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PETA people: this cat is sleeping

by Miles Mathis

Schrödinger's Cat is a thought experiment created by Erwin Schrödinger to answer the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. The Copenhagen interpretation, as built by Bohr, Heisenberg, and others, explains the outcomes of various difficult experiments as superimposed probabilities. In other words, since these experiments could not be explained using simple physical theory or simple math, Bohr and the rest decided to express the outcome with more difficult, more opaque math and with a theory that was purposely and one might say extravagantly irrational.

Amazingly, only a couple of major physicists were bothered by this. Schrödinger was bothered by it, and so was Einstein. Einstein presented the famous EPR paper in 1935, arguing against Bohr; and Schrödinger and his cat joined Einstein soon thereafter. These three personages were the only major holdouts against Bohr, but they were defeated. The Copenhagen interpretation is still the reigning interpretation. Yes, illogic still rules the nest in particle physics. Einstein, Schrödinger, and the cat were dead when the box was opened, and they are still dead.

I will gloss both sides very quickly. Schrödinger put a cat in a box (in his theory). There is some mechanism in the box that may kill the cat or not. There is a lid and we cannot see the cat. After some time, we pose the question, is the cat alive or dead? Schrödinger says the cat must be either alive or dead. Because this is intuitively true, the Copenhagen interpretation cannot be right.

In the Copenhagen interpretation of QM, every state is represented by a wave function, that is, by an equation. A system, or a group of more than one possible state, is represented by a superposition of wave functions. Therefore, before an observation is made, the system is still superimposed. The math is superimposed, so the system must be as well. The cat is both alive and dead.

This silly answer is just an outcome of the probability math involved, but mathematicians and physicists don't like to admit that. They should know better, but they are very attached to their maths, and they don't like to admit that choice of math affects, and may even determine, the form the theory ends up taking. A complex and abstract math will lead to a complex and abstract theory, and in the modern world, the math always comes first. The theory is only cobbled together around the math afterwards. As I say, physicists should know this, since they have other maths and other theories that prove just this, but there still isn't much synthesis in the modern world. The synapses between various disciplines are lacking, and we only have a compendium of detached neurons (assuming we have anything but empty words and numbers).

Anyway, the way the math sets up does not allow these physicists to say why we see only one state. Because there is no mechanics underneath this math, there is no way to explain how the system goes from multiple possibilities to one reality. Rather than seek this mechanics, modern physics has taken the far easier route of just inventing a pseudo-mechanism. According to this pseudo-mechanism, it is the act of observation that bumps the superimposed wave functions into one real state. This is called the “collapse of the wave function,” but that is just a fancy phrase for a set of probabilities becoming a reality. Yes, somehow, your eyeball has the amazing mechanical ability to mold probabilities into realities, like a hand reaching out and squeezing an experiment like a lump of clay.

Does the pseudo-mechanism have any more content than that? No. We are not told that particles are emitted by the eye or detector, causing some pinball-like collapse of quanta. The mechanism is just a piece of magic. The observation must cause the collapse, because, well, what else could?

But the faux-theory is even worse than that. Even in its most wishful phase, the theory cannot explain why we see one collapse into one reality rather than a different collapse into a different reality. We only get the “explanation” for a general collapse. But what we see is a particular collapse. We see only one outcome out of many. Why did the other outcomes not occur? No explanation for that.

If we apply that to the cat, this collapse of the wave function tells us that the observation makes the two probabilities collapse into either “alive” or “dead.” But the theory cannot tell us which one. How does the eyeball know it wants dead instead of alive, or the reverse, and how does the eyeball tell the cat that? There is a choice here, not just a collapse. How does the observation choose? And once the choice is made, how is the information communicated?

At Wiki, we get Steven Weinberg's explanation:

Considerable progress has been made in recent years toward the resolution of the problem, which I cannot go into here. It is enough to say that neither Bohr nor Einstein had focused on the real problem with quantum mechanics. The Copenhagen rules clearly work, so they have to be accepted.1

Imagine that someone thought that worth quoting, or worth writing down. Considerable progress has been made? “We have to accept them” is considerable progress over what? What scientific statement could be less scientific than that?

