Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Questions from Andrew

Questions from Andrew

I feel like the metaphor of a cat dying or not is so fucking dramatic that I lost the point of what it was trying to say. If you say that looking at something makes electrons bounce and changes things I understand that but once you make some metaphor that makes me believe my eyes have magical powers that can kill cats I don't understand it anymore.

I'm sorry the metaphor was lost on you, but the whole point of making a metaphor is to try to relate the general idea of something hard to grasp (quantum mechanics) to something easy to grasp (a cat in a box). Worrying about the electrons in the cat is totally missing the point that it's a metaphor in the first place.

So the very act of measuring something or looking at something changes that things electrons. That's it, right?

It's more like the very act of measuring something about an electron changes some other property of that electron. But this is getting into too much specifics I don't really know. The only thing you really need to understand, and incidentally, the only thing I can say with any confidence, is that when scientists make measurements or observations on the quantum level, they affect the very thing they are trying to measure in some way.

How does this have ANYTHING to do with fate? Or universes branching off or cats being alive or not?

Because it has to do with unpredictability. The entire universe is made up of tiny particles playing by the rules of quantum mechanics. At any given time a huge number of events (interactions between particles or whatever) are taking place. The outcome of each of these events ultimately leads to the outcome of larger events.. things that we can witness with our own eyes. What you consider a small and meaningless event is just part of a never ending cascade like the butterfly effect.

I ask this because what's a few electrons? That's my FIRST impression. So a few electrons bounce around. Not much will change, right? If I dump water outside my door into the grass, not much will change in my fate or anyone else's, right? Maybe that grass will live to see another day but that's about it. So again, the point I don't understand is that how does this quantum level interact with people's fates and cause universes to branch off?

Again, EVERYTHING is made up of these quantum interactions. See above answer.

Also, what does the electrons being bounced around by us looking at it have to do with a cat being both alive and dead before we change its electrons by looking at it?

The cat is a metaphor, it's electrons don't have anything to do with anything. See first answer above or read on to last answer.

Are electrons both one thing and another and our looking at it makes it on thing or another? The quantum level is both what and what? If alive and dead are supposed to be A and B, what are A and B supposed to represent on the quantum level? I asume the alive and dead thing was just some thing used for the metaphor. Also, if A and B can't normally exist at the same time like life and death then how is that so? What makes quantum mechanics so special? Just because it's small?

Now this is the best question you've asked so far. And unfortunately, I don't really know too much about it. Read about the uncertainty principle for more information.

Also, how do we know it's both? What's the evidence for that? What reasons do we have to believe in that?

Again, I don't know the details, but I believe we know about these things from experiments. Maybe I'll look it up sometime, but not today.

This cat idea is a terrible fucking metaphor because it's trying to relate to us some idea about electrons but cats are made up of trillions of electrons and changing a few from observation won't do dick, right?

Thinking about the electrons of the cat is totally missing the metaphor. The cat being alive or dead represents something with two possible states. Until observed, both are true. Of course this isn't actually true for a real cat, but that's because it's a metaphor. Don't worry about electrons.

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