Von Neumann & Collapse Theories
Collapsing the Indefinite to the Definite
Von Neumann sought to explain the transition from the inherently indefinite states of the individual particles that constitute the parts of an entangled system, to the definite reality that we observe after making a measurement. He reasoned that the indefinite must make a transition to definite at some point, but precisely when, why and how? His conclusion? The very act of observation, of becoming conscious of a specific measured outcome, causes the indefinite state of the particles to collapse into one definite state or another. It is the witness becoming conscious of an outcome that forces the potential to become actual.
Totally Random casts von Neuman as a private eye who seeks the culprit who collapses the indefinite state of the quoins into one specific toss outcome or another, but first he needs to find a witness. Without a witness will the quoins forever remain in an indefinite state? How reliable does that witness need to be? Will a cat do?
More on Von Neumann & Collapse Theories
- J. von Neumann: Extract on measurement from Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics
- G-C. Ghirardi: Collapse theories
For more on collapse theories, see the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article: