A Blog for the Curious and the Scientifically Perplexed

This is the story of a great journey that started with a great thought. One day in 1895 a boy looked into a mirror and wondered what the universe would look like if he could travel on a beam of light. That sixteen year old boy was Albert Einstein and that one thought started him on the road to discover his Theory of Relativity. The great man has been reinvented as Albert 2.0 to come back and blog about a journey through space on a beam of light and explain the science behind everything from atoms, blackholes to global warming. If you've just joined and want to start at the beginning use the index on the left. If you're bored try these links below just for fun.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quantum mechanics for cat lovers – Newton strikes back.

Let me you ask you a question. If you close your eyes does the world still exist?

“Of course it does. What a daft question.”

How do you know?

“Well, I can feel the chair I am sitting on. I can hear noise from the street outside.”

Yes but what if a tree falls in the middle of a forest and no-one sees or hears it falling?

“It still happens because the world exists, we are just part of it.”

You believe that the world is a physical reality?

“Of course, why are you asking these crazy questions?”

To show why I had such a hard time believing in Quantum mechanics. At the start of all this back in the 1920’s all of us theoretical physicists were excited by what we discovered about light and atoms. Then some people like my friend Niels Bohr took quantum mechanics to an extreme and claimed that nothing exists until it is measured. A tree wouldn’t really have fallen until someone went to see.

“So the big bang didn’t happen until someone came along and could measure it?”

Crazy idea, huh?

“Raving. If the universe couldn’t have been born until someone checked it had happened where did that person come from?”

Brilliant, now you’re thinking. Do you know what we call that? A paradox, where something contradicts itself or common sense. Quantum mechanics is full of them and I spent a lot of time tormenting Niels Bohr with paradoxes but he still believed in quantum mechanics. The crazier it got the more he believed in it. Niels Bohr once said if quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet.

“Well I’m shocked and I’m still not sure I understand it. How did they even start to believe this?”

In quantum mechanics any situation is a blend of every possible option of what might happen and this blend is called a wave function. This seems to work for light. Sometimes light can act as a particle and sometimes as a wave. Niels Bohr and his friends showed that atoms seem to follow the same rules. As the world is made of atoms, the world must follow the rules of quantum mechanics. Obviously in the real world doesn't spend its life sitting on the fence, things just happen. But in quantum mechanics things happen only when this wave function collapses and only one possibility is left.

"What on earth does that mean?"

Sorry that’s the sort of jargon quantum mechanics use all the time. It means that at some point a situation has to stop having every possible outcome. When an event is observed then all the other possibilities suddenly disappear.

"Hmmm. Still not sure I get this at all."

It's like saying that the universe is based on chance. One enormous casino. What happens next is based on chance not on an absolute certainty. Imagine the universe as a horse race with lots of evenly matched horses. Until the race is over you can't tell which horse is going to win. With quantum mechanics the idea is that the race isn't over until someone decides to check on the result. This is where the science fiction idea of ‘parallel universes’ comes from. If every possible outcome is waiting to happen perhaps it really does happen in another quantum universe. Every horse wins in some reality.

“Gamblers must love quantum mechanics, but it seems too weird to be true.”

That’s what I started to think. But it wasn’t just me. A friend of mine Erwin Schrödinger was the man who first discovered the equations that quantum mechanics relies on. Even he couldn’t believe the idea that nothing happens until someone looks to check it. He invented the most famous cat in science - Schrödinger's cat. If nothing happens until it is observed then imagine the following. A cat is put in a box with a small gadget that will release poison.

"A real cat?"

No this is just an imaginary cat, so whatever happens the cat doesn't really get harmed. Like this journey, it's what is called a ‘thought experiment’ as you have to imagine it happening.

“OK, I’m sure I want to even imagine poisoning a cat but let’s hear where this is going.”

This poison will be released by something that is controlled by the laws of quantum mechanics, for example radioactive decay. Radioactive atoms are ones that are unstable and spontaneously break down into smaller atoms. So there is a lump of radioactive material and a device to detect if an atom has broken down. This atomic break-up has a 50:50 chance of happening in one hour. According to quantum mechanics, until the box is opened an hour later both outcomes should co-exist. The cat should be both dead and alive at the same time until someone observes the result.

"Can't the cat tell if it's dead or not?"

Only if it's alive.

"Hmmm. That’s as daft as the ancient Greeks thinking that seeing involved feeling rays coming out of the eyes."

Well despite what some people think, this story was meant to show how Niels Bohr’s interpretation of quantum mechanics was wrong. It was just an interpretation. I think there is an easier way of thinking about this. Quantum mechanics does seem to explain a lot of things about atoms and light. This craziness of a cat that is both dead and alive only applies if you stick to the idea that everything happens until it is measured by a person. There is no paradox if you just change to the idea that a quantum event happens when the result interacts with anything. When the radioactive atom in the box decays, the cat will only die when the radioactivity detector in the box detects it. When a particle that follows quantum mechanics interacts with anything it has to commit to being one thing or another. So a quantum mechanic event can set up a sequence of events that end up with a cat that is dead or alive without needing it be both at the same time.

“I thought you didn’t believe in quantum mechanics?”

Well I didn’t believe the extreme version, but perhaps in my re-creation inside this computer I’ve mellowed a bit. All this cat really tells us about quantum mechanics is that trying to use quantum mechanics to explain normal day-to-day life doesn't work. Understanding atoms doesn't help you understand a whole cat, but then again understanding cats doesn't help you understand atoms, so it works both ways. At the end of the day quantum mechanics does make sense in its own realm and offers explanations for strange effects that have no other explanation. My problem with quantum mechanics was summed in the my idea that 'God doesn't play dice'. Everyone seems to remember that but do you know not what Niels Bohr said in reply?


It is not the job of scientists to prescribe to God how he should run the world. Not a bad reply I think. My real problem with quantum mechanics was that I couldn’t see why the universe would have one set of rules for big objects and another set of rules for the particles inside atoms. I spent most of the second half of my life trying to join this all together into one beautiful theory of everything.

“Did you get there?”

No. Once or twice I thought I was close but it slipped away, like sand through my fingers. Someone out there will solve it I’m sure one day.

“The world needs another Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton to solve that.”

Well the world needs a lot of things more than another Einstein or Newton. Peace, kindness and fewer weapons would be a good start. Mind you, I don't suppose Isaac Newton would have been too happy with the Schrödinger's cat experiment either. One of Newton's less well known claims to fame is as the inventor of the cat flap. In the simple understandable universe that Newton described, the cat would have got bored and left out of the flap at the back, leaving the quantum mechanics scratching their heads and wondering where the cat had gone.

(No cats were harmed in the writing of this blog post. In fact one was fed, let out of the kitchen door, let back in and back out again. I don't have a cat flap.)



  1. Nick Fortis said...
    This is OK stuff...very nice, informative, gentle. Many blogs are--unhappily--vented-fury collections.


    Tom said...
    Awesome. You gotta love physics! Especially when physics crosses into philosophy.
    Anonymous said...
    Life is but a dream.Dream a good life.

    All is rational to an irrational mind.

    Tell me I can't and I shall try.

    If I may not do, then I will be.

    Floating is the action of conciosness, it is blown by the breeze of desire.
    EinsteinEP said...
    Excellent post! A little weird, in that it's supposed to be from Einstein's mouth (pen? blackberry?), but well written all the same.

