Dear Keith

I was reading with great interest your piece about science on the website and came to the paragraph below:

Everything you do today, even reading this on your computer screen, has emanated from that one brilliant deduction from an ingenious experiment. Vinnie humorously refers to Sod's Law as inevitable. He doesn’t realise how right he is because Sod's Law is a fact of nature. If it is possible for two events to happen then BOTH will occur simultaneously. In the Quantum World the Universe just splits into two to accommodate this. It is possible that we actually live in a multiverse not a universe.

Having spent over 40 years in engineering research, design etc, I have had my share of battles with Sod's Law and came to expect it to apply somewhere, sometime despite the best efforts to cover every angle. The sentence which caught my eye was the one I have highlighted in red above.

When studying the design of logic circuits I was warned about this assumption. "Never assume that two events can occur at exactly the same time".

This was of course referring to phenomena in our non-quantum universe of classical physics. With particular concern for the reliable operation of switching circuits it is courting disaster to assume simultaneous opening/closure of two or more switches can reliably occur.

Imagine two switches which are assumed to close at the same time, in other words go from off/off to on/on or as denoted in binary: 00 -> 11.

The application of my (reciprocal?) version of Sod's Law means that two possibilities can occur:

i.e 00 -> 01 -> 11 OR 00 -> 10 -> 11

in order to make the intended change of state from 00 -> 11.

The problem arises when one or other of the intermediate states 01 OR 10 propagates what is/was called a*static hazard* through the rest of the logic circuits and causes, for example, a ship's engines to go into an uncommanded full ahead just as the skipper is docking.

Maybe when such systems are controlled by quantum computers the version of Sod's Law I have described will cease to be a problem.

Ray

Dear Ray

I can’t work out whether you agree that two things can happen simultaneously or not. To make it clear, what I meant was that the two things*do* happen - but not in the same universe - so that both events are seen only as a single event in one universe. But only in *one* universe does someone says S**T ! Sod’s Law cannot be obeyed in both.

Keith

I was reading with great interest your piece about science on the website and came to the paragraph below:

Everything you do today, even reading this on your computer screen, has emanated from that one brilliant deduction from an ingenious experiment. Vinnie humorously refers to Sod's Law as inevitable. He doesn’t realise how right he is because Sod's Law is a fact of nature. If it is possible for two events to happen then BOTH will occur simultaneously. In the Quantum World the Universe just splits into two to accommodate this. It is possible that we actually live in a multiverse not a universe.

Having spent over 40 years in engineering research, design etc, I have had my share of battles with Sod's Law and came to expect it to apply somewhere, sometime despite the best efforts to cover every angle. The sentence which caught my eye was the one I have highlighted in red above.

When studying the design of logic circuits I was warned about this assumption. "Never assume that two events can occur at exactly the same time".

This was of course referring to phenomena in our non-quantum universe of classical physics. With particular concern for the reliable operation of switching circuits it is courting disaster to assume simultaneous opening/closure of two or more switches can reliably occur.

Imagine two switches which are assumed to close at the same time, in other words go from off/off to on/on or as denoted in binary: 00 -> 11.

The application of my (reciprocal?) version of Sod's Law means that two possibilities can occur:

i.e 00 -> 01 -> 11 OR 00 -> 10 -> 11

in order to make the intended change of state from 00 -> 11.

The problem arises when one or other of the intermediate states 01 OR 10 propagates what is/was called a

Maybe when such systems are controlled by quantum computers the version of Sod's Law I have described will cease to be a problem.

