This question is if the von Neumann–Wigner interpretation, aka "consciousness cause collapse" (see e.g. John von Neumann's 1932 book The Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics) is compatible with the quantum Zeno effect (see Sudarshan, E. C. G.; Misra, B. (1977) "The Zeno's paradox in quantum theory", Journal of Mathematical Physics 18 (4): 756–763) respectively its empirical observation (such as by Wineland 1989 or by Raizen 2002). Or if the Quantum Zeno effect falsies or created the possibility to empirically verify the von Neumann-Wigner interpretation.

Assume measuring the state of a system every second causes a zeno effect and measuring every three seconds causes an anti-zeno effect.

Now let's assume the state is measured every second and recorded. A proponent of the "consciousness causes collapse" interpretation would argue that the wave function only collapses when a conscious observer actually looks at the measurement results.

But what if the conscious observer first looks at only every third result and decides only afterwards on whether to look at the other results too. Will she observe the zeno effect depending on her future decision?

Wouldn't such an experiment show that either (1) the consciousness of the observer has no impact and there is a zeno effect even if two out of three measurement results are destroyed before a conscious observer looks at them or that (2) the observer has no free will and whenever she observes a zeno effect looking at every third measurement she can't help but looking at the other results too, and conversely if the first set of results she looks at shows an anti-zeno effect she has an irresistible urge to destroy the other results?

Well the first option looks more plausible to me, but it seems like something that could be experimentally tested.


closed as off-topic by Kyle Kanos, DavePhD, Brandon Enright, BMS, John Rennie Apr 30 '14 at 5:45

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "We deal with mainstream physics here. Questions about the general correctness of unpublished personal theories are off topic, although specific questions evaluating new theories in the context of established science are usually allowed. For more information, see Is non mainstream physics appropriate for this site?." – Kyle Kanos, DavePhD, Brandon Enright, BMS, John Rennie
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ The question was put on old as not dealing with mainstream physics. I think that both the Von Neumann–Wigner interpretation of quantum mechanics as well as the quantum zeno effect are actively researched theories. The question is if the latter is compatible with the first, respectively if it would allow an experimental verification. I do not suggest any unpublished personal theory as the on-hold notice suggests. $\endgroup$ – Reto Gmür Apr 30 '14 at 8:35
  • $\begingroup$ The new initial paragraph should make clear that this is not about an unpublished theory. If there is a category (tag) for quantum-interpretations then asking if an established interpretation is still defensible in the light of new observed and widely accepted phenomena seems very much on topic. $\endgroup$ – Reto Gmür May 5 '14 at 15:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have to say that I don't know any physicists who take "consciousness cause collapse" seriously (thought I believe that there are a few, I just haven't met them). The idea was important early on but Schrödinger and Wigner's thought experiments (1) showed the deep difficulties with that idea and (2) sparked an endless parade of pop-sci interpretations. (And Everett probably showed us the proper way forward.) I am not going to reverse five users on this matter, but would suggest that they may just be very, very bored with this idea which is brought up in many contexts by, frankly, amateurs. $\endgroup$ – dmckee May 7 '14 at 3:00
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee, thanks for the reply. There is only a minority supporting the interpretation (This is also shown by the 2013 survey by Schlosshauer, et all) yet the interpretation as you write is popular with amateurs and also mystics. $\endgroup$ – Reto Gmür May 7 '14 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ Even if seen as unlikely and implausible it is a valid interpretation and I haven't seen an introduction to philosophy of quantum mechanics not mentioning it. The question is not supporting or taking the interpretation for granted but on the contrary asking if in the light of new observed phenomena it couldn't be definitively dismissed (fighting occultism with facts rather than gut feelings and blocked discussions). $\endgroup$ – Reto Gmür May 7 '14 at 7:08