I know what it’s like to die. I take a bullet between the eyes regularly. Almost every other second.
We had no idea, at the time, that the universe had such a perverse sense of humor. It was Schrödinger’s cat that started this whole hellish nightmare. As a theoretical physicist, I was extremely interested in wave-particle duality. How could light, for instance, act as both a wave and as a particle? How was it that our expectations of how it should behave invariably seemed to determine the state we were looking for?
For nearly a decade, Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment was never far from our minds. It’s a nice layman’s way of thinking about waveform collapse and how observation affects the state of the waveform. I was asked to retell it almost daily in my Freshman Physic lectures.
Imagine a cat, left in a box for 10 days with no food or air; was it dead or alive after 10 days unobserved? Or was it in some non-deterministic state until the lid of the box was opened and the cat was actually observed? Was it the act of observation, of measurement, that forced reality into one direction or another or did the universe not give a damned about being watched?
After 10 years, I one day flipped the problem on its ear. I would consider the Schrödinger cat dilemma from the point of view of the cat. We called it Quantum Suicide. What would happen if I, as a physicist, stared directly into the barrel of a loaded gun that had a fifty percent chance of firing every second based on the rate of decay from a radioactive isotope? Would my fate be sealed by the observations of some external observer or would random chance rule the day regardless of observation?
That’s when things got weird. I don’t remember ever actually setting up the experiment in real life, but suddenly, there I was looking at the gun. I barely had time to register what I was seeing before a flash of light startled me and I remembered no more. I had been shot dead. The gun had fired.
It seemed like I was instantly back in my chair, looking at the gun. Everything was the same, except I remembered dying only a moment before. I cringed, expecting the flash of light to kill me, but it didn’t come. For four seconds my eyes were closed and, just as I began to hope it was all a bad dream, I opened my eyes to a flash of light and I died again.
I died at least a hundred times before I began to realize what was happening. I was living the Quantum Suicide thought experiment. Somehow, I had become Schrödinger’s cat.
Understand, please, that thinking was very difficult. After every death, there was a period of disorientation and fear I had to get past before I could consider my situation. Often, I would die before I could get past this initial reaction. By my calculations, I have died approximately 13,000 times in the writing of this missive.
With each death, the universe splits. There’s a universe in which I live and one in which I died. Somehow, I am aware of this; I remember all the universes where I died and the universes where I lived all seem to merge into one, although I have faint recollections of different realities where I lived AND died, but I can’t make sense of those.
I’m not sure how I keep this pen and paper as my universes split time and time again. I can only conjecture that I am able to write ONLY in the universes where I have the pen and paper. How this letter stays cohesive is beyond me.
I am desperate. I have died hundreds of thousands of times. I am reminded of the movie “Groundhog Day”. Bill Murray reliving the same day over and over again until he lived a perfect day.
I have only a few seconds.
I’ve determined that there MUST be an observer determining my fate. Call it God, for lack of a better term. I have to locate this observer and somehow avoid His eyes. If He can’t see me, I can’t die. Or live but limbo is preferable to death every other second.
I hope I fare better than Schrödinger’s cat; I don’t think it ever avoided being observed. Wish me luck.