Saturday, March 07, 2009

Why Schroedinger was wrong about his cat

Simple statistical mechanics.

He stacks the deck from his Hindu infatuation with his “superposition of eigenstates.”

NOTHING is being “superimposed.” It’s all classical statistical mechanics, from the way I see it.

And, there is no such thing as an “eigenstate” involved.

Let me up the ante on Schroedinger.

Put a cat in a closed box.

Restrain it, because I’m using guillotines, in the plural, rather than poison gas, in the singular.

Give me three radioactive elements with half-lives of X, 2X and 4X.

Give me three guillotines, attached to the cat’s tail, a paw, and its neck respectively.

At X, you have 50 percent chance the cat has lost its tail, 25 percent it has lost its paw and 12.5 percent chance it is dead.

At 2X, probabilities are 75, 50 and 25 percent, respectively.

At 4X, they’re 87.5, 75 and 50 percent.

NO “superposition of eigenstates.” I hope this thought experiment makes the whole idea look ludicrous.

When the lid is lifted of the box, ALL we are doing is checking which of the probabilities is the actuality. Nothing else is being done. The quantum events have happened independently of any observer.

What if a neo-Schroedinger says, lifting the box is itself an observation.

Well, first of all, that’s a “Newtonian” level observation, not a quantum-level one. Unless you try to nano-scale shrink box, cat and guillotines.

Second, I’ll accept the challenge and one-up it.

Give me radioactive element No. 4 with half-life of 8X. It controls a circuit that raises the lid on the box.


At 8X, we have 93.75 percent chance the cat has no tail, 87.5 that it’s lost a paw, 75 percent that it’s dead, and …

A 50 percent chance that we can see inside the box to determine these probabilities.

Again, all statistical probabilities.

In fact, like the turtles of Schroedinger’s beloved Hinduism, it’s statistics all the way down.

Am I arguing there’s nothing “mysterious,” – as long as you append scare quotes – about quantum mechanics? No, of course not. The two-slit experiment with light rays is proof enough of that.

I AM arguing, though, that quantum mechanics is NOT “metaphysically mysterious.” Or anything on those lines.

I am suggesting that Erwin Schroedinger bears a certain amount of the blame for the rise of today’s Deepak Chopras of the world.

And, albeit for different reasons than Einstein, while I don’t believe that some “naïve realism” interpretation of quantum mechanics will win out, should the Holy Grain of a UFT ever be achieved, I do think there will be something more quasi-realistic than the consensus of today.

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