The “considerable progress” is actually the “many worlds” hypothesis of Hugh Everett, which is trumpeted as a fascinating hypothesis to this day by the various magazines. Everett proposed in 1957 that all possibilities exist simultaneously, in real worlds, but that these worlds did not communicate with each other. We exist in one of these parallel universes. When we open the box with the cat in it, we become entangled with the cat. The cat we see depends on the universe we are in.

The problem there, however, is the same as before. That hypothesis solves nothing, it simply adds more science fiction to the story. There is no answer to the question of why we see the cat we do. In other words, there is no mechanism for determining which specific state the probabilities fall into. Everett says, “because that is the universe we live in,” but that is a dodge. That's is like being asked why a circle curves, and answering, “because it is round.”

Even Roger Penrose admits that all this is unsatisfactory:

I wish to make it clear that, as it stands, this is far from a resolution of the cat paradox. For there is nothing in the formalism of quantum mechanics that demands that a state of consciousness cannot involve the simultaneous perception of a live and a dead cat.2

Well, it is good to see that Penrose sees a problem here, although he doesn't perceive the real problem. I hope you can see that he just misdirected us into some strange new problem, and some strange new world where people can see a cat as living and dead at the same time. But that isn't the real problem here. The problem is that we don't have any mechanics underneath our math, so we don't know what the hell is going on. Then we have to come up with some fairy tale to explain it.

This fairy tale is now given a name: decoherence. Decoherence is another one of those fancy words that modern people like to come up with to cover the fact that they have no answer. The probabilities decohere into a reality, and the observation causes the decoherence. Content of words: zero. Nothing is said there. It is new words posing as meaning, while having no meaning.

You may think that decoherence is just a phenomenon of particle physics or of quantum particles, but you would be wrong. Murray Gell-Mann, one of the fathers of QCD, tells us in his recent book The Quark and the Jaguar, that Mars is also a probability. He recounts a conversation with Pauli decades ago, in which they agreed that Mars must be bound by the laws of quantum mechanics, just as much as an electron. Mars does not exist until you look at it.

All this is very edifying as a study of the curious mania of modern physics, whereby rationality can so easily be dumped by an entire century of top scientists. But it is even more edifying to study now that I have shown the simple mechanism under their math. In my superposition3 and entanglement papers4, I have shown the logical solution to the various paradoxes, and this solution only required that I give the quanta real spin. 20th century physicists always resisted doing that why?: because it would ruin their beloved maths. It wouldn't necessarily ruin the wave function itself, but it would ruin the fancy operator math and the gauges and the manufactured symmetries. And as the century wore on, the list of things it would ruin grew greater. Since more and more math was piled on the problem to hide it, all this new math would be ruined, along with much of the old math. If your symmetries were shown to be manufactured, then your symmetry breaking would also be shown to be manufactured, and all of particle physics since 1960 would fall into a heap. That is why people like Weinberg and Gell-Mann have to defend the old theories to this day. Their Nobel Prizes depend on keeping the fairy tales.

I wrote this paper to point to something else interesting in all this, and now it will be almost a tack-on. Although I like Schrödinger, his cat experiment is actually not to the point. It does not address the problem like it should, and it therefore does not solve the problem like it should. You see, his cat may be either alive or dead, but the problem of quantum theory is not “alive” or “dead,” it is existence or non-existence. There is a big difference, since a dead cat still exists. The body is there either way. But when we apply the wave function to quanta, we are not calculating the probability of finding a dead electron or a live one, we are calculating the probability of finding an electron. If we don't find an electron, it is not because it is dead, it is because it is not there. It is elsewhere. It does not exist in the position or energy of the specific function. This is very important because even if we like Hugh Everett's theory, we can now replace it with a many-positions theory instead of a many-worlds theory. A many-positions theory is obviously much less radical and much less fairytale-like. If the electron isn't in position A, it isn't in some other universe, it is just in position B or C, etc.

