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Anhad Kashyap

Business Process Reengineering Consultant, Alcatel Lucent

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Schrödinger's Cat: Quantum Superposition and Collapse of the Wave Function

What is Quantum Mechanics? Why does superposition exist in nature? How does the wave function collapse and lead to a simplified and reduced classical result? How do we see the effects of Schrödinger's Cat in our daily lives?

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    Jun 12 2012: Until we make an observation, they say, the cat in the box is simultaneously dead and alive.
    This doesn't work in regular Einsteinian physics. If you try to work it out anyway you end up saying nonsense such as : "observations are causing this, so consciousness and quantum physics are deeply connected."

    If you change models from a single universe to a multiverse, you can go around the problem of having Deepak Choprah writing your preface. Ever heard of the Many Worlds Interpretation? Seems to make a lot more sense...
    • Jun 15 2012: Gerald !
      "This doesn't work in regular Einsteinian physics."

      Theory of relativity is not supposed to ' work ' on the subatomic particle level, the Standard Model is. Standard Model has got the status of a "theory of almost everything". Why almost ? Because it does not incorporate the theory of gravitation as described by Einstein's general relativity.
      MWI sounds pretty much the same ' story ' as quantum superposition , but presented in 'animated cartoons' , it is rather a psychological way of thinking about Q.T.It adds a kind of 'physicality' to it and it's not at all bad, it's cool ! But since the other universes can not be observed, for me it is just multiplying complexities without necessity or let's say MWI does not respect Occam's razor :).
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        Jun 18 2012: Let us talk of the "law of death sentence"
        * The law would be in a state of superposition in context to any observer until and unless someone commits a murder.
        * All stakeholders of the process, The Judge, The Murderer, The Witness would be the observers in context to the law.

        BEFORE I COMMIT A MURDER
        * The law is in superposition state for me "ANHAD IS MURDERER OR ANHAD IS NOT A MURDERER"
        I COMMIT THE MURDER
        * The wave function collapses for me "ANHAD IS A MURDERER"

        A Boy and Girl

        * Boy proposes
        * Girl does not respond.
        * Boy is in a superposition state "SHE LOVES ME" OR "SHE DOES NOT LOVE ME", Yes OR No.
        * Girl says Yes, Wave function collapses.
        * Girl says No, Wave function collapses.
        • Jun 18 2012: Hi, Anhad !
          Correct me if I am wrong :
          superposition is the state that is branching into at least two possibilities simultaneously.
          The description must be based not on options ' ...or....or...' but on the states/actions taking place at once '...and....and...and...'
          Let's take your 'boy-meet-girl' story ( it's more pleasant to deal with these kind of stories :)

          The boy is in the state on uncertainty,the girl, on the other hand is certain.
          And the boy knows that she knows So she is not in the state of superposition ( being in love and being not in love simultaneously ) for him either.
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        Jun 18 2012: I feel the Schrodinger Cat is a good thought experiment but the point we need to understand is furnished in the below examples. But the point what I want to make is there are several other thought experiments which can be done which are better than the CAT Experiment.
        • Jun 18 2012: In Schrodinger's experiment cat plays the role of a macro object, nothing more, you may put in the box anything you like or better you don't like, let it be a cockroach or a rotten apple :)
          S. experiment was really a breakthrough because it was the first to make a link between macro ( observable objects ) and micro (unobservable subatomic particles ) world ; about a century ago they were totally disconnected realms and were supposed to be such, a kind of 'flatland' approach, now the connection is dimly visible.
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        Jun 19 2012: The boy is uncertain so he is in a state of superposition.
        The girl is certain but until and unless she renders her potential opinion kinetic, the wave function would not collapse and the results would not be classical in nature. i.e. you are having a business plan in you mind for the past 10 years and have not executed it (Superposition), it aint a part of the classical world, it is when you decide to get into the business, you collapse the wave function.
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      Jun 18 2012: ISSUE 1: "Until we make an observation, they say, the cat in the box is simultaneously dead and alive "
      Answer:
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      Gerald and Natasha, Friend I do not know what you people are doing rite now which means I am not able to observe and therefore for me you guys are in a state of superposition.

      POINT 1
      * The operator which I would use would be OR not AND.
      * I cannot say that Natasha is watching TV AND sleeping but I can definitely say Natasha is watching TV OR Sleeping OR Laughing OR Eating.

      POINT 2

      * It is wrong to say that the cat is dead and alive simultaneously. We should say cat is dead or alive.
      * When we open the box and make an observation, the possibilities collapse and we get a reduced singular result.
      * Which means, one of the possibilities is having a probability of being closer to truth.
      * At every smallest fraction of time, wave function collapse and information is absorbed in the cosmic database in context to the observer.
      • Jun 18 2012: I would be in superposition for you if you could imagine me watching TV AND Sleeping AND Laughing AND Eating ...simultaneously , at once .
        Please don't do that ! I look awful in this thought experiment :)


        The best illustration of a quantum superposition I've ever met is based on an observation of a coral :

        Each coral head consists of thousand of individual polyps. These polyps are continually budding and branching into genetically identical neighbors. If we imagine this to be a hyper-intelligent coral, we can single out an individual and ask him a reasonable question. We can ask how exactly he got to be in this particular location compared to his neighbors -- if it was just chance, or destiny, or what?
        He would tell us that our question was completely stupid, this polyp would continue and tell us that his neighbors were quite clearly identical copies of him. That he was in all these other locations as well, but experiencing them as separate individuals. For a coral, branching into different copies is the most natural thing in the world.
        Check out here
        http://www.ted.com/talks/garrett_lisi_on_his_theory_of_everything.html

        Unlike us, a hyper-intelligent coral would be uniquely prepared to understand quantum mechanics. Our mind prevents us to be conscious that we ARE coral; we a global net of interconnections.
        In a sense , any fellow human is an identical copy of you :)

        Cheers !
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      Jun 19 2012: Quantum superposition is a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics. It holds that a physical system -- such as an electron -- exists partly in all its particular, theoretically possible states (or, configuration of its properties) simultaneously; but, when measured, it gives a result corresponding to only one of the possible configurations (as described in interpretation of quantum mechanics).
    • Jun 23 2012: Yes: "observations are causing this, so consciousness and quantum physics are deeply connected." is nonsense. Because that's not the way to come to the conclusion that "consciousness and quantum physics are deeply connected".

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