Friday, 28 January 2011

Another Man, Another Box, Schrodinger Again

"We put this man into a box . . . "
"A man in a box, what are you on about?"
"Wait there now, give me a chance. We put this fella into a box but once he's in the box we can't see him, the box is closed, do you get me?"
"Did he do something wrong?"
"No, nothing."
"So why do we put him in the box?"
"Just hold on and you'll see. So he's in the box and we can't see him."
"How do we know he's still in there if we can't see him?"
"Because there's no way out."
"There might be a trapdoor under the box."
"There's no trapdoor."
"How do you know? It might be like them magician things, you think he's there and instead he's somewhere else."
"Look, just accept that he's in the box. We put him in there, and there he is."
"He's very docile is he?"
"To just accept being put into a box - there's not many would accept that."
"All right so, he's docile. So anyway, there he is, in the box, but what we also have in the box, the sealed box . . . "
"Sealed!? Why the hell is it sealed!?"
"Just listen will you. So also in the box, along with the man, is a flask containing a poisonous gas and a radioactive source - "
"Have you gone mad?! What are you going to do to the poor man?"
"Would you hear me out for God sake! So we have the man and the flask now in the box, and there's this Geiger counter and when it detects the radiation the flask shatters and the poisonous gas escapes killing the man. . . . "
"God almighty!"
"Except . . . "
"Except what?"
"Here's the good bit. Is he really dead?"
"Oh you mean you just want to scare him with all this gas stuff. It's like some kind of mock execution?"
""No, no, there's no scaring. Logically he must be dead, mustn't he?"
"I don't know, sure we can't see what's going on in the bloody box. Maybe the poison wasn't enough to kill him."
"No, it's enough all right."
"How do you now?"
"Because it's deadly stuff."
"But how do you know it was even in the flask in the first place?"
"Of course we know, it's clearly labeled."
"Where would we be without labels. And what about that Geiger counter stuff, how do we know that stuff is working right? Where did you get it all from?"
"A man from a laboratory said it was all A1."
"And what did this man do again to deserve all this?"
"Look, as I said already he did nothing wrong. I've nothing against him personally. This is all just a kind of experiment."
"I'd hate to see what you do to someone who did do something wrong."
" But anyway as said the poison is in the flask, the flask breaks, out comes the poison and your man dies - that's what must happen you'd think, isn't it?"
"Well maybe the flask doesn't break. And anyway how do we know any of this convoluted stuff is happening inside this box we can't see inside. And even if he is dead when we open the box, how do we know he didn't have a weak heart and being in the box with all this stuff was enough to do him in before any gas released?"
"We'd do an autopsy to establish cause of death."
"And what if he produces a gas-mask while in the box? . . . "

All this springing initially from a humorous spark but beyond the humour it relates directly and seriously to the earlier post on Schrodinger's Cat , within which I wrote that my coin in a drawer notion, relating to the same field of intellectual inquiry, was "a much better and simpler case than the needlessly complex cat notion". In the dialogue above, though with man substituting cat, is shown how unsatisfactory Schrodinger's thought-piece actually is as a vehicle for intellectual knowledge. This also illustrates what I wrote of science and language here: "Science, in all its manifestations, is not an autonomous or 'pure' discipline, but is encompassed within, or a branch of, Language. What science , or true science, consists of is true language statements, and so the first principle of science is the innate and intrinsic meaningfulness of correct language, and science in all its applications also demonstrably shows the intrinsic truth and power of correct language, while also emphasising the absolute necessity of the language's correctness and precision." And so here, unlike his box, as an intellectual phenomenon Schrodinger's idea is a system far from sealed.