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Schrödinger's mouse

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Spacetime only has so much processing power*, which is why Nature fudges things. No point in calculating the path of a photon through twin slits if nobody is going to ask for the answer.

Schrödinger's Cat annoys spacetime a lot. As soon as someone opens the box, Nature suddenly has to backtrack and decide if the cat died and, if so, how long ago. It also has to fill in all the details such as post-mortem body temperature (if dead), stage of decay and so forth.

I think it would be interesting, and possibly catastrophic, to tease Nature and test her abilities to do all this post- hoc filling in of details.

I therefore propose Schrödinger's Mouse. This experiment consists of a mouse in a small box, with the usual arrangement of a single radioactive atom and poison gas. However, the Schrödinger's Mouse Box is placed inside the Schrödinger's Cat Box.

The state of the mouse will not collapse until the cat observes it. However, the state of the cat will not collapse until the scientist observes it, and only then will the cat be in a state (if alive) to collapse the state of the mouse.

I suspect that Nature will really struggle to get everything straightened out seamlessly and promptly when the Cat Box is opened, and it may be possible to observe some interesting phenomena (for example, a superposition of dead and extant mice) while Nature catches up.

If this doesn't produce interesting phenomena, then of course one can go further. Inside the Schrödinger's Mouse Box (which is inside the Schrödinger's Cat Box), one could place a Schrödinger's Beetle Box. If necessary, a Schrödinger's Beetle Mite box could be placed within that. You get the idea.

At some level of nestedness, we'll reach a point where Nature just cannot backtrack and recalculate through all the layers fast enough, and we'll be able to see just how sloppy she is.

(*it's roughly 1 bit per Planck time per cubic Planck length, give or take a factor of e)

MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 07 2012

Wigner's Friend http://guidetoreali...-perspectivist.html
[Wrongfellow, Mar 08 2012]

Schrödinger's Idea Schr_f6dinger_27s_20Idea
I thought this one pretty much wrapped it all up. [theleopard, Mar 09 2012]

Schr_f6dinger_27s_20Zombie_20Cat I'm sorry but the dead/undead must be remembered [xenzag, Mar 09 2012]

[link]






       I like this one a lot. It does nicely illustrate some of the things that bother me about the observer effect and duality of existence. My great-uncle Buckwell Maxanan was going to set up this very experiment for the purposes of aggravating nature in just the manner you describe. Unfortunately, when Auntie Nat went into his laboratory to see how he was going, she observed him on the floor dead of a heart attack which occurred before poor old Uncle Buck even had the chance to set up his annoying, nested experiment.   

       Apparently, nature took the shortcut.
AusCan531, Mar 07 2012
  

       The rest of the family took the hint.
AusCan531, Mar 07 2012
  

       So, we're throwing the notion of parallel realities right out the window here? I mean, this is a neat proposal, but it hangs upon the concept of state collapse. If you think in terms of divergence instead of collapse, everyone splits off as fast as the observer can open boxes and nature gets the last laugh...
Alterother, Mar 07 2012
  

       [+] what [AusCan] said.
FlyingToaster, Mar 07 2012
  

       If this works out as predicted, this invalidates the butterfly effect. Unless someone monitors the butterfly flapping and the air molecules that were disturbed up until the time that these events cause a significant change in the weather, nature will not include the flapping butterfly in the calculation of that weather at all.
scad mientist, Mar 08 2012
  

       The butterfly observes. Whats more, the weather doesn't "exist" until someone or something observes it. I'm not saying I agree with this point of view but it doesn't open up any more quandries than trillions of parallel universes popping into existence every micro-second.
AusCan531, Mar 08 2012
  

       They don't just pop into existence. They already exist. They always have.
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       This reminds me of the "Wigner's Friend" thought experiment. See link, assuming it hasn't collapsed into non-existence.
Wrongfellow, Mar 08 2012
  

       My understanding of it is that there's not really anything special about a concious being 'observing' the state. Rather, it's that the state of interacting entities becomes intertwined.   

