July 17th, 2007


Harry Potter and Indeterminacy

I would like to point out that Harry Potter is neither alive nor dead. He exists in a state of quantum indeterminacy, where his live and dead status are merely probabilities. Harry Potter's state has not yet resolved itself.

It is my understanding that there is an alleged leaked copy of the book floating around the internet, and that this naturally spoils the fate of Harry Potter. It is not so. This spoiler is perturbing the Harry Potter waveform. It may be skewing the probabilities, but Harry Potter's alive/dead status has not yet been resolved.

Supposing Harry Potter was forced to live in a cupboard under the stairs. Enclosed in the cupboard with him is a device that may be activated by a single decaying radioactive atom; this device, if activated, will generate the avara kedavra curse that will kill Harry Potter forever. If the device is not activated, Harry Potter is alive. If it discharges, he is dead, and not even the love of his dead mother can save him.

When we open the cupboard, or the pages of the new book, we resolve Harry Potter's live or dead status. Until then, we don't know, and we can't know, whether he is alive or dead -- because he isn't either. He exists as an unresolved waveform.

This breaks down in the macroscopic real world, but Harry Potter isn't real. That makes him as good a quantum analogy as you could ever hope to find.