Feature Physics

Is COVID-19 Too Big to Be Schroedinger’s Cat?

In May, New Scientist hosted a live webinar with Vlatko Vedral (author of Decoding Reality) about quantum physics. Here, he explained how the thought experiment Schroedinger’s Cat works. The photon both hits the bottle of poison and doesn’t hit the bottle of poison at the same time, causing the cat to be both alive and dead simultaneously until observed. No one has conducted the experiment with a real cat, but Vedral says that we are close to testing simple entanglements with living systems!

For example, you could take two bacteria or two simple viruses, send a photon in, and see which of the two specimens gets excited by the interaction with the photon. COVID, he said, is a little too big for the particular experiment he has in mind, but you could possibly do it with smaller viruses.

Does that mean only microscopic or quantum particles are capable of getting entangled? Actually, the thoery goes that quantum effects apply to objects at all scales. Don’t believe me? Ask a quantum biologist. (Check out Life on the Edge, if you are interested in that particular field.)

But wait. It gets weirder. One of Vedral’s conclusions was that the distinction between the observer and the observed breaks down, which means COVID-19 is observing you just as much as you are observing it.

This prompted an audience member to ask whether observation requires consciousness. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus among all scientists, but Vedral says that most physicists agree that what you observe out there does really exist in one form or another: the universe doesn’t disappear just because you close your eyes. And the conclusion that the roles of the observer and the observed are interchangable does suggest that you don’t need a consciousness to participate in this kind of entanglement.

Of course, if you have no consciousnesses involved, it is very hard to conduct an experiement because someone needs to be able to communicate information.


Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information by Vlatko Vedral

In this engaging and mind-stretching account, Vlatko Vedral considers some of the deepest questions about the Universe and considers the implications of interpreting it in terms of information. He explains the nature of information, the idea of entropy, and the roots of this thinking in thermodynamics. He describes the bizarre effects of quantum behaviour — effects such as ‘entanglement’, which Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’, and explores cutting edge work on harnessing quantum effects in hyperfast quantum computers, and how recent evidence suggests that the weirdness of the quantum world, once thought limited to the tiniest scales, may reach into the macro world.

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1 comment on “Is COVID-19 Too Big to Be Schroedinger’s Cat?

  1. Well that clears nothing up.


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