$20 kit produces trillions of universes

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53 Responses to “$20 kit produces trillions of universes”

  1. js7a says:

    I want to move to an alternate universe in which cool-looking alpha particle scintillators don’t have anything to do with quantum mechanics.

  2. Tom says:

    Modusoperandi @23: Personally, I’ve not had any trouble getting laid in the past decade or so. Just sayin’.

    Sfazzios @21: Yeah, I kinda winced when writing “pure states”, but it seemed the simplest way of getting the point across, despite making you wince too.

    The problem is that we don’t experience superpositions. A diffraction pattern is only a shadow cast in the classical world by the quantum reality. It is evidence that a superposition exists in the non-experienceable quantum world, but we experience an entirely classical artifact of that world. We build up a diffraction pattern by counting the number of photons that “hit” a specific spot on the screen, even though the quantum probability is spread out across the screen.

    So I disagree that you have experienced a superposition. As to what being in a superposition would feel like, I think that this is like asking what colour is dancing. “To be dancing” excludes the possibility of “having a colour”. “To be experiencing” excludes the possibility of “being in a superposition.”

    I am essentially a Kantian in this regard, with the quantum world taking the place of Kant’s noumena. It is there, but the conditions that must be fulfilled to for us to be able to be experiencing are such that we cannot ever make the quantum world an object of experience.

  3. kiteracer says:

    I, for one, welcome our generation’s extrapolated interpretation of the Pet Rock.

  4. Chevan says:

    “If two events are possible, quantum theory assumes that both occur simultaneously – until an observer determines the outcome. For example, in Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, in which his cat may have been killed with a 50 per cent probability, the cat is both alive and dead until someone checks.”

    No no no! Schrodinger’s cat is not meant to be taken literally! It was a critique of the Copenhagen interpretation, meant to show that you can’t apply quantum mechanics macroscopically!

    Okay, nerd time over.

  5. dagfooyo says:

    @57 I agree completely.

  6. metaphorical_cowboy says:

    #17 My comment was on the cat riddle. I wrote to exclude the universe specifically because of relative motion and am aware everything always moves.

    The impulse was for showing a system appearing to still function while only moving from the force previously on it.

    The “death” referred to assumed opposites. While using cold as a lack of heat might have been better, “death” and “life” seemed more appropriate. I know little about quantum physics, but I think my examples are all newtonian.

    I apologize for my inability in explaining my thoughts.

  7. Modusoperandi says:

    Tom “Modusoperandi @23: Personally, I’ve not had any trouble getting laid in the past decade or so. Just sayin’.”
    So, you either speak french or you’re not a true quantum physicist, then.

  8. Jack Ipseity says:

    @40
    [i]“I am essentially a Kantian in this regard, with the quantum world taking the place of Kant’s noumena. It is there, but the conditions that must be fulfilled to for us to be able to be experiencing are such that we cannot ever make the quantum world an object of experience.”[/i]

    Of course, the only thing that could be known about the noumenon according to Kant was that 1) it existed and 2) that it was non-contradictory. An orthodox transcendental idealist would claim that the world of quantum mechanics is just as much an ‘object of experience’ as anything given that we possess substantial knowledge of its properties. The limit to experience you’re describing would be a limit to experience within experience and not the transcendental limit postulated by Kantianism.

    But Kant’s understanding of the transcendental could surely be mistaken. Maybe it does more aptly describe the relation between the purely mathematical world of quantum mechanics and our mundane, empirical one.

  9. Takuan says:

    Dear Elnico:(and all others troubled by unreliable numbering) in most instances, use of the addressee’s name will solve your problem.

  10. Tom says:

    Modusoperandi @41: My French is just barely adequate to read papers in nuclear physics journals, but I guess your theory holds.

    Jack Ipseity @45: Your understanding of Kant is almost certainly better than mine, as I came to Kant by way of quantum theory, so my reading is coloured by that. I would indeed argue that his detailed understanding of the transcendental was mistaken, but continue to be impressed that he was able to understand so much while knowing so little about the empirical truths that would one day be discovered.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Reminds me of the Philip K. Dick story “The Trouble with Bubbles” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Trouble_with_Bubbles

  12. flytch says:

    “Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, in which his cat may have been killed with a 50 per cent probability, the cat is both alive and dead until someone checks. ”

    Hmmm… isn’t this the same as if a tree falls in the woods and now one is around to hear it does it make a sound???

