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<   No. 2846   2010-11-11   >

Comic #2846

1 Caption: ==Mythbusters== The Copenhagen Interpretation
2 Jamie: Continuing our testing of myths related to interpretations of quantum mechanics, todays it's the Copenhagen Interpretation.
3 Jamie: This says that whenever an event has two different possible outcomes, it generates a superposition of states in which both outcomes have occurred.
4 Jamie: Only when the system is measured by an outside observer does the superposition collapse into a single outcome.
5 Jamie: To test this, we are going to reproduce the famous Schrödinger's cat experiment.
6 Jamie: I put this cat into a box containing a radioactive source which has a 50% chance of releasing a vial of poisonous gas and thus killing the cat.
7 Adam: So the cat is both alive and dead?
7 Jamie: Right!
8 Adam: In the same way quantum mechanics both explains stuff, but makes no sense whatsoever?
8 Jamie: Er, right.

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No, really, this is a serious argument used to discuss the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics.

In its simplest form, the Schrödinger's cat argument concludes that:

IF the Copenhagen interpetation of quantum mechanics is true, THEN beings not being observed by a sentient observer may be in an indetermined state of being partly alive and partly dead.
The obvious countering piece of evidence is that is patently ridiculous. So either (a) we live in a universe in which the patently ridiculous is in fact true, or (b) the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics is a load of bollocks.

I should also point out that the famous Schrödinger's cat experiment is a thought experiment, not an actual experiment in which people play around with cats and radioactive sources.

Not that that's going to stop Adam and Jamie.

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Last Modified: Thursday, 11 November 2010; 02:11:01 PST.
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