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The cat is back: Is quantum theory dead, alive, AND contradicting itself?

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Greg Hume (CC BY-SA 3.0)

No, we wouldn’t pay any attention either except that the story is from Nature and they don’t do April 1 in September:

In the world’s most famous thought experiment, physicist Erwin Schrödinger described how a cat in a box could be in an uncertain predicament. The peculiar rules of quantum theory meant that it could be both dead and alive, until the box was opened and the cat’s state measured. Now, two physicists have devised a modern version of the paradox by replacing the cat with a physicist doing experiments — with shocking implications.

Quantum theory has a long history of thought experiments, and in most cases these are used to point to weaknesses in various interpretations of quantum mechanics. But the latest version, which involves multiple players, is unusual: it shows that if the standard interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct, then different experimenters can reach opposite conclusions about what the physicist in the box has measured. This means that quantum theory contradicts itself.

Physicists are still coming to terms with the implications of the result. It has triggered heated responses from experts in the foundations of quantum theory, many of whom tend to be protective of their pet interpretation. “Some get emotional,” Renner says. And different researchers tend to draw different conclusions. “Most people claim that the experiment shows that their interpretation is the only one that is correct.” Davide Castelvecchi, “Reimagining of Schrödinger’s cat breaks quantum mechanics — and stumps physicists” at Nature

Stay tuned.

See also: Quantum mechanics: Pushing the “free-will loophole” back to 7.8 billion years ago


At Nature: For now, “uncertainty seems the wisest position” on the implications of quantum mechanics

5 Replies to “The cat is back: Is quantum theory dead, alive, AND contradicting itself?

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    The experiment cannot be put into practice, because it would require the Wigners to measure all quantum properties of their friends, which includes reading their minds, points out theorist Lídia Del Rio, a colleague of Renner’s at ETH Zurich. Yet it might be feasible to make two quantum computers play the parts of Alice and Bob: the logic of the argument requires only that they know the rules of physics and make decisions based on them, and in principle one can detect the complete quantum state of a quantum computer. (Quantum computers sophisticated enough to do this do not yet exist, Renner points out.)

    Give me a ring when they do exist.

    Nothing to see here.

    P.S. The standard interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is not Quantum Mechanics.

  2. 2
    polistra says:

    There’s a simpler reason why the experiment can’t be performed. It’s physically impossible to put a cat in a box.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    Robert Spekkens, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, says that the way out of the paradox could hide in some subtle assumptions in the argument,

    The erroneous ‘subtle assumption’ lies here:

    if quantum mechanics applies to the physicist, then she should be in an uncertain state that combines both outcomes until Wigner opens the box.

    But exactly Who is observing Wigner to prevent Wigner himself from being in uncertain state? i.e. Exactly what is it that gives Wigner a privileged frame of reference as an observer, over and above the ‘uncertain’ observer, so that he himself does not exist in an ‘uncertain’ state?

    The same objection, i.e. ‘exactly who does not exist in an uncertain state?’, would apply to the “two Wigners, each doing an experiment on a physicist friend whom they keep in a box”

    To prevent an infinite regress of observers who exist in an ‘uncertain’ state it is necessary to postulate God as the ‘unobserved observer’.

    Of related note: at the 8:12 minute mark of the following video, Schrodinger’s cat and the infinite regress of Wigner’s Friend is highlighted:

    Divinely Planted Quantum States – video

    Also of note, the infinite regress of the von Neumann chain is discussed at the 2:09 minute mark of the following video.

    The Measurement Problem – video

    To postulate that any particular human exists in an uncertain state whilst another human is not in an uncertain state, and that the ‘certain’ human can therefore collapse the ‘uncertain’ human to a certain state, is to privilege one human observer over another and is to fall into a trap of self refuting solipsism. A trap, which I remind, that apparently Wigner himself fell into at one time:

    In a lecture of 1982, he then regards the issue of solipsism as a sufficient reason to repudiate his earlier views on measurement in quantum mechanics (pp. 73–74, and also p. 230).
    In order to avoid solipsism, Wigner considers it to be necessary to admit state reductions independently of an observer’s consciousness.

    Again, in order to avoid solipsism and also in order to prevent an infinite regress of humans who exist in an uncertain state it is necessary to postulate God as the ‘unobserved observer’ Who is collapsing the ‘uncertain’ wave function for each of the ‘certain’ observers that He has created.