    I absolutely HATED the movie "What the Bleep do we know?" because it played on the confusion and misunderstanding about wave functions and probabilities. Nice to see I'm not the only one who gets it.
    Gary said...
    An interesting way of presenting physics. Have you considered putting these postings into a book for the barely informed?

    Gary 7
    bubbha said...
    "I absolutely HATED the movie "What the Bleep do we know?"..."

    I agree that the movie wasn't the most accurate, but I did enjoy watching it... I actually found it inspiring :-P

    forgetmenot said...
    I am getting to grips with the theory but cannot grasp its reality
    albert2.0 said...
    I couldn't agree more
    Kristi said...
    I am also having issues explaining quantum mechanics to folks - it seems like the more I try it, the vaguer I get.

    Cat-loving Shamanista
    goodpeople138 said...
    The reason you can't apply it on a small scale is because of your perception of self as being a seperate physical entity therefore immediately breaking down the wave function. Once you can look at yourself as part of the whole......(one with the wave function, not seperate from it) Then it will apply on all scales.
    try it through meditation.
    buddha new what was up.
    thanks for the time
    chafraphi said...
    perhaps the issue is one of perspective and trust.
    Joel said...
    Living a life of pure rationalism although liberating, is still challenging enough... Add this to the paradoxes that quantum physics presents and it is mind-baffling!
    I thought "What the Bleep Do We Know" did an excellent job of explaining quantum physics to the average everyday lay person. And it get so much better with the six cd set.
    Josh Cooper said...
    Yea you know what makes more sense than there being possibility for anything, all though that be true. Two additive forces, opposite 'polarity' fractally swirling to one another for an infinite amount of time. Never reaching each other, but the important thing is, these fractal existances of no more than 2 forces, would eventually start creating larger patterns, such as atoms, electrons, protons, quirks and all those other really small particles. This would certainly spill out into other dimensions hidden to us, thus creating and fulfilling other possibilities through the point of origin to each of these fractal swirlings.
    Look at it some more, and you see the pattern in society, in our perceptions, our individual selves, cellular existence, the universe, solar systems, black holes, all human creation, from war, to love, the pattern resonates.. everywhere.
    Anonymous said...
    What travels faster then the speed of light? The answer, the speed of thought. If a man thinks in his heart, so is he and we speak, therefore it becomes, how fast does thought travel? What kind of power does the power of words possess? Who can measure?
    According to the law of God and to my understanding of the makeup of relativity and and quantum physics, in order to come up with a new kind of energy you must find the missing element. I do not know
    much about science but going to church and learning about God and man and experiencing the supernatural I have become very curious and eager to go back to school and learn more in this area.
    Sincerely, Peculiar thoughts Within
    albert2.0 said...
    Faster than Light?

    Perhaps not thought as much as human understanding - an idea I explore in more detail at the end of this journey (post 52)
    TexasSmallTownGirl said...
    I just discovered this blog and I've got to say, I'm in love. You and the comment posters, even, are so hot. I may not be able to get any work done for a while. I'm so happy that in some parallel universe we are all having an orgy right now and in another a cup of coffee and writing very interesting things for the sides of the cups and in another a bloody battle and in this one sitting quietly, pushing buttons...
    Anonymous said...
    agree with texan girl. just found this blog
    Anonymous said...
    Ill summarize a mixture of what i ve learned plus what I think: In the workings of quantum mechanics time and space cease to exist. Only the force of gravity exists. Gravity is matter contained in a zero dimensional entity - in which everything and anything imaginable (and beyond) can exist and can occur..1) all the elements of sub/conciousness 2)time infinite; time travel possible. Gravity can "ignore" space/time in our 3D universe, thus maintaining an infinite state of universal interconnectedness eg.between entangled particles- that we are at the elementary stage of gaining access to.
    Anonymous said...
    Having been forced to study the finer points of quantum physics with the vaguest instructions, i have found you post enormously helpful. Thank you. You've helped me study for my advanced quantum physics exam :D Einstein and his cat FTW
    Anonymous said...
    There is a moment when indeed the flower blooms. Is that when it is to be measured? I see the bloom: it exists. My body measures it in an unknown number of ways with all its senses. Do the measurements happen automatically when I set my conscious focus on the bloom, or when my eye measures the path my body is to take with my next step? I understand so little and accept all learning. I love you, Albert 2.0.
    Robert Dinse said...
    But you see that is only one interpretation.

    Another option is, wave functions don't really collapse; at that point the universe, including you, bifurcates into multiple universe and the copy of you in any one copy of the universe is only aware of the outcome that occurred in that copy.

    This may seem inane but it eliminates many paradoxes.
    Anonymous said...
    quantum hogwash - If a dead tree falls in the forest does someone have to see it to make it so.? Also in another change in time will the tree not fall.?- the universe is of mass and energy. we are in a giant battery. matter created energy and energy creates matter. time is created with the flow of energy through matter. this happens to be what i think scientists are looking for with the higgs boson. probable futures doesn't exist because god doesn't roll dice. Time is like a river,It is also constant and smooth in its flow as long as the reservior feeds it, it will keep running which happens to be our universe. other dimensions do exist and that moves us into god's domain beyond time and space. Our knowledge of dark energy handicaps us seeing how the dimensions interact.
    Timothy Teatro said...
    Well, the blog is a nice idea. Our modern picture of quantum physics is not so... "mystical" as this almost makes it out to be.

    I'm a theoretical physicist specializing in solid state or condensed matter physics. This means almost everything I do is quantum mechanical in nature; because the physics of solids is all about electron behavior in nuclear lattices. The point is, I know what I'm talking about... unlike a lot of people posting comments!

    If there is a down side to being a physicist, it is having to listen to the silly ramblings of people, who are convinced that they understand what they are talking about, that really have no freakin' clue! Any scientists reading this post will understand EXACTLY what I'm talking about :)

    The worst part of all this is that the universe is actually much wilder and more beautiful than even these uninformed, free-range imaginations can conjure up. I don't by any means claim to understand it, which is a mark of someone who at least somewhat knows what they are talking about. I mean, sure, I understand the contents of this blog on a much deeper level than what is described. But in my flavor of science, I don't deal with the Higgs-Boson or quantum gravity or Planck-length order dimensions. These are the are the swirls from the tip of God's paintbrush that leave physicists in awe.

    Anyhow, long story short, if you can't find the inner-product of complex (imaginary number complex, not complicated) functions, you don't know what a Legendre polynomial is or you think a boundary condition is something your girlfriend suffers from, then you should be reading about physics, not lecturing about it in blogs. No amount of imagination is a substitute for understanding math. As Galileo said, mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe. If you don't understand math, then you can't relate to the universe. Of course, Einstein believed that you should be able to explain the laws of physics to a bar maid. This, in its proper context, refers to the reduction of all physical law to a simple unified equation of everything. Einstein wrote down some pretty damn interesting math. I've never met a bar maid that explain to me the concept of a metric tensor!

    This comment is directed at the people who posted comments, not the person who wrote the blog. The blog actually does a reasonable job and from an artist's standpoint is actually quite imaginative. Like I said, it becomes silly in parts, but that is probably a good thing, since it can lead people with that silly understanding back to a more reasonable place. Too bad it didn't seem to work for everybody *frown*.

    I don't want to discourage imagination. Indeed, imagination is the most important tool a physicist has. But don't waste time and poison the understanding of others if you can't be bothered to inform yourself of how things actually are. Make a point of using words like "I wonder if...", or "Would't it be cool if...". Don't try to come off like you understand what you're talking about. I'm sure I did the same things when I was in high-school, but if I did, I'm surely embarrassed about it now. Take that for what it's worth.

