PSI Blog 20190508 Mr. Schrödinger, Please Leave Cats Alone!
Note by Glenn Borchardt
Occasionally, we discover progressive physicists outside the mainstream who maintain their sense of humor nonetheless. Below is a tongue-in-cheek guest Blog by Rudolf Vrnoga who calls himself an “Incorrigible optimist that someday matter and common sense will be returned back in science.” Rudolf, now retired (and a free researcher), got his Theoretical Physics degree from the University of Sarajevo. His native language is Serbo-Croatian, which is reflected in his English translation below. Rudolf gave us permission to reprint his paper on the inanities of quantum mechanics originally published at Academia.edu. He has more papers at that site and is working on a translation of his 1993 book “Structures of the reality.” We wish Dr. Vrnoga all the best.
Mr. Schrödinger, Please Leave Cats Alone!
Scientific books tell us that there is a Macro-World which is ruled by Newton-Einstein’s mechanics, and there is also Micro-World ruled by so named quantum mechanics. While macro-world could be described as the “regular”, rational, obvious, self-explanatory world, micro-world is described as a strange, irrational, illogical, exotic, phantom world where word “obvious” is not applicable. With all these attributes said about micro-world, we could almost think that there is going for unreal-illusory world.
- At first, micro-world is world of discreteness, regulated by Max Planck constant by which energy is packed in discrete portions or quanta.
- Waves are not just waves, they are simultaneously waves and particles. For example, electro-magnetic waves, due to discreteness of their energy, they reveal property of particles as well, generally recognized as photons.
- Particles are not just particles, they are simultaneously particles and waves, that is, particle-waves.
- There are slit experiments with 1, 2, 3, or more slits and with one or multitude particles. For better understanding what is going, we need to switch for a moment from micro to macro-world. Let imagine room which has several doors, inside room can be one person or larger group of people. Each door can be locked or unlocked independently of other doors. Now, if one person decides to go out, at least one door must be unlocked, and he/she does not have other choice but to use that particular unlocked door. If there are more doors open, he/she can chose which one door to use, but only one at the time, meaning that he/she cannot use two door simultaneously.
- Similarly it’s with group of people. If only one door is open they must use that door, but if there are open two doors they have now choice to choose either of doors. They all can use only one door, or another one, or can split arbitrarily into two group and use simultaneously both doors.
- In micro-world is not like that. If there is single person, and one door is open, no problem, he can use only that door. But, if two doors are open, he does not have choice like in macro-world, he must simultaneously pass through both doors. What if both doors are closed? No problem, he can simply pass through the wall, and that is called tunneling.
- Similarly is for larger group of individuals, they are losing their “individuality”, they simply became amorphous mass. If one door is open, no problem, they will simply flow through that door, but, if both doors are open they all will flow simultaneously through both doors, no one particularly can claim that have used this or that door.
It would be extremely long list to name all strange phenomena which are bordering with absurdity. Absurdity in meaning that micro-world involves observer which role is completely different than observer’s role in macro-world. Through the history of development of science, observer’s role was, so to say, passive, mostly reduced on processes of observations, experiments, and practical applications of gained knowledge. That was in astronomy, mechanics, optics, biology, early chemistry, and so on. In micro-world observer’s role is not just completely different, but unexpectedly new and strange. At one point there are many prohibitions, uncertainties, mysteries, fogginess, and confusion. Whatever we know about macro-world we cannot simply apply to the micro-world, we are prohibited to apply any mechanical analogy, any mechanical model. In spite that we use terms as: “orbits” or “spin”, atoms are not miniature solar systems, there are not trajectories, everything is cloudy and diffuse, but yet discrete. Whoever would try to imagine orbiting electrons as a planets according to the Bohr’s planetary model of atoms would be wrong. Planets are not jumping mysteriously from orbits to orbits. Electrons were really headache for physicists. In macro-world there would not by problem if even 10 planets revolve around Sun occupying the same orbit. As the contrast of that in every atom’s community electrons are marked by four basic quantum identification numbers. In the same atom community there is impossible to be found two electrons with the same all four identification numbers.
At the early stage of development of quantum mechanics, there were spontaneous attempts to project plainly physical laws of macro-world to micro-world. Simply said, micro-world would be miniature picture of macro-world. But it turned out that such concept doesn’t work well, physicists started to face the new phenomena – discreteness pervading every aspect of micro-world. Its majesty “quant” became absolute ruler of the micro world. If there was someone still hopping that there exist way to picture micro processes by applying analogies from classical mechanics of macro-world he/she would face another obstacle in the form of statistic and probability. Here is not going for macro-statistic and probability of big numbers of entities (atoms and molecules), but for statistic and probability applied to single particle, especially after was found that particles are not just particles, they have wave properties as well.
