Posted in Philosophy

Quantum Immortality

The famous Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment illustrates the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. Quantum physics is an extremely complicated field of study, but the gist of the Copenhagen interpretation is that a probability remains in a superposition – that is a state where many possibilities exist at the same time – until it is observed, when it collapses into a certain state.

For example, imagine a cat that is locked in a box sealed with a vial of poison, that is set to break open only 50% of the time. Until the box is opened, we do not know if the cat has been killed by poison or not. Therefore, the cat can be said to be both alive and dead at the same time (Erwin Schrödinger initially devised the experiment to mock the Copenhagen interpretation).

There is a fascinating theory that takes this strange thought experiment one step further. Another interpretation of quantum physics is the Everett many-worlds interpretation. This explains that instead of the wavefunction collapsing (i.e. producing a single result such as alive or dead) on observation, two parallel universes are created instead: one universe where the cat died and another universe where the cat is still alive. Essentially, it states there are infinite universes containing every permutation of possibilities that can exist and that whenever a probability is observed, we enter a specific universe.

This is a very confusing concept to grasp, so let us return to the cat in the box. According to the Copenhagen interpretation, the cat has a 50% chance of surviving the experiment the first time. From then on, the chance of the cat being dead grows exponentially with every experiment. However, according to the many-worlds interpretation, no matter how many experiments we perform, there always will be a universe where the cat miraculously survived each one. From the cat’s perspective, it would not know of the universe if it had died. Therefore, the only universe where the cat is able to tell this story to its friends at the end of the day is one where it survives every single experiment

Now let us apply that to our own lives. Imagine that you are crossing the road and a bus is about to hit you. If there is even a 1% chance you might survive this event, your quantum self will move to a universe where it is possible (otherwise you would be dead and your consciousness ceases to exist). By extrapolation, you can never really die as a version of you will forever live on, beating improbable odds until a point where there are literally no possible universes you could be alive.

Quantum immortality is a thought experiment that relies on the many-worlds interpretation. However, it is also extremely difficult to prove wrong. The only way you could confirm this is if you attempted to kill yourself over and over (quantum suicide) and failed each time. But if you were wrong, you would die and not be able to tell anyone. Ergo, you cannot rule out the possibility that you will live forever.

The scariest part of the theory is not that you are potentially immortal. It is that quantum immortality does not account for your well-being – just your consciousness. If an accident were to leave you horribly disfigured but alert, it would still satisfy quantum immortality. You could be trapped in a motionless body for the rest of eternity, unable to communicate to anyone. Yet quantum immortality will keep you alive, forever and ever.

(Infinity Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama)

Posted in Simple Pleasures of Life

Simple Pleasures of Life #4

Hugging someone, or a pet, or a pillow. Maybe even falling asleep like that.

I was so tired after hospital yesterday that as soon as I got home I collapsed in bed and just hugged my pillow. It was so damn fluffy and soft and comfortable. Totally fell asleep for 15 min after that… Anyway, hugging releases oxytocin and endorphins and a whole shitload of feel-good hormones, so you should go hug someone. Right now.

Posted in Philosophy

Of Cats And Dogs

When a dog is fed by its owner, it thinks to itself: “This human feeds me every day and cares for my every need. It must be god.

When a cat is fed by its owner, it thinks to itself: “This human feeds me every day and cares for my every need. I must be god.

Posted in Philosophy

Black Cat

Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat.

Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that is not there.

Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that is not there and shouting “I found it!”

Science is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat using a flashlight.

Posted in Science & Nature

Belling The Cat

There once lived a community of mice in the attic of a house. The mice would sneak into kitchens, gnaw holes in the walls and run about freely. The owners were so fed up that they brought in a cat, causing the mice to all hide in fear. The terrified mice eventually held a meeting to discuss how they would sneak around the house without getting caught by the cat. One mouse suggested: “What if we put a bell around the neck of the cat? Then we can hear it coming and run away.”. The mice unanimously agreed that it was a brilliant idea. However, when they came to decide who would bell the cat, no mouse was brave enough to step forward and the plan was never carried out.

What would actually happen if a cat was belled? Without a doubt, the cat would take it as a cruel, cruel punishment. Not because it cannot catch mice, but because the sound of the bell ringing every time it moves will be extremely loud for the cat. A cat’s hearing is six times better than a human’s. With this excellent hearing, the constant sound of bells attacking its eardrums would be physical torture for the cat.

Furthermore, a cat can hear frequencies as high as 40,000Hz. A person can only hear up to 20,000Hz, meaning a cat hears over twice the range of sounds we can. This combined with the boosted volume results in the cat living in a very noisy world. Ergo, putting a bell around a cat’s neck is an extremely atrocious thing to do.

Posted in Philosophy

Town Musicians Of Bremen

Once upon a time, a donkey who had worked hard for his master all his life on a farm was about to be sold off simply because he was old. The donkey fled to Bremen where he hoped to be a travelling musician. On his way to Bremen, he met a cat, a dog and a rooster who were all placed in a similar predicament. The four animals decide to form a band of animal musicians. While travelling together, they came across a house full of delicious food and a warm fire. 

However, they soon found out the house was inhabited by robbers. The animals decided they should somehow chase away the robbers and ultimately came up with the plan of the rooster jumping on the cat’s back, who was on the dog’s back who was on the donkey’s back. The quartet began singing at the top of their voice. The robbers were startled by the strange sound and terrifying figure and ran for their lives, thinking the house was haunted. The musicians then feast on the food and spend a warm night in the house.

