Sunday 4 January 2009

Schrodinger's Cat and sporting psychobabble

Over the past year, on the back of a spate of documentaries and books, I've been trying to get the most basic grasp on quantum physics. Like being able to spell it, for a start. 

It grabbed me because so many strange and beautiful brains, each in the grip of their own wild, beguiling theories, had engaged in lifelong mind-wars with each other; wars fought out on an intellectual plane inaccessible to 99.94 per cent* of all the humans who have ever lived. 

One 'thought experiment' is called Schrodinger's Cat, after Erwin Schrodinger, who designed it to illustrate the illogicality of the Copenhagen Interpretation, the prevailing quantum theory of the age.

Schrodinger imagined a cat in a box with a particle of radioactive material, which may or may not decay and kill the cat. The Copenhagen Interpretation implied that the cat is both alive and dead until someone opens the box and observes its state. Schrodinger's Cat asked when something stopped existing in a mixture of states, and became one thing or the other.

Quite honestly, who knows? Who really knows what they're on about? But then one thing clicked. Schrodinger's Cat is a thought experiment made for Jeremy Snape, author of this madness.

To wit: A bowler delivers a ball. At what point does that ball become good or bad? Does it only become good or bad when the batsman decides it's good or bad and acts accordingly? Is this why 'good' balls get hit for four, and 'bad' balls take wickets?

I'm still thinking about this. Can Jeremy help? Can anyone?

NB: Rather brilliantly, a man called Hugh Everett, father of E of the Eels, came up with an answer to Schrodinger's Cat: his Many Worlds theory suggests that both outcomes are true, and are going on simultaneously in separate universes. Which means that somehow, somewhere, Matty Hayden is still in at the SCG. 

* approx


Jrod said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

That's a very good point. Batsman make good balls, not bowlers. You could bowl a cracking inswinger that beats the batsman but if it ends up swinging down leg, "bad ball".

How about the bouncer that gets hooked for 6 and the comment will be "too short, the batsman punished that appropriately", yet the exact same delivery that glances the glove and it's "good ball, he set him up with a few full ones then struck with the well placed bouncer".

Jrod said...

What the bleed does snape know.

David Barry said...

It's OK, we have decoherence to explain Schrodinger's Cat now. The cat is a macroscopic system, and once the atom decays and interacts with the cat, the cat will be dead.

I hate Many Worlds.

Good balls/bad balls are usually pretty obvious. It's about maximising your chances of getting a wicket or minimising your chances of conceding runs. A long hop's not a good ball because the batsman happened to pick out the deep mid-wicket fieldsman - that ball goes to/over the boundary (say) 20 times for each wicket it gets.

Commentators are of course horrible at deciding if something was a good or bad idea based on what actually happened. But some commentators know this - "That was one of those shots where if it comes off, it's a great shot, and if he hits a catch, it was a silly shot."

The Old Batsman said...

I think I actually get that bit about the cat being a macroscopic system - cheers David! In terms of good and bad balls though, it must be down in part to the batsman's perception, because that affects everything that happens next, as per Moses's argument. I'm thinking of all of those bowlers who said of Lara, 'you could bowl him the same ball twice, once he'd defend it, and the next he'd whack it for four'.

So is something good or bad depending on what happens - I still don't really know...

Jrod - He knows how to bullshit his way into a job. Wonder how he'll get on during the credit crunch?

Pat Hannagan said...

Doesn't matter either way other than "is he still in?".

BTW DoS is still in.

Six & Out said...

Interesting thoughts, I guess it becomes even more complicated when a certain ball is a good one for one batsman but a bad one for another.

A ball that might be good to Ponting might end up in the crowd over cover for Sehwag.

Ps- Belated new yr wishes TOB!

The Old Batsman said...

And happy new year to you too. I was thinking about the same ball to different batsman element of it as well. Will throw up a post on that later.