Thursday, April 07, 2005
My life and the Schrodinger's cat
A cat is placed in a sealed box. Attached to the box is an apparatus containing a radioactive nucleus and a canister of poison gas. The experiment is set up so that there is a 50% chance of the nucleus decaying in one hour. If the nucleus decays, it will emit a particle that triggers the apparatus, which opens the canister and kills the cat. (According to quantum mechanics, the unobserved nucleus is described as a superposition (mixture) of "decayed nucleus" and "undecayed nucleus".) However, when the box is opened the experimenter sees only a "decayed nucleus/dead cat" or a "undecayed nucleus/living cat."
The question is: when does the system stop existing as a mixture of states and become one or the other? The purpose of the experiment is to illustrate that quantum mechanics is incomplete without some rules to describe when the wavefunction collapses and the cat becomes dead or remains alive instead of a mixture of both.
In short, it is in a state that is both alive and dead, until the box is opened.
My condition is stranger. I have opened the box, and yet, the wavefunction refuses to collapse. The cat roams free, and I don't know if it is alive or dead :(
The purpose of this post is to illustrate that my life is stranger than quantum mechanics.