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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » So, is the cat dead or alive? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: So, is the cat dead or alive?
Soara
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I'm conducting a survey.

Here are the stats so far:
Dead: 2
Alive: 2
Both: 1


A cat is placed in a box with a flask of cat poison that has a 50% chance of being open and a 50% chance of being closed at any given time. The cat and the poison are completely sealed off from the outside world. We have no knowledge of what is going on inside that box. Therefore, physics professors claim, the cat is BOTH alive and dead at the same time. I see this view as cowardly. You can't go through life putting off this important decision indefinitely. So how do YOU choose? Dead? Alive? or both? What do YOU believe?
(I believe that the cat lives.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger's_cat

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Dagonee
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quote:
There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.
I've read that description several times, and this sentence is always left off. It makes the whole concept much more understandable.
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Soara
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But it's a matter of belief. My belief that the cat lives has, without a doubt, enriched my life. Agnosticism is cowardly; you have to decide what you believe at some point.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Can we only answer "dead", "alive", or "both"? I cannot answer any of them.
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Soara
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Answer what you will; those were merely guidelines. Everyone has to come to their own decision.
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Dead_Horse
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Why is it so important to decide? I don't know is a perfectly acceptable answer.
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ricree101
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My answer is either dead or alive, but not both. Obviously, if there is a 50% chance that the gas will or won't be released, then we can't give a preference for one or the other. Even if there is some sort of superposition thing going on, I see no reason why a cat would not be able to act as an "observer".
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Soara
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quote:
Originally posted by Dead_Horse:
Why is it so important to decide? I don't know is a perfectly acceptable answer.

If you choose to go through life claiming that you don't know, fine. I'm simply asking you to make the leap of faith. It will make your life better, trust me.
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mr_porteiro_head
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I believe that he actually had four cats.

The three named Fluffy, Whiskers, and Lucky died while the one named Dog lived.

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Dead_Horse
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No one should ever name their cat lucky.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Therefore, physics professors claim, the cat is BOTH alive and dead at the same time. I see this view as cowardly.
Well, not quite. Your analogy is somewhat imperfect.

quote:
It will make your life better, trust me.
This, I'm afraid, is a steaming load. You have at best your own uninformed opinion to back that one up -- and even using your own analogy, your life is only "better" for believing the cat to be alive for as long as you avoid looking in the box. You are essentially asserting that people living in the Matrix are -- even if they are aware of the possibility that they are being harvested by giant robots -- far better off choosing to believe otherwise.

This is actually a more interesting philosophical conversation than a physics conversation (not least because the physics behind this particular example is more involved than what you've presented here).

One of the biggest questions of modern philosophy is one of epistemology: how do you know what you know, and how can you tell whether what you "know" accurately reflects reality? The problem, of course, is that our perceptions and conceptions are limited and cannot currently be said to accurately reflect the actual state of the universe. There is no way for us to tell whether we're butterflies dreaming we're men, or disembodied brains floating in vats, or any of those other thought experiments. So what's the proper response to that situation?

One common answer is that it doesn't matter. You should live your life as if your perceptions were accurate, but with the conscious knowledge that they almost certainly aren't. This is the equivalent of agnosticism.

Another possibility is to assert that someday your perceptions WILL be able to completely reflect reality, and that if you were living in the Matrix you could somehow become able to tell. This is the "believer" answer.

The third option is to live as if your perceptions ARE the real world, and discard as irrelevant any concerns about a world you cannot perceive; only upon perceiving them or their effects can any phenomena become relevant. This would be the equivalent of atheism.

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Soara
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...Exactly.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by ricree101:
My answer is either dead or alive, but not both.

Both. Multiple universe theory.
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quidscribis
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Considering that cats have nine lives, I submit that the cat is alive, dead, non-existent, half-dead, mutated into half-cat/half-killer-monkey, sentient, omniscient, smaller than a germ, and capable of scratching elephants to death - and all at the same time. [Big Grin]
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Soara
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Just to back up my belief: This box is NEVER going to be opened. It's pointless to consider the possibility that the cat may be dead or in critical condition, because we can't do anything to help it either way. It was doomed from the minute some old physics professor decided to lock it in a box. So why not just believe that it's alive and save yourself the emotional pain that it might be dead? I like cats.
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Will B
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Neither. Until we look. (If the cat is a subatomic cat.)
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Dead_Horse
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About your cat in the box, I am agnostic. If it was a real cat, whoever put him in the box would be in deep trouble.

I don't trust you, nor do I need to. My life is fine without wondering about cats in boxes.

