# cat in a box paradox

by ArielGenesis
 P: 237 I just learn the cat in a box paradox, where we cannot know whether the cat is dead or alive until we open the box, so the cat is in a superposition between life and death. yup, got it! I am about to learn quantum physics. And I think it would be really good if I got a grasp of it first. So this cat thing, is analogy for particle, and its life, is for particle's properties. So far so good. What I don't understand is that if we don't know the particle state, then I would assume that the particle state is irrelevant as it won't affect anything, because when it affect something, we know its state, in other words, the box had been opened. Thus would it really matter what the particle state is before the box is opened?
 Sci Advisor P: 4,375 Basically, there are two schools of thoughts. 1. Until you look, the cat is neither dead nor alive. 2. It is allways either dead or alive even if you do not look. But in this case, a sort of nonlocal communication between physical objects is possible. At the moment, nobody knows with certainty which view is the correct one.
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P: 27,565

## cat in a box paradox

 Quote by Demystifier Basically, there are two schools of thoughts. 1. Until you look, the cat is neither dead nor alive. 2. It is allways either dead or alive even if you do not look. But in this case, a sort of nonlocal communication between physical objects is possible. At the moment, nobody knows with certainty which view is the correct one.
You are missing a #3: The cat is BOTH dead and alive. That is what a superposition implies, the existence of BOTH orthogonal states at the same time.

If it is #1 or #2, then you would never have bonding-antibonding in chemistry, and no coherence energy gap in the Delft/Stony Brook experiments. I certainly haven't seen any one formulating any physics using #1 and #2 to derive what have been observed.

Zz.
 PF Patron Sci Advisor P: 2,140 Someone should perhaps point out that the "cat in a box" is a higly idealized gedanken experiment. A real cat would always be EITHER dead or alive inside the box, regardless if you open it or not. The reason is that any object the size of a real cat is an open quantum system meaning it couples to the enviroment. Hence, it can never be in a superposition of dead/alive for very long (its "wavefunction" will decay extremely fast). This is the reason why it is so difficult to e.g. build good quantum bits out of macroscopic objects; they interact with the enviroment (or, more specifically, enviromental degrees of freedom) and decay very quickly leading to short coherence times.
P: 4,375
 Quote by genneth Or: 3. When you look, the world splits in 2, one for the possibility that it's alive, and one for it's dead. 4. Whether it's dead or alive only exists in your head, and so it's a trivial truism that it's neither dead or alive until you look. Any interaction where you learn more about the cat is going to have an effect on the cat, because you're a clumsy physicist and all you can do is a deliver a well-aimed poke.
3. is a variant of my 1.
4. is a variant of my 2.
P: 4,375
 Quote by ZapperZ You are missing a #3: The cat is BOTH dead and alive. That is what a superposition implies, the existence of BOTH orthogonal states at the same time.
The cat cannot be both dead and alive. It can be in a superposition of dead and alive, but this is neither dead nor alive, but something else - the superposition. But this is just a matter of language. In fact, your #3 is actually rephrased 1.
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P: 27,565
 Quote by Demystifier The cat cannot be both dead and alive. It can be in a superposition of dead and alive, but this is neither dead nor alive, but something else - the superposition. But this is just a matter of language. In fact, your #3 is actually rephrased 1.
No, it isn't. Being dead AND alive is different than being dead OR alive. The latter means that the cat has a DEFINITE state. We just don't know what it is. This is classical statistics where you've tossed a coin, but you haven't seen it yet whether it is head OR tail. This is not a superpostion.

My interpretation isn't something I invented. The Leggett paper that I've highlighted before many times on here regarding the measurement problem clearly stated this position. When you have a state being described as a linear sum of orthogonal states, then the obvious interpretation here is that ALL of those states exists at the same time. If not, then the Schrodinger Cat paradox isn't anything unusual. The cat is either dead or alive, which isn't new nor strange. Why would Schrodinger go to all that trouble illustrating something that is not unusual?

Zz.
P: 4,375
 Quote by ZapperZ No, it isn't. Being dead AND alive is different than being dead OR alive.
But we agree on that. I said that being dead and alive is actually a clumsy way of saying that the cat is in a superposition. I also said that it is different from being dead or alive.
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P: 27,565
 Quote by Demystifier But we agree on that. I said that being dead and alive is actually a clumsy way of saying that the cat is in a superposition. I also said that it is different from being dead or alive.
 Quote by Demystifier 1. Until you look, the cat is neither dead nor alive. 2. It is allways either dead or alive even if you do not look. But in this case, a sort of nonlocal communication between physical objects is possible.
You have a funny way of saying that then.

Zz.
 P: 20 Man, you guys are crazy.
P: 981
 Quote by mattex Man, you guys are crazy.
It really is a lot of arguing over something which doesn't actually affect any experiment that we can currently do. Moreover, each possibility has a different flaw/distaste to it, so it's pretty much subjective. Obviously Dany is in favour of Bohmian mechanics (does anyone here *not* already know that?), but that is, again, a matter of taste. If we all just sat down and did some calculations of well-posed problems, we'd all agree on the outcomes. How much Platonic reality can we really ask for from mathematical models?
P: 4,375
 Quote by ZapperZ You have a funny way of saying that then.
You completely misunderstood me. My 1. and 2. refer to two mutually exclusive schools of thoughts. My later responses to you refer only to the 1. school of thought. My whole point is that there are essentially only TWO different schools of thought, while all others (3., 4., #3, ...) are nothing but variants of these two.

Of course, as a Bohmian, I prefer 2. Still, I believe that I am able to speak consistently about 1. as well.
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P: 27,565
 Quote by Demystifier You completely misunderstood me. My 1. and 2. refer to two mutually exclusive schools of thoughts. My later responses to you refer only to the 1. school of thought. My whole point is that there are essentially only TWO different schools of thought, while all others (3., 4., #3, ...) are nothing but variants of these two. Of course, as a Bohmian, I prefer 2. Still, I believe that I am able to speak consistently about 1. as well.
OK, let's see...

 Quote by Demystifier The cat cannot be both dead and alive. It can be in a superposition of dead and alive, but this is neither dead nor alive, but something else - the superposition. But this is just a matter of language. In fact, your #3 is actually rephrased 1.
1. So you are claiming that

#3 The cat is BOTH dead AND alive

is identical to

#1 The cat is neither dead nor alive?

2. When you toss a coin but don't look at the outcome, do you say that it is (i) either head OR tail, or (ii) head AND tail?

Zz.
P: 4,375
 Quote by ZapperZ a) So you are claiming that #3 The cat is BOTH dead AND alive is identical to #1 The cat is neither dead nor alive? b) When you toss a coin but don't look at the outcome, do you say that it is (i) either head OR tail, or (ii) head AND tail?
a) You don't read what I say. So, let me repeat. The cat cannot be both dead and alive, it is a logical contradiction. Still, it can be in a superposition of dead and alive. In this case, it is neither dead nor alive. Sometimes we say for such a state that the cat is "both dead and alive", but it is simply an incorrect (or imprecise) language.

b) I say it is in the superposition of head and tail (recall that I am still talking within the 1. paradigm, despite the fact that I actually prefer 2.)

By the way, this is my 666th post.
 P: 981 Guys ... come on! We're arguing over words, not meaning! We invented mathematics to make words less slippery! Dany and ZapperZ: I think you already understand each other, and agree that you use the same words in different meanings; as far as who's "correct", I say it doesn't matter.
 Sci Advisor P: 4,375 Genneth, I think you are right!
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