Quantum Observation

/* This one is about Quantum Mechanics and Natural Evolution. Yes, it is a bit off topic. My blog.

(1) As an historical account of our development, Evolution has one major flaw: It's probability of ever happening is so extremely close to zero. Despite a mountain of corroborating evidence, skeptics still dismiss the whole idea with sentences that begin with "yes, but do you really believe that...". Intuitively and mathematically the chances of life ever starting are slim. Combine that with the chances of life surviving the first few million years and the whole thing seems a bit of a stretch. The common answers are (a) human intuition sucks and (b) the universe is so ginormous, everything is possible. Meh. The problem with these arguments is that they are virtually impossible to substantiate with actual numbers. It is not possible for us to imagine all the possible ways for life to appear and deduce a probability from it.

(2) For the past few hundred years, philosophers and physicists have done their best to ruin our romantic view of the world. Mysticism, magic, even God, have been replaced with boring numbers and formula. However, there is one element that persists despite their best attempts: The concept of the Observer. In quantum mechanics the Observer is a crucial part of any experiment. The theories that try to explain her presence are so strange they make you reminisce old-style, straight-forward witchcraft. If the inquisition ever came across a guy believing in parallel universes he'd be thrown in the bon fire before he had time to say Schrödinger's cat.
Now this particular cat is part of an experiment that demonstrates the strange part of quantum mechanics. A dog lover sticks a cat in a box together with a poison pill. The poison pill will open if something happens on a quantum level. That something has a 50% chance of happening. The dog lover closes the lid on the box, with a satisfactory smile of a job well done. Now the point of this experiment (beside showing the furry bastard who's boss) is that until you open the lid and check, the cat is neither dead nor alive - he is in a superposition: 50% alive 50% dead. Only once the observer opens the box does the superposition collapse and the fate of the cat is decided. This is the common consensus; if you have any problems with this part, write a letter to your elected physicist.

Of course the experiment could be further complicated by requiring two dependent quantum events to break open the poison pill. Now the cat would be 25% dead and 75% alive. The idea is that the events accumulate and all four branches exist in superposition until they collapse into one under the Observer's watchful eyes.

The Observer is somewhat of a mystic entity. There is no clear definition of what an Observer is apart from its ability to, well, observe. Er go that a stone is not an Observer yet Sharon Stone is. Somewhere in the stone-Stone range, matter can become an Observer. It's not just an arrangement of molecules that make an observer. There has to be some level of consciousness (for instance Dr. Livingstone, despite his promising name, can observe no more).

If you are still with me, here comes the fun part: The universe can be looked at as one big Schrödinger box. Only when it first banged into existence, there was no observer to speak of and all those random quantum occurrences simply accumulated creating one huge superposition. With the lack of an observer, the branches just kept on splitting again and again. The probability of each "leaf" was the accumulated probability of all it's preceding branches: extremely close to zero.
Until one warm evening, one of these quantum-lines produced an Observer. At that very moment, the whole superposition collapsed, obliviating all other branches (or sending them off to parallel universes which amounts to the same thing).
One could speculate if the first Observer was a biological cell, a prehistoric fish or Homo sapiens (or one of its close relatives). Whoever she was, she appeared rather late in the game, making the first steps of evolution, the hard ones, not only probable but virtually inevitable.

If you follow this logic, there are some other conclusions to be made:

We are probably the only Observer level entities in our universe. The chances of the same quantum-branch containing two separate Observer level entities, around the same time, are nil. Once we observers begun collapsing the waveform, there can be no more statistical miracles.

If the first Observer is human, then the biblical story of creation is a rather nice allegory. All those improbable creations building up to Adam, the first Observer. Given the fact that without an Observer, time passage is extremely hard to define, even the timeframe sounds about right.

public class U {
    Choice decide(List<Choice> choices)     {
        Collection.sort(choices, new U.ChoiceSorter());
        // Free will, yey!
        return choices.get(Math.rand() > .75 ? 1 : 0);

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