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What if I'm the Schrodinger's Cat?

  1. Jan 11, 2012 #1
    Sorry for the dumb question... that's similar to another one just posted, but that other question was about many worlds. Without resorting to many worlds...

    ... if I'm an observer outside the box and I cause the collapse of the wavefunction by measuring something, shouldn't the cat do the same inside the box? I mean, a cat is pretty big, so shouldn't it be an observer too?

    If there is a dead+alive cat in the box before the box is opened, shouldn't I be just as dead+alive if I were the cat in the box?

    So if I was inside the box in a superposition of states, would I be able to detect that? What if I put a rat inside the box, instead of a cat? or a virus? or protein? or a single atom?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2012 #2

    Ken G

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    That is precisely the issue at the heart of the "Wigner's Friend" paradox, that led Wigner to believe that consciousness is crucial for collapse. It is said that he later changed his mind on this, but I think it is safe to say that we can't do physics without consciousness, so it is impossible to rule out its potential importance.
    That's where MWI comes in-- it would hold that you would not detect the superposition because there would be one of you in each of the branches. But if you don't accept MWI, you have to find some other way out of the conundrum, which each of the other interpretations do. The situation you are asking about is a very good device for distinguishing the various interpretations.
    This also gets to the heart of the interpretations. For my own part, I like to say that if an electron could think, it wouldn't do quantum mechanics. By that I just mean, we really have no idea what "life would be like" for an electron, so we cannot answer your question, we really only understand how we think (and not even that, very well!).
  4. Jan 11, 2012 #3
    That's essentially the view Stephen M. Barr takes, when mentioning consciousness and the measurement problem. Wigner did support that view, however was convinced decoherence played a more important role in the process. Barr essentially says that the decoherence argument doesn't affect his stance that perhaps consciousness has a role to play in a measurement.
  5. Jan 11, 2012 #4
    If you're the cat in the box, then you're at the mercy of random quantum radiations. But you'll be either alive or dead. Not alive and dead, which is just a contradiction in terms, and not a necessary translation of the QM formalism into ordinary language.
  6. Jan 12, 2012 #5
    I think I got it a little bit better now. These are very good explanations - thanks all for them!
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