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  • #5238
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I know it’s just a thought experiment, but it doesn’t make sense to me. Why does the atom need a human observer to be forced into a position? Won’t the cat already observe whether or not it has been poisoned? It wouldn’t need to wait for a human scientist to have a look would it? Maybe I’m missing the point.

    #5266
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    What you say is very interesting, Lee. Something like the problem of the observed (object) as an observer (Subject) of its own phenomenon.
    However, I think you make the problem more complex than it already is.
    Personally, I think that the metaphor that Shrodinger uses is very crude and lacks imagination. If it is about metaphors to explain a complex phenomenon, the Greeks, Egyptians, Mayans, Indians, etc. They do it masterfully in their mythology.
    The epistemological turn that the course offers (combining physics and Buddhism) allows for a dignification of the models of knowledge generated by ancient cultures.

    #5269
    SciWiz
    Keymaster

    Hi Lee,

    Thanks for your comment. You touch on a very important point: quantum theory is centred around the concept of observation/measurement causing the collapse of the quantum wave function. But what exactly constitutes a measurement or observation is not univocally defined, and changes between different formulations of quantum physics.

    In some interpretation, such as the von Neumann-Wigner formulation, a conscious observer is necessary to cause the collapse of the wave function. As you correctly observe, the observer could be the cat itself, not necessarily a human experimenter.

    In other interpretations, no conscious observer is needed. For example, in Rovelli’s relational interpretation, any quantum system can act as observer. It does not necessarily require the presence of subjective experience; an atom interacting with another is “measuring” its state. However, in this case, different observers (be they atoms, cats, or scientists) will have a different perception of the world.

    More generally, according to the Neo Copenhagen interpretation (Lesson 2, Module 1), different observers formulate different descriptions of the world. This is also the case in Rovelli’s interpretation as well as QBism. In these paradigms, the cat has access to the information about the state of the atom, the detector, and the poison, and will therefore experience a classical-like reality were everything only has one value. And simultaneously, the scientist in the lab will describe the state of the atom, the detector, and the cat inside the box as a superposition of decayed/not decayed and dead/alive. From the scientist’s perspective, this is the correct description of the system.

    Again, this paradox was formulated precisely with the intention of showing that quantum theory does not, as you say, make sense! Its logic is puzzling for our minds used to macroscopic reality.

    I hope this helps, and best luck with your studies.
    Marco

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