Re: Quantum accident survivor

From: Hal Finney <>
Date: Fri, 31 Oct 2003 09:55:31 -0800

David Kwinter writes:
> The concept of what makes a real quantum branch
> irks me. Surely a man standing beside a nuclear explosion will never
> survive.

Not necessarily. What exactly kills a man standing by a nuclear
explosion? Well, probably a lot of things, but let's think about the
radiant heat energy released by the blast. This heat is carried by
photons, each of which is emitted by some atom in the nuclear device.
When an atom emits a photon, the direction of its emission is random.
With the large numbers of atoms and photons involved, the emission is,
on average, uniform in all directions, which is what we expect.

But each individual emission is a quantum effect, and there is a chance
that all of the atoms in the nuclear device could happen to emit their
photons in a different direction than towards the man. In that case he
would not experience the heat energy from the device and would not be
killed by it.

I think similar arguments are possible for the radiation and all other
sources of destruction coming from the nuclear explosion. So a man
standing beside such an explosion could in fact survive.

It's also possible that the photons and other radiation from the device
might happen to pass through the man's body without being absorbed.
Each photon has a certain probability of being absorbed, per unit distance
that it travels through biological tissue. And each absorption event is
governed by quantum randomness. Therefore there is a nonzero chance that
a photon could pass entirely through the man's body, and in fact that
all of the photons could do so. In effect the man might just happen to
become transparent at the precise instant necessary to survive the blast.

Probably there are other bizarre quantum coincidences which could occur
to let him survive as well.

Hal Finney
Received on Fri Oct 31 2003 - 13:27:19 PST

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