Beside many famous guys who made great contribution in uncovering secrets of micro-world, there came Erwin Schrodinger who tried to bring some more light into those wavy-particles problems, especially related to electrons. At the beginning he perceived electron as a cloudy sphere of electrical charge. The first version of his famous wave function should describe just that, stationary spatial distribution of density of electrical charge, that is, the distribution of one form of matter. Later he completed his function by including dynamical-temporal component of description of particle-wave. Even Einstein said at one occasion, that there is going for waves of matter, and that was good way to start developing quantum mechanics in the right direction.
Unfortunately, there were some guys who were obsessed with idea to expel no just matter from physics, but they were denying entire objective reality (observers created reality). Max Born rejected idea of waves of matter, he reduced them to waves of pure (immaterial) probability. In the regard to Schrodinger wave function related to electron particle-wave, he also rejected idea about spatial distribution of density of electrical charge, he reinterpreted Schrodinger’s wave function as the probability for dimensionless electron to be found at the specific moment in specific position. Difference between these two versions is that, according to the first version, there was going for cloudy and simultaneously distribution of (real) density through all domain of description, while according to the second version, there is going for single dimensionless phantom dot which tirelessly roams inside domain similarly to fly trapped into the jar. Of course there is not trajectory which we could follow, according to principle of superposition of all possible quantum states, “quantum fly” is simultaneously everywhere. Confusing? Pretty much. At one occasion Richard Feynman said something like: “I can surely say that nobody understand quantum mechanics”. I would say that he was right, including him. There can be hardly find two physicists which mutually completely agree what quantum mechanics is about. Even Einstein had difficulty to accept quantum mechanics in spite that he was awarded with Nobel prize for his contribution to quantum mechanics, not for his theories of relativity, how could someone think. Schrodinger himself wasn’t completely happy with Max Born’s reinterpretation of meaning of his wave function. Schrodinger didn’t have other choice, but to join the peer under the pressure. The worst thing what could happen to some scientist is when somebody else reinterprets meaning of his results, sometimes going to the extreme in opposite way.
We remember the case with Faraday who introduced notion of fields as the visual perception and description of static and dynamic states in ether. But some guys had opposite ideas, they said we like your idea about fields, but we do not need your ether, so they converted field as the description of static and dynamic state of empty, geometrical space. Similar reinterpretation was happen with Lorentz contraction which was originally meant to be real physical contractions of bodies moving relatively through the ether. He was proponent of ether existence by the last day of his life, in spite that he witnessed reinterpretation of his idea against ether.
Unsatisfied with situation in quantum mechanics, about virtually mixed states due to superposition, roles of observer in collapsing functions and similar, Schrodinger proposed his famous thought experiment with cat. In spite of differences between macro and micro world, he tried with his experiment to establish correlation between these two worlds in such a way that absurd situation in micro world would provoke absurd situation and consequences in macro world, especially in the regard of mixed simultaneous superposition of multiple states of probabilities. If something have 50%-50% to happen (and not to happen), for example radioactive decay, then we have mixed situation of both, already happened and not yet happened, until observer determines factual situation. Transferred that situation to cat confined in the box, that would mean that cat is simultaneously live and dead as long as we do not open box. Moment when we open box, wave function will collapse and we would see cat dead or live, but no more simultaneously dead and live. Poor cat!
My first objection to this experiment is: why box have to be from non-transparent material? I can imagine that one wall could be from glass, that would enable us full insight what is going inside from the first moment until we terminate “experiment”. It would be clearly seen that, at no moment, cat is in mixed state live/dead. Cat would be ONLY live (no dead) as long as it’s live, regardless of how long would last her luck to stay in that state, unfortunately if/when accident happen (at very specific moment) cat will be permanently dead and no quantum hocus/pocus can change that fact. I know, quantum physicist will cut in, and will complain that that is cheating, it’s not how quantum mechanics works. By substituting non-transparent wall with transparent glass, they will argue, we are interfering with quantum process. But how we are interfering if we are doing nothing, just observing.
- Just that “observing” is what is prohibited if you don’t want to interfere with quantum process, they will continue.
- I don’t think so for two reasons: if we cannot use glass wall, but non-transparent, then you have a problem to convince me that cat is simultaneously in both superposition mixed live/dead state without opening the box. In meantime why we should just trust you? No, that’s not how science works. Science cannot be based on blind acceptance of dogma without proof. In addition, if scientific result depend on what kind of material is used for box, then that is not science, that’s parody of science.
- O.K., if human observation through glass can interfere with quantum process, we can do different way, instead of glass wall, we could install inside surveillance camera and observe indirectly on monitor. Again no? Is there involved something supernatural what is checking and controlling what we can, and what we cannot do? That’s not science.
- Let now try something different: Instead of observing live transmission on monitor, we can record that event and watch at some later time, to say tomorrow, next month, or even after ten years. I am very sure that we will not see anything unusual, especially no some zombie-cat, half live, half dead. What we would see during entire session is normal, regular live cat until, unfortunately get dead, and that’s it. If quantum physicist still try to convince me that even indirect, delayed observation after ten years can affect retroactively some event (present at the “creation”), then one of two of us is doing wrong job.
