Sunday, 1 May 2011

Chris Port Blog #248. Some Notes on Schrödinger’s Cat

© Chris Port, 2011

Ψ (Schrödinger’s wave function)
is a naughty pawprint of a problem.

Consider the humble electron.
Consider where it is,
where it is going
and how fast.
What would you say?
Well, first you must measure.

Let’s shine some light on the problem.
This electron
is really terribly small
and easily upset.
Let’s be really clever and subtle
(perhaps the devious might say).

But you cannot use
an infinitely small
amount of light.

If there were an infinite number of wavelengths
then stars would radiate
infinite heat
in a snap.

So… sorry ladies.
Energy comes in discrete packets
called quanta.

You must use at least
one photon of light.

Use a high-frequency one
- a sharper one, if you like.
That will tell you more accurately
where the electron is.

But (unfortunately)
it will disturb the electron’s progress
in ways that you cannot predict.
Not much use
if you need to know
where it is going
and how fast.

Alright then.
Use a low-frequency photon
- a softer one, if you like.
That will affect it less.
But (unfortunately),
being soft and vague,
it will not tell you very much
about where the electron is.
Not much use then.

You’re fucked
by a built-in balancing act
of the universe.

The more we try to measure something
the more we affect it
in ways that we cannot predict.
So… all that we really measure
is our own interference.

All possibilities
in a wave function
til someone shines some light
on the problem
and makes a measurement.
Then, they collapse
and create one result
which you call ‘reality’.

Listen carefully and think
you fiddler of electrons
- the act of measurement
creates the result.

So why do some people ‘think’
that their so-called ‘intuition’
(their ‘soft’ and ‘subtle’ measurement)
is anything other
than self-fulfilling

All they measure
is themselves.

You cannot observe someone
without affecting them
in ways that you cannot predict.
So think about your opinion
before creating someone else’s result.

It is not the insufferable arrogance
or the smug stupidity
which claws at the throat
like vomit.
It is the destruction
of limitless possibilities
for petty certainties
that lack all conviction.

Naughty cat.
Get back in the box.
Take this with you
- a small radioactive mass
with a probable rate of decay
of one electron per hour
and a Geiger counter
rigged to a phial
of sarin gas.

Consider the humble electron.
Will it decay
or won’t it?
Will it trigger the gas
or not?
The act of measurement
creates the result.

Both possibilities
in a wave function
til someone
makes the measurement.
Are you alive
or dead
or somehow both
at the same time?

I’ll leave you alone for a while
to think
- then, very softly
and subtly,
I’ll open the box
and we shall see Ψ

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