Of interference: Alice and the Zombie Cat

Plin. Plin. Plin. Alice opened her eyes awoken by that dripping noise. A far away dripping noise. Plin. Plin. Plin. She was standing in a completely white room, unable to recall where she was before. What she was doing there. She was just aware of her name and nothing more. However, strangely enough, she was more intrigued by that dripping sound than by her identity. Well, she couldn’t shake off that uncomfortable feeling of being in someone else’s dream. That same feeling she had many, many times before. So many times she couldn’t remember a single one. Strange. Plin. Plin. Plin. The dripping sound. Stuck in her head. She decided to follow it. The room was huge and bright and she couldn’t say where the end of it was. Nor the beginning. Given that a beginning and an end existed. She noticed a long rectangular pool. Quiet identical waves were chasing each other. Each of them a portrait of the one which came before. Each of them a copy of the one following. Plin. Plin. Plin. She decided to walk along the edge of the pool. Upstream. She thought that this way she could find the origin of the dripping noise. After a while, she noticed that the crests of the waves were not running parallel anymore. They were more like semicircles. I’m close. She thought. She speeded up. She was surprised to see that those semicircular waves were not originated by drops falling in the water. Plin. Plin. Plin. The sound was still distinctly far. They seemed to originate from a small slit in a closure dividing the pool.

singleslit

On the other side of the slit the waves were arriving regular and parallel as she saw them far from the closure. You look surprised. A voice from behind made her shake. She turned. A young man was staring at her. Dark eyes. Blonde hair. Dressed in white. Square jaw. Follow me. He said before turning his back to her and heading in the direction she was coming from. Who are you? She asked while running behind him. He stopped and when she was at his side he smiled gently and said. Charlie. Then he continued to walk. The crests of the waves were running parallel again. What am I doing here? She pressed him. Charlie didn’t reply. What’s this pool? She insisted. Charlie remained silent. Where are we? She tried. Charlie didn’t seem to listen to her. What happens when there are two slits instead of one? She stopped for a second wondering why she asked that silly question. Why would she care? In that moment she realized the dripping sound was fading and with it, her interest. She was more curious about Charlie. That’s an interesting question, Alice. Look. There was another closure in the pool. With two slits this time. On the other side of the closure the waves were different. They were forming a pattern like a tapestry. Intertwined crests were running on the water surface.

interference

Interference. Charlie said. What? Alice was confused. The answer to your question. If there are two slits, the waves interfere. Alice stared at him. And now tell me, Alice, from which of the two slits are the waves passing? Alice had never been so confused. Both? She risked. Very good. He resumed walking. Now, you see?, if you could just be as tiny as a fragment of a fragment of a fragment of yourself, you could be free to be in every place at the same time and you would behave as the wave you just saw.

[…] and suddenly you’re in a different place
where everything seems to happen in waves, […]

Elizabeth Bishop, Letter to N.Y.

Alice stared at him with a hesitant gaze. I mean, you could pass through two slits at the same time and you could interfere with yourself. They both remained silent. The room was filled with a deafening absence of sound. The Plin. Plin. Plin. was gone. Or maybe, Alice just stopped thinking about it. Charlie went on. We grew up too fast, that’s the problem. We are too big. So big that it is impossible for us to walk through two different doors at the same time. Unless. He shut up, pondering, looking at the tapestry forming on the water. Alice didn’t know what to say. She wanted to ask him a lot of questions and none in particular. Confused. Unless? Charlie, as if awoken from a brief fast long dream, said. Have you ever seen a zombie cat? Alice was sure her interlocutor was not feeling really well. Waves? Fragment of a fragment of a fragment? Zombie cat? She was feeling the urge to leave that place, but she didn’t know where she was, nor the reason why she was in that place, nor was she sure she had ever been in any other place in her life, nor she was sure in whose dream she was living in. You see, Alice, this place is a gedankenexperiment, and we are the protagonists. So, as the zombie cat purring at you in this moment, you can be two things at the same time or walk through two different doors at the same time and interfere with yourself. Alice felt something brushing up against her leg. Something furry, meowing and deadly cold at the same time. Before she could look at it Charlie stopped her. Don’t look or the cat could die. Or live. But not both things at the same time. The cat, in this moment is like a wave passing through two slits. Come with me. Alice, again, followed Charlie more because of curiosity than because of will. Well, at least now it was clear where she was: in someone else’s gedankenexperiment. Someone else sick enough to create zombie cat and Charlie. Charlie guided her to the end of the huge white room. So, there is an end. She thought. They stood in front of a door. Charlie looked at her. Tiny objects, such as atoms or electrons, are not little balls as they depict them in books. Well, sometimes this image could help us to understand some things, but most of the times it is misleading. They are more like blurry balls. And they could be so blurry that you cannot even say they are blurry balls, so blurry they could be blurry elephants for what you know. And, because they’re blurry, they could be more than one thing at the same time. In this room you will find two doors (your two slits). There will also be a radioactive atom which at every instant could, with equal probability, decay or not. If it decays the right door will open and the left door will close, if it does not decay, the left door is open and you cannot walk through the right one. But, here is where it becomes interesting, this atom is like a blurry elephant (or crocodile if you wish, but you don’t have to care because it is really, really blurry) and it will be entire and decayed at the same time. As the zombie cat (who seems to really love you) is both dead and alive. So, you will walk through the right and the left door at the same time. Alice didn’t know what to think. She only knew she was starting to like the zombie cat purring and silently brushing up against her leg. Charlie opened the door for her. See you soon, Alice. Alice entered hesitatingly in the dark room. The zombie cat with her. When she looked back at Charlie, he said. Don’t worry, no one will look at you. And he smiled at her before closing the door. Both doors opened and she could walk through them. Becoming a tapestry of her own existence. Intertwined crests of her life were leading her steps in a flow of quantum facts and ideas. Impossible to stop. Quanta rei.

To be continued…

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4 Responses to Of interference: Alice and the Zombie Cat

  1. Pingback: So, what are you researching? 1. Connections between quantum entanglement and metrology | quanta rei

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