    Anyhow, to the blogger: thank you for your imaginative discussion.

    Cheers to all,



    A warning to those who watch "What the Bleep do we know?" and take it to heart. I haven't seen it (but I am about to). From what I've heard, it is one of the best examples of popular misconception available to the paying consumer.

    "ONE of the most scandalously bad misrepresentations of physics in recent years"

    Paul said...
    Let me note here that there's a difference between philosophical idealism and the quantum mechanical view of the world. In the Copenhagen Interpretation, the world and all the particles in it do exist even when they aren't observed - but they do not yet have a specific position or momentum until they are observed.

    So, the tree does fall in the forest even when nobody is watching. The individual particles in that tree are not in specific positions, because their positions have not been observed, but it doesn't matter where exactly those particles are in the tree. The tree as a whole is not significantly effected by the exact positions of its particles - so it will fall regardless.

    Of course, here's where the Schroedinger's cat paradox comes in: Schroedinger created a situation where an event at the atomic level could do something significant on a large scale (ie. a nucleus decaying will kill a cat). Quantum theory states that the cat isn't alive or dead until it's observed. This has lead to huge debate and many differing versions of quantum mechanics, and different opinions about what constitutes "observation", but one thing is agreed upon in all interpretations: The cat definitely exists before it's observed, even if it's not specifically alive or dead.
    donald said...
    What confuses the understanding of QM is the word 'Measure'. In practice it is easier to understand that the universe is mainly nothing populated with tiny bits of energy. Animals, through their senses, have the ability to join up the dots of the various types of energy and convert them mentally into the appearance of solids, mass, light etc. This is a function of the animal, which has evolved in order to help them exist.
    Whilst this may not be the complete truth, it helps me to understand.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Sadly, Tim is right. If you can't do the math, then you're always going to be clutching at straws. Feynman made a pretty good job of explaining QED to the layman but in the end you're still trusting Dick that HE can do the math that you can't. (Richard Feynman, QED. The strange theory of light and matter. Some of the posters on this blog should start there :-)

    We didn't evolve to deal with stuff at the Planck length, we just developed tools to allow us to do it. If you don't have the toolkit your brain is never really going to get it, is it?
    prof said...
    The description of the paradoxes of quantum mechanics is very well done, but as I am sure the author would agree, a fuller understanding requires a bit of mathematics. At Stanford University I have been teaching theoretical physics classes for people from the non-academic community (in Stanford's Continuing Studies Program). The courses are aimed at people who know some elementary math--algebra and calculus--or at least once knew it, but who have not encountered modern physics. The classes are broadcast on the internet. Here is the address for the 10 lecture series on quantum mech.


    Leonard Susskind
    Robin said...
    what if instead of a cat it was Schrodinger inside the box ? or Einstein ? with mobile phones ?
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    None whatsoever! Making the phone call from inside the box is the same as opening the lid. If the phone call is continuous, which is like leaving the lid up all the time, then it's not the same, or any, thought experiment. Might want to look at http://malcolmgoodson.blogspot.com/2008/04/somersaults-planck-wardrobe-and-qed.html
    for a little more. It's about half way down.
    Anonymous said...
    Hmm I don't think anyone understands quantum physics in the sense I would like.
    I think it is, so far, a formulation by mathematically minded people, that fits the observed facts of some behaviour.

    But even this idiot writer has managed to see an alternate "scenario of the universe" which equally explains those facts.

    I think it will turn out that a full understanding of the nature of the universe requires a step beyond what the purely math based approach produces.
    A different sort of difference from anything suggested here.

    I wait in hope that some 'cross subject' genius provides more clues to the matter.

    regards David L.
    GR said...
    I take offense _for_ the author of this that David L called him "This idiot writer."

    It is clear that David does not, in fact, understand quantum mechanics, its current state of affairs in human understanding, nor even the purpose of physics itself.

    By saying that "this idiot writer has managed to see an alternate 'scenario of the universe' which equally explains those facts," he exposed a very common misconception about science in general. Science is exactly what he dismissed as idiocy: explaining models of phenomena we observe, NOT finding some absolute truth. If one explanation "equally explains those facts," then that explanation is equally valid as any, but it should not be taken as a sign that either model is wrong.

    Even Feynman professed the need to question the existence of electrons! This goes to show that even explanations of what we see are never going to be absolute.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    I think GR has misunderstood "this idiot writer". I think David L is referring to himself, ie HE has come up with an alternative. I for one would be interested to know what it is! Anything which stops my brain hurting over quantum mechanics would be most welcome.
    "skip" said...
    I am not a mathematician. I am but a curious neophyte seeking "input." regarding "truths." At this moment in "our" evolution, we exist as an infant species deeply and profoundly involved in an attempt to adapt to the uniqueness of an anomaly we describe as "consciousness."
    Our journey to this point in our evolution, as a somewhat aware species, has served to whet our appetite for understanding "all" of the myriad physical and metaphysical mysteries which abound within and without "existence."
    To me, the word "googol" relates quantitatively to both the micro and the macro cosmos. I am sure that if our species can mature and overcome the caprices of adolescence, there will come a time when man will unravel the physics of both realms and work to create a viable world within which all life can exist in balance and communion.
    I see a cosmos that exists as a result of serendipitous physics. Not by an imagined thoughtful,caring creator.
    It "ALL," is Much too complicated to be understood by us at this point in time.
    I am currently immersed in trying to understand the concepts proposed by the "M" theory, the "Mother" of all theories.
    mrs cavendish said...
    i think the theory seems easy and i am only twelve years old so it cant be that mind boggleing to other people they just dont think.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Skip doesn't understand so why do you bother? Mrs Cavendish? If you understand at 12? You have my admiration! It's difficult but quatuam gravity.........
    Adam said...
    WOW - you got Leonard Susskind posting comments on your blog!!!
    Steven said...
    I am a physicist of the theoretical type, but beyond this will not present myself as possessed of any special wisdom.

    Comments regarding the ability to do the math have some relevance, but even people who can do the math are perplexed by the apparent paradoxes. Therefore, while mathematical skill and a more formal grasp of the concepts are helpful, they have failed to resolve the "apparent" paradoxes for almost a century now.

    Consider that the paradox itself may not be well defined. It has not been established that scale is irrelevant and that viewing the cat as a wave function is as valid or useful as modeling an atom as one.

    The real paradox is not so much that an object as big and complicated as a cat might exist as a superposition of states, but rather, that somewhere between relatively primitive systesm at atomic scales and highly complex systems at macroscopic scales the wave function model as a superposition of states becomes untenable. Why is that and how does it happen?

    There are indeed theories about how scale and complexity add new wrinkles -- as Phil Anderson at Princeton famously said, more is different. I am not an expert on any of these theories, but with enough motivation anyone can find them. For starters look up "quantum decoherence."
    Anonymous said...
    If a tree falls on a man named Forest, does HE make a sound?
    Jason said...
    Connotation vs. Dennotation.
    Jael said...
    I have no idea how old this post is, but you certainly made my day. Wonderful stuff here.

    When you mentioned you were confounded that rules apply to large objects and not small, were you referring to the isotope decay? This is a matter that has me entirely dumbfounded... half-lives don't seem logical to me. But I'm happy to hear an intelligent explanation. I've been known to be a bit dense.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    I may be talking with my head up my nether orifice here but isotope decay is surely just a statistical statement 'in time t, 0.5 of mass m of isotope will decay into something else'. What it doesn't, and cannot, say is exactly which neutrons will decay. Just that half of them will. Although the analogy is not good, 50% of men over 50 will suffer from prostate cancer - there may be risk factors which increase the probability of getting it which you can isolate but you still can't say who will get it in advance.

