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This post is derived from an interesting conversation I had several years ago with my friend Jason Newquist on trying to find some intuitive analogies for the non-classical nature of quantum mechanics. It occurred to me that this type of informal, rambling discussion might actually be rather suited to the blog medium, so here goes nothing…
Quantum mechanics has a number of weird consequences, but here we are focusing on three (inter-related) ones:
- Objects can behave both like particles (with definite position and a continuum of states) and waves (with indefinite position and (in confined situations) quantised states);
- The equations that govern quantum mechanics are deterministic, but the standard interpretation of the solutions of these equations is probabilistic; and
- If instead one applies the laws of quantum mechanics literally at the macroscopic scale, then the universe itself must split into the superposition of many distinct “worlds”.
In trying to come up with a classical conceptual model in which to capture these non-classical phenomena, we eventually hit upon using the idea of using computer games as an analogy. The exact choice of game is not terribly important, but let us pick Tomb Raider – a popular game from about ten years ago (back when I had the leisure to play these things), in which the heroine, Lara Croft, explores various tombs and dungeons, solving puzzles and dodging traps, in order to achieve some objective. It is quite common for Lara to die in the game, for instance by failing to evade one of the traps. (I should warn that this analogy will be rather violent on certain computer-generated characters.)