Later that night, the robbers returned and sent one of their members to scout the house. In the dimly lit room, he sees the cat’s eyes but believes it to be candlelight. At that moment, the cat scratched his face, the dog bit his leg, the donkey kicked the robber and the rooster chased him out the door. The robber then told his companions about how he was scratched by the long nails of a witch (cat), stabbed by an ogre’s blade (dog), hit by the club of a giant (donkey) and worst of all, chased away by the shrieks of a dragon (rooster). The robbers gave up on the house and the animals spent the rest of their lives in that house happily ever after.

The moral of this story is that even after being thrown away, if you stay optimistic and work through the troubles you can still live a happy life. A similar lesson is found in a quote by General Douglas MacArthur: “Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.”. If you have passion, dreams and a friend who has the same mindset, nothing is impossible.


Posted in Science & Nature

Buttered Cat Paradox

Cats always fall on their feet. Buttered toast always seems to fall buttered side down. So what would happen if we tied a buttered toast on a cat’s back and then dropped the cat? Would the cat land on its feet or would the toast land on its buttered side?
Or would we achieve perpetual motion and anti-gravity simultaneously as they cancel each other and never touch the ground?

Although the paradox is obviously a humorous thought experiment, there is some truth to the separate adages. 
Cats have a natural righting reflex that allows them to twist their upper body so that they land on their feet. This gracious manoeuvre is developed as a kitten and actually involves quite complex physics where the cat is able to turn around without changing their net angular momentum. Since cats have a small body and very light body weight, their terminal velocity (100km/h compared to a human’s 210km/h) when falling is much less and allows them to absorb the shock easily when landing. Furthermore, when falling cats naturally spread their limbs out to slow their fall as much as possible. All these factors let a cat land safely on its feet even if dropped from a high place. Ironically, the lower they are dropped from, the more likely that the cat would fall on its back.

The other side of the paradox is slightly more complicated. The adage that toast falls buttered side first is actually an example of how if something bad can happen, it will happen. However, physicists have discovered that toast is more likely to fall on its buttered side.
When toast falls off a plate, it is highly likely to tip as it hits the edge. This causes it to rotate as it begins to fall. There are two explanations on why the buttered side is more likely to be facing down. Firstly, butter adds weight to one side and heavier objects fall faster in the face of gravity. Secondly, using experimental data it has been found that toast only rotates about 180 degrees by the time it falls the height of the table or person from where it was dropped from. 

Despite it only being a tongue-in-cheek thought, one can only wonder how many scientists have made some toast, buttered it, tied it to a cat and dropped the cat off a ladder.


Posted in Psychology & Medicine


There is a protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite infects many animals through an interesting route. 
The first victim is a mouse. An infected mouse loses its fear of cats, leading it to play fearlessly in front of one until it gets caught and eaten (was Jerry a mouse with toxoplasmosis?). It is unclear how it controls a more advanced animal’s brain, but thanks to this effect, Toxoplasma gondii can infect its intermediate host – a cat.
An infected cat starts excreting parasite eggs with its faeces. If a person forgets to wash their hands or eats food contaminated with cat faeces, they can be infected and become the final host for the parasite.

Usually, Toxoplasma gondii cannot overcome the healthy immune system, but it can infect those with a weaker immune system such as the elderly or pregnant women. Furthermore, it is part of the TORCH complex (toxoplasmosis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes) – a group of infections that commonly cross over from the mother to the fetus in utero. Symptoms are normally flu-like, but if more severe it can cause dysfunction of the eyes, brain and other vital organs. Sometimes it lies dormant until the person’s immune system is weakened, whence it becomes active. Toxoplasmosis is also a possible cause of a miscarriage or infertility.

One fascinating symptom of toxoplasmosis is psychiatric disorders. Because Toxoplasma gondii can infiltrate the brain, it is known to cause depression or even schizophrenia. As cats are the most common intermediate host, cat owners are more susceptible to toxoplasmosis. Because of this, there is a theory that “crazy old cat ladies” are in fact toxoplasmosis patients.

Posted in Life & Happiness

Dali Nap

The famous surrealist artist Salvador Dalí had a strange habit. When he could not solve a problem or had difficulty coming up with an idea, he chose to nap. However, he did not nap “normally” to say – he used a unique method.

First, find a comfortable sofa or armchair, a spoon and a large plate or pan. Sit in a comfortable way, flip the plate over and place it on the ground, then hold the spoon directly above it with only your thumb and index finger. While thinking about the problem you want to solve, fall asleep.

As soon as you enter REM sleep, all of your muscles will relax and so the spoon will fall onto the plate, making a loud clatter. As soon as you get woken up by this, you will not only feel well rested, but also discover the solution or idea you were looking for.

Posted in Philosophy

Cheshire Cat

As an important character in the book Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat is infamous for his non-sensical and strange questions and answers. But his words also carry a very strong philosophical message.
For example, when asked by Alice, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” he replies:

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. 
“I don’t much care where-” said Alice. 
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. 
“-so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. 
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

This directly applies to life: if you keep walking without giving up, you will eventually end up somewhere. Even if you are lost and without direction, life will, without a doubt, take you somewhere as long as there is hope. However, it also points out how it’s much more useful and time-conserving to know the destination you want to reach, also known as a “goal”.

Additionally, the Cat is well-known for his ear-to-ear grin, thus the term “grinning like a Cheshire Cat”. The origin of this cat is most likely from Cheshire, England, where cheese made from there were molded into the shape of a grinning cat.