    I don't ever see the paradox going away. Most of us have an idea that there is an objective reality out there that actually exists, whether we do or not, that we have to deal with. We simply cannot deal with the idea as people (nor perhaps should we) that you, or I, simply have a probablity of x that we exist or do not exist, which is in essence the 'cat' problem.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Oh forgot......it's worse in quantum mechanics because we are not dealing with simple probabilities but probability amplitudes which involve complex numbers (ie imaginary & real) which takes us even further from what we 'believe'.
    Jael said...
    Malcolm, here is my problem. In a half life, Carbon 14 decays to Carbon 13 after so much time and so on. In half the life, it has decayed to a certain point and then half that life it decays to a certain point, etc. If we go by the physical decay as set forth in (my textbook, for example) this is not a constant rate.

    What confuses me about this is that if I were to place a stick of butter out on the counter and wait, it would melt to a certain point. Then, according to isotopic (?) decay, past that point it would decay half as slowly and so on down the line until it is decayed to ....Okay, I don't remember what happens, but that's not the point. Why woudn't the stick of butter melt at a constant rate (if in a constant environment)?

    Now, of course, the universe is not constant, at least, not in our little realm called the world. The earth is changing and the environment is hotter, colder and more volatile at times. But nowhere does my textbook describe the rate of breakdown as related to environmental factors.

    In my theory, a stick of butter melts halfway after a certain point in time, and, if environmental factors remained the same, it would complete melting (decaying) after an equal amount of time. I'm seeing on the charts that isotope decay is something that slows exponentially with each half-life and this is where I'm thinking perhaps problems of the universal age may come in.

    I have no idea how old the universe is, but if we are adding exponents by way of exponentially increasing the time it takes for isotopes to decay, that would prevent an accurate understanding of the age of the earth and beyond that the universe and beyond that the multiverse (if such a "verse" exists!)

    I know I don't know what I am talking about, but I'd very much like to and this is my bone to pick with this topic, so why not begin here?

    Take a couple aspirin and write me back if you feel up to it.
    Jael said...
    I sent a long, a very long question and I would like to know if it disappeared into a black cyberhole or if it just didn't make it back to me.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Jael - forgot something in last post that may help even more.

    Let's split time into 1 second 'blocks' and just look at a single neutron. At 1 sec, the probability that the neutron decays is 50/50. Assume it doesn't. At 2 secs the probability is (crucially) still 50/50. It still doesn't decay. At 3 secs, the probability is still 50/50 and so on.

    Think of it like coin tossing. If you toss 10 pennies, you may get 8 heads and 2 tails not 50/50. If you toss 100 pennies you may get 39 heads and 61 tails not 50/50. If you toss 1,000,000 pennies you are likely to get very close to 500,000 heads and 500,000 tails, ie 50/50. It's the same with neutrons. There's so many of them that the 50/50 ratio comes out every time, hence a half life.
    Anonymous said...
    I know that many people disagree, but when it comes to physics in the lab or on the board, I find, that the more one tries to interpret it, the more confusion stems. I myself happen to like philosophy, but I still find that the two should stay separate, like dating a coworker; it just gets iffy. Physics is looking at systems and the results from experiments and trying to create a model that is elegant, mathematically, and follows the other bases of physics, ie conservation laws. Trying to analyze why physics works in the metaphysical sense makes the interpreter seem as if they can even relate to the system which they are describing, which is obviously not true for any normal human. Quantum aint intuitive, and it really doesn't make any sense, but you can't deny that it doesn't work, unless you do, in which case, I'll stop.
    Sam B
    Jael said...
    Sam B-
    You Said "Quantum aint intuitive, and it really doesn't make any sense,"

    So then, if we substitute one system that doesn't make sense (Physics) for another that doesn't make sense (Philosophy) what have we done but substituted one nonsensical system for another? This argument is truly as old as Aristotle and Plato (See the clouds of Aristophanes.)

    I think there are unrevealed truths in both worlds and I further (intutively-- egads!!) believe that all physical is linked to the immaterial in ways which are currently inexplicable, but which will be explored by those who dare to invigorate science by using their imaginations.

    I have a friend who says "Apples to coconuts" whenever I make a statment such as this, but my retort is that apples and coconuts are both fruit. So what's the problem? They are not the same fruit, but they are fruit.

    We believe in physics because we are humans. We have a little faith in philosophy because we are humans. We are linked to both worlds-- mathematical and emotional because we carry systems of complex messages on the tops of our bodies.

    Consider, Sam: We would not have the motivation to analyze mathematical systems if we did not think the "philosophy" behind the so called non metaphysical (or simply, physical) had some merit. It's all physical and it's all metaphysical.

    There's a book out about a guy who lost his sight at age three and regains the use of his sight through an operation. It is an amazing revelation into the perceptions of the brain. Don't forget...all this is in our heads. Most of the time we are speculating. The only difference is some of us are taking more educated stabs in the dark than others.

    I also have to add that mine is likely the least educated stab. But it doesn't stop me from speculating. It's entertaining. It's invigorating and it is what makes a life a life.
    Jason said...
    So i was doing my thermodynamics homework the other night. Why does one book have different tables than the other for thermodynamic constants? This is why. As we invent new technolgy that is more accurate these values will always change. So its Ironic all the people who have failed chemistry based on stuff that we know now isn't true.

    I realize, that reality is really realative. thats real.

    what is the distance of the coast of califonia?

    Anonymous said...
    Been reading for awhile and enjoying it immensely. A bit odd that where opinions differ and alternatives become odds, even physicists and philosophers alike tend to lose their grip...perhaps a philosophic mathematician is needed to not just solve the riddle of quanta, but at least see that it is the doorway to where. Somewhere, anywhere, or nowhere...
    If at the sub-atomic level there appears to be any random behavior, I would suggest that we are getting closer to the doorway! My education is not as vast as many who have posted, but I do remember a college prof who told me once that if I didn't like the answer I was getting, then perhaps I should change the question. When light goes around corners, and waves can choose to be particles, maybe the question comes back to what is faster than light? Perhaps the decision to be or not to be light...
    Forge on, my dear physicists, I think soon we will have the portal I seek, even though it can not of course exist, I will use it just the same.
    Jael said...


    So, for instance, I want to study geology. But to do that, I have to study physics, calculus, and chemistry. Great. I love to study. No problem. Except.

    I'm going to study these subjects which may or may not be taught correctly, which may or may not be relevant to my interests, which may or may not be correct in their assumptions. I realize that we have to have a starting place, but It almost seems as if any starting place will do. The main challenge I have in becoming educated is not allowing the experts to confuse me.

