Sunday, March 20, 2005

Schrodinger's Gate

An actual conversation I had this morning, as my brother Alvin and I were on our way back home (by foot) from somewhere. (Paraphrased somewhat, mostly because we don't really speak in English all the time.)

Alvin: Shall we take the shortcut through the seminary? Do you think the gate is open?
Roy: I don't think so, let's just take the direct route.
Alvin: Oh come on, I think it's still open, we can take the risk.
Roy: I don't think the risk is worth it. If the gate is open, we save around two minutes of walking, otherwise we have to spend some extra five to ten minutes walking back.
Alvin: But it's probably open!
Roy: We don't know that. We don't have enough information on the gate's state to determine whether it's open or not. Right now, according to quantum mechanics, that gate is both open and closed, and we can't determine whether we should take it or not until we actually walk up to the gate! It's Schrodinger's gate!
Alvin: Tell you what, when we get to the seminary, we'll split up, you take the direct route, I'll go for the gate.
Roy: Huh? I don't see what your experiment would prove. It makes no sense to compare the travel time of a person taking the direct route and a person going through either the closed or open gate. We know the outcome depends only on the current state of the gate. A more sensible experiment would be to have two people try to go through the gate, but one of them will find it closed, one of them will find it open, and...
Alvin: Let's just do it.
Roy: Okay.

We split up.

When I get home, I ring the doorbell. Alvin answers the door.

Alvin: Ahead by a bit under two minutes. Told ya!
Roy: Okay, you were right, it was open. But I don't see what this little experiment proves, after all, if we were in the same situation again later, this experiment doesn't help us make a decision.
Alvin: Basta. I was right.


btflpenguin said...

awww. this entry screams geek. and it runs in the family pa :)

(geek is meant as a compliment, sometimes geek means cool)

Roy said...

You should hear the conversations we have at home - we often have discussions on economics theory, especially since Vlad was Alvin's econ teacher this year. :D