Ray

Dear Ray

I can’t work out whether you agree that two things can happen simultaneously or not. To make it clear, what I meant was that the two things

Keith

Dear Keith

On Sod's Law, simultaneous events and all that - my submission is that operating within what is familiar ( i.e. Newtonian physics/engineering practice and the world I think I understand) two events cannot occur at*exactly *the same time as my example of the switches illustrates. If you can think of an example where my 'conjecture' fails let me know and I will withdraw my claim. Whether this is in any way related to or indeed subject to the Pauli exclusion principle which says that the two properties, velocity and position of a particle, cannot both be simultaneously determined OR Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, I am not competent to say - does anyone know?. However, having tried to get my head round quantum mechanics I acknowledge that venturing into the world of wave/particle duality etc, where bizarre behaviour becomes the norm, does play havoc with many of our fondly held beliefs. Perhaps in that version of physics I have to accept my claim for non-simultaneous events is invalid and provides a different version of Sod's Law.

You may recall the PS to my piece on the website - "There is nothing so frightful as ignorance in action" by Goethe. Re-reading the above I fear I have just done what Goethe so hated.

Ray

On Sod's Law, simultaneous events and all that - my submission is that operating within what is familiar ( i.e. Newtonian physics/engineering practice and the world I think I understand) two events cannot occur at

You may recall the PS to my piece on the website - "There is nothing so frightful as ignorance in action" by Goethe. Re-reading the above I fear I have just done what Goethe so hated.

Ray

Dear Ray

In no way can your thoughts be regarded as ignorant. Quite the contrary.

BUT we are talking about two different things I think. Please correct me if I am mistaken but your example I think is about two different events i.e. 01 or 10. The signal can go through either route and what I take as your problem is that you want it to go through one but not the other. In the quantum world__if it is possible__ to go through __one or the other__ it will in fact go through both at the same time.

To give you an example of the extreme of this, imagine someone balances a pencil on a table, on its tip, and lets go. It will fall over. Now in which direction will it fall? There is no mathematical formula which will predict this nor will there ever be. So how does it know where to fall? The answer is that it falls in all directions at once.

I emphasise that this is not my opinion but the only likely solution in the mysterious world of quantum physics.

Does this help - I think we are talking about two different things here - both of which are correct in their own circumstance.

Keith

In no way can your thoughts be regarded as ignorant. Quite the contrary.

BUT we are talking about two different things I think. Please correct me if I am mistaken but your example I think is about two different events i.e. 01 or 10. The signal can go through either route and what I take as your problem is that you want it to go through one but not the other. In the quantum world

To give you an example of the extreme of this, imagine someone balances a pencil on a table, on its tip, and lets go. It will fall over. Now in which direction will it fall? There is no mathematical formula which will predict this nor will there ever be. So how does it know where to fall? The answer is that it falls in all directions at once.

I emphasise that this is not my opinion but the only likely solution in the mysterious world of quantum physics.

Does this help - I think we are talking about two different things here - both of which are correct in their own circumstance.

Keith

Dear Keith

You are right, we are talking about two different things - maybe. I am in the world where the laws of physics are approximations to the relationships between cause and effect or between dependent and independent variables. Where engineers can, despite Sod's Law intervening from time to time, come up with design solutions which perform in an acceptable and understandable way even if the result falls short of perfection. Your perfect pencil is in the quantum world where nothing so mundane as slight mechanical or frictional imbalances or inconsistent release mechanisms mess up the experiment (a thought experiment as Einstein might have described it). In my world the imperfect pencil may well exhibit subtle systematic preferences to fall in one direction rather than anywhere or everywhere. I am reminded of that favourite of statisticians, the tossed coin. The assumption being that when doing experiments or deciding who bats first the coin will provide equal probabilities for heads and tails - in other words the perfectly symmetrical and consistently tossed coin. I believe, but can't prove to you, that small differences in probabilities have been detected which arise from the slight differences in heads/tails design and the tossing method.

Back to my switches - the basis for saying that no two events can occur at the same time is that the statement provides very useful guidance when designing logic circuits in the everyday world of engineering. It is meant to prevent a faulty design where the transient states of 01 or 10 (resulting from an attempt to get two switches to change state simultaneously e.g. 00 to 11) are to be avoided at all costs since they may result in catastrophic unforeseen malfunctions of the system. The lesson is - don't expect sequential logic to work if you program two events to happen at the same time.