    Malcolm Goodson said...
    All 'scientific' knowledge is tentative. It supplies answers to questions we have now in what appear to be 'correct' ways. When it fails to provide answers that fit with new observations, we abandon that knowledge and seek anew. That's how quantum physics and relativity got started. Classical physics couldn't explain certain observations. And that's how science differs from philosophy. It must always be prepared to abandon what it thinks it knows if something else explains the same but more. Leave objective truth to fundamentalists and philosophers, the best the rest of can hope for are best fit theories.
    Anonymous said...
    Christine said...
    Nice blog! I am currently reading Hyperspace by Michio Kaku so this was a fun read for me. I enjoyed reading about quantum mechanics from a different perspective.
    Vercingetorex said...
    OK, I am kind of dense, to me the cat in the box, if he is dead or alive, it makes no difference, our perception doesnt change anything. If he is dead in the box, he is dead regardless of what we "observe"
    I thought of another analogy, if we are in a video game, we have an optional outcome. We can die or not die, it makes no diference, if we are dead in video game, then we are dead, if not, then no. Damn I am dumb...
    Vercingetorex said...
    Please, one other question, I know you are all going to dog me out, but I got to ask, I am so stupid, but I have to ask, if we evolved from a common ancestor of some type of monkey ass creature, why isn't there some type of rabbit ass creature or some type of camel ass creature, would they not evolve at the same rate? Don't take me wrong, I'm just a dumb ass and don't know any better...
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Perhaps this is why you lost at Alesia? Seriously, in one sense you're right about the cat. It just shows that the analogies generally fail to explain exactly what is going on.

    I don't think that this is the place for an evoloutionary discussion but Stephen Jay Gould pointed out in 'This wonderful life' that if you could rewind the 'tape of life' it almost certainly wouldn't come out the same way if you replayed it. Something quite remarkable seems to have happened between 1 and 3 million years ago to an ancestor that took us down the road of enhanced 'brain power', abstraction, conceptulisation, language etc etc. So far it appears to be a unique mutation and may never have happened before and may never happen again. We are that 'happy monster'.
    Jael said...
    Well, if I were to be just a leetle sacriligious I might use your cat analogy...in matters of religion and see how well it does. I mean, if the cat was a god, say and he didn't want any of us to ever be sure whether he/she was real, of course he might 'rund-off' (did you borrow that idea from M. Twain? I knew it was familiar!) before we could see what happened to all our experimentation...to make him mad, you know. See how far we can push this "god" (if he is indeed real) before he up and throws the game on the floor.

    So, sacriligious or no, we still don't know/can't prove that god (God) is or is not real. Which, to extend the analogy would put physics right about the same level as religion-- both experimental in nature. I have no problem with this, being a person of prayer and all, but I'm curious how others compensate for the "lack of proof" when it comes to this "science."

    Also find it interesting that some who deny the existence of a greater power hold fiercely to the value of words-- which is another "experimental science" and which also is based quite unsurely on perception/associations. Is there anything real in this world?
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Unfortunately, the analogy doesn't cross over. In Schroedinger's 'experiment', you lift the lid and there's your 'proof' or 'disproof'. The cat is either dead or alive. There is no lid to lift with God.

    Quantum physics makes predictions which turn out statistically to be quite accurate. I don't think you can make any predictions about God which you can either prove or disprove and there lies the rub.

    While you can equate religious belief with scientific theory on day one, the scientific method of trying to disprove the theory (ie finding observations that don't match predictions) sets it apart from day 2.

    If you want another (sacrilegious) analogy about God, try http://malcolmgoodson.blogspot.com/2008/04/is-god-beetle.html
    Vercingetorex said...
    I really like this website. I dont quite understand enough to come up with my own theory but after about 100 years reading, maybe I will....
    lukasz k said...
    Thank you for the 'Quantum Mechanics for Cat Lovers'.
    I would check what the buddhist teachings on emptiness say about the matter. I think buddhism is the answer to combining knowledge about the 'reality' and everyday life. At least the highest teachings Buddha gave, the so called 'Diamond Way Buddhism'.
    Best Wishes and respect for all the scientists.
    Lukasz K
    Phys_Edm said...
    Very interesting... I would like to know more...
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Indeed, Buddhism provides a 'way out' of the paradoxes, although only because the paradoxes don't occur in a buddhist view. They've already been assimilated. See http://malcolmgoodson.blogspot.com/2008/07/zen-clapping-and-kick-ass-women.html

    As for knowing more, I'll repeat myself. Richard Feynman "QED. The strange theory of light and matter" The BEST introduction to quantum physics by the man who 'invented' QED (quantum electrodynamics)and is , perhaps the most lucid writer of physics for the layman EVER. Oh and for the less well read, Feynman won a Nobel Prize for QED, tho' shared, tho' the other other solutions were so....tortuous!
    Anonymous said...
    WoW! I forgot how much I used to love seeing what the highly educated were tossing around as the truth and /or reality of the day. I have evolved somehow from... "Life has a meaning, I know that it does; I only wish I knew what it was." to... "Seek not the meaning but the experience of LIFE." Thats the only way I know to explaim my understanding of QM. Would take me too long otherwise to show how I got here from there. Cause you know you can't get there from here.
    Anonymous said...
    Actually, what QM says is that if the box is REALLY closed (i.e. the contents are completely noninteracting with the outside world) then prior to opening the box the system state is a linear superposition of cat-dead and cat-alive states. Since a cat (and the rest of the apparatus, for that matter) is a complex system, there are actually a fantastically large number of both dead and alive states, a tree of splittings for every probabilistic quantum event in the cat's body, among the atoms of the detector, and so on. The state of the box prior to opening will be a superposition of all these possible outcomes starting from the initial state at the time the box was closed. But this picture is misleading for a more fundamental reason. It is impossible to actually close the box. Just the gravitational interaction alone, which will act through the walls of any physical box, will be enough to decohere the superposition within picoseconds. This means the cat will definitely be dead or alive. Until someone figures out a way to actually close a box containing something anywhere near as large and complex as a cat (which is probably impossible), we do not need to worry about the implications of the Schrodinger's cat paradox.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    This is a common 'there is no paradox' worth bothering about approach. However, the fact that the cat is a complex quantum object misses the point. This is a thought experiment. The cat represents a 'simple' quantum object. Shroedinger in no way was taliking about a real cat or any other complex object. The paradox remains.
    Anonymous said...
    Malcolm, the problem with saying the cat is just a cute image is that actually the cat is essential to the "paradox" - How can a cat (purr, meow) be both dead and alive, how can it not know if it is alive, even if we don't? If you replace the cat with a spin or some other plausible qbit, the "paradox" disappears. A spin is not alive, is not conscious, does not know whether it is hungry or frightened. It is much easier to accept that the universe at this level is constructed in a way that is completely counterintuitive to our macroscopic minds. We may find this difficult to understand, but the philosophical ramifications of the "paradox" disappear.

    David Deutsch wrote a paper proposing a quantum computer so complex it could actually simulate the human brain - in a superposition of states. This QC would observe the outcome of some quantum coin toss, and one component of the mental superposition would observe heads, while simultaneously another would observe tails. Deutsch used this device to argue that the separate components had to exist simultaneously in parallel universes. But this argument contained a flaw: in order to prevent collapse, before interrogating the QC we would have to run its entire process in reverse, rolling it back to the original state in which it would not remember either observation.

    This shows the peril of mixing our intuitions about life and consciousness into arguments about fundamental physics. If someone as smart as Deutsch could fall into this trap, I think the rest of us should confine our discussion to Schrodinger's spins and leave the kittens alone.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    In one sense, you are right, the cat as a macroscopic entity is essential to this view of the paradox. However, the cat was merely being used to point to the 'underlying absurdity' in a classical, intuitive sense, of QM. Physicists in the 20's and 30's had serious problems with QM. They couldn't get their heads round it either.

