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Stanford Short Essay (needs editing)

oliboy 1 / -  
Oct 24, 2009   #1
This is a rough draft of my stanford supplement essay. It's a bit over the limit at the moment, but i'm working on trimming it down. Please edit it and post feedback.

Prompt: This is my rough draft for the Stanford Supplement essay prompt: Stanford students are widely known to possess a sense of intellectual vitality. Tell us about an idea or experience you have had that you find intellectually engaging.

What if there was a world in which a cat could be both alive and dead, where parallel universes exist, and where particles also exist as waves? According to quantum physics, this theoretical world is the world in which we live.

Quantum physics is a branch of physics that attempts to explain the physical world at atomic and subatomic levels of matter. It expresses concepts that seem to defy the laws of conventional physics, where objects cannot be in more than one place at once and a tree that is cut down cannot still be standing.

A staple of quantum mechanics is that electrons exist as both particles and as waves. In the double slit experiment, in which light was shown through two slits, the space in between the two slits was lit with the strongest intensity, with lower intensities farther from the middle. This overlap shows typical wave behavior. In another phenomenon, known as the photoelectric effect, light shown against a metallic surface causes the surface to emit electrons. This supports the theory that light is emitted as packets, or photons, of energy. These seemingly contradictory qualities of light gave rise to the particle-wave duality theory, in which light exists both as particles and waves, depending on how it is observed to be.

A conclusion made from the observation of the nature of electrons is that nothing is the way it is until observed to be that way. This viewpoint is exemplified in the theoretical demonstration called Schrodinger's Cat. In this demonstration, a cat is placed inside of a box containing a radioactive source and a bottle of cyanide. A radioactivity detector is set up to crush the bottle and release the cyanide, thereby killing the cat, if the radioactive material decays. If you were to open the box, you could tell whether the cat was alive or dead, but while the cat is not being observed, it is both alive and dead. The basis of reality on perception led to the introduction of many parallel worlds, in one of which the cat is alive, and in another, it is dead.

The concept that nothing is real until it is observed is intriguing because it suggests that ideas that haven't been conceived cannot be disproved, that impossibility does not exist until it is observed, and that anything is possible.

EF_Sean 6 / 3,491  
Oct 24, 2009   #2
These are very interesting ideas, though Schrodinger's Cat was a thought experiment meant to show how ridiculous quantum theory was, and to highlight the fact that it was almost certainly wrong, much as the phlogiston theory was. Adding some of your own reflections, drawing some of your own comparisons, and otherwise personalizing this essay will greatly enhance it, as the prompt does ask you to talk about *your* ideas. This means that you have a good start, but need to add more.

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