One can think of the Simulation Hypothesis as a version of Hollywood’s special effects, only having nothing to do with the real Hollywood. Take as a case in point, the Quantum Zeno Effect.

The Quantum Zeno Effect is the micro version of a watched pot never boils. I’ve never run across this quantum physics concept in any of my popular or layman’s quantum physics books, rather I came across this in a book about human consciousness. Having only now run across this concept, and given the nature of the source – a book on consciousness as opposed to a quantum physics book – my first thoughts were that this must be some sort of mystical New Age mumbo-jumbo, maybe something to do with the philosophical idea of idealism, but no, that proved not to be the case.

So what exactly is the Quantum Zeno Effect? According to the “Oxford Dictionary of Physics”, the Quantum Zeno Effect is just a phenomenon in which constant observation of an unstable particle prevents it from decaying. If numerous measurements are made at intervals the wave-function is constantly collapsed and thus the lifetime of the particle is prolonged.¬†

So this rapid repetitive series of measurement or observations basically acts to reset the clock and freeze-the-frame. One almost thinks of those ‘Weeping Angels’ in the recent resurrection of the “Doctor Who” TV series.

So this suggests that if you do the Schrodinger Cat experiment 100 times (if you wish you can eliminate the cat since the Cat really isn’t necessary but suit yourself), wherein in each trial run of one hour each there is a 50/50 chance of an unstable atom going or not going poof, and you don’t look until after the one hour has expired, then 50% of the time (50 trials) the unstable atomic nucleus will have decayed and 50% of the time (the 50 other trials) it will not have decayed. Now repeat the 100 trial runs but now look every few seconds. According to the Quantum Zeno Effect, after 100 trials of one hour each, 100% of all trials there will be, after one hour, an un-decayed but still unstable radioactive nucleus present and accounted for. Totally nuts. Yet still, if you don’t want anything bad to happen (i.e. – you don’t want Schrodinger’s Cat to die) all you have to do is stare down at the quantum system that ultimate controls the Cat’s fate.

If all of the above were really true, can you imagine the absolute mind-over-matter power you’d have? You’re driving along, running a bit late, and there’s this traffic light in the far distance, but it’s green. There’s no way it will be green by the time you get to it so you just stare it down and keep freezing-the-frame and lo and behold, it’s green when you just sail on through!

The Analogy

Here’s an analogy I found on YouTube that’s been given to explain the Quantum Zeno Effect. It’s constantly prodding someone into the (sort of) constant non-decayed state of being awake. You go to sleep and then immediately someone pokes you into the awake state. You fall asleep again and again you’re poked and prodded into an awake state again. You’re awake state, your awake clock, is constantly being reset to the awake position. Your awake state is being freeze-framed since every time you drift off to sleep you’re poked and prodded back into being awake. Being awake means that Schrodinger’s Cat is A-OK. The particle remains non-decayed. Being asleep means that the probability that the Cat dies ever increases since the particle only decays in the sleeping state. But there is a rather serious flaw with this analogy.

When you are asleep, prodding you awake resets your clock back to when you were last awake – but has any wave-function* actually been collapsed? No! That’s because when you are asleep (or awake for that matter), you are NOT in a superposition-of-state*; in an either / or situation. Being in an either / or situation would mean that you were both awake and asleep at the same time, in the same way as Schrodinger’s Cat is normally considered to be both alive and dead until the wave-function is collapsed and the superposition-of-state of the Cat being of an either / or scenario becomes either this (alive) or that (dead).

You Can’t Prevent Something Just By Observation

If constant and rapid observations keep collapsing the wave-function, then why does the wave-function always collapse in favor of the status quo? That is, each observation is resolved in favor of the non-decayed but unstable atom, or rather atomic nucleus. It should be just as likely that one of those observations collapses the wave-function in favor of the decay event. This sort of strikes me akin to that of constantly watching yourself to prevent yourself ageing!

Speaking of watching or of observing or of measuring (the equivalent), when you are observing something you are NOT prodding anything that hasn’t already been prodded! An act of observation doesn’t change the nature or properties of what you are observing since whatever change that is taking place is already taking place and is already under way when you do your observational thing. The observer can play no active role in changing the properties of what is being observed at a distance since what is being observed transmits its state to the observer (usually via photons) and not the other way around.

So, even in this Quantum Zeno Effect scenario, every time you look at that unstable particle or atomic nucleus, you are looking at what has happened and not preventing what could eventually will happen.

What’s Done Is Done

So here’s the ultimate proof that the observer making an actual observation has had no effect on what is being observed – physicists to the contrary be damned. Whatever it is you are observing has happened IN THE PAST** and you cannot effect what has already happened in the past. What’s done is done. Now that’s because it takes a finite time for the (visual, auditory, whatever) signal to travel from what is being observed to the observer. What you have observed, measured, experienced, etc. is now part of the past by the time it registers in that brain-thingy of yours. Therefore what has been observed has already happened and therefore the observer is irrelevant to what has already unfolded. Nothing could be more obvious!

We’re all familiar with the concept that when you look at a star you’re seeing that star as it existed many years ago. If that star blows up today, it will be many years before we know about it. Well the same argument applies to even close-up objects that are just inches away.

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