Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The "Intelligence" behind quantum physics

  1. Apr 19, 2015 #1

    If the nature of quantum mechanics is that an observer affects the end “collapsed” state of a particle, than what constitutes a state of observation. The the only thing I can come up with that seems to determine what constitutes a form of observation is weather information is passed.

    But here is where it gets interesting. What kind of information? Can it be indirect interpretive information, and if so does the “meaningfulness” of the information not become dependent on who is interpreting the indirect information.

    If I were to use Schrodinger’s cat as an example, I could perhaps place a heart meter inside the box to determine wether the cat has died or not. A heat meter could be read by anyone, so it would be easy to figure out if the cat has died, and there would be no superposition state. However, what if you place a less direct form of observation? Take for example, placing a piece of paper under the cat box that could collect sweat secretion, and let’s say under specific ways of measuring, there was a determined amount of sweat that would indicate with a good certainty that the cat had died.

    Taking it one step further, What if you were to need another machine to read the paper to determine if there was enough sweat to warrant the prediction of a possible death? What you have in this scenario is a cat whose predictive death is based on a particular piece of paper, the machine that measures the paper, and of course the technician himself who was particularly trained how to run the machine and read the data provided by the machine.

    In a secondary scenario, what would happen if that particular individual who is trained to read the paper is not there? Are you to assume that despite the paper being there, and the machine being there that the cat’s death may be in a supposition state because a particular technician who is the only one who could read the data from the machine is not there?

    If the piece of paper in the presence of the machine and the technician in itself is enough to “collapse” a state, then what really constitutes “observation.” Is it the ability to transfer information, and or the ability to possibly record information? Is this not a “human” trait, to decipher wether something can be observed or not?

    I think to fully accept the concept of a quantum superposition state prior to observation, one has to accept that an intelligence interprits what constitutes a form of observation. For example, does a piece of paper in itself warrant a collapsed state?

    Maybe if the technician with the machine is there, but the ability to interpret the meaning of the paper is not an ability that derives from static universe with determined laws, this is functioning in a non-static, interpretive way, which only can done from forms of intelligences.

    I think the very paradox of quantum mechanics superposition state opens the door that our universe is being directed by a more ultimate observer, a form of Intelligence that understands how to interpret what constitutes an observation.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2015 #2


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    That's not "in the nature of quantum mechanics". The notion that a conscious information-receiving observer is required to collapse the wave function and end the superposition was largely abandoned decades ago because it turns out that it's not necessary.

    When the radioactive sample decays, the contents of the box (cat, radioactive sample, vial of cyanide) go through an interaction that is statistically irreversible. After that interaction, although the atoms and molecules that make up the cat are still in continuous random motion, interacting with one another, entering and leaving new superposititions, the only states that are reachable for cat as a whole are ones in which the cat is unambiguously dead; and before then, the only reachable states are ones in which the cat is alive (or dead from some other cause). Thus, it is irrelevant whether any information is ever transferred to any observer. The cat is either dead or alive in exactly the same sense that a tossed coin is either heads or tails, even if no one ever looks to see how it landed, or tries to interpret the result of a measuring device that identifies which face is up.

    Thus, although you are free to consider the possibility that our universe is "directed by a more ultimate observer" (But not here! Check out our rules for acceptable topics!) you will find no support for that proposition in the modern understanding of quantum mechanics.

    To some extent you may have been victimized by the all too common misleading pop-sci descriptions of Schrodinger's cat. Schrodinger did not propose his thought experiment as a way of explaining how the cat would be in a superposition of dead and alive until a conscious observer intervened. He was pointing out a flaw in the 1920s-vintage understanding of quantum mechanics: although no one seriously argued that the cat wasn't unambiguously dead unless we opened the box, nothing in the formalism of quantum mechanics as it was understood at the time predicted that result.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
  4. Apr 19, 2015 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The standard interpretation of quantum mechanics requires an observer.

    Many have considered this unsatisfactory. Attempts to formulate a theory without the need for an observer, and that is as empirically successful as quantum mechanics include Bohmian mechanics and the Many-Worlds interpretation. These issues are discussed by Laloe in
    Do we really understand quantum mechanics? http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0209123.
  5. Apr 19, 2015 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Several posts advocating personal theories have been removed from this thread.
    The thread is closed.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook