Someone asked another person to explain Schrodinger’s Cat in layman’s terms. Seeing that the person rather failed at it, I decided to write an Up-Goer-Five compliant [I need to make a post with a glossary of terms that defines this type of jargon I use] thing explaining it. It actually got so long, that I crashed the Up-Goer-Five text editor… twice, with plenty of text to spare. I think it can only handle a thousand words at once. In case you don’t know, the Up-Goer-Five text editor is the ultimate layman’s terms text editor. It forces you to use only the thousand most used words (and their conjugations, plurals, variants, and such if any) so that you would have to “explain it like [they’re] five.” I’m sorry! xD I love xkcd too much! This entire Up-Goer-Five thing itself is an xkcd thing!
Anyways, I explained the uncertainty principle, the wave function (what it represents… briefly), Schrodinger’s cat, probability functions (at least the concept itself… sort of), wave/particle duality (briefly), and more things to the best of my ability, because it literally started to hurt (I was getting dizzy) to write something like this. I’d actually be fifty thousand times more confused if I had to learn things written in in laymanese than in its natural rote format. Three hours doing it. Now I feel stupid, and feel like saying things in tiny words like I just did right now. I’m so used to using the proper, longer terms, that because I had to rewire my brain to force myself to use only the thousand most used words, I feel mind-numb now since the constant buzzing of ideas, thoughts and words in there have died down. How can people live like this? It’s so boring! And painful! And just… numb! I don’t want to have numbness in my mind! I want to have numbers in my mind! Maybe if I wrote one sentence like how I would normally write an explanation of quantum mechanics… maybe string theory… I can jolt my mind back into reality.
“String theory suggests that everything is made up of Planck length sized vibrating one-dimensional pieces of energy known as Superstrings, each of which is curled up into a 11-space manifold known as the Calabi-Yau manifold, that are either open or closed as to attach to space foam or not where closed strings are thought to be gravitons as this would explain gravity’s apparent weakness compared to the three other forces…” alright, I feel better now.
Here’s the Up-Goer-Five compliant explanation of some of quantum mechanics.
There are a couple of really tiny things that are very, very, very, very tiny. These tiny things make up every single thing you see, and then some. They’re just too tiny for you to see with your eyes. We need really big, hard to understand things to make small things made of these tiny things go really, really fast, and then hit each other to break it so that we can see the tiny things that it is made up of, and then use a thing that is able to see the way the tiny things these tiny things are made of act. These tiny things are really weird, especially since as far as we know they are not made up of even tinier things. But that isn’t the weirdest thing about these tiny things. These tiny things can actually be in more than one place at the same time, and also cause a cat to be both dead and living at the same time!
This one guy who is dead now found out that these really tiny things act very strange when you try to look at them to see where they are, or if you tried to see how fast they are going. He found out that you can never know how fast these tiny things are going if you know where they are, and that you can never know where something is if you know how fast it is going. Another guy who is dead now also found out that without looking to see where that tiny thing is, you can kind of figure out where that tiny thing probably is because of the way these tiny things want to act.
The thing is, if you wait long enough , the chance that the tiny thing appeared in some spot gets bigger. It is sort of like dropping lots of tiny balls onto a weird table (one with lots of low and high spots placed all over it) , if all the balls land on the table. Here, instead of waiting longer, we do two other things that do the same thing here that I will explain later. It is very hard for a ball to sit on a high spot. It wants to roll to a low spot, because if it is in a low spot, it won’t try to roll somewhere else. But if it is on a high spot, there are a couple of low spots it can roll to. If the ball is not right at the top of the high spot, it will want to roll down. If it is, it will stay there, but this most probably will not happen if you are not using a really big weird table or lots and lots of little balls. The high spots will all lead to low spots eventually, no matter what side of the high spot you are looking at. So if the ball was on one side of the high spot but not at the very top, it will eventually roll to a low spot. The lower the low spot, the more the balls will roll into it. The higher the high spot, the less the balls will want to stay on it. The more tiny balls you use, and the tinier these balls are, the better you will be able to guess where a single tiny ball will probably land. More balls and more tiny balls makes a guess better sort of like how more and smaller tiny bits makes a picture clearer. Once all of the balls have stopped rolling, you can now look at where all of the balls are on the weird table.
Now take another weird table. It is exactly like the other weird table, with the high spots and low spots in the same place. Drop a tiny ball onto the weird table. Where do you think it will roll to? Look at the other weird table. See how some low spots seem to have more tiny balls in them than others? If there are more tiny balls there are in some part of the weird table, a tiny ball dropped onto the weird table is probably going to roll there.
But because you need to be able to find out how the number of balls in one spot is different from the number of balls in another spot of the same area, you will always have to make the area of the parts a tiny bit bigger than the balls so that you can find out how many balls there are in each part. In other words, you can’t make the area of the parts tinier than your balls, because then you will not be able to have more than one ball in each part, so you will not be able to see how many more balls one part has than another part, to see which part would another tiny ball probably roll to (the one with more balls in it).
If you used a very tiny area for each part, and if you used lots of really, really, really, really, really tiny balls, there is a good chance that you will guess where a tiny ball would roll right. This is very, very, true especially if you placed it on a really high part that is pointed (so that the ball will not just sit there), with lower high points around it with different highs, with low points in between these lower high points with different highs. This is because you know where the ball is starting from each time, so now all you need to do is see where the ball will most probably be, and guess that part. Sometimes, the ball might get stuck in between the high part and low part, so do not be surprised if the ball does this, even though this probably won’t happen. It might if there is not much of a change between the high and low point, though! But you can never guess the chances of finding a ball in a part so tiny that you will never be able to see it no matter how hard you look for it (even though you know where it is) called a point, simply because a point has no area, so you won’t be able to find any balls inside of it! You would have to use very hard number stuffs to do this. That number stuffs allows you to see what would happen if the area got smaller and smaller and smaller without actually doing it yourself. Even then, it does not allow you to be completely right in the chances you will find a ball at that point.