Tom is almost certainly right. I might be. And your reply to him might seem to be the safe one. [Wink]

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Dead_Horse
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If you're never going to open the box, then the cat is dead.

And the _Horse is almost certainly Dead, too.

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Soara
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quote:


Tom is almost certainly right. I might be. And your reply to him might seem to be the safe one. [Wink] [/QB]

Tom didn't seem to give any opinion, though I'm guessing he's going with the agnostic approach. But he did give an accurate outline of the possibilities.
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Ryuko
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If the cat is never going to be let out of the box, then it's dead no matter what.
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Soara
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quote:
Originally posted by Dead_Horse:
If you're never going to open the box, then the cat is dead.

And the _Horse is almost certainly Dead, too.

And obviously this is a metaphorical cat, that is not in need of oxygen or any such thing.
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signal
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obviously [Roll Eyes]
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Tresopax
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If your question is "Is the cat dead or alive?" then the correct answer is that there is a 50% chance that the cat is alive, and there is a 50% chance that the cat is not alive, and I don't know which.

If your question is "Do you BELIEVE the cat is dead or alive?" then my answer is that I really don't know, but I am certain it is one or the other, and is definitely not "neither". After all, if there is a 50% chance the cat is alive, and a 50% chance the cat is not alive, then the laws of probability dictate that there is a 0% chance the cat is neither alive nor not alive. And since "alive" implies not "not alive" and since "not alive" implies not "alive", I know it cannot be both. They are logically mutually exclusive.

Do you think I need to BELIEVE the cat is alive in order for it to ACTUALLY BE alive? If so, you must think the cat is something that exists entirely in my mind. I don't believe this. I think the cat actually exists independently of me, and if it is alive then it will be alive regardless of what I do or do not know about it.

Of course, particles might be different from cats. I think it is reasonable to think the particles are symbolic things that exist only in our minds to describe what we know about things like cats. That would be a bit strange, but if so, it might make sense to say that if we don't know whether or not a particle is in a given spot, it is neither in that sport nor not in that spot at once. But to extend that analogy to cats would be simply wrong, if you believe cats actually do exist independly of us human beings.

quote:
The third option is to live as if your perceptions ARE the real world, and discard as irrelevant any concerns about a world you cannot perceive; only upon perceiving them or their effects can any phenomena become relevant. This would be the equivalent of atheism.
It is also theism, if you believe that God can be perceived. Most theists I know belive He can.
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quidscribis
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I submit that it's actually a silicon-based catform and therefore would instantaneously die upon contact with carbon, which means the cardboard box itself would kill the cat. Cruel, cruel experiment.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
And obviously this is a metaphorical cat, that is not in need of oxygen or any such thing.
My metaphorical cat has enslaved mankind and outlawed hypothetical questions.
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James Tiberius Kirk
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quote:
Originally posted by Will B:
Neither. Until we look. (If the cat is a subatomic cat.)

If it's a subatomic cat, and it doesn't breathe, is it still a cat?

And if it exists in multiple universes, is it "the same cat" in both universes, or is it two different cats?

--j_k

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Jon Boy
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.
I've read that description several times, and this sentence is always left off. It makes the whole concept much more understandable.
Yes, but it's this picture that really makes the article.
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quidscribis
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Two different cats existing simultaneously in an infinite number of multiple universes - that sounds like the kind of cat that can take over the multiple universes. I dub him Oberon! And the other, lesser, cat ruler can be, uh, Spot!
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Soara
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quote:
Do you think I need to BELIEVE the cat is alive in order for it to ACTUALLY BE alive? If so, you must think the cat is something that exists entirely in my mind. I don't believe this. I think the cat actually exists independently of me, and if it is alive then it will be alive regardless of what I do or do not know about it.

Of course, particles might be different from cats. I think it is reasonable to think the particles are symbolic things that exist only in our minds to describe what we know about things like cats. That would be a bit strange, but if so, it might make sense to say that if we don't know whether or not a particle is in a given spot, it is neither in that sport nor not in that spot at once. But to extend that analogy to cats would be simply wrong, if you believe cats actually do exist independly of us human beings.

Does the same apply to God?
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Soara
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quote:
Originally posted by Jon Boy:
quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.
I've read that description several times, and this sentence is always left off. It makes the whole concept much more understandable.
Yes, but it's this picture that really makes the article.
Clearly.
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Launchywiggin
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"a cat is placed in a box"

They don't say whether the cat is alive at first or not.

My answer is that the cat was already dead, and the poison and the question are irrelevant.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by quidscribis:
I submit that it's actually a silicon-based catform and therefore would instantaneously die upon contact with carbon

Huh? Why would a silicon-based lifeform (cat or otherwise) instantly die upon contact with carbon? Carbon-based lifeforms don't die instantly upon contact with silicon.
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Bob_Scopatz
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There are many possible answers to this supposed puzzle.

