August 17, 2010

Double Slit Experiment

This is all based on
The Copenhagen Interpretation Theory.

The Crazy Part: The part where the furniture in your house behaves differently when you’re not around.

What It Says: Besides sounding like the subtitle of The Da Vinci Code II, The Copenhagen Interpretation is probably the most widely accepted explanation for the observations made through quantum mechanics. It came about in part to explain the infamous “Double Slit Experiment,” which is the one your physics professor probably made you do. The Double Slit Experiment shows that an electron, fired at a wall with two slits in it, will sometimes go through sometimes go through one, sometimes through the other, and sometimes it will go through both slits simultaneously (meaning, a single thing will be in two places at once). In short, it goes batshit fucking insane. The twist is, if you try and observe the electron at the moment it passes through the slits—you know, to figure out what the hell is wrong with it—the electron goes back to behaving like a normal electron, and innocently shoots through one of the slits while giving you, and reality, the finger. The details of why this happens are sort of technical, but this simple diagram should explain it:

So What Does This Do For Me? The Copenhagen Interpretation is the result of a lot of smart people trying to figure out what the fuck was going on with these damn electrons. What they came up with is that all particles exist as waves of probability. From the observer’s perspective, there’s only a certain chance that a given electron will go through the left slit or right slit. When you don’t watch, it remains a cloud of probability and sort of does a little of everything. When you watch, the act of observing it somehow causes the cloud to pick a side. So the next time you observe a particle, be warned: they know you’re watching, and as soon as you stop, they’re going to start a party.

Wait, It Gets Worse: If you apply the Copenhagen Interpretation to bigger objects, it gets even weirder. The infamous Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment, the one your physics professor probably got fired for doing, said that if you put a cat in a box and press a button that has a fifty percent chance of filling the box with poison gas, then until you go and look in the box, the cat exists as a cat-cloud which is simultaneously both alive and dead. And there’s more: if everything exists as a probability wave, then that means that technically, anything possible could happen at any time. There’s nothing stopping a big floppy dick from sprouting out of your forehead right now; it’s just highly unlikely. You feel lucky, punk?

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