  13. anthony says:

    Are you ready to re-enact the Arnolfini wedding?

  14. Lucifer says:

    Woudln’t it be easier to sell a box with maybe a cat inside it?

  15. Radi says:

    I have a make your own universe kit too. Throw something on the floor and measure how far away from you it is. That will be 10 dollars, please.

  16. neurolux says:

    So they ship you a cat in a box. Did the cat survive the shipment? Maybe, maybe not. Don’t shake the box, that’s cheating.

  17. jphilby says:

    There’s something more than a little conceit in the idea that every decision we make creates a new universe. This one is already forked enough.

    Math may be useful; but in the physical world there aren’t an infinite number of points in a line segment. Copenhagen tried to snuff the idea that reality is determined, but in the end wave functions describe our permanent ignorance of mysteries that transcend our puny mortalities.

    String theory, like relativity theory and quantum theory is still a theory. Abstractions can multiply like endless fractal rabbits. Meanwhile, here today, I’ve got things to do and promises to keep.

  18. johnofjack says:

    In this multiple universes theory, does the universe fork every time a nonhuman creature observes or interacts with something?

    What are all these other universes created from? Where does the energy come from?

    I am fascinated by your theories and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  19. KWillets says:

    That’s according to one interpretation of the theory. I don’t want to get into a sci.physics-sized flamewar here, but interpretation is different from theory.

  20. Modusoperandi says:

    Tom “Modusoperandi @41: My French is just barely adequate to read papers in nuclear physics journals, but I guess your theory holds.”
    It’s more of a hypothesis, really.

  21. reginald says:

    Fivolous use of uranium … yay!

  22. Cowicide says:

    Can I get this on an airplane?

  23. thermidorthelobster says:

    Where do the Alphas go? You don’t really want to have them anywhere they’re likely to hit living tissue. I hope they’re contained but it’s not entirely clear from the pictures.

  24. thermidorthelobster says:

    #29: The theory has been around since 1957. Google for Hugh Everett and the Many-Worlds Interpretation of quantum theory.

  25. mabwiddershins says:

    I thought the comments on the original website were good, but these are fantastic. I won’t have to think another original thought for the rest of the day. I’m good to go. Thank you, Boing Boing Commenters. You’re the best!

  26. agraham999 says:

    How do you know there is a cat inside the box unless you look?

  27. retchdog says:

    Well I guess it’s $10 cheaper than this at least: http://www.unitednuclear.com/spinthariscope.htm

  28. Guesstimate Jones says:

    This is a nifty idea, but it has one inherent limitation: you can only create new universes that are forks of this one. Until somebody invents a time machine, to take me back to 1999, it is useless to me…

  29. elNico says:

    @Antonious, currently around the 47 mark

    Well, that explains that then…never read it anywhere before, which obviously doesn’t mean it hasn’t been mentioned a thousand times.

    It seems an odd glitch for a platform like MT, though…in fact, considering how comment handling is many a blog’s bread and butter, I’d call that a bug.

    Yes, as Takuan points out, one can refer to the name, but that can get confusing very quickly if there are several posts by the same person, especially if they are fairly detailed.

    Maybe a decimal system should kick in for anon users…so if JoeTheLoggedIn leaves an immediate comment at number 21, anon users after that will be numbered 21.1, 21.2 etc. until the next logged-in user leaves another one.

    At least they would slide back into context after approval, although potentially overlooked.

    Anyway, this might not make the “top 10 concerns facing humanity”-list …just planting seeds…

  30. Takuan says:

    didn’t they try this in Bad Schushein with some uranium doped glass trousers?

  31. sfazzios says:

    The description of the quantum physics going on was pretty poor. The Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics (one of many interpretations, albeit the one I subscribe to) was created to deal with the silly idea that the universe behaves differently depending on whether some guy decides to make a measurement. Really, the word interaction should have been used instead of measurement. More importantly, an interaction doesn’t immediately cause the whole universe to split in two. Rather, it causes all subsequent interactions of the resultant superposition to be in superposition as well.

