast world.