Tag Archives: superposition

Schroedinger’s cat for the humanities?

A while ago a few of us had a discussion on Twitter about the Schroedinger’s cat thought experiment. One of my friends, @ottocrat said

and then

Although I’m a social science person myself, I was a Science media spokesperson for three years and did get very interested in the subject, including some low level study. I know Niels Bohr said

Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.

but I do think I see what Schroedinger’s cat is trying to say. So I tried to find a way of explaining it that would make sense to a humanities person. This is what I came up with.

Imagine a woman, who has been seeing a man for a while. She feels very strongly about him, has dissected and pored over the relationship with her friends, and is certainly thinking about a future together. But she isn’t sure how he feels. He seems to be into her, but then sometimes she’s not sure. At this point, he is in superposition – it is equally possible that he loves her and that he doesn’t, and she can think about her two alternative futures – living happily ever after together or going their separate ways – with the same amount of certainty. Each is as possible as the other.

However, as some point, maybe after a dinner with those friends and a couple of bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, she realises she needs to find out. She can’t go on with the uncertainty. So she asks. “Do you love me?”. The interesting humanities/quantum physics parallel is that the very act of asking forces a position. The position the question forces him to take in that moment may not be the one he would have taken left to his own devices, or given on a different day. The observer effect has been unleashed.

I shall ask @ottocrat if this makes any more sense to him. And maybe any quantum physicists that stumble across this can point out the glaring holes in the concept?