Thursday, May 04, 2017

In which I sing about Schrödinger’s cat

You have all been waiting for this. The first ever song about quantum entanglement, Boltzmann brains, and the multiverse:

This is the second music video produced in collaboration with Apostolos Vasilidis and Timo Alho, supported by FQXi. (The first is here.) I think these two young artists are awesomely talented! Just by sharing this video you can greatly support them.

In this video too, I’m the one to blame for the lyrics, and if you think this one’s heavy on the nerdism, wait for the next ;)

Here, I sing about entanglement and the ability of a quantum system to be in two different states at the same time. Quantum states don’t have to decide, so the story, but humans have to. I have some pessimistic and some optimistic future visions, contrast determinism with many worlds, and sum it up with a chorus that says: Whatever we do, we are all in this together. And since you ask, we are all connected, because ER=EPR.

The video has subtitles, click on the “CC” icon in the YouTube bottom bar to turn on.


(The cat is dead)

We will all come back
At the end of time
As a brain in a vat
Floating around
And purely mind.

I’m just back from the future and I'm here to report
We’ll be assimilated, we’ll all join the Borg
We’ll be collectively stupid, if you like that or not
Resistance is futile, we might as well get started now

I never asked to be part of your club
So shut up
And leave me alone

But we are all connected
We will never die
Like Schrödinger’s cat
We will all be dead
And still alive

[repeat Chorus]

We will never forget
And we will never lie
All our hope,
Our fear and doubt
Will be far behind.

But I’m not a computer and I'm not a machine
I am not any other, let me be me
If the only pill that you have left
Is the blue and not the red
It might not be so bad to be
Somebody’s pet

[repeat chorus 2x]

Since you ask, the cat is doing fine
Somewhere in the multiverse it’s still alive
Think that is bad? If you trust our math,
The future is as fixed, as is the past.
Since you ask. Since you ask.

[Repeat chorus 2x]


naivetheorist said...

very cool.

Koenraad Van Spaendonck said...

Der neue Deutsche Welle ,)

The quality is improving i believe, hit-potential.

Best, Koen

Louis Tagliaferro said...

Good production value for the music part and really liked the explanation of superposition after that.

Louis Tagliaferro said...

I wanted to add a comment about the cat I haven’t seen. Unless or until the poison is released the cat is alive, as it must go in the box alive. I wonder if some parts of QM are analogous to a probability equation for the outcome of rolling two six sided dice, it can predict the observable outcome only; if you try to interpret more of that math one could say the dice are in a state similar to superposition prior to the outcome (all the probabilities are still possible), which is not the case. It’s an interpretation of more than what the math actually represents or solves.

Uncle Al said...

The quantum Zeno effect has a cat. I do not, testably, believe Hund's paradox - cat, dog, or otherwise.

A cold (phonons[1]) chiral molecule isolated in vacuum (no collisions[2]) has undefined handedness. Launch a dilute homochiral molecular beam, recover a racemic (50:50) mixture at each chiral center.

Uncoupled chiral center racemizations like dimethyl tartrate[3] have accessible low energy trajectories. Racemization of camphor[4], a cage molecule, requires bond-breaking. Try deep cryogenic[5], energy-minimum stabilomer, highly connected, exceptionally geometrically chiral cages[6] like
D_3-trishomocubane (CHI = 0.628218)
4,7,11-trioxa-D_3-trishomocubane (CHI = 0.959321)
2-cyano D_3-trishomocubane (CHI = 0.884725; 4 debye dipole moment)


..[I]"The Hund paradox and stabilization of molecular chiral states,"
Zeitschrift für Physik D, 37(4), 333 (1996); DOI:10.1007/s004600050048
..[2]"Hund’s paradox and the collisional stabilization of chiral molecules,"
Phys. Rev. Lett. 103(2), 023202 (2009)
DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.103.023202. arXiv:0811.2140
..[3] the dimethyl ether for volatility
..[5] “Cavity Cooling of Many Atoms,” Phys. Rev. Lett. 118(118), 183601 (2017), DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.183601, arXiv:1701.01226
.....middle column on right; their syntheses
Curr. Org. Chem. 16(22), 2623 (2012), DOI:10.2174/138527212804004508
J. Org. Chem. 62(12), 4162 (1997), DOI:10.1021/jo962267f
J. Org. Chem. 11, 2590 (2006), DOI:10.1002/ejoc.200600019

Unknown said...

