Cordial Deconstruction

Observations from our shared single objective reality in a materialistic, naturalistic, & effectively macro-deterministic universe.

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Archive for the ‘Flash Forward’ Category

Reply to a Comment on My Schrödinger’s Cat Post

Posted by Karl Withakay on May 1, 2011

Commenter your wrong left the following comment to my Deconstruction post on Flash Forward’s mishandling of the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment:

“Ok, you seem to have completely missed the point here. The point of Schrodinger’s cat is precisely about quantum probability, which you have stated, and you seem to have a knowledge of this thought experiment and what it means. The thing that is really getting to me is the fact that the point is still being made in almost exactly the same way, but you are quibbling over the fact that it is not explained fully and mentioned the radioactive isotopes and the Copenhagen interpretation. Surely a 10 minute conversation about this thought experiment would waste time in the programme and really doesn’t matter. The nitty gritty stuff is for scientists, not for people just watching some action on television. Don’t get me wrong I love reading physics as much as any studious person, but it really doesn’t matter in the slightest that he didn’t go into every single little detail regarding the experiment. Stop wasting your time complaining and read more physics, you’re obviously interested in it. Not only that but you’ve wasted my time having to correct your ignorance.”

What follows is my reply to that comment, which I felt was worthy of it’s own post.

It would appear to be you who has completely missed the point and demonstrated your ignorance on the topic.  By substituting a poisoned sardine for the decay of a radioactive isotope, quantum probability has been eliminated from the thought experiment and has been replaced by a regular non-quantum, deterministic event.

Further, when the physicist states that the observer gets to choose whether the cat is alive or dead, that is not quantum physics and the collapse of the quantum waveform, it’s a philosophy of a post modernist subjective reality, dependant on the perception and will of the observer.  In quantum mechanics, the observation of the cat in the original thought experiment collapses the quantum waveform and solidifies the current state of the cat; it does not choose which state the cat is in, which is what the physicist in the TV show said.

The writers completely misunderstood the thought experiment, and got it wrong on two key points.  They replaced a quantum probability with a deterministic event, and then gave the observer a choice in the end state of the cat rather than the observation only being a choice to create the end state of the cat with no ability to choose what that end state was.

It is acceptable to boil a scientific concept like quantum probability and decoherence down to a form the average TV viewer can understand, but only if it remains relatively accurate in the key points.

I have not wasted my time at all, and if you have wasted you time is not my fault.  It would seem that I have either read more physics than you, or I have at least better understood and appreciated the nuances of what I have read.  It also seems that you either failed to pay attention while reading my post, or you were unable to understand they key points of my post.   If by reading this reply you better understand the key points as to why the writers got the thought experiment wrong, then you have not wasted your time at all either.

And by the way, you’ve spelled your name wrong if your intention was to say “you’re wrong” rather than talk about a wrong that I posses.  I normally don’t quibble about simple spelling mistakes, but I would think if someone takes the time to compose a 181 word statement claiming someone  is wrong on a matter of quantum physics, that they would take time to make sure they haven’t confused “your” with “you’re”.  Such a mistake hardly adds to your credibility.

Your comment has been Cordially Deconstructed.


Posted in Critical Thinking, Criticism, Flash Forward, Followup, Science, Television, This Blog | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Karl Withakay on August 23, 2010

It seems I have some German traffic from the German Scienceblogs site Frischer Wind where that blogger has linked to my post Flash Forward Gets Schrödinger’s Cat a Little bit Wrong in his post Robert J. Sawyer: Flash Forward.

It’s been more than 20 years ago since I took German in high school, so I won’t insult the German language by trying to use what little remains of my wortschatzie * to say hello to any German speaking visitors.

* For the English only speakers:  Wortschatzie is a German play on words.

Wortschatz is German for vocabulary; it translates literally to “word treasure”.  Schatzie is a German term of affection like honey in english; it translates to “little treasure”.  Wortschatzie would basically be “little vocabulary”/ “little word treasure”.  I tried it out on my native German speaking father, and he got it right away and thought it was witty.

Posted in Flash Forward, Science, ScienceBlogs, This Blog | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 21, Season 2, Over There, Part 1

Posted by Karl Withakay on May 13, 2010

As usual, an episode synopsis can be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent.

Kind of a Short Deconstruction Tonight

Maybe there wasn’t as much to Deconstruct, or maybe I’m just too burned out from work today, but I’m hoping for more material from the second part of this episode next week.

Maybe I Just Have a Thing For Brunettes…

But Oliviaternate is way hotter than our Olivia.  Between the brunette hair, the leather jacket, and the ballsier attitude and manner of Oliviaternate, I’ll take her over our Olivia any day.  She’s probably smarted too.  (She can’t be any less bright, can she?)

1983 Silver Clad Nixon Dollar

The reverse of the Nixon Dollar shown in the episode was same as the 1975-76 Bicentennial Dollar from out universe.  The slightly two toned silver color edge of the dollar indicates it is of (or similar to) the silver clad composition, used only for collector issue dollars in our universe, and last made in 1976.  (Half Dollars in silver clad composition were issued for circulation from 1965-1970)  The traditional size dollar coin was last minted for circulation in 1978, though commemorative, traditional size 90% silver dollars were brought back beginning in 1983 for the ‘84 Olympics Coins.  Also, in our universe, no living person may be featured on an American coin, so either the alternate universe does not have that law, or Richard Nixon was already dead in 1983 over there.

Non-Product Placement?

That touch-screen surface table in Colonel Broyle’s office isn’t science fiction, it’s reality.  I’m flabbergasted that they didn’t hit us over the head with a Microsoft logo.  What a missed opportunity for a blatant product placement!

