May 23, 2013 | By

Quantum Physics – Too Weird to Explain?

Quantum physics is a century old and it has been an incredibly powerful tool for understanding and explaining physical behaviors at the smallest scale.  As well established as it is, physicists have never been able to resolve its key paradox or to settle its metaphysical implications.  These issues are explored in a June 2013 article in Scientific American title Quantum Weirdness?  It’s all In Your Mind by Hans Christian von Baeyer.  While the quantum paradox has many faces, the one cited by Baeyer is the thought experiment known as Schrodinger’s Cat.  Under the traditional “Copenhagen” interpretation of quantum physics, the quantum wave function, which represents probabilities of certain outcomes, is real, in which case Schrodinger’s cat in the experimenter’s box would be both dead and alive at the same time – until he opens the box (which serves to “collapse” the wave function probabilities into a single outcome).  Another alternative, the “Many Worlds” interpretation, answers the paradox by saying, “Yes”, there is a universe in which the cat is dead and another universe in which the cat is alive.  The experimenter can be in both until he opens the box.  The newest interpretation, the “Quantum Bayesian” interpretation, borrows from probability theory and postulates that the probabilities (and the wave-function) are NOT real – they are just an expression of the experimenter’s belief.  We may believe the cat is alive, or we may believe that the cat is dead, but it is not both.  The cat really is one or the other – we find out when we open the box.  After a hundred years of quantum physics, we still have the mystery of Schrodinger’s cat.

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