Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Schrödinger's Straw Apparatus

Two straws enter, one straw leaves
  (+6, -5)
(+6, -5)
  [vote for,

One straw enters a bottle of poison, the other one goes into a bottle of water. They both converge inside a box which contains a valve, controlled by the action, or inaction of a tiny amount of radioactive decay. (think Schrödinger's cat, only small enough to have no cat).

In scenario one, the decay occurs, and when the thirsty experimenter, sucks on the single straw exiting from the box, the valve permits a clear pathway to the poison, with terminal consequences. In scenario two, no decay is detected and the experimenter gets to satisfy his/her thirst with pure water.

I just never liked the idea of a cat being involved, so I devised this way, to ensure that the experimenter is also the actual experiment. In this method, if the whole experiment is sealed up inside a room, and the experimenter survives, they get to relate what it's actually like to exist in a state of superposition.

xenzag, May 07 2008


       Fair enough but you should change the category to 'science: peta:possibly dead'.
(You don't even like Thought Experiments that involve animals?). Tough Crowd!
gnomethang, May 07 2008

       Yes, but what if it's the experimenter's job to feed the cat? Then, the cat will be left in a superposition of starved/unstarved states.   

       Actually, the whole cat problem becomes a lot more manageable when you realize that the collapse of a quantum wave function is itself a relative event - the function can collapse for one observer, yet be uncollapsed for another; it can even collapse in different ways for different observers. Once you realize this, you can tie QM to GR naturally, and a lot of the weirdness disappears too.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 07 2008

       Lovely!. So all the kitties are safe.
gnomethang, May 07 2008

       There will be decay, eventually. So I would be the first to drink if I were stupid enough to drink at all. Bad science here, go back to the drawing board. My vote is neutral because the premise is nice.
zeno, May 07 2008

       Ah [zeno] you have slightly missed the point. As long as the observers outside of the container don't know whether the person inside has taken a drink or not, that person for them exists in a state of superposition. (Note the category, which I just spotted last night - hence the idea)   

       If the lucky experimenter eventually emerges intact, they can describe what it feels like to be both alive and dead at the same time. Of course they only get out after they actually drink something, triggering the locked door to open. Now who's going to be first?
xenzag, May 08 2008

       //collapse of a quantum wave function is itself a relative event// - Is it? I thought any observer collapsed the wave function permanently. If it's relative then surely we are all creating the world about us as we observe it?   

       Confused, of London.
wagster, May 08 2008

       confused? you might have sprung a quantum leak.
xenzag, May 08 2008

       Sadly not. While they are in a superposition of states, their brain (including all perceptions and memories) will also exist in a superposition of states. When they emerge and collapse (so to speak), so will their memories. Therefore, they will either recall being relieved at not having been poisoned, or they will be dead and recall nothing at all.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 08 2008

       //emerge and collapse//   

       So my pub is a Schrödinger box, then?   

       Everything else in this discussion sounds quite familiar.   

       Let me tell the wife I'm off to do some quantum research.
baconbrain, May 08 2008

       Perhaps more interesting if the water is replaced with whiskey, so that the experimenter is rendered dead drunk.
ldischler, May 08 2008

       // //collapse of a quantum wave function is itself a relative event// - Is it?//   

       Yes. Forget superstrings and many- universes and all that. Time and space are already known relative; I hold that relativity goes far deeper, such that qualitative differences in reality, corresponding to the collapse of superposed states, are also relative.   

       It's the only logical way to interpret the Cat, for example (the wave function has collapsed for the atom, and then for the cat, but not for the outside observer; then the observer observes and collapses the event for himself, but it remains uncollapsed for another observer outside the laboratory, etc).   

       The problem all along has been in assuming that there is such a thing as an absolutely collapsed state, just as the problem with Newtonian motion lay in the implicit assumption that space and time were absolute.   

       If anyone from Sweden comes asking after me, please feel free to point them to my profile page.
MaxwellBuchanan, May 08 2008

       Missed the point have I? Yep, you're right. Bun deserved.
zeno, May 08 2008

       I think we can all be satisfied now that superposition on this scale is as preposterous as traveling back in time and get back to inventing new kinds of cheese. Under the premise the last sentence about "if they survive" is internally contradictory.
WcW, May 09 2008


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