Lovely! But until I personally walk down the driveway, and pick up and open the Washington Post, the Washington Capitols have not won or lost last night's hockey game. Once I open the paper, the wave function collapses, and I can cheer or groan.

Vil Mahoubey said...

Love the music video, and the great explanation of quantum superposition. Vielen dank!

Tam Hunt said...

Very nice1! You're a natural :)

David Schroeder said...

Your collaborative effort with Apostolos Vaslidis and Timo Alho is very, very good, in both this and the last video. What a great way to introduce the strange, non-intuitive, aspects of quantum physics to a wide audience. The sychronization of your's and Apostolos's and Timo's voices, with the background music in the two videos, was just perfect. Really liked the catchy tunes in both.

John Anderson said...

I like this better than the first song. This is a song dark enough to rival Leonard Cohen’s powerful and prophetic, “You Want It Darker.”

Does your team have a plan to do a TV show on NOVA or the BBC? If not, why not?

Paul Dirac reportedly didn’t not want to contemplate a universe without humans. “If you trust our math” – I don’t at the human scale especially for emergent phenomena which may include time or spacetime. Everything gets shaky at that point.

Lame Jokes: If someone is going to sing about entanglement, it’s too bad we couldn’t draft Liz Taylor (married 7 times) or Zsa Zsa Gabor (married 9 times, "I'm an excellent housekeeper. Every time I get a divorce, I keep the house.") So as not to exclude males, song and dance man Mickey Rooney was married 8 times.

If ER=EPR, we cancel common terms to get P=1 so our probability is normalized and we are either dead or alive???

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


You should ask the BBC why not ;)

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


Yes, that's an interpretation common to psi-epistemic models.

Dan F. said...

So good! In an alternative reality you're surely a pop star!

Phillip Helbig said...

"If someone is going to sing about entanglement, it’s too bad we couldn’t draft Liz Taylor (married 7 times)"

When asked about this, Taylor's explanation was simple: she married every man she made love with.

Not sure what it means that she married Richard Burton twice. :-)

Phillip Helbig said...

Lame Jokes:

Zsa Zsa Gabor (married 9 times, "I'm an excellent housekeeper. Every time I get a divorce, I keep the house.")

OK, you started the lame jokes about women and divorce settlements. So, I couldn't resist: Women are like hurricanes: when they come, they are hot and wet and make a lot of noise. When they leave, they take houses and cars with them. :-|

I once read that some woman was awarded nine million dollars for being married to Rod Stewart for six months. For nine million dollars, even I would marry Rod Stewart for six months. :-)

Unknown said...

Wonderful, Sabine.
I was touched like I am [just recently]listening [and watching...]to the hotviolinist play "Last of the Mohicans"!! Music is a wonderful medium.

Phillip Helbig said...

More relevant joke:

Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Ohm are travelling in a car. A cop pulls them over.

Cop: You were going much too fast---precisely 238.6

Heisenberg: Great. Now I have absolutely no idea where I am.

Suspicious because of the answer, the cop searches the car.

Cop: You've got a dead cat here in the boot!

Schrödinger: We do now.

The cop has had enough and decides to arrest them. Ohm resists.

Henning Dekant said...

A while a ago I asked my six year old daughter, if she thought that boy or girls are smarter. She pondered this for a while and then came firmly down on the side of girls. I see no reason to dispel her of the notion. She will need all the self-confidence she can muster (fortunately she is a very confident little thing).

When I asked her if she wanted to see the smartest person in the world, she asked "Is it me?". I showed her your "Catching Light" video, and to my surprise she sat through it twice. Then we tried to see how much light we could catch between two mirrors.