    As Richard Conn Henry put it, “a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism”

    Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger by Richard Conn Henry – Physics Professor – John Hopkins University
    Excerpt: Why do people cling with such ferocity to belief in a mind-independent reality? It is surely because if there is no such reality, then ultimately (as far as we can know) mind alone exists. And if mind is not a product of real matter, but rather is the creator of the “illusion” of material reality (which has, in fact, despite the materialists, been known to be the case, since the discovery of quantum mechanics in 1925), then a theistic view of our existence becomes the only rational alternative to solipsism (solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist).
    (Dr. Henry’s referenced experiment and paper – “An experimental test of non-local realism” by S. Gröblacher et. al., Nature 446, 871, April 2007 – “To be or not to be local” by Alain Aspect, Nature 446, 866, April 2007 (Leggett’s Inequality: Violated, as of 2011, to 120 standard deviations)

    And when we look at the fact that the wave function itself is mathematically required to be in an ‘infinite dimensional-infinite information’ state then it becomes readily apparent that mere humans cannot possibly be the ‘sufficient cause’ for why the “infinite” wave function collapses but that only omniscient and omnipresent God can possibly have the causal sufficiency necessary to collapse the ‘infinite dimensional-infinite information’ wave function:

    Double Slit, Quantum-Electrodynamics, and Christian Theism – video

    Of related interest is Dr. Bruce Gordon’s detailed look into quantum mechanics:

    Divine Action and the World of Science: What Cosmology and Quantum Physics Teach Us about the Role of Providence in Nature – Bruce L. Gordon – 2017
    Excerpt page 295: [T]he reality of a substance must include something intrinsic and qualitativeover and above any formal or structural features it may possess.117
    When we consider the fact that the structure of reality in fundamental physical theory is merely phenomenological and that this structure itself is hollow and non-qualitative, whereas our experience is not, the metaphysical objectivity and epistemic intersubjectivity of the enstructured qualitative reality of our experience can be seen to be best explained by an occasionalist idealism of the sort advocated by George Berkeley (1685-1753) or Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). In the metaphysical context of this kind of theistic immaterialism, the vera causa that brings coherent closure to the phenomenological reality we inhabit is always and only agent causation. The necessity of causal sufficiency is met by divine action, for as Plantinga emphasizes:
    [T]he connection between God’s willing that there be light and there being light is necessary in the broadly logical sense: it is necessary in that sense that if God wills that p, p occurs. Insofar as we have a grasp of necessity (and we do have a grasp of necessity), we also have a grasp of causality when it is divine causality that is at issue. I take it this is a point in favor of occasionalism, and in fact it constitutes a very powerful advantage of occasionalism. 118

    The Incompatibility of Physicalism with Physics: A Conversation with Dr. Bruce Gordon – video


    Hebrews 4:13
    “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to Whom we must give account.”

    Psalm 33:13-15
    The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.

    Psalm 139:7-14
    Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

  4. 4
    random.dent says:

    BornAgain if you ever want to study actual QM I would recommend Griffiths. It’s the textbook I used in undergrad, and it would teach you the basics.

    ETA: you’re going to want to make sure your Calc 3 is pretty tight, though, first. For that I’d recommend the last half of Stewart. If not, those triple integrals in spherical coords will be Rough.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    random.dent thanks for the Griffith’s reference. Here, since you yourself seem to need a lot of help understanding the implications of QM, are solutions to various problems in David J. Griffiths’s excellent textbook Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, Second Edition.

    David Griffiths: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics

    I would, as you seem to want me to do, just ‘shut up and calculate’ but alas I can’t avoid contemplating what it all means.

    “David Mermin once summarized a popular attitude towards quantum theory as “Shut up and calculate!”. We suggest an alternative slogan: “Shut up and contemplate!”
    Lucien Hardy and Robert Spekkens, “Why Physics Needs Quantum Foundations” (2010)

    I tried to look up which particular interpretation of Quantum Mechanics that David Griffiths himself held to and, as far as I can tell, he explains all of the interpretations without solidly committing to any particular one.

    Book Review: Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. By David J. Griffiths. Prentice Hall, New York, New York, 1995
    Excerpt: Griffiths is able to include several advanced ideas that would be inappropriate in a genuinely first introduction: a delightful discussion of the different views `realist,” “orthodox,” and “agnostic” of quantum indeterminacy, and several allusions to ideas such as orthogonality, completeness, and the delta function, that will be central in later chapters.

    Perhaps you know, if any, which interpretation of Quantum Mechanics he favors? And, by the way, which one do you, an atheist who has shown hostility towards Christianity, favor?

    Myself, with the recent closing of the ‘free will loop-hole’ by Anton Zeilinger and company, I now think that the ‘instrumentalist approach’ is overwhelmingly empirically confirmed to be the correct interpretation of quantum mechanics.

    Quantum mechanics: Pushing the “free-will loophole” back to 7.8 billion years ago – September 14, 2018

    Stephen Weinberg, an atheist who was integral in the eventual the development of the Standard Model, has basically given up ever understanding Quantum Mechanics.

