Sometimes I think that most of the Quantum Physics is deliberately complicated. For example, look at the Schrodinger's cat. Now I know that the cat represents various other complex phenomena for example superposition, but I am taking the cat here for simplicity. Isn't it deliberately complicated? The cat is both dead and alive. I understand that unless you don't check, you don't know the result. But it's like saying, if a criminal doesn't get caught, he has not committed any crime. But it doesn't necessarily mean the even if you are unaware, there is no result inside the box.

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    It's not just that you don't know the result. You can do tests that give results that only make sense if both states are present in an indeterminate form. That's what the double slit photon experiment proves. The interference patterns indicate that prior to observation, instead of one of the possible outcomes happening, they all happened and mutually interfered with each other. – kbelder Apr 2 '15 at 16:31
  • In other words, you haven't the foggiest idea what the Schrodinger Cat thought-experiment is supposed to illustrate. – WillO Apr 2 '15 at 23:24
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    I sympathise with the OP. I remember my frustration with eager and earnest accounts of things which were "simultaneously waves and particles", which if taken seriously could only imply they were neither (without telling me what actually was the case); and breathless accounts of the double slit experiment which insisted that particles could be in two places at once, but only if detected in neither place. Meanwhile, all attempts to describe what entanglement was were equally excited but didn't explain what set it apart from mere randomness. – Niel de Beaudrap Apr 3 '15 at 15:48
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    (cont'd) I can now verify what once I could only suspect: popular accounts of QM are the crudest possible shorthand, useless as descriptions except to warn people to leave their intuition at the door. Schrödinger's Cat is no exception. To non-initiates, it is little better than mystical nonsense — except that riddles of mystics do sometimes hint at how they may be fruitfully understood. But it is hard to see how to improve on this without serious maths. Imagine explaining the merits of a mobile phone plan to someone without using numbers, and you get a sense of the futility of the enterprise. – Niel de Beaudrap Apr 3 '15 at 16:04
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The point of Schroedinger's cat is not just that you have not checked, the point is that the cat is killed based on an indeterminate event.

Indeterminate events in normal physics have to be in one of the allowed states. Indeterminate events as we observe them in quantum dynamics can be in multiple states at once, and only decide what state they were in during the past when some result affects something measured.

This ability to not have to write history until you hit another particle is the point. It seems insane. We like to believe history is written as time passes. But on a microscopic scale where individual particles may be far enough apart that we can separate out each interaction and determine its state, this just is not true. Past history is written when particles interact later.

Of course there are so many particles, on any normal scale, that this almost never matters. Immediately after one interaction, there is another, and another. Fairly quickly some of those contribute to some noticeable effect on our shared reality, and things are decided.

In a literal case of a dead cat in a box, that cat is going to rot or not, and you are or are not going to smell it rotting. No need to open the box. Even if you had an airtight box, you would have to isolate the cat so thoroughly that its body heat could not contribute to the temperature of the room around it, as on some subconscious level we all measure that.

So this is not a realistic idea, just a hypothetical to make the point of how strange time is on the tiny scales where complete accounting is theoretically possible.

This kind of leads one to accept a view of physics like Leibniz's, where the monads all 'commune' and 'decide' what happens, over a form of materialism where actions are independent and absolutely predictable. You can consider the distinction a word-game, but it seems to really matter.

For instance, why should time run slower when there are a lot of particles present? (We observe the gravitational time dilation proportional to mass from general relativity, and macroscopically, mass is basically a particle count.) You can insist it is all about objectivity and relativity of measurements, but maybe that is just the effect.

It makes comparable sense to consider that those particles, being more numerous and more intimately interconnected really might have to 'commune' more in order to 'decide' how to move on -- so time really passes faster for more 'more independent' particles more isolated in space.

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    So according to you, it's not wordplay right? – rahulgarg12342 Apr 2 '15 at 16:02
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    All of philosophy and half of science is wordplay. But your understanding is lacking. Your characterization of what Schreodinger meant is completely off. In the cat dilemma, it is required by QM that there is no result inside the box (if the box were perfect enough). – jobermark Apr 2 '15 at 16:04
  • Interesting to me an ignorant though. – Kentaro Tomono Apr 2 '15 at 18:01
  • Excellent answer, though I would add that whether a human or other conscious entity is doing the measuring only matters inasmuch as we, the people worrying about this bit of physics, are social animals who care about whether another physical system is a thinking peer. As far as physics is concerned, there is no evidence that consciousness plays a role. – Niel de Beaudrap Apr 3 '15 at 16:11
  • That is why, despite its hoakiness, I am convinced by Whitehead that Liebniz notion of 'communing' and 'deciding' particles has merit. To my mind, whatever consciousness is, either does not matter in people, or it matters already at the level of genes, which make decisions of a sort, and therefore probably of particles. – jobermark Apr 3 '15 at 17:42

Looking solely at the title of your question, the answer is no. Quantum physics or quantum mechanics is based on scientific method, constantly subjecting the most valuable and useful theories of nano-scale behavior to question (disproof).


Here's a though experiment: What are tomorrows lottery numbers? The simple answer would be "I don't know (yet)". But instead you could say "the first number is maybe 1, or maybe 2, or maybe 3, ..." and so on. Instead of saying that you don't know, you could say the number is in an overlapping state where it could be any of 49 numbers, with equal probability. Of course, for lottery numbers this is nonsense.

However, for electrons this is exactly how they work. And not only in the future, but all the time. An electron circling around an atom isn't at some point circling at a certain speed. It is in a permanent state of being "somewhere around here". It is in one of many places with certain probabilities. But probability is not quite the right way to express it. Imagine you took a photo of a ball swinging around a centre, but leaving the camera lens opened for an hour. On the photo you would see the ball in all different places, but brighter in places where it was more often, and dimmer in places where it was more rarely. An electron is a bit like that, but at any single point in time.

Now Schrödinger's cat is the result of an experiment where quantum physics is made to control something in the non-quantum physics world. The cat is killed if an electron hits a detector. But an electron, as explained, doesn't hit a detector. It simultaneously hits and doesn't hit, with different probabilities. Therefore the cat is in a state where it is simultaneously dead and alive. It's not either dead and alive but we don't know because we haven't checked, it is both dead and alive at the same time.


Word play does not give specific quantitative laboratory results. Quantum mechanics makes quantitative predictions. So it's not word play. The question reveals confusion on te subject. You need a primer where the philosophy is integrated with the mathematics. I wrote such a book long ago. Try "Primer of Quantum Mechanics" by Marvin Chester.


To be clear, the strange effects of QM occur at the atomic level; they're not visible at the macroscopic level, though they have effects there too.

So, in a sense, you have Schrodinger dead to rights; no such experiment, in principle can be carried out; and hence, it appears that his line of argument is false.

But hold; first, Schrodinger was writing for the public and not his peers - so he wanted to make the physics explicable; second, he wanted to emphasise the strangeness and novelty; and thirdly that the onset or must be taken into account.

So, no; it's not word-play; but in a way it is; but it's a play not intending to obfuscate but to make clear: would you rather be faced with Schrodingers Equation or his eponymous Cat?

  • Schrodinger's cat as a problem was initially intended as popularization (although it became popular) -- it was a way of framing QM interpretation problems between and among physicists, e.g. it was published in a scientific journal. Specifically it was an attempt to show that the quantum jumps envisioned by Bohr and Hiesenberg lead to absurd conclusions, i.e. a cat that is both dead and alive. – Dave Apr 3 '15 at 17:06

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