Saturday, September 08, 2007

With a Mild Apology to Mike Beversluis

Lifted from the Mike Beversluis blog.


Blogger erp said...


September 08, 2007 6:46 AM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

I don't know where it came from myself, so no need for attribution.

erp: Schroedinger's cat is a thought experiment designed to make the weirdness of microscopic quantum mechanics appear at macroscopic scales.

The gist of it is, the cat is put into an experiment that may or may not result in it's poisoning depending on the quantum state of a particle. But according to QM, the particle actually exists in both states simultaneously and doesn't definitely become one until someone measures it. Since the cat's life depends on the particle state, the cat too is simultaneously dead and alive (until you look at it, then it's one or the other). This is deeply weird, and has been a largely intractable paradox for the last 70 years. So far, the deep blue sea of alternative theories are more troubling than the devil we know.

September 08, 2007 7:28 AM  
Blogger erp said...

My older son is a theoretical physicist who passed me when he was about twelve. His younger brother who didn't have his ability for abstract thought was having a bit of a problem with his Logic class. Thinking to clarify things, I said, just remember that things can't be and not be at the same time.

Not so, said the older brother who gave an explanation that's only accessible to people who can see and hear on an entirely different plane than we ordinary mortals. Since that conversation took place a long time ago and I can't remember it, if I actually understand it at the time, I wonder if I'm correct in thinking it was similar to your explanation of Schroedinger's cat.

September 08, 2007 8:06 AM  
Blogger monix said...

I am very grateful to you for this post and the explanation. Over lunch today my husband was telling a story about some children searching for their missing cat and he almost choked when I slipped in a little joke about it perhaps being Schroedinger's cat. I did have to spend the rest of the meal listening to incomprehensible descriptions of quantum physics, astro physics and the like but it was worth it for that moment of pure astonishment!

September 09, 2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger Mike Beversluis said...

Happy to be of service.

Physics and mathematics, both, have deep paradoxes at their dark hearts. To paraphrase von Neumann, you never really understand them as much as you get used to them. Which is true of a lot of things...

September 09, 2007 4:16 PM  

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