       The original thought-experiment is therefore making the point that when you couple up the state of a large entity (like a cat) to a small particle exhibiting quantum uncertainty (like a radioactive source) then the universe defers making the decision until it has to. In some way in which noone really groks, because human brains arn't evolved to understand that quantum stuff.
Now, you might have thought that this meant it didn't actually matter, but apparently you can do funky stuff with things (eg. photons) in this superposition of states, and can tell whether such a superposition had collapsed before observation.
  

       //I think it would be interesting, and possibly catastrophic, to tease Nature and test her abilities to do all this post- hoc filling in of details.//   

       What sort of result are you looking for? A zombie cat? A Schrödinger's ravening maw to throw at people you don't like? Collapse of the universe outwards from that point at the speed of light?
Loris, Mar 08 2012
  

       //Nature suddenly has to backtrack//

Hmm! That's not quite how I understand it (not that I have any level of expertise beyond that of having half-read a difficult book once). My understanding is that nature carries out all possible sets of calculations and then, like a magician doing a close up card trick, decides which outcome to display when you start observing and unobtrusively stuffs the other options back up its sleeve whilst your attention is distracted..
DrBob, Mar 08 2012
  

       There's nothing special about the scientist's observation of the cat versus the mouse's. The cat would know whether to exist or not directly upon the mouse's observation. Or no?
RayfordSteele, Mar 08 2012
  

       [DrBob]'s analogy is pretty close to my (chosen) understanding. When nature says "is this your card?" it invariably will be. Which card it is depends on which [Alterother] it's being shown to, but is ultimately irrelevant, or rather is relevant only to [The Alterother].
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       The mouse will see the cat once the mouse's box is opened, obviously.
RayfordSteele, Mar 08 2012
  

       I'm sure there's the possibility of a paradoxical Schrödinger's Twin Cats experiment. If we make the fate of the two cats reciprocal (ie, the death of one ensures the survival of the other), and if they are allowed to observe eachother at the end of the experiment, then clearly neither cat can collapse the other cat into a living cat, since that would mean that it's own state was collapsed into a dead cat, in which case it couldn't have observed the other cat to be alive. Or something.   

       I really hate the Copenhagen interpretation, but the multiverse option seems a little perverse too. On the other hand, I guess Nature can be perverse if she likes.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 08 2012
  

       I see the 'multiverse' (don't like the term) theory a bit differently than I've ever seen it presented (though I can't and won't say that my take on it is unique, even in this singular paradigm). Sadly, I lack the education to scientifically explain that which I intuitively understand.
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       //I lack the education to scientifically explain that which I intuitively understand// Well, howzabout an intuitive explanation?
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 08 2012
  

       Okay, but please keep in mind that I am limited by my ignorance. Here is how I see it:   

       Parallel realities are not separate realities. In the same way that two electrons orbiting the same nucleus can occupy the same physical location for an instant, two or more 'realities' (imperfect term) can, and do, occupy the same location in space/time. At any given moment, an observer's paradigm is composed of an infinite number of 'realities' passing through, into, and out of each other--as well as influencing each other. Any event that causes or is caused by a divergence can just as easily cause or be caused by a convergence or intersection, even by a near miss.   

       The problem with the Copenhagen Interpretation, beside the fact that it was intended by its progenitors as mere allegory and is taken far too seriously today, is that the concept of 'state collapse' is as impossible as the destruction of energy. Examined closely, reality conforms to the same properties as energy: it always has been, always will be, and can neither be created nor destroyed, only moved from place to place (figuratively speaking). The defense I can offer for this postulation is that energy having this very property is dependent upon the recursive nature of reality, thus the inverse must also be true. I know that's weak.   

       As I said, I lack the education to accurately describe and defend my position. Ironically (since I am a writer), it makes far more sense as a mental construct than it does when I try to put it into words. I conclude this anno with a nagging sense that even trying to describe it has caused me to forget the most crucial element, yet I cannot imagine what that might be... thus my reluctance.
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       //I really hate the Copenhagen interpretation, but the multiverse option seems a little perverse too//   

       What about quantum decoherence? I gather it's some sort of third way.
mouseposture, Mar 08 2012
  

       // keep in mind that I am limited by my ignorance// Sp.: liberated.   

