Has the World Gone Mad? Ponderings on Collective Memory

Stan and Jan Berenstain published the first Berenstain Bears book (the Big Honey Hunt) in 1962, and the series has gone on to capture the hearts and minds of children across generations and across the globe. In the 50+ years since “The Big Honey Hunt,” the Bear family has grown from three to five members; the Berenstain Bears have been translated into over a dozen languages; and over 300 million books have been sold worldwide.  The Berenstain Bears are a huge success, by any measurement.

Only.. they aren’t real.

I worked in bookstores during my young adulthood.  If I had a nickel for Berenstain bear book I’ve put on a shelf, I’d have.. well, a buttload of nickels.  I’m not what you’d call an authority on the subject, but I can tell you one thing: there is no such thing as Berenstain Bears.  This is how I recall them:


Do you see it?  The critical difference?  That’s right.  It’s spelled BerenstEin Bears, with an “E”.  That’s what I remember putting on the shelf.  That’s what I wrote in on the reorder or return forms.  It was Berenstein, end of story.  When my son approached me with a serious expression yesterday, and asked “how do you spell Berenstein Bears, dad”?  I told him.  He pointed out that the proper, published version of the series was BerenstAin Bears, with an “A”… in this universe.   This is where it gets a little freaky.  Nobody I know spells Berenstain with an A.  I’ve asked a dozen people since having that conversation, and the consensus was that the popular series about an anthropomorphic sermonizing grizzly bear family  is spelled exactly as you see it in the picture above.  The truly weird part is..  the world of physical objects does not “bear” it out.  Wikipedia uses the “A”.  Google uses the “A”.  Even my favorite Berenstein Bears parodies use the A:

See?  Even the internet wags are agreeing with the powers that be.  This universe, this world of things and information, is telling me that my memory is wrong.  And hey, it might be.. I think memory can be selective, individually.  But that circles us around to a fundamental point.  So many people remember this series as “Berenstein”, not “Berenstain”, I begin to see something sinister at work.  And I’m not alone.

After getting the hook firmly in mouth after my son solemnly pronounced the Berenst#in Bears problem, I did a little looking, then a little more, then a lot more.  I am NOT the only one who thinks the Berenstains are spelled incorrectly.  Now, in this universe.  A young Physics graduate student named “Reece” first outlined this problem in his blog, the Wood Between Worlds (a good read, now I’m subscribing) back in 2012.  He noted the odd spelling of Berenst#in in Jan Berenst#in’s obituary.  This caused him to double check, and, like I am right now, get a little weirded out.  Reece’s training in physics caused him to arrive at a novel conclusion,  which can be summed up as:

Here’s the thing.  These books play such a huge role in the collective memories of so many people, all of whom clearly and distinctly remember “BerenstEin”, that I am not the first to propose the notion that somehow, at some time in the last 10 years or so, reality has been tampered with and history has been retroactively changed.  The bears really were called the “BerenstEin Bears” when we were growing up, but now reality has been altered such that the name of the bears has been changed post hoc.

In 1992 they were “stEin” in 1992, but in 2012 they were “stAin” in 1992.   (from the Wood Between Worlds, 2012, by “Reece”)

There’s some dandy math justification in the broader article. Follow the link above.   Essentially, ” the stEin and the stAin universes are actually just different hexadectants of the same universe: in the stEin universe, all three spatial dimensions are real and time is imaginary; in the stAin universe, all three spatial dimensions are imaginary and time is real.  Of course, from the standpoint of stEin/stAin this won’t produce any mathematically significant difference; it’s the same as choosing (+++-) or (—+) convention for Minkowski space, which at the end doesn’t alter predictions or measurements.  We’d never know if we did swap.”  (Ibid)

This seems to be a very technical approach to describing the multiverse theory, where many physicists have postulated that the universe is really a near-infinitude of near-mirror equivalent universe exist side by side, with the differences between the two to be so tiny as to be meaningless– maybe a sign is 3 feet to the left universe A and 3 feet to the right in universe B, for example.  Before we snort and say “So what, so there’s been some form of bleed-over from the A universe into ours.  What’s the harm”?   Well, perhaps nothing, but if you accept that tiny differences add up to something undetectable, then the actual spelling difference between Stein and Stain is much more than semantics; it’s a huge change!   So what do we do now? Wait for the universe to realign itself properly?

I know there’s a big box of kid’s books abandoned in the basement.  They date back to before 1992, when Reece postulates that the rift took place.  I know we have some Berenst#in bears books in there.  I’m almost afraid to go check!