    The cat is however just representative and dealing with two entangled photons is just as difficult in an intuitive (non mathematical) sense as dealing with the cat is. Without the maths, QM is shot full of these paradoxes. QM is and can only be consistent at the level of the toolbox (maths). Any attempt to deal with it outside of the math only leads to confusion and the cat!
    Anonymous said...
    After having read the above comments on the opinion of Einstein 2.0 which I really dig, I'd like to suggest that we take the superposition of simultaenous states like in the story of the sheep and the shepard. The shepard is overlooking a flock of sheep. Some sheep are black and some white. The shepard sees the white sheep,the black sheep, and the flock all at the same time. In our case some are right, some are wrong, and some are neither all at the same time. I just want to say, I'm a real novice here so I could be right or I could be wrong or I could be neither or I could be all at the same time... man this stuff can be confusing and which universe am I in and out of while I'm some where else at the same time
    Marcus said...
    Surely the cat in the box is definately alive or dead before it is observed, but until we observe it we are in the same position as we were BEFORE it dies: we know the outcome has been / will have been either or, but there is no way of knowing absolutely objectively and scientifically that it has(as an isolated event) or will have happened until it HAS happened. Thus it is both until it is one, like quantum particles.

    Therefore even though I have no idea about the maths behind quantum theory, surely this is a bad allegory of any paradox the theory throws up?

    It makes one think that quantum particles ARE in fact one thing or the other, but that we simply cannot know which until they are measured...which is surely too simple an explanation...I'd like to know how we know they are either one thing or the other (or both) BEFORE they are 'measured'...surely knowing this must constitute some degree of 'measuring' already?

    Please reply and enlighten me.
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    Indeed, it's a lousy analogy and I, for one, wish Schroedinger had never come up with it. Essentially 'the cat' and by extension quantum 'objects' (I'm loth to call them particles, they're not really, although they are, sort of:) have probabilities (actually probability amplitudes) of 'being'. Until you make the measurement, you don't know.

    Let's say you collide a couple of particles. The probability of getting, say a kaon and a pion of x energy from this collision is, say, 70%. Do the experiment 10,000 times and like as not you'll get the above pairing around 7,000 times BUT in any one experiment you cannot predict exactly what you will get, only that there is a 70% chance of the above pairing being measured.

    You might find the November and January posts starting with 'MGs BIG mouth....' in November 2008 and later ones starting 'QED' in the title at http://malcolmgoodson.blogspot.com worth a read for a simplistic, non mathematical kind of explanation. Feynman diagrams still on the drawing board but they will be coming:)
    Anonymous said...
    I think you've misunderstood. An observer in this context means anything that interacts with the object in question.
    Anonymous said...
    Along with the measurement of time, a shadowing of the self adjusting-mind only creates more questions of hidden thoughts, via captivating governments with hidden agenda. Great minds are and have become dorment due to miss-use of the universe`s natural binding body. I.e, materials found on this earth and also other worlds. We are but superconducters of energy+information=knowledge for Future of human kind.
    Dwight said...
    Hmmm. Why do physicists assume that parallel universes mean separate universes of infinite possibilities? To me, we could have a finite number of parallel universes each with a single observer. In this model, solitary consciousnesses would co-exist along side other solitary consciousnesses like a lather of soap bubbles. Given this model, we each inhabit our own universe and other people seemingly inside our personal universe are really inside their own universe which unfolds and evolves along its own line of possibilities according to the conditioning of their consciousness.

    Put another way, I have my own universe to explore and anything outside of my conscious sphere does not exist until my consciousness brings it into being. Therefore there is no box containing a cat until my consciousness decides to create it. In this way, the cat in your universe might be alive at the same time it is dead in my universe. Since I cannot “be” your consciousness as you cannot “be” mine, you are created by me in my universe and I am created by you in yours. We can agree or disagree since inside our own universe we set the rules. Since it is impossible to die within your own lifetime, there are no paradoxes.

    This makes us all gods (albeit gods with Alzheimer’s) inhabiting worlds of our own making. This also makes sense since a single, all-knowing god inhabiting an infinite universe would be one bored SOB. I do not limit this to human consciousness, either. Anything that reacts to conditions has rudimentary consciousness. A plant turning its leaves toward the sun or a flagellate bacteria swimming toward warmth inhabits its own parallel universe.

    Time is another oddball dimension that has to be present for the universe to unfold. Theoretically, as I understand it, time ceases at the speed of light. If that is true, anything traveling at the speed of light is outside of the time dimension, which also puts it out of the space dimension, since matter traveling at the speed of light has infinite mass. Whatever consciousness is, it must interfere with and slow light perceptibly projecting the material world through itself like a multidimensional prism, thus “creating” observable phenomenon conditioned by the expectations of consciousness.

    If this is the how of it, the why still eludes me. It probably has something to do with the impossibility of nothingness without somethingness to compare it to.

    qwark said...
    WE are an incipient, natural species of life existing on what we consider to be an unique planet. The age of "modern man" is somewhere around 35k yrs. Geologically speaking, a very short period of time. The eventual result of the processes of natural selection is, the anomaly, "consciousness." Nature requires all life to "adapt" if it desires to survive. Man stands as an isolated creature trying to adapt to an awareness of his surrounding world. Life consists of myriad enigmas which perplex and confound him much as all would that surrounds a new born child. We have progressed to the adolescent stage of our evolution. Our curiosity is unlimited. The only thing limiting our progress is our imagination. At this moment in time, we are standing on the kindergarden rung of a ladder leading to boundless knowledge and wisdom. The limits of micro and macro existence cannot be considered. The "whole" will never be realized and understood. If man becomes a successful creature, there may come a time when he may become literally immortal and will have created an environment within which he can create life according to his wants and needs. Man may take his evolution to greater heights and set his sights on realities considered to be impossiblities. If he accomplishes that, the cosmos will become his playground and interminable evolution will continue in it's attempts to create perfection.
    Anonymous said...
    To Anonymous at August 23, 2008 8:13 AM
    If we take that all subatomic particles are quantum particles, and a bunch of them put together right give us a cat, why isn't a cat a quantum object?
    Whether or not a cat knows it is dead or alive etc.. begs the question of how 'alive' something has to be to collapse a wave function. If we follow this path, we have the difference between humans and animals, from there to plants, then inanimate objects (and I left out AI which is another can of worms).

    Picking up on a point from another poster, I do not believe QM states that when one quantum object interacts with anything else, its wave function collapses, else we could not have entangled quantum states. Having an 'almost closed' box yields the same strangeness of a dead/alive cat, until we examine the output from the leaks, the states are superposed.
    Or at least that's what I think I'm supposed to believe.

    To Marcus at February 3, 2009 5:31 AM

    I would like to refer you to Bell's test experiments on Wikipedia. Besides the loopholes shown, if the theory holds, it shows that the idea of local reality that we cannot know (can't tell if a particle is spin up or down) is incorrect compared to a superposition of states (particle is in both until we look).
    This is based on the differing results generated by each theory, and how our observations fit with QM's superposition of states.
    According to my professor, this is the first time QM has reached over into the philosophical and shown that no, it is not a matter of interpretation or a mathematical tool to use state superposition because we don't know what state it 'actually' is in, this is how it is. Until proven wrong of course.