My second objection is: why we need to sacrifice cat for the sake of some weird experiments. If we use them, why has to be deadly outcome? To make in artificial way superposition, mixture of life and death? Ridiculous! These gas chambers experiments unpleasantly remind us to similar “experiments” performed on humans. There exist myriad ways and solution to perform in non-harmful, more obvious and even funny way. At first, I would leave cats alone, if we do not want to deal with animal protection groups for animal cruelty.
- I could, for example imagine that Mr. Schrodinger himself is sitting on chair inside experimental room. Over his head is bucket filed with water, with 50%-50% chance to be splashed over his head if triggered by radioactive decays. In that way he could personally experience how is to be simultaneously 50% dry and 50% wet.
- In the case of objections of quantum physicists that human being-observer cannot be in that room, no problem, we would ask Mr. Schrodinger, wet or dry, regardless, to exit experimental room. Inside room, on wall is mounted simple electrical switch with two positions, OFF and ON, connected to the red bulb outside of room. When switch is in ON position red bulb will light up, otherwise is dark. Switch is normally in OFF position with 50% chance to be triggered by radioactive decays into ON position, so we have case of quantum 50%-50% superposition.
- Quantum physicists could try to convince us that switch is equally and simultaneously in both OFF and ON position, but we do not have to accept that, we trust what we see with our eyes, bulb is either dark or lighted, never both.
- Quantum physicists could object that we are cheating , since we are sneaking information from interior switch via wires and bulbs to the external observer, thus violating quantum superposition rules.
- O.K., we can accommodate experiment in any necessary way to avoid any possible objection. Let heavy bowling ball be attached on ceiling hook via rope and releasing mechanism which can be triggered by radioactive decay. There is 50% chance that ball is attached on ceiling and 50% chance ball lies on floor. In previous cases at starting position cat was alive, otherwise experiment would be meaningless, the same we start with dry Schrodinger, and with light switch OFF. The same is here, there is no live person- observer in the room, and starting position is ball hooked on ceiling. Only way for ball to be on floor is via free fall and heavy BANG sound when hitting the floor which can be heard outside room. I’m trying to imagine in which way could quantum physicists try to convince that ball is simultaneously in both ceiling and floor position (without BANG sound). Probably levitation?
We could go on and on with these variations of experiments, but we need to understand that any kind of probability related to micro or macro world is only measure of our ignorance. Nature doesn’t know for probabilities and is not ruled by probabilities. There are underlying sub-sub-sub micro realities for which we are not aware yet. Heisenberg’s indeterminism and Plank’s constant are not last word, they are just beginning, they lie on top of sub-micro deterministic realities and sub-Plank constants.
In our macro world statistics and probabilities are powerful helpful methods applied in many domains of everyday’s life, (insurances, weather prognosis, and similar).
I can, for example imagine, when Mr. Schrodinger decide to go out, he first listen to weathercast and prognosis which say that there is 50% chance for rain. As a quantum physicist, he knows exactly what that means, it would be superposition of 50% dry and 50% percent rain. Before exiting his house he will take his umbrella. When he returns home he would be probably 50% wet and 50% dry, but I am not sure about that.
One could possibly object about scientific and academic level of this kind of scientific papers. I have to admit that I am parodying here “scientific” level of top scientist who unscientifically involves cat to demonstrate at macro level absurd consequences reflecting strangeness of micro world. No, nothing in the nature is strange, neither at macro level, nor at micro and sub-micro….levels. Nature is highly “natural” and rational. We must still to learn from the Nature and about Nature, we cannot promote our ignorance to the level of principle. What kind of scientific level and seriousness is promoting absurd idea about Big Bang, or using kids balloons to demonstrate expansion of the Universe. I am very sure that everyone on this planet, at least once in lifetime had chance to see in text books, magazines and similar cartoons depicting Einstein blowing kids balloons. What scientific level is when some physicists claim that their observation acts create reality. Who or what created these physicists? Every morning I wander to whom I have to send “thank you card” for keeping this Universe (and me) running and alive. I could try to understand that observation act triggers super-positional wave function of probabilities to collapse, but I wonder where come from that wave function of probability, who created it? What about myriad of “unobserved” electron through the endless Universe? Everyone of us had chance to see in text books cartoons depicting Newton sitting under the apple tree, so, if he didn’t sit under that tree we wouldn’t have today gravity theory?
There was put enormous effort on development of quantum theory of gravity. Here is an idea:
Instead of Schrodinger we set Newton on chair, over his head is attached apple on ceiling which can be released via mechanism triggered by radioactive decay, so there is 50%-50% percent chance that apple will hit his head. In that way, there is 50% chance that Newton could get idea about unified quantum gravity theory. Another possibility is deflated and doted kids balloon attached to compressed air reservoir via valve controlled by quantum processes. There is again 50% chance of unification of general theory of relativity and quantum process acting together to inflate balloon. We could continue on and on with similar “great scientific ideas”. I am not sure if this paper will influence action for poor cat to be removed from the text books, but at least I tried.