The wonderful world of quantum mechanics

Greetings to all thinking people out there,

Today I am going to be blogging about the thought experiment first pondered by Erwin Schrödinger, and was later to become known as Schrödinger’s cat, and the implications it has on quantum theory. Keep it in mind that when Schrödinger first proposed this experiment, it was actually meant to be an argument against quantum mechanics, rather than the explanation of quantum mechanics in large-scale objects.

Right, Schrödinger’s cat. Take a cat, put it in a box which has enough food, water, and air for it to survive indefinitely under normal circumstances. Along with the cat, in the box, you place a small amount of radioactive material which on average will decay once every hour. (This does not mean that one atom will decay every hour, it means that on average, one atom will decay every hour. If you run the experiment multiple times, sometimes it will decay almost straight away, sometimes it will never decay.) Once you have done that, you install a Geiger counter which, upon detection of the decay of an atom, will smash the flask containing the poison, thus killing the cat. You then proceed to seal up the box so that no observations of the interior of the box will occur.

Schrodinger's Cat

It's OK kitty, I would never think of harming you for science.

Now everything is set up, I’ll let you take a guess as to what will happen. Because of the uncertainty principle, where until observation, there is a superposition of all possible states, the wave functions of all of the possible outcomes will be bouncing around inside the box, but untill they are observed, they all exist at once. There will be the wave function of a living cat, the wave function of a dead cat and the wave function of the cat that is not yet dead but has already taken the poison, so amazingly, the cat is both alive and dead!

Of course, you can never actually see this superposition of states, because as soon as there is an observation of this superposition, the wave functions collapse into one, and this will be either an alive cat or a dead cat.

At this point you may be asking, “You believe in this but you don’t believe in psychics?”, I know one of you will because my mother asked this same question while reading over my shoulder. Well, mum, there is some proof for all of this.

Imagine a soccer player shooting lots of balls at a goal, with a brick wall with a gap in the middle of it (about the width of a soccer ball) in front of him. If you were to predict the result of this experiment, you would say that all of the balls that got through to the goal to be in a small cluster right in the middle. Well, this experiment has been conducted with a beam of photons, and it is not as you would expect from particles, but more what you would expect from waves, some splay right of right and some way out left, all because the particles are interfering with each others waves, essential to Schrödinger’s cat, and you can make some probabilities as to what the possibilities are of a photon hitting a particular part of the ‘goal’, say, 1 in 1000 will hit wide right. What is amazing is that this holds up even when you just shoot one photon, meaning that this particle is interfering with itself because it takes every possible outcome, and then collapses into one when it is observed.

That’s all for me for now, this is a very interesting topic and I will definitely be blogging about it again. I will leave you with a quote from Albert Einstein, “I cannot accept quantum mechanics because I like to think the moon is there even when I am not looking at it.” Albert Einstein, possibly the most famous Jewish, German-born American Citizen ever.

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