    Anonymous said...
    Great blog, very entertaining. I love the layman's terms as I incorporate them on my ghost tours...just to remind everyone that the possibility of paranormal is more realistic than not!
    Thanks again!
    Peter F. said...
    A really nice blog post - and definitely not idiotic (as the true turd David L implied it was).
    Medawar said...
    If the cat can make you open the door enough times, it becomes impossible to determine whether it is indoors or outdoors. The only form of "observation" that will then force it to be either in or out, is known as a "trip".
    Medawar said...
    The historical fact that Isaac Newton invented the cat-flap, may come from either a parallel universe, or an unchecked quotation from the broadcast work of Suzie Fowler-Watt

    Medawar believes that it was actually the hymn-writer, John Henry Newton, whilst living in Olney, Buckinghamshire. And it was actually for his pet hare in the first instance (" Old Puss" in rural English.)

    Although hares have a near 360 degree field of view, the eyeballs are often slewed backwards to track and effectively evade whatever is behind them. High energy collisions with whatever is in front of the hare are surprisingly frequent.

    The Reverend Newton, a former slave-trader, devised something based on a ship's cannon port. "Old Puss" could crash through this in fine style, without any apparent harm.

    Medawar thinks that this device may still be in the house on Olney.
    Anonymous said...
    how the hell did he do the chat with einstein thing?!
    Malcolm Goodson said...
    It's called a Ouija board!
    Anonymous said...
    Can someone follow up on Steven's post of July 1st about the issue of scale? Borrowing from black hole vocabulary, where is the "event horizon" between macro and micro contexts--is it another example of fuzziness (like the question of how many grains of sand it takes before you conclude you have a pile) or probability, or is it determinable with some degree of mathematical accuracy--it works at this scale, but not that? (I'm leaning toward fuzzy...)
    Anonymous said...
    So every thing that has existed,does exsist and will exist must exist in one point of instant singular time because it has been observed. If it is not observed where does it go in time and space, does it still move.
    Anonymous said...
    To Answer: "So every thing that has existed,does exist and will exist must exist in one point of instant singular time because it has been observed. If it is not observed where does it go in time and space, does it still move?"

    Remember the observation is also one point in space. Doesn't the theory also imply there were infinite observations and each might have observed something different? Somehow our awareness prevents us from observing the full spectrum, although sometimes we can imagine it.
    Anonymous said...
    Answer: everything both exist and does not exist, as existence is relative.Relative that is, as according to the observer.
    frlgrb said...
    A brilliant discussion - I've started at the top and worked my way down to the bottom. If there are sides to these fences of opinion and understanding, I must stand on the side with the duality of states of Mr. Schroedinger's poor cat. The cat MUST be imaginary and I accept that imaginary cats aren't all that complicated/complex. This being the state of my understanding, I can then accept that, not only is the cat dead, alive and neither - all at the same time during it's utter separation from both observability and interactibility; but in an even more extreme event, the cat may actually exist, not-exist, and neither exist OR not-exist -- all at the same time! WOW!!! I do LOVE QM. fondest regards to you all in your thoughtful states - Richie
    dermot said...
    I woke up in the middle of the night recently with a serene sense of a fleeting glimpse of the teeniest aspect of understanding of quantum superposition.

    My glimpse was that every time we say "maybe," we are engaging in a quantum act that shifts to a classical act only at the time of decision. Until then all bets are ON. I sat up blinking and getting the feeling that we actually use quantum decision making all the time. Or use quantum decision making -- actually -- in everyday life.

    Seems like whenever we make a decision we construct quantum maybe-trees, as if, by metaphor, there are various parties to attend that weekend, and so far it's yes to all! And only when we make the decision do we collapse the branches of the maybe-tree that don't pertain to the decision made. Or in sports, seems like when a defender shuffles backward, not committing to any single movement of the opponent in front of him or her, but instead, constructing quantum maybe-trees as to what might happen, that defender is operating under a quantum model. Or walking down a crowded sidewalk in New York City, when the strategy is not to barrel though, but wistfully migrate and navigate the myriad presentations of where to go next,that is a quantum strategy.

    So, I guess, late night lucidity has shown me that quantum computing might be a great idea, maybe it's easier and faster to collapse a maybe-tree branch than it is to build a silicon one. Maybe?
    Anonymous said...
    I'm reading this book on anti-gravity and I just can't put it down............
    jonniex said...
    The speed of light.I think "yes"There are unknowns out there that are probally way faster than light could ever be.I don`t know our eyes are trained to see in the visable light range.We as humans can`t possibly measure anything past the speed of light anyway.If the answer is to be found we need to look deeper into the upper levels of the light spectrum.yeah we need to look there.Cause i think light has a hidden source to it`s being.
    Anonymous said...
    Is Gravity 'God'?
    Or possibly the smoke he is blowing from his big fat joint - for his eternal amusement!
    Whatever - wish I was as erudite as you guys - brillant stuff x
    Anonymous said...
    Well done, wonderful site, excellent idea.....

    Say hello to yor cat from mine!

    Anonymous said...
    You gotta love this stuff, I found a whole load of articles on it here: http://hubpages.com/hub/Quantum-Physics
    Anonymous said...
    all my searching leads me back to,
    matter + space = one.
    everything = one.
    all is one.
    astrokat said...
    i linked you to my wiki so i can always find you... the cat is out of the bag
    Anonymous said...
    I think of it like absolute values. |x|=2 can yield x=-2 or x=2. Both are completely possible and completely probable in the quantum world... and in fact both are true and do exist. However, the absolute value, like the observation, makes it 2.
    dowelpeg said...
    I liked the imaginary Cat anology. I tilted my head back, closed my eyes and imagined each of my cats. Neither would eat the poison and both would fake their deaths. Ahhh....cats are so unpredictable. Oh? But wait? Would they fake their deaths? If they are unpredictable, we would't know if they were faking or not. Isn't that the point?
    Anonymous said...
    Can anyone help me with this question. I understand that light travels from an object or event to my eye and so I see such. When I read books, this is explained as though there is one path of light neatly from object/event to me. But surely there are myriad of light paths, all criss-crossing and interfering with each other. So why do we see objects and events clearly. For example, a distant star explodes, the light travels toward earth, it collides wih the light from our sun, but still reaches our telescopes and the explosion can be seen. But why doesn't it get all messed up?
    dermot said...
    Hey, Anonymous, right above, excellent explanation of QM using absolute value for this case between two conditions of the cat. It really sings and informs. Seriously. But how would you describe an event with more than two outcomes, where I suspect you would also have to at least account for zero, as in -|2|? Maybe to account for zero, just pull open and extend the AV brackets and let in some more absolute values in, as in the absolute value of the absolute value of 2 (||2||)? Thoughts? Headache remedies?
    Kristin Mackey said...
    I just found this blog and think it is wonderful...great minds/amazing explanatations..

    When I attempt to use my everyday practiced logic on "all things quantum" it falls short...when I meditate and allow myself to sense the movement of "all things life" it appears to me that my grasping it depends greatly on how vast I allow my perspective - not only in thought perception (logic) but feeling (intuitive knowing) expand...