1) The cat is alive. Once it is dead, it ceases to be a "cat" and becomes something else, so, if you say there's a cat in there, then it must be alive.

2) The poison has a .50 probability of deploying in any given moment in time? And one "whiff" of it will kill the cat? Um, if you know how long a "moment" is, you can pretty much guarantee to any level of precision that the cat is dead "by now" just by waiting for enough moments to pass. Since we've been arguing this particular issue for decades, I'd say that the cat is not only dead, you really should've put some air holes in that box, you ninny. And how about a little food!


3) If the cat's not dead, he's at the very least so traumatized that you really don't want him as a "pet" anymore. Not that you ever did, you heartless !@#$%@*. I've half a mind to report you to PETA!


4) You know, this is exactly why universities had to set up committees to establish protocols for treatment of non-human experimental subjects. Criminy sakes! How could this possibly advance the sum total of human knowledge? Still, it'll make a nice addition to that time capsule we're burying under the new stadium. Thanks!


5) If this was Shroedinger's rat, no one would give two flips! I think that says something about us as a society.

6) Truth be told, this set up, more than the tortured squirrels, is why Peter was quietly de-selected.

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quidscribis
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In response to rivka: Because it's my imagination and I say so. [Razz]
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Strider
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quote:
Agnosticism is cowardly; you have to decide what you believe at some point.
This only shows that you misunderstand what agnosticism is.

definition:

quote:
1. The doctrine that certainty about first principles or absolute truth is unattainable and that only perceptual phenomena are objects of exact knowledge.
2. The belief that there can be no proof either that God exists or that God does not exist.

Agnosticism does not mean, "i'm too afraid to make a decision so I just won't decide." Agnosticism says, "the answer is unknowable." This is itself a belief, and thus falls under your definition of "you have to decide what you believe at some point."
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Noemon
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'Es pining.
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skillery
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After placing the cat and flask in the box there was an infinitely small moment when the box was neither closed nor opened.

We are dead.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Bob_Scopatz:
If this was Shroedinger's rat, no one would give two flips!

Or Schroedinger's cockroach, who was featured in the Mother of all Windows books for precisely that reason.


quid, ok. *pat pat*

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kojabu
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Alive. Just because I said so. And yes, I have that power.
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Soara
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quote:
Agnosticism does not mean, "i'm too afraid to make a decision so I just won't decide." Agnosticism says, "the answer is unknowable." This is itself a belief, and thus falls under your definition of "you have to decide what you believe at some point."
But why would you ever settle for the answer being unknowable if you can never find the answer anyway? No one can ever prove or disprove the existance of God. So therefore the only answer that matters is what you believe in. What you believe in dictates how you act. Since there obviously IS an answer, why not pick an answer to believe and stick with it? After all, you MIGHT be right. Whereas an agnostic has zero chance of being right.

I'm just sayin'.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
No one can ever prove or disprove the existance of God.
Prove it.
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Soara
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
No one can ever prove or disprove the existance of God.
Prove it.
Could I?
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rivka
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This analogy is tired, stretched beyond belief, and insulting to boot.

As someone who has actually "chosen" by your analogy, I have this to say:

[Roll Eyes] [Roll Eyes] [Roll Eyes]

And go learn some more physics. If you're going to use an analogy, at least understand it.

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skillery
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If God exists in this universe, then all truth in the universe is knowable, and the unknown state of the cat is unsustainable. The laws of probability have claim upon the status of the cat when that status eventually becomes known. Until then "unknown" is a valid state for the cat.
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skillery
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If man is the only observer in our universe capable of establishing standards of aliveness, then the status of the cat's aliveness as defined by man is unknown until the cat is observed by man or until man becomes God.
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stihl1
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Open the damned box and find out. This sounds like something congress would do.
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Tresopax
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I think you are answering the wrong question still. The question is "Is the cat dead or alive?" The question is not "Do we know whether the cat is dead or alive?"

If the cat is alive, it is alive whether we can know it or not.

"Unknown" does not describe the status of the cat. It is the status of our beliefs about the cat.

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skillery
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If God does not exist in our universe, then the box cannot be damned.
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King of Men
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Sigh... This is precisely why all popularisers of science should be shot. I'll put it in my TODO list, right after the Anglican bishops.
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skillery
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
The question is not "Do we know whether the cat is dead or alive?"

Unfortunately, our definitions of "dead" and "alive" are dependent upon human observation. Those words cannot be applied to unobservable things.
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