III Publishing

Schrodinger's Gambler
October 15, 2016
by William P. Meyers

Site Search

Also sponsored by Earth Pendant at PeacefulJewelry

Popular pages:

U.S. War Against Asia
Barack Obama
Democratic Party
Republican Party
Natural Liberation

Is classic probability all that different from quantum probability?

In addition to killing a number of house cats in his famous Schrodinger's Cat experiments, Erwin Schrodinger (aka Schrödinger) performed a number of ingenious experiments to try to fathom the place of quantum probability in our everyday world. [Just kidding. These were and are thought experiments. Erwin's point was that there was no need to carry out the experiments, because you could learn all you needed by just thinking about them. Carrying them out would not add to your knowledge.]

Having recently examined Schrodinger's Cat Lady Experiment, I would like to move on to Schrodinger's Gambler experiment.

A gambler is put in a sealed chamber, with an AI device and a pair of ordinary dice. The AI is attached to an apparatus that releases poisonous gas if the gamble rolls a 7, and does nothing if any other number is rolled. After the roll the AI informs Schrodinger that the roll has taken place, but not what the outcome is. After a time Schrodinger opens the chamber to see if his graduate student is alive or dead.

According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the cat is neither alive nor dead, but in a 50/50 state until the chamber is viewed. But the gambler is either 100% alive or 100% dead, because the trigger is classic physics, not quantum.

There are two differences between Schrodinger's cat and gambler experiments. The main difference is that one relies on a quantum trigger (radioactivity) and the other on a classic trigger (dice rolls). The other is that one subject, the cat, is passive, while the gambler is active.

Which brings me to an important point. Hopefully other people have thought of this, but I have never seen it mentioned anywhere. There is a bit of magician's flair in these experiments. People worry about whether the cat or graduate student are alive or dead. But the killing just makes for drama. You could, for instance, just spray the cat with paint. Then it is 50% sprayed and 50% not sprayed until the door is opened. No need to call PETA if a high school teacher tries to do the experiment.

Nor does the gambler experiment require killing. In fact, there is no philosophical difference between rolling a pair of dice in any particular time, space, or circumstance. The results are random (unless there is cheating). The outcomes depend on circumstance: exchanging money in a craps game, or winning some other bet.

Schrodinger's half alive, half dead cat was supposed to make people realize that you can only stretch the Copenhagen Interpretation so far. Instead con artists (and daffy people with PhD's in Physics) have built whole illusionary systems on top of this single thought experiment.

So let's try really thinking. Like when we see a guru levitate, and figure either there is a wire pulling him up from above, or a difficult-to-see rod pushing him up from below (or something).

You don't need the cat to live or die to test the Copenhagen Interpretation. That is a classic event. So is the device poisoning the chamber: that is a classic event. There is only one quantum event being measured in the chamber. If we detect a radioactive decay, we have a classic event (detection) showing us that a quantum event took place. We don't even have to say the detector (observer) converts the quantum event to a classic event. Once the decay particle leaves the nucleus, it is (mainly) subject to classical physics. Only within the nucleus of the atom that decays is there quantum probability (for our chain of causation).

Quantum Mechanics uses a wave function that extends in space to infinity in order to calculate the outcomes of events, like where electrons might be when around the nucleus of an atom. But the wave function is a human invention, some maths that help us figure out the nature of matter, like why different elements behave the way they do in a chemistry lab. Let history be your guide. No one said: here's the math, let's just check it against the physics or chemistry experiments. No, they kept changing the math, over a period of decades, to try to get a model with the same results as the chemistry experiments. The complexities of the maths involved make them inaccessible to everyone but those few who are willing to devote most of their lives to math.

Back to our gambler, we say the throw of the dice has random results. But there are still patterns. Sevens come up more often than twos (snake eyes) or twelves (box cars). And unless something weird happens, like a die disappearing, the results are always between two and twelve. So the randomness is within an envelope. [Probability theory calculates the expected random outcome of dice throws. Statistics analyses an actual set of dice throws]

Similarly, quantum randomness occurs within envelopes. The envelope for an electron associated with a proton in a hydrogen atom is different than the envelope for electrons associated with other types of atoms. There is an envelope for the radioactive decay or uranium that is different than the envelope for radioactive decay of thorium.

In physics, as in any discipline, it is important to sort out received horseshit from what is really going on. I have nothing against popular accounts of quantum physics, but there sure is a lot of horseshit in some of them. Most notably, recently, The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking.



III Blog list of articles