something either is or isn’t…

‘The law of the excluded middle – something either is or isn’t’

This particular law got me thinking (again while I was watching a Big Bang theory episode) Sheldon was trying to explain the theory of Shrodinger’s cat. For those you who don’t know to put it simply a man put a cat in a box and left it proceeding to never open the box. He asked is the cat alive or dead- depending on how long the cat was actually inside the box our own logic and common sense could deduce whether the cat was dead or alive. If it was in the box for a day it is probably alive , if it is in the box for two months it is probably dead. This seems the simple answer to the question however Shrodinger said that as we never opened the box and saw it for ourself we do not know whether it is dead or alive. Here he is adressing the sense of sight as an area to which a concrete answer can be drawn from but the truth is do we have to see something to prove whether it is true and even our sight can be decieving. If you look at a table you will say it is solid with conviction but with a knowledge of Physics and Chemistry the truth is the table is over 90 percent empty space. I myself find that difficult to get my head around. Another case is if you look at 2 pens you my say they are identical but if you look at a deeper level the 2 pens probably couldn’t be more different. In a maths test when the question says I have 2 red pens and one blue pen what is the probability of me picking a red pen- the two pens may be different shades of red as 2 things can never be completely identical shouldn’t we say what is the probability of getting one shade of red pen.  As mindboggling as that is another fact to come to terms with is we actually see an inverted image but our brain flips it the right way round so are we only seeing a flipped version of the world?

 

Now going back to the shroedinger example Sheldon then explains that Shrodinger stated that the cat maintains a quantum state of being both dead and alive. that completely contradicts the rule of excluded middle and many of us would ask how does that even work? and in the show Penny is completely baffled by this and furthermore I myself have been in the middle of a heated discussion last year in the Physics classroom in which many began to shout out ‘you just know ! it cannot be both!’ When it comes down to life and death most of our completely certain that you cannot be both unless you delve into a fictional world. How do we just know things? Is this idea stupid as some will say ? Is it possible to contradict the law of excluded middle?

check out the link below for the clip from big bang theory

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. chtok
    Dec 10, 2012 @ 21:02:16

    You are absolutely correct, Chanel! It had never occurred to me before but Schrodinger’s cat does contradict the law of the excluded middle. Well done for seeing this! It should be pointed out, though, that there are problems with the law of the excluded middle which don’t need to call upon quantum physics. As Bertrand Russell said: ‘The law of excluded middle is true when precise symbols are employed, but it is not true when symbols are vague, as, in fact all symbols are’- ie there is a problem with it which is to do with the nature of language. Another highly impressive post!

    Reply

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