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Schrödinger's cat
2012
unknownj
I have an alternative position on Schrödinger's cat - or at least, one which differs from the current interpretations within quantum mechanics that I'm aware of.. If what I have to offer is incorrect, it's not my fault - I only learned relativity yesterday, the whole 'quantum' thing is going to take a bit longer..

Before I go on, why do they bother with light cones, rather than triangles? Is is that difficult to reduce spacial coordinates to one dimension for the purposes of the theory? After all, who's to say that time represents only one dimension anyway? Anyway, as far as I'm concerned, a light cone is just a simple way of describing something's causal bounds, which is (I think) what Einstein went for with General Relativity.. Ignore light, it's the range of a cause's potential effects, plotted through space/time.

In any case, in the example of the cat, the point at which it is deemed to be alive or dead is presumably the point at which the causal future of the event within the box intersects with the time/space coordinates of the observer. However, here's the point - can physical conditions be constructed such as to 'hide' the outcome from the rest of the universe, in such a way as to warp the cone? Theoretically, the cat is 'observed' every second, with a delay equal to the distance between me and the cat, divided by the speed of light. So pretty quick. And this seems to be confirmed by the idea that quantum waveforms are collapsed by direct interaction, rather than human observation.

Yet we still argue that the cat may be both alive and dead in the box, in spite of myself and the cat existing within the same future - the very act of my being so close surely entangles us. So in order that I don't know the outcome of the cat, there has to exist some means by which the outcome of the experiment is kept hidden. After all, really the box in some way observes the cat, and in observing the box I am (unconsciously) observing the cat by extension. That means that in order to correctly carry out the experiment, I require some sort of vacuum that isolates the box and does not permit the transfer of information between the box and me.

If such a thing were possible, it would only need to work one-way. So in theory, I could initiate caues which had effects on the box, but the reverse is not true. In practice, that probably breaks all sorts of laws of the universe, so what we have is a complete barrier, a self contained universe if you like, holding a dead/alive cat, whose state cannot be measured from outside of that universe.

But then, what sort of effect might that have on the passage of time in this little universe? I mean, if you could truly stop information from passing between where you are, and the box, would time inside it move at the same speed?

My thinking is that such an isolated pocket of space-time would have a messed up light cone (it would start off conical and then become a cylinder when its spacial influence remains fixed over time).. Except say a photon escaped from the box, and headed off towards our barrier.. The barrier cannot destroy the photon, it cannot absorb the photon without changing in its energy state, and it cannot reflect the photon without an equal and opposite reaction. The key is then in the probabilistic nature of the particles involved. Assuming things are unchanged from when I was at school, subatomic particles like electrons and photons occupy probability spaces, not defined points, until they are measured. If we assume that the deadcat/livecat alternatives have roughly similar probability clouds for the escape of electrons / photons, and provided the leakage is small enough, it's possible that the observed effects cannot deterministically be linked back to a specific cause.

In which case, the cat is alive, the universe probably still works, the cat is dead, time isn't broken, and the cat is alive.

Okay, so I've muddled my way through that. But as I said at the start, I have an alternative position.. and what I've just written merely describes the initial conditions, not my way of looking at them.

Information moves slower than light. This follows, because as I've said, the only things that can move at the speed of light do so in a probabilistic way, so the existence of an electron at B cannot prove whether it arrived there as a consequence of A, or C, being two alternative causes. It takes more information. In fact, it can be likened to the problem of a drawer containing many socks. There is a minimum number of socks that one must remove to guarantee that a pair exists within the selection. Similarly, there are a number of measurements that have to be made before it can be shown that a specific cause led to the effect, and because of this, information takes a bit more time. Not much more, mind you, but still, a bit more time..

However, the information can be passed on before the complete picture has been obtained. If photons hit sites X, Y and Z, then there will be an effect, even if it takes until electrons hit A and B before an inference can be made about the original cause. So information can travel without necessarily knowing what it is.. Of course, the more photons that reach their destination, the quicker an inference can be made, which means more information means that the information travels faster - it's only in information-starved systems where the process can significantly slow down.

Now this means that the light cone for cause and effect isn't really a cone at all.. if we go back to imagining it only as a forwards cone, and in two dimensions, it looks like triangle, with a corner at the origin, and a 45 degree angle between each side and the axes. We've now established that we're not dealing with light, but information, which travels slower than light and can be hampered by physical constraints (such as situations where it takes more information to infer the correct cause, or where less information is available). So rather than being two 45 degree lines, they start as lines and slowly curve towards the time axis, away from the space one. But not uniformly, either.. The curve depends on the unique spacial conditions, but can never be at greater than 45 degrees to the time axis.

But I still haven't reached the dead/alive cat yet. We now have that the cause and effect cone is a bit rough, and certainly not symmetrical in three dimensions. The point I want to make about the cat, that I've managed to completely miss for the last few paragraphs, is that it is both alive and dead until I perceive it. Until I have observed the cat (by which I mean, until the cause and effect cone of the event of the cat's survival or destruction intersects my position in space/time), all eventualities remain possible.

At which point the whole thing falls into that philosophical hole, 'what if I'm the only person who is conscious?'.. Because from my point of view, the whole universe exists in an indeterminate state until I can perceive it. I alone determine the cat's fate, because until that information reaches me (probably not consciously, but certainly in other imperceptible (but irrefutable) ways), then the entire universe exists in a state of uncertainty.

Now here's the really tricky bit.. the nature of 'self', and consciousness. Theoretically, for any given part of my brain, the rest of my brain is currently indeterminate, albeit for a split second. Effectively, at any given moment, every part of my brain exists in isolation from every other part. So where exactly is my consciousness? The single thing in the universe that is capable of perceiving the true state of waveforms is my consciousness, and this is inconsistent with the idea that it is housed in a mechanism that is incapable of simultaneity.

The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that consciousness is not a physical state, nor does it follow the laws of physics, nor anything else that might limit it to the human brain, since in doing so that would break it.

So ultimately, it's a bit like a computer game. By means of an interface, I can interact with a universe that has its own physics, conditions, limits.. but I, the part of me that is really me, am not a part of it, nor am I constrained by it. Because consciousness is the one thing that determines the absolute state of particles, and as such it cannot be indeterminate in itself.

So exactly what consciousness, or your soul, or whatever you want to call it is, I'm not sure.. But as far as I'm concerned, it's not of this world, and therefore probably defies an understanding so heavily limited by the assumptions that this world imposes upon thought..

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