    If I see myself as a collection of vibrating particles forming "me" (this current point of view i have)...I can perhaps consider having another self perceiving and experiencing its own reality collapsing the me (as I know "me" in this current reality). I collapse my other points of view in this reality by choosing, and they collapse me in their reality my choosing...an all of this is at the same "time".

    blink, blink, blink....

    one of the ways I explore "physical" reality is to look at all we have created so far as clues...something like TiVo..pausing, recording..having the "same show" play at the "same time" in different "spaces"... and that little universe on that wide screen has no clue about the other universes currently playing (even itself as reruns) as it plays its own reality on channel whatever.

    just something I ponder..
    dermot conley said...
    I love how these comments span two years and counting!
    Anonymous said...
    i agree with anon.. everything = 1. my whole life i have been learning items of one and as i go through life and learn more, i find i can put things together to =1. it seem to take up less room that way. obviously my mind works towards a grand unified theory of its own. hey its kinda like binary... although i dont know much about binary. have any of you seen zeitgist? im very interested in quantum mechanics but also in ideas such as oppression of the people and the use of fear to controll i think its great to get lost in space sometimes its good to get away from this stampede existance. maybe the universe is getting to full of entropy and theres too much disorder for us to have simple lives anymore, that could be manifesting itself on our planet as the information age where the newest fad is out of fashion before its begun and humankind is materialistic and shallow. is there anyway to slow it all down so we can take a breath and look around? this rat race gives me motion sickness. i love the gaia theory by the way i think it explains nicely how things on a large scale act just as things on a small scale. ie. single celled organism up and up untill earth organism. it says we are all one substance a part of one being (earth or mother earth or gaia).
    sorry to go on just wanted to tell all those scientists out there not to look down on others ideas. many of the big break throughs in science come from everyday people anyway.

    you never know where the important infomation in life is going to come from --so always listen.
    thinking you are better than other people will only hinder yourself from learning
    Paul P. Mealing said...
    A very good blog. Informative, entertaining and very well written, which is the hardest part, actually.

    You may want to check this out: Journeyman Philosopher.

    The presentation is mediocre, but I like to think the content makes up for it. Readability is another criterion I rate highly. In my case, I let others be the judge.

    Regards, Paul.
    joseph palazzo said...
    Before trying to explain something you don't really understand, how about studying it until you do understand before posting your confused thoughts and get everybody on edge for no good reasons. QM was developed 70 years ago, and a lot has been clarified since. Recreating a debate between Einstein and Bohr who were struggling with QM when the theory was its infancy doesn't help anyone.
    frlgrb said...
    Hey now Mr. Palazzo, a lot of us start on this quantum thrill ride and right away it starts to change us in ways we could never imagine. If Sir Frances Bacon's assertation that "knowledge is power" is anywhere near the mark then studying the area of science that has defined the age we live in has to be pretty intoxicating stuff.
    So I ask you to forgive us our trespasses as we tread on newly formed synapses this concept of all things quantum. Peace and long life to you.
    Anonymous said...
    i believe in string theory and energy vibrations too what do others think?
    frlgrb said...
    What's to believe in? If the math continues to add up (which I think it has so far) then the idea is good. What I love about this stuff is that it is so fascinating to track the development of these theories and the work being done to support or collapse them. Science has made so many amazing things possible in the last century yet scientists are still using an imaginary particle to explain mass. I'm so excited to track the new information that is coming out of work being done with the LHC. The next few years could very well be a seriously cool time in history to be a part of.
    Anonymous said...
    Thanks. It helped with my report.
    I understand now!
    thanks again,
    Anonymous said...
    Maths is a human invention, based on observation. (If you place a pebble beside another, why does a third not appear?) Its success blinds us to that. All we really know are the now, the here, existence, awareness of existence and the apparent communication of that existence. Thus, despite the magnificent structures of science, it explains nothing. Time is an illusion, and so speed. Where does the consistency, or, more accurately, the continuity (despite quantum uncertainty) of material things come from? We can never answer such questions because we are part of the material world. That does not mean we should not explore it with all the resources available to us.
    Elena said...
    I've been studying ancient geography and it's mythical counterparts and believe I've uncovered the true symbolic meaning of the 'Mythical Horn Of Plenty' as a time/matter/space 'string' or stream of consciousness that is traveling through time/space vortex together at the same velocity. Star analogy Orion's infamous belt points to Sirius an 'Event Cone' vearing off at a slope of 26.1*
    tkshots said...
    i think it's beyond humans' understanding...there's a higher intelligence who created it all...when everything comes together so perfectly,that's not chance....
    frlgrb said...
    Sure thing! Except that you're being just a tad dogmatic, n'est pas? The assertion, by the church, that there are things that are truly beyond human understanding is nothing more than a tried, tested and failed experiment to control the masses. Whether we realize it or not, we masses simply stop caring about the issues behind the dogma or we rise up and openly reject the church teaching. The church, in turn changes its position in order to survive.
    Oh and btw, the gospel according to John holds one of many examples of verses indicating that God wants to know you better. You! Not the organized church downtown. If you go checking your brain at the door of any room where people are speaking on authority of either God or science you are wasting both your time and theirs. So rock on TK with an open heart AND mind!
    Kristin Mackey said...
    I tend to perceive life as this huge matrix of vibrating particles, waves and then forms fueled by "Source", "God", "Quantum field", "Collective Intelligence", "United Field", take your pick on the name. Each person is a bit of weaved sweater of sorts...a personal matrix...the totality of that "sweater" creates the perceptions (ultimately by choice...but many of us "choose" unknowlingly), which then collapse the other "realites" ....and I think the whole darn thing is supposed to be fun....a sort of adventure consciousness is having. I see life as energy crafted by thought. We are thoughts...and the more we learn about quantum theory - the better crafters we will be.

    I have passion for what quantum theory reveals about our potential individually and collectively. Forgive the lack of scientific termonology in this post...As an intuitive, my subconscious mind tends to "communicate" in pictures, analogies, visuals etc. (hence the sweater example) when I begin to attempt to explain something there are simply not enough words available to explain .... :)

    Anonymous said...
    It is not that everything and every possibility is somehow 'already out there'. Like Everett's Many worlds notions.
    This is still an attempt to cling to the scientific 'discovery' paradigm, that science and scientists make discoveries of things 'already there'.
    It is much much stranger that that.
    It could equally be said that there is nothing 'out there'.
    And that science generates, or brings forth its own coherent distinctions in the process of experimental observation.
    Can anyone outline an experiment that might be performed to demonstrate unequivocally that a tree makes a noise when there is no one there to hear it.
    An experiment is not an experiment if there is no one there to observe the results.
    Kristin Mackey said...
    I sense that unless observed, the particles do not shape into anything...so I tend to believe that there is no noise when the tree falls unless there is an ear to hear it. There may be waves of vibration but they are left uninterpreted with no "label"... we label and give particles and waves "names"..names and labels gives them stories and dymanics (stuff to "play" with)...that said, I sense that our entire "reality" can be crafted into something completely different then what we see now...its like a big clay ball in a sense. I agree that science simply reveals what we (a collective consciouseness) have already created...by "discovering" and "naming", it appears to add "value and truth"....but in a way, its just a way to better work in the physical, our non-physical reality that co-exists. Its easier to "create" a garden, when you understand the plants and parts...but beyond that its just vibrating particles...until we/science name it something else, and then it will be that. it will always become what we name it, I tend to believe life is one entity looking at itself at every level down to the tiny, little particle.
    Anonymous said...
    I find it interesting how some of the comments herein blend science with almost religious beliefs. It is nice to dream that one day we could know it all.
    Is it the ultimate aim of human existence to "know the mind of god" and therefore become gods ourself?

    Welcome to the Church of Quantum Physics.
    Anonymous said...
    In the process of helping my 8th grader on a school project I stumbled on to this discussion. It's nice to see there are people out there actually thinking about something other than TV. Can anyone answer this-What if humans never came to be and no one was here to make observations, would everything still be?
    dermot conley said...
    Yes, I think most things, but not everyhting, would still be. We mustn't be so selfish as to think humans are the only force of abstraction observing things into existence -- although I'm pretty sure TV wouldn't exist. o_O

Post a Comment