Thank you very much for making these videos!

Sabine Hossenfelder said...


How wonderful! You made my day :o) Please assure your daughter I'm not the smartest person in the world, I've just read a lot of books.


DocG said...

Another great song. Another great video. A star is being born. Thanks, Bee.

Just as interesting for me as the question of entanglement is the question of why cats are so attracted to boxes. If no one minds, I'd like to share my theory of why that is:

I think the cat in the box thing is a perfect example of the irrational basis of evolution. Some cat is born way back when, with a mutation that makes it compulsively drawn to boxlike environments, such as holes in the ground or hollow logs, whatever. Since holes and hollows make excellent shelters from marauding birds, this animal and its descendants have a better chance of surviving than other cats who lack this "feature." And so, millions of years later the cat population is almost 100% consisting of this cat's descendants, carrying the same mutation and the same totally irrational compulsion. So. Cats like to crawl into boxes NOT because they are excellent protection from marauding birds, but because some krazy kat way back in history developed an odd compulsion that just happened to protect it from marauding birds and thus promoted the survival of its genetic strain and its odd behavior.

Phillip Helbig said...

"A while a ago I asked my six year old daughter, if she thought that boy or girls are smarter."

Next week, ask her if black people or white people are smarter.

Maraz said...

Now I have this refrain in my mind and cannot take it out :)
The idea of a music video plus the explanation of science behind it is very nice!

Theophanes Raptis said...

What verses! Out of sheer coincidence this video also showed up just yesterday which seems somehow "fit". Let's pray being also "untrue"...

Henning Dekant said...

@Phillip Helbig,

While we can hope and aspire to raise kids to be mostly color blind, nature and culture very much conspires against us raising them gender blind.

Having said that, if I was black I'd probably try especially hard to inspire some pride in my children, rather than having society define for them what "black" means, because they will have to deal with an avalanche of negative stereotypes. Of course, the latter you will probably dismiss as entirely imagined.

Phillip Helbig said...

@Henning Dekant:

First, why in the world do you think I would dismiss negative stereotypes as imagined?

Of course negative stereotypes exist. But the way to counter them is not to lay on just as much or even more bullshit, but of opposite sign (telling or allowing girls to believe that girls are smarter, telling black children that they are better than white children), but rather to use rational arguments.

Today, we have the strange situation that many people who have fought all their lives against negative stereotypes dismiss arguments of old white heterosexual cisgender men (I belong to all 5 groups) for no other reason than that they are old white heterosexual cisgender men. What happened to debate based on facts?

Of course historically certain groups---such as old white heterosexual cisgender men---have had more power than they should have. But this does not justify trying to disadvantage them to somehow try to turn two wrongs into a right (especially since the current generation has much less such power, and in some places might even be disadvantaged). Whatever happened to judging people only on the basis of what they say and what they do, and not on the basis of which groups they (are perceived to) belong to? Also, people who belong to historically disadvantaged groups should not be immune from criticism.

One cannot be literally racially blind or gender-blind. I don't see it as desirable. The goal should be the ability to recognize in which situations belonging to some group is relevant and in which it isn't. If I'm looking for a mother for my children (just an example; I have two wives and 3 or 4 children already), then I care about gender. If I'm disucssing physics, I care neither about race nor about gender.

John Anderson said...

I like song # 2 the best: “Schrödinger’s Cat”. This whole musical-visual method of outreach is a bit foreign to me, an old guy. I thought the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations” was about Zitterbewegung.

FYI - A cute video, (Sir Isaac Newton vs Bill Nye. Epic Rap Battles of History Season 3), is available at It is well produced and historically accurate especially regarding bizarre things Newton did to himself. But for Europeans who don’t know who Bill Nye, the science guy, or Neil deGrasse Tyson are, it may fall flat. Einstein versus Hawking is also available at

Your struggles team writing the first verse attests to the friction that caused many musical groups to break up. Even the Everly BROTHERS fought bitterly at times.

Keep up the good work.