You Didn’t Think We’d Never Hear Form Them Again, Did You?

It seemed likely we’d see the surviving cortexiphan children again; the show made too much of a point of showing them being delivered to Massive Dynamic at the end of their featuring episodes.

Why Not Just Throw in a Mention of Aliens While We’re at It?


“You know Belle and I always agreed that that primal part of the brain which allows us to cross universes is also responsible for a host of paranormal activities-  Pyrokinesis,  telepathy, thought control- and that we all had these abilities until, ‘till there was a moment in history when something was done to us and, and it was shut down.  I suspect aliens.”

What, no mention of Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, or ghosts?  🙂

Let’s Not Overuse Our Super Powers Right Before We Need to Really Use Them, OK?

“You’ve got to know something.  What the hell is wrong with us?”

“Oh, I suspect that something that somehow the human circuit is flawed.  Did any of you engage in extreme use of your abilities last night- far more than normal?”

Close, But No Cigar

Secretary of Defense was my second guess, after Homeland Security.

Posted in Coins, Flash Forward, Science, Television | 3 Comments »

Prop (In)Convenience Theater Review: Flash Forward, “The Gift”

Posted by Karl Withakay on November 5, 2009

In Tonight’s Episode of Flash Forward, “The Gift”, three undercover FBI agents are attempting to gain entry to a meeting of the underground Blue Hand club.  In an entry room outside the main area, an elderly man meets them and puts a revolver on the table and asks them, “Who’s gonna play?”  To clarify what he’s asking, the man picks up the revolver, puts the barrel under his chin and pulls the trigger (no gunshot), puts the gun back on the table, and repeats his question, indicating one of the undercover FBI agents must do the same and play Russian roulette for them to gain entry.

Agent Al Gough immediately picks up the revolver, puts the barrel under his chin and pulls the trigger as well, also surviving, and puts the gun back on the table.  Agent Demetri Noh then says, “I get it, no bullets, good gag.” Believing the gun must not have been loaded.  The old man opens the cylinder and ejects a single round of ammunition with a semi-jacket hollow point bullet, hands it to agent Gough and says, “Your ticket in;  Welcome to the Blue Hand, gentlemen.” And walks out of the room.

Agent Gough was willing to play Russian Roulette without re-spinning the cylinder (meaning he had a 1 in 5 chance of pulling the trigger on a loaded chamber) because he was alive in his flash forward, and therefore knew he would not die in the present.

The problem is that the round clearly had a primer strike on it, meaning it was either a dud, or an intentionally inert round, though I assume we weren’t supposed to notice that.

To clarify for those less familiar with firearms, this means that the primer had already been struck by the firing pin.  Either the round was dud that should have gone off but didn’t because the primer was defective, or the round was intentionally loaded with an already detonated primer to make it inert.

If we give the prop master the benefit of the doubt and  assume the prop was supposed to have a primer strike, it would actually raise an interesting question as to whether that was a dud or a intentionally inert round.  If it was an intentionally inert round, then the Blue Hand club likely just wants to see if you’re willing to pull the trigger, but doesn’t want to actually kill you.  If the round was a dud, it would raise the possibility that the future is fixed and whatever you try to do to change it will always fail, no matter what, but something that happens at the end of the show pretty much nixes that idea.

Posted in Flash Forward, Prop Convenience Theater, Television | Leave a Comment »

Flash Forward Gets Schrödinger’s Cat a Little Wrong

Posted by Karl Withakay on October 29, 2009

Tonight’s episode of Flash Forward, “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps” contained a flawed portrayal of the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment (note the 2 separate links) in a conversation where a quantum physicist is trying to pick up a hot woman on a train by telling her he can explain what caused the flash forward.  After mentioning that the most basic concept she needed to understand was quantum superpositions, they have some witty flirting and then the conversation proceeds as follows:

Physicist:  “Imagine you have a cat, a teeny tiny cat that fits in the palm of your hand.  You also have a poisonous sardine.  Once we close your palm there are two possible scenarios: either the cat eats the sardine and dies or the cat doesn’t eat the sardine and lives.  Quantum physics says until we open your hand to discover the cat’s fate, both eventualities occur at the same time.  For us, the cat is both living and deceased.”

Hot Woman  “But how can that be?”

Physicist:  “That’s the miracle of quantum mechanics.  The observer get to decide.”

The problem is that this thought experiment leaves out an important element of the original, a quantum probability.  In the original experiment, the cat’s life or death is dependent not on a poisoned sardine, but on the potential decay of a radioactive isotope source.  If the source decays and emits a decay particle, a hammer triggered by a Geiger counter breaks a vial of poison, killing the cat; otherwise the cat lives.  The key is that the decay or non-decay of the isotope is a quantum probability, whereas the cat eating a poisoned sardine is not.

Schrödinger originated this thought experiment in an attempt to illustrate what he saw as a flaw in the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.  According to quantum mechanics, the cat is both alive and dead (because the isotope has both decayed and not decayed) until the observer collapses the quantum wave function by observing the state of the cat (which is dependent on the state of the isotope), even though common sense says the cat was obviously either dead or alive before being observed.  The experiment also has nothing to do with the observer “deciding” anything.  The act of observation collapses the quantum wave function to one state or the other, but no choice of states is involved or possible.

The Flash Forward thought experiment was an not an example of quantum superposition since no quantum state was involved, and it wasn’t Schrödinger’s/Schroedinger’s Cat.

Posted in Flash Forward, Science, Television | Tagged: , , , | 11 Comments »

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