Friday, July 09, 2004

In Search of Schrondinger's Cat

I'm a closet physics nerd

This is one of the books I'm currently reading. In Search of Schrodinger's Cat: Quantum Physics And Reality is written by John Gribbon. That book is blowing my mind. Gribbon helps break down high end quantum physics for the every day person, much like how Thomas Friedman is able to explain the complexity of international globalism and Middle East affairs using witty and understandable examples.

For more information, read a previous post of mine about Schrondinger's Cat.

Here's a good explanation from Philospher Magazine:
The architects of quantum theory, Erwin Schrodinger... devised a simple thought experiment to make plain the absurdity of one of these implications (in quantum physics).

He imagined a closed room, or box, in which was contained a live cat and "a hellish contraption" which consisted of a phial of cyanide and a tiny amount of radioactive substance. The amount is so tiny that maybe within an hour one of the atoms decays, but equally probably none of them decays. If an atom decays then a Geiger counter triggers and via a relay activates a little hammer which breaks the container of cyanide, killing the cat.

In the everyday world, there is a fifty-fifty chance that the cat will be killed, and without looking inside the box we can say, quite happily, that the cat inside is either dead or alive. But, according to quantum theory, neither of the two possibilities open to the radioactive substance, and therefore to the cat, has any reality unless it is observed. The atomic decay has neither happened nor not happened, the cat has neither been killed nor not killed, until we look inside the box to see what has happened. Theorists who accept the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics say that the cat exists in some indeterminate state – a "superposition of states" – neither dead nor alive, until an observer actually looks into the box to see whether the cat is dead or alive.
More to come. Thanks to The Poker Penguin for pointing out the book. I'll write a review when I'm done.

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