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Quantum Weirdness 102: Equal Time for the Cat

“I don’t like it, and I’m sorry I ever had anything to do with it.”
Erwin Schrödinger  (referring to Quantum Mechanics).

What better follow up to The Equation of Canine Chaos, then the infamous tale of Schrodinger’s Cat?

In Quantum Weirdness 101, we saw that the double-slit experiment revealed the wave-particle duality of sub-atomic quanta, and the fact that these troublesome little bits behave as if they are everywhere they could possibly be at once until an observer looks for them.  While the experimental proof that this happens is rock-solid, the explanation for what causes it is anything but.  For decades after its original discovery in the 1920’s, the predominant interpretation—essentially, in fact, the only one—was the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation.  It essentially states that the universe is just fuzzy on the sub-atomic level, it doesn’t affect our everyday macro-world, and we mortals should not worry about it otherwise.  Critics have said it is really no interpretation, and some facetiously call it the “shut-up-and-calculate” interpretation.   In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger posed perhaps the most famous mind experiment in all of physics to show that theoretically the Copenhagen Interpretation makes no sense.  More recently, physicists have been able to succeed in creating this quantum superposition with larger and larger bits of matter, which tends to shoot empirical holes in Copenhagen.

Anyway, this witty video does a good job of explaining the concept behind Schrodinger’s Cat.  And I’m pretty sure that no cats were harmed in its making—much to the chagrin of my dogs.

In the next installment: the many worlds interpretation of quantum weirdness.

Comments

  1. Mark, continuing on on Bell’s Theorem would be a logical continuation after reading this article. Bell’s hidden variables theorem, which has got a lot of experimental support by now, eventually comes down to unexpressed part of “Je pense donc je suis” by René Descartes. “I think, therefore I am” If I don’t think, therefore I don’t exist. Tonns of experimental data of recent decades suggests that Bell ( and Descartes ) are right and reality, despite Einstein’s not liking it, is a bunch of individual subjects coupled with their informational feeds, aka video games or world of the Matrix. No one will tell you that openly though. Even more, there is a red pill, but I will not go that way, it becomes too offending (and too crazy) for most of the people.

    • Dima–

      Excellent points, though I am trying to express my worldview in a manner that the less scientifically-oriented of my readers can comprehend, so I will probably keep the primer more basic than that. The bulk of my readers prefer the ridiculous posts anyway. But to expound on your point about Einstein and Bell, Alain Aspect probably put it all to rest in Bell’s favor with his famous experiment. (And with that handlebar stash he looks way cooler than ol’ Albert). In a “Millennium Conjecture” to come, I will talk about DesCartes, though, for sure.

  2. I see that the parser has mutilated my comment. Although it is not exactly what I’ve written, the essence is still there.

  3. Reblogged this on Hallidd's Weblog and commented:
    Like most people I am fascinated by physics. If I could add I’d probably be a world famous… Anyway here is a little blog about a cat. And Quantum physics.

    • Thanks for the reblog and for stopping by. You will find a mix of cosmic consciousness and cosmic satire here. Most of my readers seem to prefer the latter. Always nice to meet somebody who appreciates the science. 🙂

  4. Nicely done. This subject is a long-time interest of mine and I’m definitely sharing the video .

    • I must point out that I didn’t make the video, just imbedded it. But if you like this post, you may enjoy my discussions on these matters. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Mike Walsh says:

    For an interesting take on quantum mechanics check out, “God is not Dead” by Amit Goswami.I recommend the book regardless of the spiritual implications. Amit was a
    professor of theoretical physics at the University of Oregon for over
    30 years. It’s a fun read. Sometimes pretty wild but a lot of his theories are
    solid and offer a nice workout for the imagination. Amit is not religious and is
    probably speaking more from an eastern philosophy viewpoint. As he says there
    are those who would call this concept God, as it can fit into a model for people
    who are inclined to think that way or on the other side of the coin they could
    call it quantum consciousness which is I think the terminology he prefers.
    You may have seen Amit in the movie, ” What the bleep do we know”. His theory harmonizes science and religion certainly but does not in of itself promote either one sided view. He attacks the materialist as well as the creationist and fundamental christianity. In his world quantum consciousness is God because there is downward causation and purposeful action working in the tangled heirarchy of the wave function. In this way it adds a missing dimension to materialist science and an individual and collective purpose to life.

    • I would assume that “God” is used metaphorically here the same way Einstein used the term when he said “God does not play dice.”

      • Mike Walsh says:

        I believe so. Although he believes in evolution he debunks Darwinism. Although he correlates his theory to Biblical philosophy he debunks christianity. While Einstein may have been a deist Amit believes the quantum consciousness is active in the world and that we all can tap into it. Suffice it to say it’s fairly complicated but it’s this quantum consciousness that allows the physical being to condense the possibilites of the wave function into a tangible reality

  6. Mike Walsh says:

    It’s the quantum mechanism for E=mc2

  7. I totally agree with Mike. Nice blog.

  8. I’m relating to you for 2 reasons! One, my son Jack LOVES the Schrodinger cat story ever since seeing it on an episode of the Big Bang Theory. And TWO, I haven’t had cable TV in like 3 years, so my friend was showing me the Most Interesting Man in the World videos yesterday…and I just happened to read your little bio next to the photo. Too funny. 🙂 Very interesting blog!

  9. Have you seen this revisitation of Schrodinger?

    http://edge.org/conversation/what-is-life

  10. I like to think about it in this way: the fact that the cat could be alive or, in equal probability, could be dead inside the box, and you don’t know, doesn’t mean it IS both alive and dead until you look. It just means you don’t know until you look.
    Your blog looks very interesting and I think I might just have to follow it. Thanks for liking my post on Fractal Dimensions!

    • That is the whole point of the mental exercise–to point out the incongruity of the Copenhagen interpretation. The Many Worlds interpretation says the universe splits in two, with the cat alive in one universe and dead in the other–and we see the appropriate result for the Universe we are in when we look in the box.

      • Yes, I’ve seen this interpretation. Do you think it’s necessary to interpret it that way? Why can’t probability exist just as probability rather than multiple outcomes?

Trackbacks

  1. […] that every possible future exists can emerge from either one of them.  (See Quantum Weirdness 102 and 103 in this blog for an explanation of both […]

  2. […] was wrong.  Well, I don’t know about the moon, as that invokes the infamous Schrödinger’s Cat problem and it’s obfuscation of the Copenhagen Interpretation.  But for those tiny little […]

  3. […] that every possible future exists can emerge from either one of them.  (See Quantum Weirdness 102 and 103 in The Millennium Conjectures™ for an explanation of both […]

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