       OK, I see several elements to your theory. Correct me if I've misunderhended.   

       (1) the alternate universes co-exist in the same space (at least, they are not separated in the three dimensions we perceive). This is fine - I'd sort of implicitly assumed this was so. By definition, a new universe can't come into existence and immediately move sideways by 1 universe diameter, so it would have to co-exist.   

       (2) the alternate universes do not simply branch off, but can re-unite partially or wholly. I can sort of see that working. However, I suspect that it can only happen very shortly after divergence. What would happen, for instance, if "our" universe re-united with one that went its own way four billion years ago?   

       (3) As regards the incompatibility of the Copenhagenian "collapse" with things like energy conservation, I'm not sure if that's a valid point. My crude understanding is that a "collapse" merely condenses things from smears of probability into definite points, no? And any multiverse theory has to deal with the energy demands of creating new multiverses (or losing them, if they combine).   

       My main gripes with the naive version of the Copenhagen interpretation are that   

       (a) it makes a distinction between macroscopic observers who can "cause" collapse and microscopic non-sentient observers who can't. Why, for instance, don't the walls of the cat-box act as "observers" to collapse the cat? The walls are being hit by photons of heat coming from the cat, and those photons can differentiate between a live, hot cat and a dead, cold one. Nature doesn't work like that, and there's a continuum all the way from a single atom, through a wall being hit by heat photons, through a simple camera, through a cockroach watching the cat, to a human; there's no justification for deciding what counts as an "observer"   

       (b) The naive Copenhagen interpretation doesn't have any relative aspects to it: it assumes that collapse is absolute. But clearly in a nested Schrödinger experiment, the cat can be collapsed from the perspective of the scientist who opens the box, but un-collapsed from the perspective of another scientist standing outside the [sealed] lab.   

       However, by this time you will have recalled the crucial element, so I'd best shut up.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 08 2012
  

       //      any multiverse theory has to deal with the energy demands of creating new multiverses (or losing them, if they combine). //   

       That's (one of) my point(s); realities or universes or what have you aren't created or destroyed. They can't be. They can only move around and change forms.   

       Other than that, it seems you have at least as tenuous a grasp on my theory as I myself do. I agree that if (when) re-convergence occurs, it can only be shortly after the correlating divergence--a fraction of a second at most. Re- convergence of two realities in the same paradigm (shared or individual) after any significant measure of time is sci-fi (a realm where I am king, though it's a time-share throne).   

       I have not yet recalled the crucial element, but if it exists I'll catch it on the next oscillation.   

       I guess the best visual metaphor I can come up with at the moment, and it's not a very good one, is that the 'multiverse' (also a term I would like to improve) is like a set of Russian nested dolls, but each of the infinite number of dolls both contains and is contained by each of the other dolls.   

       Actually, that's not really it at all, but I'm not going to get any closer until the Bruins game is over.
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       "There was an ol' lady who swall'ed a horse,
She's dead perhaps"
gnomethang, Mar 08 2012
  

       As salient a point as any.
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       // What sort of result are you looking for? A zombie cat? A Schrödinger's ravening maw to throw at people you don't like? Collapse of the universe outwards from that point at the speed of light?
— Loris, Mar 08 2012//
Any of those would be quite nice, thanks you!
gnomethang, Mar 08 2012
  

       Of course this would all make sense if we're just software in a simulation. Somebody once argued that any civilisation will quickly develop sophisticated computers capable of simulating other civilisations and, naturally, they would have many such computers. Ergo, the vast majority of civilisations in the universe will be simulations. Naturally, a smart simulation will only simulate details when they're asked for.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 08 2012
  

       /As salient a point as any./
Aythangyou!
gnomethang, Mar 08 2012
  

       I read about this stuff a lot; I may not understand all of it, but I try hard, and I give equal consideration to everything before accepting, rejecting, or assimilating it. Copenhagen, for instance, has its merits. IMO, Heisenberg was basically right about observation, but he and those who came after him took it way too far.   