So we can immediately see that Schrödinger, while intending to clarify a problem, actually complicated it more. The problem should have just been one of existence at a given position or energy, but the cat problem led quantum physics into metaphysics and epistemology, and specifically the two sticky problems of proof and observation. By the latter, the cat question becomes a variation of the old “if a tree falls in the forest” problem. We will bypass the question of sound, because that is a further complication, but if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to see it fall, did it fall? Unless physics wants to retreat into idealism or solipsism, it must must answer yes. In the sentence, we are given that the tree fell, therefore it fell. Our observation has nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately, physics has fallen into this idealism without seeming to realize it. Once the observer is allowed to determine action in any way, even in the case of entanglement, all is lost to idealism. If an observer can determine a quantum interaction, and if even Mars is bound by quantum laws, then the observer must determine all outcomes. Either that, or the theory is required to tell us why some events require observers and others don't. Logically, if quantum events are expressed by wave functions, and if wave functions require observation for decoherence, and if all bodies are made up of quanta, then all events require observers. And if the observer determines all outcomes, then nothing is happening beyond our cone of sight or cone of telescoping. The universe beyond the reach of our instruments must be undetermined and fully entangled, unless we propose telescoped aliens dotting the entire universe. This theory of the observer is a physical non-starter, for so many reasons.

But even greater problems were allowed in by the cat problem. Hume's disproof of all proof re-enters on its back, and we have to slog through all that again. Even Einstein misunderstood Hume, as I have shown in another paper5, so both sides of the argument were immediately lost at that point. Einstein said in a letter to Born,

I am well aware that no causality exists in relation to the observable; I consider this realization to be conclusive.

I assume Einstein thinks he learned that from Hume, but he goes well beyond what Hume showed or proved. Hume showed that you cannot prove causality; but Hume did not thereby disprove causality. Lack of proof is not a disproof. In a nutshell, Hume showed that causality, and everything else, was incapable of proof either a priori or a posteriori. It was unprovable a priori, because nothing was provable a priori. The only things true a priori were tautologies or definitions, and you don't prove either one. A proof starts from a definition, it does not end in one. And you can't prove (general) things a posteriori, because proofs from experience are always incomplete. It would require an infinite amount of data to prove something from experience. This argument is basically equivalent to Popper's argument against induction, and Godel's incompleteness theorem. And yes, they are all generally accepted and generally agreed to be conclusive. However, none of them prove anything themselves. Because you cannot prove that all lines are curves does not mean that all lines are not curves. You cannot prove that causality exists, but your inability to prove causality does not mean that causality is false. It just means you can't prove it one way or the other, by the definition of “prove.”

So Einstein was wrong. Causality has not been disproved. And because both sides of the cat problem were wrong on this one, they thought uncaused events were no real problem. They thought something like: “Hell, if causality has been disproved, we don't need to waste time with mechanics. Mechanics is the machine of cause and effect. No cause, no mechanics.” Physics was finished at that moment. Not finished as in “complete,” but finished as in “washed up.” Even Einstein and Schrödinger made no real attempt to supply the mechanics underneath these problems or underneath the math. They attempted to find a more rational theory to slide under the wave function, but they spent very little time trying to simplify the math and the mechanics down into a logical expression of cause and effect. Why would they when “no causality exists”? Einstein and Schrödinger had more scruples than the rest, but neither man had ever been scrupulous about mechanics. Einstein had allowed himself to let the math stand for the mechanics with General Relativity, and Schrodinger's wave equations, though superior to Heisenberg's, also existed with a total absence of mechanics. If Schrödinger's equations had contained a jot of mechanics, then this problem never would have raised its head.

Conclusion: we have witnessed another tempest in a teapot. As with the whole Peano-Frege-Russell-Gödel-Zermelo problem of set theory, this was a problem manufactured to give the academics something to do. As usual, they managed to spin it out in to a century of flapdoodle and major prizes. Instead of a one or two-page answer, we get several generations of “geniuses” entering the encyclopedia based on their “contributions” to this question, and hundreds of thousands of pages of commentary. Beneath this tempest lay the simple mechanics that explained both the data and the math: the quanta were spinning.

1 Weinberg, Steven (November 2005). "Einstein's Mistakes". Physics Today 58: 31. doi:10.1063/1.2155755
2 Penrose, R. The Road to Reality, p. 807.
3 Mathis, Miles. Superposition. 2005.
4 Mathis, Miles. Entanglement. 2009.
5 Mathis, Miles. The Born-Einstein Letters. 2007.

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