The BIG question is: does this simple advice that no two events can occur at the same time carry over into the weird quantum world? You clearly believe that the behaviour of a photon to go both ways simultaneously in the quantum world is an example of two events occurring at the same time. I ask you this question: what makes you believe that the phenomenon you describe is in fact two events and not one?

Ray

You are right, we are talking about two different things - maybe. I am in the world where the laws of physics are approximations to the relationships between cause and effect or between dependent and independent variables. Where engineers can, despite Sod's Law intervening from time to time, come up with design solutions which perform in an acceptable and understandable way even if the result falls short of perfection. Your perfect pencil is in the quantum world where nothing so mundane as slight mechanical or frictional imbalances or inconsistent release mechanisms mess up the experiment (a thought experiment as Einstein might have described it). In my world the imperfect pencil may well exhibit subtle systematic preferences to fall in one direction rather than anywhere or everywhere. I am reminded of that favourite of statisticians, the tossed coin. The assumption being that when doing experiments or deciding who bats first the coin will provide equal probabilities for heads and tails - in other words the perfectly symmetrical and consistently tossed coin. I believe, but can't prove to you, that small differences in probabilities have been detected which arise from the slight differences in heads/tails design and the tossing method.

Back to my switches - the basis for saying that no two events can occur at the same time is that the statement provides very useful guidance when designing logic circuits in the everyday world of engineering. It is meant to prevent a faulty design where the transient states of 01 or 10 (resulting from an attempt to get two switches to change state simultaneously e.g. 00 to 11) are to be avoided at all costs since they may result in catastrophic unforeseen malfunctions of the system. The lesson is - don't expect sequential logic to work if you program two events to happen at the same time.

The BIG question is: does this simple advice that no two events can occur at the same time carry over into the weird quantum world? You clearly believe that the behaviour of a photon to go both ways simultaneously in the quantum world is an example of two events occurring at the same time. I ask you this question: what makes you believe that the phenomenon you describe is in fact two events and not one?

Ray

Dear Ray

To give you another example of what I understand the thinking to be, I will use your own example of tossing the coin. Let's suppose that there is no influence on the outcome such as an unequal distribution of weight due to the different designs of the head and the tail. In other words it is just as likely to land on head as it is to land on tail - there is no mathmatical formula to predict the outcome. Therefore it lands on both heads and tails at the same time but you will only see one outcome in the universe you inhabit.

This brings us nicely back to your original example of the switch. If it is just as likely for either combination of off and on etc to occur (I know it isn't but lets just imagine) then the ship will both dock safely AND go racing off at full speed ahead into the harbour wall. But you will only witness one outcome.

Schroedinger's cat is both alive and dead at the same time until you open the box to see which it is. Whichever it is, alive or dead, you have just bestowed that state upon it just by observing.

Keith

To give you another example of what I understand the thinking to be, I will use your own example of tossing the coin. Let's suppose that there is no influence on the outcome such as an unequal distribution of weight due to the different designs of the head and the tail. In other words it is just as likely to land on head as it is to land on tail - there is no mathmatical formula to predict the outcome. Therefore it lands on both heads and tails at the same time but you will only see one outcome in the universe you inhabit.

This brings us nicely back to your original example of the switch. If it is just as likely for either combination of off and on etc to occur (I know it isn't but lets just imagine) then the ship will both dock safely AND go racing off at full speed ahead into the harbour wall. But you will only witness one outcome.

Schroedinger's cat is both alive and dead at the same time until you open the box to see which it is. Whichever it is, alive or dead, you have just bestowed that state upon it just by observing.

Keith

This is an exchange between Ray Oliver and myself arising from something I said in my piece on Science......

Bl---y hell, thank God I went on the Arts side and did a degree in politics. Aristotle and Plato are simple compared to all this, You've both lost me. Happy days.

Nigel

Nigel