       The one thing that seems obvious to me, yet I have yet to encounter it in any presentation of the multiverse interpretation, is that reality _must_ conform to the same conditions as (any other form of) energy. It acts just like energy in many respects. The only reason I'm not coming out and saying that reality _is_ just another form of energy is because I can't see how it can be converted; the only force that can interact with reality is itself (and observation, which is an application of reality). I have no idea how to substantiate these claims, so I'm not qualified to stand up and say "why hasn't anyone else noticed this?" Also, I'm a wierdo who lives deep in the mountains and has no higher acedemic credentials than a high school diploma and a double handful of welding certifications, so it's unlikely that anyone but the world's most brilliant theoretical physicists would take me seriously.
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       I take you seriously buddy.
AusCan531, Mar 08 2012
  

       Thanks.   

       No, really, thanks.   

       One thing that comforts me is that, if there is any validity to my theory, eventually somebody more intelligent or at least more prominently placed than I am will think of it. If there isn't any validity to my theory then I'm just another raving kook, which I'm also completely comfortable with.
Alterother, Mar 08 2012
  

       //(a) it makes a distinction between macroscopic observers who can "cause" collapse and microscopic non-sentient observers who can't.//   

       Actually I don't think it does. But I said that before. anyway...   

       //Why, for instance, don't the walls of the cat-box act as "observers" to collapse the cat? The walls are being hit by photons of heat coming from the cat, and those photons can differentiate between a live, hot cat and a dead, cold one. ..."//   

       I think this is why it's a thought experiment, rather than one you actually do. The box is not just any old box, it's one which perfectly isolates the inside from the outside. The sentience of the external observer isn't relevant.
So the sentience of the cat to observe the mouse wouldn't be relevant. Instead of the cat living or dying you could have a computer set up to print out a choice of pictures of cats in various states of wellbeing. Or whatever. The point is that the state at the 'normal' scale, where we're used to classical rules applying is made to depend on the quantum scale, where they don't.
Loris, Mar 09 2012
  

       ... which, of course, is not the case. The central point of the thought experiment, and what seems to be missing from all these discussions, is that, observer be damned, a cat most emphatically DOES NOT exist in a superposition of dead-and-alive states, or an indeterminate state. That would be ridiculous. Either it is dead, or it is alive - BEFORE the box is opened. Einstein and Schrödinger clearly agreed on that. That's why it's called a reductio ad absurdem argument - the absurd part being the idea of an alive-and-dead cat.
spidermother, Mar 09 2012
  

       // As soon as someone opens the box, Nature suddenly has to backtrack and decide if the cat died //   

       ... unless, of course, it's us opening the box ...
8th of 7, Mar 09 2012
  

       //... which, of course, is not the case. ... a cat most emphatically DOES NOT exist in a superposition of dead-and-alive states, or an indeterminate state. That would be ridiculous. Either it is dead, or it is alive - BEFORE the box is opened. Einstein and Schrödinger clearly agreed on that.//   

       Well, Schrödinger did describe it as a quite ridiculous case at the very start of his description of it. And Einstein thought _every_ alterative absurd.   

       The trouble with quantum mechanics is that it does often - well actually, always - seem quite ridiculous, but nevertheless experiments seem to confirm it. (In experiments with objects much smaller than cats).
Loris, Mar 09 2012
  

       Yes, I'm aware that Schrödinger proposed his cat to highlight the absurdity quantum uncertainty, but his idea has sort of been hijacked by the other camp, and it can work equally as an argument there.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 09 2012
  

       I can tell it's Schrödinger week from the Charlie Brown theme music that gets stuck in my head when I look at the recent page.   

       Thought experiments: another example of how The Matrix keeps our minds occupied so we don't bother searching for The One.
Canuck, Mar 09 2012
  

       //experiments seem to confirm it. (In experiments with objects much smaller than cats)//   

       That's kind of the point; a cat (or even a vial of cyanic acid) is far too warm, big, and complicated to exist as a superposition of (exactly two) quantum states. Further to [Wrongfellow]'s link, there are many components inside the box that observe the particle's decay (or not), and reach agreement on a macroscopic, non-quantum scale.
spidermother, Mar 09 2012
  
      
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