The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

An expansion on the Quantum Immortality thought experiment...

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The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#1  Postby M319 » Aug 02, 2011 4:29 pm

Any decently knowledgeable layman in the field of physics will probably have heard of the Quantum Immortality thought experiment. For those of you who have not I will give you a brief overview: If Everret many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics was right (this is that for every outcome of a the collapse of a quantum wavefunction where there are two or multiple possible outcomes, there will be several other universes that "split off" in which the different outcomes are realised) when you die, since it is impossible to experience death or being dead, you will invariably survive because there will be some other where you have not died - so you will experience that instead.

Now the above thought experiment is built off the principle that it is impossible to experience "non-experience" e.g. death. Well if this was the case I propose an expanded version:

If the above were to be true then each time we lose consciousness either by falling asleep or fainting etc since it is not possible to experience the unconsciousness preceding REM sleep (when we dream) then we must, according to the above, go on to experience being to some degree conscious in an alternate reality. The question would then pose itself that if this was true: Each time you wake up in the morning you would surely be in a different universe to the one yesterday :P ! (perhaps different in some insignificant quantum detail)

Seems ridiculous? Well yes it is! But that doesn't mean it's wrong :wag: We could look at this various ways either that it, by reducto ad absurdium, we have demonstrated that the quantum immortality idea is wrong (and even, I dare say MWI...) because we do not find ourselves in some other universe, awake, when we drop off to sleep. OR, that we in fact do find ourselves in another universe but just one where we are dreaming. :O
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#2  Postby cavarka9 » Aug 02, 2011 5:19 pm

M319 wrote:Any decently knowledgeable layman in the field of physics will probably have heard of the Quantum Immortality thought experiment. For those of you who have not I will give you a brief overview: If Everret many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics was right (this is that for every outcome of a the collapse of a quantum wavefunction where there are two or multiple possible outcomes, there will be several other universes that "split off" in which the different outcomes are realised) when you die, since it is impossible to experience death or being dead, you will invariably survive because there will be some other where you have not died - so you will experience that instead.

Now the above thought experiment is built off the principle that it is impossible to experience "non-experience" e.g. death. Well if this was the case I propose an expanded version:


M319 wrote:
If the above were to be true then each time we lose consciousness either by falling asleep or fainting etc since it is not possible to experience the unconsciousness preceding REM sleep (when we dream) then we must, according to the above, go on to experience being to some degree conscious in an alternate reality. The question would then pose itself that if this was true: Each time you wake up in the morning you would surely be in a different universe to the one yesterday :P ! (perhaps different in some insignificant quantum detail)

Seems ridiculous? Well yes it is! But that doesn't mean it's wrong :wag: We could look at this various ways either that it, by reducto ad absurdium, we have demonstrated that the quantum immortality idea is wrong (and even, I dare say MWI...) because we do not find ourselves in some other universe, awake, when we drop off to sleep. OR, that we in fact do find ourselves in another universe but just one where we are dreaming. :O


there disconnected, they are disconnected. The experiment was probably thought by a philosopher, there are problems to it, first and most important problem with it is that , there is no way of testing it.
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#3  Postby M319 » Aug 02, 2011 8:49 pm

Why do they need disconnecting?
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#4  Postby Evolving » Aug 02, 2011 9:31 pm

Even if many-worlds is correct, the thought experiment is only valid if everything that happens in the macro-world, including somebody's death, is the result of (or attended by) the collapse of a wave function at a quantum level.

A sweeping assumption, or not?
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#5  Postby M319 » Aug 03, 2011 1:32 pm

Evolving wrote:Even if many-worlds is correct, the thought experiment is only valid if everything that happens in the macro-world, including somebody's death, is the result of (or attended by) the collapse of a wave function at a quantum level.

A sweeping assumption, or not?


Perhaps this has not occurred to you but quantum phenomena underly EVERYTHING - considering that everything is ultimately constructed from subatomic particles :roll:
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#6  Postby rEvolutionist » Aug 03, 2011 1:38 pm

So why can't I be in two places at once, a la a photon?
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#7  Postby cavarka9 » Aug 03, 2011 2:03 pm

rEvolutionist wrote:So why can't I be in two places at once, a la a photon?

perhaps the reply will be that you haven't checked all of eternity to be sure of that. :)
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#8  Postby rEvolutionist » Aug 03, 2011 2:22 pm

Dang. Good point. I think.

I don't understand quantum mechanics. I wish I didn't post in this thread. :(
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#9  Postby hackenslash » Aug 03, 2011 2:30 pm

rEvolutionist wrote:So why can't I be in two places at once, a la a photon?


There are several reasons why you don't find yourself in two places at once, but that doesn't actually suggest that you can't be. It is highly improbable, though. So improbable, in fact, that it's almost certain that it will never happen in the life of the universe. Always beware of committing the serial trials fallacy, though.