    I should probably provide an example because that last sentence was sorta opaque. Consider the following:

    1) An electron is in a superposition of two states, call them ‘up’ and ‘down’

    2) That electron interacts with another electron that is in the ‘up’ state

    3) The resulting system is now in a superposition of two states, the ‘up’ interacting with ‘up’ state and the ‘down’ interacting with ‘up’ state.

    4)A scientist uses a microscope (lets just call it a microscope) to look at the system. The microscope is now in the superposition state of having seen an ‘up’-’up’ interaction and having seen a ‘down’-’up’ interaction.

    5)The microscope interacts with the scientist -> scientist is in a superposition state

    6)The scientist interacts with all the stuff around him…

    7)In under a second, the whole earth is in a superposition

    8)The superposition ‘field’ expands further, but it is always constrained by the speed of light, so it never engulfs the whole universe

  32. Keeper of the Lantern says:

    Hey…
    You don’t even need to spend the 10 bucks or whatever in order to use that kit.

    Right now,an alternative version of me in a parallel universe is using that kit to make more universes, so I don’t need to bother…

  33. TEKNA2007 says:

    Guesstimate Jones@10:

    Yay for the sneaky political reference in a non-political thread!

    Unless you mean you really like Prince.

  34. holtt says:

    I believe playing peek-a-boo with a toddler also is an effective way to create new potential universes.

    It’s emotionally rewarding to all parties involved as well.

  35. The Rabbit Ambulance says:

    Misrepresentation of Quantum theory? Check.

  36. metaphorical_cowboy says:

    I’m pretty sure Schrödinger’s cat is a man made falsehood. “Death” as anti-life force makes little sense. Imagine a car having lost power and rolling on impulse. The speed slows down and eventually stops (exclude the universe). There isn’t a point where it is both moving and not moving. Failure rests in inadequate equipment and assumptions.

    Engineer walks into a bar. Bar tender jokingly asks if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound. Engineer says sound is the sensation by stimulation of hearing organs via vibrations transmitted through medium. The vibrations still occur. No one laughs.

  37. sfazzios says:

    @14 The whole life-death aspect isn’t really critical to the Schroedinger’s Cat thought experiment. It was simply used to show that our understanding of the atomic world leads to situations that are absurd (or so Schroedinger thought) in the macroscopic world. Schroedinger could just as easily have considered a coin being both face up and face down at the same time.

  38. dagfooyo says:

    @34 – No, no, the trousers of time were just a metaphor for the Uncertainty Principle (whatever that is). They were never actually built. And certainly not out of glass, which would be both uncomfortable and embarrasing. I repeat, it did not happen. Now, please step over to this time-turner so we can adjust your memories to match the current version of history.

  39. SeamusAndrewMurphy says:

    #3′s comment was perfect. Absolute best I’ve read in a long time. Big laugh.

  40. Takuan says:

    remember the old story about the photon reflection/refraction dichotomy? They set up a perfect 50/50 choice for one particle and make it decide. And then the world ends – or something.

  41. tim says:

    #14 – I’m pretty sure you don’t understand much about quantum theory. It has nothing to do with death or anti-life forces (whatever you mean by that odd phrase). Cars do not ‘roll on impulse’. You cannot exclude the universe.

  42. the specialist says:

    quantum physics just seems to me to be a fancy way for physicists to say “don’t know” and still secure a grant.

    quantum is what you can get away with.

  43. Judy Rey says:

    In an alternate universe, perhaps the one where a cat sits on top of a box containing a man named Schrödinger, someone other than an artist points out that we create new universes constantly, at least as much as the kit does.
    We think.
    When we think we create energy. Energy is the basis for a new universe.
    I am a Post Conceptual artist. In this universe, apparently this discussion is stuck with me pointing this out.
    However, as an artist I will think at anyone for a whole second (that is a large amount of time for a new universe!) for $20.00. I will even send a Certificate of Authenticity, signed personally, that indicates I thought and indicating the specific time, to the second. This is far different from the usual painstakingly detailed work I do, but II figure once I sell the thought (it can be described as performance and conceptual art, I guess), then I know I might sell my collector this bridge in Brooklyn…

  44. Bennessy says:

    It seems like this WOULD HAVE TO be the work of a conceptual artist from San Francisco.

