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The Cat in the Black Box

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2002 7:42 pm
by TheShortCut
Can someone explain the philosophical model of the black cat in the black box to me. The model which deals with the nature of reality, for instance if I don't look in the box..does the cat exist? If I look in the box and the cat is alive, is there a dead cat that has been pushed into an alternative reality?

PostPosted: Wed Sep 18, 2002 11:31 pm
by agirl
there's already been a thread about this, although i really can't remember where it was. (helpful i know)

PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2002 2:00 am
by TheShortCut
louise wrote:there's already been a thread about this, although i really can't remember where it was. (helpful i know)

ShortCut: lol..well, let me know when you remember it..:) Private Message me.

PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2002 3:50 pm
by Polemarchus
Hey ShortCut,

I believe you're referring to Schrödinger's cat. This was a thought-experiment in quantum mechanics proposed by Erwin Schrödinger back in the 1920's. This link gives a brief explanation:

You might also take a look at John Gribbon's book, In Search of Schrodinger's Cat. This book reads as easily as a novel and is a good layman's introduction to quantum physics.


PostPosted: Thu Sep 19, 2002 7:25 pm
by agirl

PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2002 12:59 am
by Matt
A lot of what I've read on Schrodinger's cat has been plain wrong however, I get the same feeling off of Polemarchas' link. Schrodinger was using the example of the cat in the box to demonstrate that our observation does not change what has happened, the cat is either dead or alive, it's just that until we observe it we cannot know, hence it *seems* to exist in a flux state. His point was that the cat is Dead or it is Alive, it is not in between, it's just that when we observe the cat we know, but our observing it does not "change" it's state. I think it was an attempt to prove wrong those crazy physicists who were swesaring blind that our observation of a partile changed it's state, hence we were some sort of Gods.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2002 4:57 am
by Brad

Isn't that just the application of the hidden variable interpretation to the question? Apply the multiple universe interpretation, and the cat splits into two, one dead and one alive. One might argue (though this isn't one of the standard interpretations as I understand it) that the cat is either dead or alive because God is watching (We aren't gods but there is a god kind of thing). But what happens when God blinks? :D

Anyway, while I'm not sure of Schrodinger's intentions, the problem shows, not that we should necessarily favor our common sense intuitions over and above any particular interpretation, but that the quantum world, our theory for the quantum world, goes directly against them. According to the math, the cat is 50 percent alive and 50 percent dead at the same time. Schrodinger may indeed think that to say this is absurd but that's how the theory actually works. We describe any quantum entity as a wave function until we look at it, then we see it as a particle. Where and when does the wave function collapse is anybody's guess. The trick is that if you imagine that the entity is just a particle all the time, you can't explain the results of the experiments, you have to see it as a wave until you look at it.

So, the reverse is just as possible. The cat really is fifty percent alive and fifty percent dead. It's just that our current understanding of the world prohibits that from seeming a viable option.