Monday, April 05, 2010

Superposition

Ever wondered if we can exist in more than 1 state at any one point in time?

That led me to discover and read up on the theory of Superposition. Totally intriguing! It may even answer some questions or thoughts on certain religious views.

DEFINITION - Superposition is a principle of quantum theory that describes a challenging concept about the nature and behavior of matter and forces at the sub-atomic level. The principle of superposition claims that while we do not know what the state of any object is, it is actually in all possible states simultaneously, as long as we don't look to check. It is the measurement itself that causes the object to be limited to a single possibility.

There is a famous analogy to demonstrate the Superposition theory - Schrödinger's Cat.

The Experiment
A cat is placed in a box, together with a radioactive atom. If the atom decays, and the geiger-counter detects an alpha particle, the hammer hits a flask of hydrocyanic acid, killing the cat. The paradox lies in the clever coupling of quantum and classical domains. Before the observer opens the box, the cat's fate is tied to the wave function of the atom, which is itself in a superposition of decayed and undecayed states. Thus, said Schroedinger, the cat must itself be in a superposition of dead and alive states before the observer opens the box, ``observes'' the cat, and ``collapses'' it's wave function.

To put it more layman-ly, it just means that we do not have a single clue of the status of the cat as long as we do not venture into peeping into the box at any instance in time. We have no clue at all whether or not an atom of the substance has decayed, and consequently, cannot know whether the vial has been broken, the hydrocyanic acid released, and the cat killed.

Since we cannot know, the cat is both dead and alive according to quantum law, in a superposition of states. There is no SINGLE OUTCOME unless it is OBSERVED.



How about a third state? The box is empty. (Start mulling about it peeps)

It's interesting how this can be linked to our minds as well. The things we see through our eyes perceives our world. We live in this state there and then. What if we shut our eyes and not try to see things, will we find other states? What if the reality we all think we live in is just one of the many realities?

Read till Qi Gek bo?

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