Many Universes

Sending love to your wave function! :)

I recently read a book called “What is Real?” by Adam Becker which left me questioning every damn phenomenon in life. This happens to be my first book on quantum physics and also the first book that gave me ideas to elicit a “you need to move out of my house” from my Mom! :P

The first quantum physics fact that amazed me from the book is that a single atom can appear in two places at once. When an atom wandering down a path finds a fork where it can go left or right, it travels down both the paths, thumbing its nose at the laws of logic. At any fork, the atom suffers a crisis of indecision over where to be and where not to be and end up taking both paths.

This troubles me because I am made of atoms but I still do not have the ability to appear in two places at once. Neither does my glasses which I end up searching for hours every morning! Duhh!

Schrödinger was also troubled by this and that’s where Schrödinger’s Cat came into picture. Wow! I never understood Schrödinger’s Cat ever before :D

Schrödinger imagined an experimental setup with a Cat in a box along with a sealed glass vine of cyanide, with a small hammer hanging over the vial. The hammer would be connected to a Geiger counter, which detects radioactivity. This Geiger counter, in turn, would be pointed at a tiny lump of slightly radioactive metal. This contraption would set off the moment the metal emitted radiation — the Geiger counter would register the radiation, which would release the hammer, smashing the vial and killing the cat.

The radiation from the radioactive metal is basically atoms flying off at great speeds. The atoms, following the laws of quantum physics, do not know whether they should stay or they should go. So, they do both. Hence, the radioactive metal will and won’t emit radiation. This means that hammer will and won’t smash the vial of cyanide — so the Cat will be both dead and alive.

This is a serious problem — a Cat certainly can’t be both dead and alive. The submicroscopic world of quantum does not line up with what we see in the world around us.

There are many theories that have attempted to find that connection between the quantum world and the universe but none of these seem to allay my questions. However one such theory which has left me in deep thoughts is Everett’s “many-worlds” interpretation of quantum physics.

Many-worlds interpretation states that the entire universe was a single wave function when it all started. Each experiment, each quantum event, spun off new branches of the universal wave function, creating a multitude of universes in which that one event had every possible outcome.

As interesting as it seemed, the many-worlds interpretation left me with many questions. Every event is essentially interaction of atoms and hence is a quantum event. If every damn event leads the universe to split, where are these other universes? How many such universes are there? Am I existing in multiple universes? A Masne in every such universe? 😯

Let’s look at how many-worlds interpretation explains the Schrödinger experiment’s result.

The wave function of the radioactive metal is half “radiation was emitted” and half “no radiation was emitted”. That interacts with the wave function of the detector, which means they get entangled. Eventually the wave function of hammer entangles with the wave function of metal and detector; the wave function of the vial entangles with that of metal, detector and hammer, and so on, eventually including the cat itself. The whole system — cat, box, metal, poison and all — ultimately ends up sharing a single wave function and the wave function has two equal parts : one in which radiation was emitted and the cat is dead, and another one in which no radiation was emitted and the cat is alive.

But what happens when I open the box? Well, when I open the box, I interact with it — which means I get entangled to the wave function of the box and everything in it. There are still 2 wave functions that entangled separately with my wave function and now I am split into two!! Whaaaat? 😯

Each wave function carry on independently of the others, with hardly any interaction between the branches. Hence, I never get to meet the Masne from the next wave function/universe. Or may be I do? 😯

I dropped a glass jar today morning, which fell on my feet and then bounced and finally landed on the concrete floor. To my surprise, it did not break. Oh well, I think it just did not break in my wave function but I totally envision a Masne getting slapped by her Mom in the next universe! ;) #SorryMasne

This post has been inspired by a number of events in my universe —

  1. My Mom absolutely thinks I have lost it and she has served me a notice to move out sooner. So, medium felt like the platform where I can dump my interpretations that are also very inscrutable to myself. Anyone up for more of this? Hit me up!
  2. I lost an acquaintance recently to an unfortunate accident and was regretting having not interacted much with. I think I happen to be in the wrong wave function/universe in this case and I am sure we do catch up on random coffee breaks in the happier wave function. :)

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