    Weinberg, again an atheist, boils down all the various interpretations of quantum mechanics as such. The ‘realist’ and the ‘instrumentalist’ approach.

    Weinberg rightly rejects the realist approach because of the sheer absurdity of many worlds, (i.e. infinite parallel universes that split off from each other, etc..) and also since the realist approach really does not deal with the probabilities properly without making untenable ad hoc assumptions, but, on the other hand, it is interesting to note exactly why Weinberg, again an atheist, rejects the instrumentalist approach.

    Weinberg rejects the instrumentalist approach because having free will figure so centrally in quantum mechanics at such a deep level, undermines the Darwinian worldview from within in that instead of humans being the result of impersonal physical laws, “humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level.”

    Specifically Weinberg states, “the instrumentalist approach (in quantum mechanics) turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else.”

    The Trouble with Quantum Mechanics – Steven Weinberg – January 19, 2017
    Excerpt: The instrumentalist approach,, (the) wave function,, is merely an instrument that provides predictions of the probabilities of various outcomes when measurements are made.,,
    In the instrumentalist approach,,, humans are brought into the laws of nature at the most fundamental level. According to Eugene Wigner, a pioneer of quantum mechanics, “it was not possible to formulate the laws of quantum mechanics in a fully consistent way without reference to the consciousness.”11
    Thus the instrumentalist approach turns its back on a vision that became possible after Darwin, of a world governed by impersonal physical laws that control human behavior along with everything else. It is not that we object to thinking about humans. Rather, we want to understand the relation of humans to nature, not just assuming the character of this relation by incorporating it in what we suppose are nature’s fundamental laws, but rather by deduction from laws that make no explicit reference to humans. We may in the end have to give up this goal,,,
    Some physicists who adopt an instrumentalist approach argue that the probabilities we infer from the wave function are objective probabilities, independent of whether humans are making a measurement. I don’t find this tenable. In quantum mechanics these probabilities do not exist until people choose what to measure, such as the spin in one or another direction. Unlike the case of classical physics, a choice must be made,,,

    Moreover, (besides the fact that Anton Zeilinger and company have now closed the ‘free will loop-hole’ and have thus empirically confirmed the instrumentalist approach to be correct), it is simply, as a matter of logic, completely insane for Darwinists to deny the reality of their very own ‘free will’.

    Sam Harris’s Free Will: The Medial Pre-Frontal Cortex Did It – Martin Cothran – November 9, 2012
    Excerpt: There is something ironic about the position of thinkers like Harris on issues like this: they claim that their position is the result of the irresistible necessity of logic (in fact, they pride themselves on their logic). Their belief is the consequent, in a ground/consequent relation between their evidence and their conclusion. But their very stated position is that any mental state — including their position on this issue — is the effect of a physical, not logical cause.
    By their own logic, it isn’t logic that demands their assent to the claim that free will is an illusion, but the prior chemical state of their brains. The only condition under which we could possibly find their argument convincing is if they are not true. The claim that free will is an illusion requires the possibility that minds have the freedom to assent to a logical argument, a freedom denied by the claim itself. It is an assent that must, in order to remain logical and not physiological, presume a perspective outside the physical order.

    Further clarification of free will:
    Free will: a source totally detached from matter (detached from nature) which is the origin (cause) of options, thoughts, feelings,… That is, the absence of (natural) laws, the existence of an “autonomous mind”, i.e. a principium individuationis.

    Yet, despite the fact that the denial of free will is blatantly self-refuting (in fact, it should be the very definition of a self refuting argument!), atheists continue, via methodological naturalism, to deny the existence of free will since to allow otherwise is to ‘allow a divine foot in the door’.

    Luckily science itself could care less how atheists would prefer the world to behave.

    In short, the present experiment from Zeilinger and company, validating the reality of free will in quantum mechanics, restores sanity back to science by undermining the atheist’s denial of his own free will.


    Also see “Kochen-Speckter Theorem” in the Suarez link in the following OP

    Of related interest to all this are these quotes from Anton Zeilinger which show how friendly Quantum Mechanics is to overall Christian concerns:

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: “In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.”
    Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum mechanics

    48:24 mark: “It is operationally impossible to separate Reality and Information”
    49:45 mark: “In the Beginning was the Word” John 1:1
    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT – video

    Quote and Verse:

    Looking Beyond Space and Time to Cope With Quantum Theory – (Oct. 28, 2012)
    Excerpt: “Our result gives weight to the idea that quantum correlations somehow arise from outside spacetime, in the sense that no story in space and time can describe them,” says Nicolas Gisin, Professor at the University of Geneva, Switzerland,,,
    – per science daily

    Colossians 1:17
    He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

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