Monday, June 11, 2018

Quantum Facts

You know, as usual, I am behind the curve. If that is the right thing to say of my sort of person. You know, the guy who wears narrow trousers when bell-bottoms are all the rage and proudly struts around in bell-bottoms when the world is gaga over jeans. That sort of person.

So, yes, I was bemoaning the fact that I could not form opinions without knowing facts. Of course I had no idea that quantum physics had invaded the real world.

Yeah, I know, you are astounded at the thought. (Not at the thought of quantum physics invading the real world but at the thought that I even know that there is some such thing as quantum physics? You @#$%) You see, in quantum physics, unless there is an observer, a thing has not happened. So, apparently, all possible outcomes are inherent in a situation but NONE of them have become reality as long as there is no observer.

This chap called Schrodinger then went on to create an elaborate paradox around it. The so-called Schrodinger's cat.

So, if there is this cat in the locked box, which cannot be seen through, along with a radioactive atom (with a long half-life one presumes) and a Geiger counter. The Geiger counter is set up such that it will break a vial of cyanide if it gets a reading of radioactivity. AND the cat will die. Radioactive atoms may or may not decay and, so, the cat may be alive or dead. (THAT half-life thingy? It means that at the end of the half-life, the lump of radioactive material will have decayed by 50%, which means that the other 50% has still not decayed. AND over the period equivalent to the half life in the next round only 50% of what remains will decay. So, any given radioactive atom may never decay in the lifetime of even the Sun...or decay almost before you close the door on the box). When the box is opened, you will see either a live cat or a dead cat. The question is about whether the cat is alive or dead or 'neither dead nor alive' before the box is opened and the situation observed. (Coma? THAT's not an option, thank you. Schrodinger, thankfully for him, did not have to face up to helpful suggestions like this.)

See, the elaborate arrangement with atoms and Geiger counters and all? THAT's because, this thing about the Observer deciding the reality was supposed to exist only in the quantum world. Which means, in this whole set-up, it is the state of the radioactive atom - whether it has decayed or not - is indeterminate till it is observed. So, naturally, whether the cyanide vial is broken or not also becomes indeterminate, thanks to the Geiger Counter set-up, and thus the cat's life is also depends on being observed. In the macro-universe it does not work that way. Or so, Schrodinger and his fellow-physicists thought in their day. They also thought that, once it is observed, the situation resolves itself to ONE reality for ALL observers.

Now...ah, now...

Now, AFTER the box is opened...

Observer 1: "The cat is alive"
Observer 2: "The cat is obviously dead."
Observer 3: "There is a cat. But where is the box?"
Observer 4: "There is a box. Where is the cat?"
Observer 5: "THAT's a cat? You blind idiots cannot even recognize a monkey when you see one."
Observer 6: "What cat? What box? What monkey? There is nothing here."
Observer 7:.....

AND THAT is what Schrodinger escaped by dying. NOW not only does the Observer decide the fact, even in the regular world, but there are as many alternate facts as there are observers.

And I was talking of forming opinions only based on facts. Without realizing that the important question is 'Which set of facts?'

When oh when will I catch up with the curve?


  1. Epic scene from an old Vishu movie comes to my mind - "Paythiakara aspatrila paythingalku vaidiyam paakara doctor... " :) :) :)