Halachah For the 22nd Century

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Quantum Theory and Shabbas

We have a principle by Shabbas that an unintended action is permitted if it is not a definite consequence of the action. This is based on the rather gory example of a chicken's head used as a toy where we say that even if you didn't intend for it to happen when you cut off the head the chicken will die. The question comes in when you analyze it with the principles of quantam mechanics. Suppose you want to move a radioisotope (don't ask me why). You place it down in a spot where if it decays a specific amount it will form a circuit and if it doesn't decay it won't. You then leave the room where it has a 50/50 chance of decaying enough. This situation is the classic quantam situation known as Schrodinger's cat where instead of a circiut it is whether or not a cat would be alive or dead. The strange answer is that it would be both alive and dead. This is based on one of two theories, both equally strange. Either it is because of superposition where until an object is observed it occupies both states and then resolves to one of them. The other theory is the multi-verse theory which states that whenever a random event happens the universe splits into two parallel universes and then resolves which one we are in. Which theory is true could possibly make a difference in Halchah because superposition says that it is definitely dead at one point in our universe and it would therefore be a psik reishah. The multiverse theory says it is only a 50/50 shot of it being dead in our universe. Because each of these theories are equally likely you only have a 75% chance of killing the cat and therefore it would not be a psik reishah.


Blogger Tobie said...

Nu, but it's a 100% of it being dead in some universe. And since both of the new universe yous are really you, can't we argue that you are causing it to happen in either case? So if you want a real nafkeh mina, let's say that you do this b'shogeg and then have no way of checking whether or not it actually happened. According to the sevara of super-position, you'd bring a korban. According to split-universe, you'd say that you're currently in a universe where no sin occured, so there' nothing to bring a korban about.

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Novartza said...

I don't think either of these theories are halakhically acceptable. Neither of them makes actual sense.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Tobie, my way is correct if you check on it later while yours is correct if you don't. Anyway the difference is between a requirement of a chatras of an asham talui.
Novartsa, it's true that neither theory makes sense but experimental evidence shows one photon creating an interference pattern with itself and that interference going away when it is observed which slit the photon went through so one of the theories must be true.

1:04 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Some thoughts...

1) QuanTUM.

2) Classic Straight Dope.

3) The cat is not dead until you look at it inside the box. The box is probably muktzah :)

8:42 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

No, Mike, even if you don't check on it, then you're either in one of the two universes, or else you're still in both. In either case, there is not doubt that in some universe there exists a circuit that you have created. Now, if you come back to it and check and find that it has not been created, then that means that you didn't happen to end up in that universe. So what? Somewhere out there, there's a you who did. In either of the theories. The only difference is whether it is this you or not.

9:11 PM  

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