  45. noen says:

    I believe playing peek-a-boo with a toddler also is an effective way to create new potential universes.

    What if you swing the toddler upside down by it’s ankles while playing peek-a-boo?

  46. Tom says:

    Sfazzios @11:

    As explanations of many-worlds go, yours is reasonably clear. It is still, unfortunately, incomplete, as it does nothing to account for why we never experience a superposition as such, but rather only pure (“collapsed” in Copenhagenist jargon) states. In fact, we don’t experience “states” in the quantum mechanical sense at all, but rather “things” in the classical sense.

    Everett’s Ph.D. thesis is very much worth reading. It contains some extremely clever stuff. But one reason many worlds has never gained much traction is that it fails to account for what every other interpretation fails to account for: the transition from smoothly evolving probabilistic quantum description to a definite classical outcome, which is what we actually experience.

    There are a number of interpretations like this, that obscure the fundamental issue sufficiently to confuse people into thinking it has been made to go away. Many worlds has perhaps more superfluous conceptual freight than most (Copenhagen has the least, simply declaring, in Born’s words: “Quantum mechanics is magic.”)

    The fundamental issue is: why is all of our experience classical, and none of it quantum? Why do we never experience anything in a superposition? Why are their classical rules at all? How does the classical world arise from the quantum one? To quote Max Born again: “WHY must I treat the apparatus as classical? What will happen to me if I don’t!?!?”

    The decoherence approach–which is conceptually similar to many worlds in some ways, without the aetheristic declaration that whole undetectable universes are created–in my view takes us furthest along the path to answering these questions, but it still leaves us at the end well short of the goal.

  47. Takuan says:

    now we have to kill you.

  48. PaulRedeker says:

    Fantastic

    maybe somewhere, there will be a universe in which the half the world population does not get devoured by hordes of zombies……Fat chance.

    Stock up on canned food, machetes, and ammo. please.

  49. sfazzios says:

    Tom @20 First, a silly pet-peeve. ‘Pure states’ aren’t defined as states without quantum superposition. A qubit that’s in a superposition of the 0 state and the 1 state is still in a pure state. Pure states are defined as quantum states that aren’t mixed states. Mixed states are something completely different. More info below:

    http://www.quantiki.org/wiki/index.php/Pure_state
    http://www.quantiki.org/wiki/index.php/Mixed_state
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Density_matrix

    As for your other points, I would argue that I have experienced quantum superposition (and I’m not talking about my last peyote bender). I’ve seen plenty of diffraction patterns. Of course, this doesn’t explain why I’ve never noticed myself in a quantum superposition. What exactly would that feel like? What makes you think that I could even notice that I was one part of a superposition of multiple states?

    I don’t believe any one interpretation is complete, but I feel like MWI does the best job. The problem is that science is all about predictions made by an observer. When you try to include the observer in the theory, science has a habit of breaking down.

  50. elNico says:

    I’d like to fork my current universe and create a branch where BB comments keep a tight link between their number and the poster.

    This branch would allow for crazy utopia stuff, such as people referring to the right comments, even after further forking has occurred via new and/or deleted/modified comments.

    I know, totally out there…

    • Antinous says:

      elNico,

      As I keep pointing out, must posts renumber because anonymous comments fall into queue based on when they were made, not when they were approved.

  51. Mazoola says:

    I’m obviously existing in an alternate universe where everyone’s posts are numbered 1 less than they are in the consensus reality…

  52. Modusoperandi says:

    sfazzios “‘Pure states’ aren’t defined as states without quantum superposition. A qubit that’s in a superposition of the 0 state and the 1 state is still in a pure state. Pure states are defined as quantum states that aren’t mixed states. Mixed states are something completely different.”
    And this is why quantum physicists have such trouble getting laid…except, of course, for the french ones. Everything is sexier in french.

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