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Posts Tagged ‘Shrödinger's cat’

I have a mathematical friend who once, in our university days, treated me to a very nice meal he had cooked, and afterwards, espresso and an explanation of quantum theory. It may have been a complex intellectual wooing manoeuvre, but if so, it failed miserably as I was so busy trying to bend my head around the quantum part that I failed to notice the rest. Also I thought he was involved with someone else (which he was) and naively assumed (I can’t quite believe this now, but it’s true) that he could therefore not be engaged in wooing activities (which he quite possibly was, actually). Hey, ho. Also, poor soul would have been barking up the wrong tree for another reason. As he’s about two feet taller than me, I wouldn’t even be able to see the expression on his face without my contact lenses, and according to my Iron Rule of Partner Selection #3, that’s a rate-limiting factor in relationships: I can’t imagine going out with someone too far away to see (rather like not speaking a common language).

Well, I was very taken with his explanation, and especially with Shrödinger’s cat, which I vaguely remember as involving an experiment set up with a cat in a box and some particles of something which in one state would mean that the cat was alive and in the other state would mean that it was dead, but that until it was observed which state was true, then the cat had to be considered simultaneously both alive and dead.I don’t remember if there was a neat little appendix that made play with the experimenter/observer effect, or if I only dreamed that part. And I might be pretty wrong about the whole thing. There I go, bastardising science again, But don’t blame me; blame my friend Andy.

Anyway, fast-forward a whole hunk of years, I find Child Two happily singing to herself the nursery rhyme for a quantum universe: The Grand Old Duke of York/He had ten thousand men;/He marched them up to the top of the hill,/And he marched them down again./And when they were up, they were up;/And when they were down, they were down,/And when they were only half-way up,/They were either up or down.

Until they were observed, at which point they would presumeably be categorically one or the other. But not, note, half-way. One or the other, but apparently both. This helps me with the cat in Shrödinger’s box. Either/or masquerading as “and”. Not a concept a three-year-old has any difficulties with, it seems. What does that imply?

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