The primary reason that you don't is that every particle that makes you constitutes an observer collapsing the wavefunctions of all the other particles that make you.
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#10  Postby Evolving » Aug 03, 2011 2:31 pm

M319 wrote:
Evolving wrote:Even if many-worlds is correct, the thought experiment is only valid if everything that happens in the macro-world, including somebody's death, is the result of (or attended by) the collapse of a wave function at a quantum level.

A sweeping assumption, or not?


Perhaps this has not occurred to you but quantum phenomena underly EVERYTHING - considering that everything is ultimately constructed from subatomic particles :roll:


I see that I should explain my point in more detail (guilty of assuming that we are physicists amongst ourselves on this forum and can therefore afford to hand-wave at an argument, rather than derive it step by step!). Apologies if this time around I am being too detailed.

A very small physical entity, such as an electron confined in an atom, or a photon being emitted from a source of radiation like a light bulb, is described by a wave function, which is associated with a probability function. In respect of a measurable value which that physical entity can have, the wave function determines how two or more possible values (eigenvalues) are superposed upon each other. In certain circumstances, which may be created by a measurement carried out by a human being, or may simply arise, without human intervention, because of what is going on around the physical entity that we are considering, the physical entity is compelled to assume one of those eigenvalues, and we have no way of knowing beforehand which of those eigenvalues will be measured: all we can say is the probability that it will be this eigenvalue rather than another. When this occurs, we talk about the wave function of the physical entity collapsing, and say that it is behaving like a particle: like a electron going through a single slit in a diffraction grating, rather than propagating wave-like through more than one slit and interfering behind the grating.

The many-worlds interpretation conjectures that, on such occasions, it is not the case that one eigenvalue is selected from among those on offer, and all others are discarded, but in fact several parallel universes emerge, in each of which one of the possible eigenvalues is measured.

An electron is pretty much the largest particle of which this is true: anything larger would have a de Broglie wavelength far too small to have any physical significance, so that we can say it always behaves like a particle, and never like a wave.

Now, all this may or may not be correct, and is all well and good in (possibly) describing how a single quantum-sized physical entity behaves when forced to make up its mind which of its eigenvalues to adopt. The question arises, however, as to how much of macroscopically observed events can be associated with the collapse of quantum-level wave functions, as just described. Clearly there are macroscopic events which are so associated: the field of solid state physics with its multitudinous applications provides many examples. And, to reverse the direction of causality, macroscopic events may well (one assumes) cause innumerable wave functions to collapse among the microscopic entities that are involved in, or affected by, those events.

But outside of areas like solid state physics (and Schrödinger's famous thought experiment involving a cat), which are deliberately engineered so that a quantum event will have a macroscopic effect, how likely is it that a macroscopic event - the death of a human being, say - will turn out differently, depending on whether a particular electron, for instance, is measured to have its first, second or third of its three eigenvalues? Highly unlikely, I should have thought; so if somebody willingly embraces his own death in the confidence that there will be at least one parallel universe in which he survives, I think he is probably making a mistake. There may well be some parallel universes emerging as a result of whatever steps he takes to cause his own death; but in all of them he is likely to be dead.
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#11  Postby rEvolutionist » Aug 03, 2011 2:34 pm

hackenslash wrote:
rEvolutionist wrote:So why can't I be in two places at once, a la a photon?


There are several reasons why you don't find yourself in two places at once, but that doesn't actually suggest that you can't be. It is highly improbable, though. So improbable, in fact, that it's almost certain that it will never happen in the life of the universe. Always beware of committing the serial trials fallacy, though.


When I started reading that last sentence I thought it was going to be "Always beware of it happening, though".
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#12  Postby cavarka9 » Aug 03, 2011 3:08 pm

rEvolutionist wrote:Dang. Good point. I think.

I don't understand quantum mechanics. I wish I didn't post in this thread. :(

Neither do I and am a little more embarrassed to have posted the first reply because I have a degree and having taken classes with a comparably good professor who also found it wise to not speak.
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#13  Postby cavarka9 » Aug 03, 2011 4:04 pm

Evolving wrote:
M319 wrote:
Evolving wrote:Even if many-worlds is correct, the thought experiment is only valid if everything that happens in the macro-world, including somebody's death, is the result of (or attended by) the collapse of a wave function at a quantum level.

A sweeping assumption, or not?


Perhaps this has not occurred to you but quantum phenomena underly EVERYTHING - considering that everything is ultimately constructed from subatomic particles :roll:


I see that I should explain my point in more detail (guilty of assuming that we are physicists amongst ourselves on this forum and can therefore afford to hand-wave at an argument, rather than derive it step by step!). Apologies if this time around I am being too detailed.

A very small physical entity, such as an electron confined in an atom, or a photon being emitted from a source of radiation like a light bulb, is described by a wave function, which is associated with a probability function. In respect of a measurable value which that physical entity can have, the wave function determines how two or more possible values (eigenvalues) are superposed upon each other. In certain circumstances, which may be created by a measurement carried out by a human being, or may simply arise, without human intervention, because of what is going on around the physical entity that we are considering, the physical entity is compelled to assume one of those eigenvalues, and we have no way of knowing beforehand which of those eigenvalues will be measured: all we can say is the probability that it will be this eigenvalue rather than another. When this occurs, we talk about the wave function of the physical entity collapsing, and say that it is behaving like a particle: like a electron going through a single slit in a diffraction grating, rather than propagating wave-like through more than one slit and interfering behind the grating.