If you want a longer time to change how often you guess right, think about rain. If you live somewhere where it usually rains almost every day, but for some reason it has not rained in ten days, you can’t look at the last seven days and, because it didn’t rain during those seven days, say that it doesn’t rain where you live. The more time passes, the more days will pass. That means, during these days, you will have seen how many more days of rain there are than days without rain, and you will be able to give a better guess at what tomorrow is going to be like, even without knowing anything about the stuff the actual people look at and use to see what tomorrow is going to be like.
The weird table causes your guess to have a higher chance of being right because it uses more (but smaller) things so that you can be more sure that something will act that way.
The rain thing causes your guess to have a higher chance of being right because it uses more time so that you can be more sure that something might not seem to happen just because it might just need to wait a long time for it to happen. The rain thing might not be that good of a time thing, because you could look at it as if you were looking at the days (a “more things” thing), or as if you were seeing how long you had to wait before it rained (a “more time” thing).
So what does this have to with the really tiny things that make up everything? You can only know where that tiny thing probably is, just like you can only know where that ball probably might roll. But say that you take a point and you know the chances that you will find that tiny thing there. Just like how you might have to wait a long time to see rain, you might have to wait a while before that tiny thing will be at that point. We actually don’t know why these tiny things can appear in two places at once, but they do! We know that they appear in two places at once because these tiny things like to act like little ups and downs when you drop a rock into water if you’re not looking right at them, but when we look at them they act like they are little balls. What we don’t know is why this happens!
Say that during one hour, there is a one in two chance that you will find a tiny thing at that point. In other words, after an hour has passed, then there is just as much chance that the tiny thing was at that point at some time during that hour as the chance that it was not.
But how do we actually know that it was there during that hour? Let’s take something that kind of does the same thing. Remember those small things that are made up of these tiny things? Sometimes these small things form slightly larger things. These are what we learn make up everything. Sometimes, these larger things get a little too large, and they don’t want to be that large anymore. But they can’t just take away the smaller parts that easily. So after some time passes (let’s say an hour), there is a one in two chance that this large thing let out one of these smaller things or tiny things so that it will be happy. Say that you have a rock with some of this stuff in it. Half of this stuff will let out a small or tiny thing after an hour. After another hour, half of the stuff that’s left will let out a small or tiny thing. This keeps going on. The time it takes for half of these large things in something (like a rock) to let out a small or tiny thing is known as the half life. The way the tiny things act will be what will make the large thing let out a small/tiny thing or not after the half life time has passed.
So say that we have a rock made up of this larger thing. In one hour, there is a one in two chance that at least one of these larger things will let out a smaller/tiny thing. Now. Remember that second dead guy I was talking about way at the beginning of this thing? He started thinking. Then he thought of a little thing (that he would never actually do and never did in real life because it is mean) that made him wonder whether or not the same weird stuff that these tiny things do happens to big stuff, like a cat. He also wondered what would happen if you did not look to see if the large thing let out a tiny thing within that hour or not. He reasoned that because of the way these tiny things act, that for a reason that is sort of like why these tiny things can be in two places at once (we know that it happens, but we don’t know why), and how because this tiny thing’s weird act will be what will make the large thing do, the large thing will act in the same weird way as the tiny thing does if it had not been looked at for an entire hour. Because everything is made up of these large things, a large thing (like the cat) would also act in that weird way after an hour not looked at. In fact, anything that happens in a box you are not allowed to look inside of for an hour will have this weird act!
The guy thought of a strange thing.
Take this rock made up of this large thing I mentioned earlier, and put it in a box. Along with it, place a little thing that can “see” the small and tiny things the large thing might let out. If this thing “sees” the small or tiny things, it will make something break a thing of bad stuff. Also inside the box is a cat. The bad stuff will kill the cat. There is enough air in the box for the cat to breathe for over an hour. The box is left for an hour, and not looked inside of at all during that hour.
What do you think will happen after an hour?
Remember how the large thing will act weird just like the tiny thing after an hour? After that time has passed, the tiny things will have this weird thing where because we didn’t see it do one thing or the other, it has both let out small/tiny things and has not at the same time. That means that the little thing that looks for these small/tiny things has both seen and not seen these things at the same time. That means the thing with the bad stuff in it is both broken and not broken at the same time! Which means, the cat both smelled it and didn’t smell it at the same time… meaning the cat is both dead and living at the same time!
The guy said that because this tiny thing’s weird stuff happens all the time to all tiny things, and because everything is made up of these tiny things, if we’re not looking at something, it does all sorts of things all at the same time! This gets even more crazy when you hear about what this has to do with how there are many many many worlds just like ours, except what didn’t happen here happens in each one of those worlds! But don’t feel bad if you still don’t get it even if I did use only the ten hundred most used words. This is actually really one of the hardest things to learn out there, if not the hardest of the hardest. Oh, and by the way, this was the easy stuff! But I understood it before I was even in high school (the easy stuff). I do not think you are any younger than a high school kid or at the youngest a very good middle school kid. So you have no excuse to not understand at least this thing!