July 12, 2005

Quantum Romance?

The content for this blog post actually arose out of a conversation with a friend, about their current fancy, but first some background.

Schrödinger's cat, is an illustration thought up by Erwin Schrödinger (founder of wave mechanics) in 1935. It aim is to get at the apparent discrepancy between what quantum theory says about matter and the behaviour that we as humans observe. Essentially, matter behaviour at microscopic and macroscopic levels.

My formal physics education stopped after A2 Level, so I shall try my best to be accurate yet accessible.

Schrödinger's cat experiment went as such. There is a box in which both a cat and a device is place. The device is constructed of a radioactive source and a detector which linked to a hammer and a vial of poison. The radioactive source has a half life, such that on average an atom decays once every hour. The detector, hammer and vial are set up such that any decay particle is guaranteed to be detected, and the detector triggers a relay which drives the hammer to break the vial and consequently killing the cat (sorry to any cat sensitive readers).

The experiment is illustrating the quantum law of superposition. During our test period we cannot know wether an atom has decays setting of a chain of events which kill the cat. Nuclear decay is completely random and can only be averaged over time. Therefore the observer cannot know when an atom has or is going to decay. Because of this condition, according the quantum law of superposition the cat is both alive and dead. It is only when we open the box and observe the actual state of the cat, that we lose the superposition, eg it becomes dead or alive.

This is known as the observer's paradox:

the observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that it can never be known what the outcome would have been if it were not observed.

So this is where I will leave the physics to return later, and now I will continue with the initial disscussion. My friend says they honestly have no idea of how their object of desire feels about them. The feelings are currently unobservable, which according to my tenuous quantum romance theory means that the potential for a relationship is both alive and dead.
That much is easy enough to agree. Where it gets more interesting, is likening the observer's paradox.

The act of 'observing' in this case is, expressing one's feelings and/or asking the person out on a date, or something to that effect.
It seems fair enough to argue that the act of observation or measurement will affect the outcome in the case of romance.

You ask and they might not have fully developed their feelings for you. You could even extending that time line to the case that they might not feel about you in that way now, but in the future they will. But you've asked, so there is no way you'll ever know what it could have been at a later time. This could be described as 'asking too soon'.

It could also be the case that they like you now but you do not for a period of time, and they move on and forget about you or even pursue someone else. They assume that as you have made no attempt to develop the relationship, that you are not interested in that. This could be described as 'asking too late'. You ask too late and you will never know what could have been, had you 'observed' earlier.

A stunning likeness to Schrödinger's experiment in my opinion. It of course offers no council to those of you are currently love stricken. In fact it probably worsens your dilemma of how and when to act.

I guess you can rest in the hope that my extrapolation of quantum theory is flawed. (I think it's rather good myself ;) ). I'm single, I'm sure that brings a few laughs. I'm enjoying my humorous view of relationships from a distance while it lasts. There is of course something to say for a bit of a intuition and failing that, risk. My friend has remained nameless, but upon reflection maybe a bit of 3rd party 'observation/measurement' might get it kick-started… Warwick Blogs, what a way to get that out in the open, heh I'm so cruel.

To conclude I'll go back to the physics.

To quote one of the the articles that I used in research for this article.

We know that superposition actually occurs at the subatomic level, because there are observable effects of interference, in which a single particle is demonstrated to be in multiple locations simultaneously. What that fact implies about the nature of reality on the observable level (cats, for example, as opposed to electrons) is one of the stickiest areas of quantum physics. Schrödinger himself is rumoured to have said, later in life, that he wished he had never met that cat.

- 4 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. have you seen what the do we know? It applies quantum physics to everyday life – its aim is to 'make quantum physics sexy', its achievement is telling people a load of very unscientific theory. The physicist I am abhors it, but there are bits that are quite like your theory. Worth seeing if you don't have to pay for it and have a lot of free time on your hands (if just for an amusing middle section!

    12 Jul 2005, 08:09

  2. Hehe, a very amusing post. Not enough to get me interested in quantum physics tho! But seriously, I hope your friend gets an answer soon; being stuck in relationship limbo is horrible.

    12 Jul 2005, 16:13

  3. "What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? [imdb.com]":http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0399877/

    I've never heard of that before.
    I think the viewer comments on imdb.com back up your opinion.

    It's nice to get input from the 'other' gender.
    I'm glad you found it amusing Mia.

    I think the effect of 'observing' in attempting to develop a relationship is often very true. It still remains to be a very tenous analogy though :).

    12 Jul 2005, 17:42

  4. Dom

    I heard that the cat later went on to be imprisoned for grand larsony, but managed to escape due to being observed in his cell and being momentarily in at a different defined point in space, existing at a point outisde the cell, allowing for a quick escape. He was later found dead with a geiger-counter lodged in his spleen

    17 Jul 2005, 01:48


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