The many-worlds interpretation conjectures that, on such occasions, it is not the case that one eigenvalue is selected from among those on offer, and all others are discarded, but in fact several parallel universes emerge, in each of which one of the possible eigenvalues is measured.

An electron is pretty much the largest particle of which this is true: anything larger would have a de Broglie wavelength far too small to have any physical significance, so that we can say it always behaves like a particle, and never like a wave.

Now, all this may or may not be correct, and is all well and good in (possibly) describing how a single quantum-sized physical entity behaves when forced to make up its mind which of its eigenvalues to adopt. The question arises, however, as to how much of macroscopically observed events can be associated with the collapse of quantum-level wave functions, as just described. Clearly there are macroscopic events which are so associated: the field of solid state physics with its multitudinous applications provides many examples. And, to reverse the direction of causality, macroscopic events may well (one assumes) cause innumerable wave functions to collapse among the microscopic entities that are involved in, or affected by, those events.

But outside of areas like solid state physics (and Schrödinger's famous thought experiment involving a cat), which are deliberately engineered so that a quantum event will have a macroscopic effect, how likely is it that a macroscopic event - the death of a human being, say - will turn out differently, depending on whether a particular electron, for instance, is measured to have its first, second or third of its three eigenvalues? Highly unlikely, I should have thought; so if somebody willingly embraces his own death in the confidence that there will be at least one parallel universe in which he survives, I think he is probably making a mistake. There may well be some parallel universes emerging as a result of whatever steps he takes to cause his own death; but in all of them he is likely to be dead.

good effort :thumbup:
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#14  Postby Evolving » Aug 03, 2011 4:16 pm

Thank you!
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#15  Postby hackenslash » Aug 03, 2011 4:29 pm

cavarka9 wrote:good effort :thumbup:


Indeed.
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#16  Postby M319 » Aug 12, 2011 7:36 pm

Ah hello again. I'm not as regular a forum member as others so don't be surprised if there's a LONG delay before replies from me! :P
I can recall reading about one theory which said that the reason the big stuff can't be in more than one place at once was because it had a gravitational field (higher than say a photons which is none!) but I :dunno:
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#17  Postby M319 » Aug 12, 2011 7:39 pm

Evolving wrote:
M319 wrote:
Evolving wrote:Even if many-worlds is correct, the thought experiment is only valid if everything that happens in the macro-world, including somebody's death, is the result of (or attended by) the collapse of a wave function at a quantum level.

A sweeping assumption, or not?


Perhaps this has not occurred to you but quantum phenomena underly EVERYTHING - considering that everything is ultimately constructed from subatomic particles :roll:


I see that I should explain my point in more detail (guilty of assuming that we are physicists amongst ourselves on this forum and can therefore afford to hand-wave at an argument, rather than derive it step by step!). Apologies if this time around I am being too detailed.


There is no need to apologize, you're explanation is nothing compared to Roger Penrose's chapters' worth of it in The Emperor's New Mind I am actually on the QM part of the book now and while tis' complicated it is interesting :thumbup:
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#18  Postby twistor59 » Aug 12, 2011 7:48 pm

M319 wrote:Ah hello again. I'm not as regular a forum member as others so don't be surprised if there's a LONG delay before replies from me! :P
I can recall reading about one theory which said that the reason the big stuff can't be in more than one place at once was because it had a gravitational field (higher than say a photons which is none!) but I :dunno:



That' sounds like the Penrose Interpretation of quantum mechanics. If you carry on reading "The Emperor's new Mind", you may find it in there, I can't remember offhand.
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#19  Postby M319 » Aug 12, 2011 7:50 pm

twistor59 wrote:
M319 wrote:Ah hello again. I'm not as regular a forum member as others so don't be surprised if there's a LONG delay before replies from me! :P
I can recall reading about one theory which said that the reason the big stuff can't be in more than one place at once was because it had a gravitational field (higher than say a photons which is none!) but I :dunno:



That' sounds like the Penrose Interpretation of quantum mechanics. If you carry on reading "The Emperor's new Mind", you may find it in there, I can't remember offhand.


Well what a coincidence! :lol: It's probably Sod's Law that I was a few pages away from it.
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Re: The Quantum Sleepy Thought Experiment

#20  Postby M319 » Aug 12, 2011 7:55 pm

Evolving wrote:Even if many-worlds is correct, the thought experiment is only valid if everything that happens in the macro-world, including somebody's death, is the result of (or attended by) the collapse of a wave function at a quantum level.

A sweeping assumption, or not?


Reading back through this post I found a weak point, you would have to rigorously define what it means for an event (e.g death) to be "the result of a wavefunction collapse." At the moment it's vague.
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