The Schrodinger Cat


The Schrodinger Cat thought experiment was originally thought up by the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger in 1926 to highlight the ridiculousness of quantum physics, it now is being used as an example to describe how quantum physics really is. In the thought experiment a cat is locked into a closed box with a radioactive substance which ejects a radioactive particle at random intervals,there is also a radiation detector in the box which will detect this radioactive particle if it is ejected, if a radioactive particle is detected a gun goes off which kills the cat. The box is soundproof& all the walls are opaque so the only way of telling if the cat isdead is by opening the box. The rules of quantum physics dictate that the cat is in a superposition of states, both alive & dead until the box is opened & observed this observing causes a “crystallizing of reality” which in quantum physics is called the “collapse of the wave function’. Some quantum physicists don’t believe in these alternate realities I personally do & will be discussing them in the rest of the Blog as though they do exist see Chris Everetts Many Worlds Interpretation.

To date cannot be proven one way or the other whether simply a detector causes this “crystallizing of reality” or whether a conscious observer is ultimately required. As conscious observer is always required to ultimately view the results of an experiment we cannot say & this has been wrecking the heads of scientists & philosophers for 80 years. Many books on science & spirituality have been published of which this is one which quoting exactly a highly intelligent atheist colleague of mine who also has a strong interest in physics take the format of..

quantum physics - > observer - > consciousness - > bullshit.

pardon the French! an observer to some athiests is just a measurement device this causes headaches as the physics stays consistent irrespective of whether the results of the measurement device are ultimately observed by a conscious observer or not even in 100 years time from a recording device.

If it can be indeed shown somehow that an consciousness is required to collapse the wavefunction the atheists would be running for the hills! That said a more speculative definition of consciousness is that it is that property which collapses the wavefunction. On a religious note our wavefunctions may be collapsed because God is watching Us.

Other bizarre oddities of quantum physics well worth researching on the Internet are The Elitzur-Vaidman bomb testing problem which has been verified experimentally. This allows one to test if the fuse of a bomb is a dud & find a guaranteed good one without exploding it given a large supply of questionable ones. Bomb tester explanation below.






Wheelers delayed choice experiment is also interesting philosophically in that one can influence which slit a photon of light does through in the past simply by blocking it. This however is not quite as interesting as a photon of light oddly enough being massless travels at the speed of light & as a consequence of this is from own perspective in spacetime according to Einstein’s theory of Relativity has no concept of time, our past present & future is the light beams present it also has no concept of distance in it's own timeframe. This is far more interesting for electrons than photons which have mass so you are truly influencing the past in all spacetime frames.

Wheeler delayed choice experiment explained excellently by Ross Rhodes

One of the greatest mysteries to science is why the constants of physics are what they are. Especially why gravity is so much weaker than the electromagnetic force, an example of this is when you run a plastic comb through your hair to pick up a piece of paper you are overcoming the gravitational force of the entire Earth! The strong anthropic principle states that the Universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history. In other words the a Universe cannot form unless there are conscious observers to watch it at some stage in its history.

Anthropic principles generally freak atheists & is seen as a scientific cop out that imply the existence of God. Lets take a quick look at how this principle ties the constants of physics for us here on Earth. If everything was massless and moved at the speed of light according to the theory of relativity the universe would be over in an instant, God had to invent mass. If gravity was say 6 times stronger we humans would probably be unable to move. If it were 6 times weaker like the Moon the Earth would have no atmosphere, this would mean we could not use air all around us for the chemical reactions needed for life to take place & their would be no foodchain. If nuclear forces were even slightly different the Sun would not be able to make the Carbon-12 so vital to life on Earth. My distant cousin John D. Barrow has written a few masterful books on the subject, The constants of Nature, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle.

About the Author

D.J. Barrow is a Linux Consultant and Engineer based near Cork, Ireland, his website is here

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