Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This is from a group challenge.  The challenge was "Discovery" and this is what I came up with.  I thought it fitting to post after Kate hijacked the blog last week - after all, she's the defendant in the case. :)


Transcript of the testimony of K. M. Collins, Ph.D.
Date: 12-15-2011
Discovery for Case: PATEA vs. Collins
In the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County in and for the State of Maryland
People Against Laboratory Experimentation on Animals, Plaintiff   vs.   K. M. Collins, Ph.D., Defendant
Case #: 02-C-11-092573 MT
Pursuant to notice, the Deposition of K. M. Collins was taken on December 15,  2011, commencing at 2:33 p.m. at the offices of Scarpelli and Hines, 3234 Richie Highway, Suite 114, Glen Burnie, MD, before Ronald G. Marshall, a CSR, RPR, and Notary Public.

On behalf of the Plaintiff:
Linda J. Crenshaw, Esquire
5329 Alexander Circle
Frederick, MD 21702

On behalf of the Defendant:
Anthony Scarpelli, Esquire
3234 Richie Highway, Suite 114
Glen Burnie, MD 21060

It is hereby stipulated and agreed that the reading and signing of this deposition are waived.  Dr. Collins duly  sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, testifies as follows:

Examination by Ms. Crenshaw:

Q:  I'm going to ask you a series of questions and you just need to respond to the best of your knowledge,  Dr. Collins.  Since this is being recorded, a verbal response is necessary. Is that clear?

A: Yes.

Q: Good. Would you please state your name for the record?

A: K. M. Collins, Ph.D.

Q: And you are aware that the People Against Laboratory Experimentation on Animals is suing you for  wrongful death of one of their members, Karin Levy, on February 12, 2011?

A: Yes.

Q: Where do you work, Dr. Collins?

A: The University of Maryland.  College Park.

Q: And how are you employed there?

A: I'm an Associate Professor of Physics.

Q: You do research?

A: Yes, and teach.

Q: How many research projects are you currently involved in at the University?

A: I only have one active research project.

Q: Who funds the project?

A: The Laue Institute for Quantum Physics

Q: And what is the nature of the research.

A: We're looking into the Copenhagen interpretation of the superposition of quantum states.

Q: Can you explain what that means?  I know this is a highly technical subject.  I would appreciate if you would use terms a lay person like myself could understand.

A: Quantum mechanics says that an object - such as a subatomic particle - can be in one of two quantum states.  Interestingly, the mathematics of quantum mechanics cannot determine which state the particle is in.  This has to be accomplished by observation.  The theory states that it is the actual observation of the particle that moves the particle - collapses it - into onestate or another.   Until the point of observation the particle exists in both states at once.

Q: Two different states at the same time?  That doesn't make sense.

A: You're right, it doesn't make logical sense from our everyday perspective, but the mathematics bear it out.  And remember, the key is, it is the observation that makes the particle move into a definite state.

Q: So how does this relate to your research?

A: In 1935, Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen discussed what they called quantum entanglement.  In essence, their article discussed what might happen when two quantum systems  interact.  When one quantum system collapses into a definite state their entanglement causes the second to collapse as well.

Q: I don't understand.

A: A lot of people don't understand right off.  To help with this, Erwin Schrödinger came up with an  illustration that is now classic.  It's a thought experiment that has come to be called Schrödinger's Cat.  It's like this: picture an enclosed room.  On the wall of the room is a radioactive source connected to a detector.  The detector is attached to a device that releases toxic gas into the air when it activates. The radioactive source gives off radiation periodically, so that in the course of an hour the chance that it  gives off the radiation or it doesn't are roughly the same.  If the detector senses radiation, it activates the device releasing the toxic gas into the room.  Over the course of the hour the radioactive source can be in one of  two  quantum states:  either it has given off the radiation, or it hasn't.  Are you with me so far?

Q: I think so.

A: In this room we've just described, Schrödinger adds another quantum object: a cat.  The cat's quantum state is obviously entangled with that of the radiation source.  If the source releases radiation, the toxic gas is released and the cat dies.  If no radiation is released, the gas remains contained and the cat lives.

Q: So the purpose of your experiment is to see whether or not the cat died?

A: No.  That would be too easy; just open the box and see if the cat is alive or not.  Our research is much more complicated.  Remember, mathematics show that both quantum states exist at the same time, they are in "superposition", meaning the source both has and has not released radiation.  Since the cat's state is entangled with the state of the  source, within the closed system of the box the cat is both alive and dead at the same time.

Q: That's impossible.

Scarpelli: That's not a question.

Q: All right.  I'll assume the science you describe is correct.  So what exactly are you trying to prove?

A: As I've said before, one theory, called the "Copenhagen interpretation," posits that it is the observation of the state that causes the superposition to collapse into one state or the other.  Our research was to design an experiment where we could determine what it is that does the observation in the Schrödinger's Cat scenario.  Is it the detector?  Is it the cat?  Both are within the system and are entangled with the radiation source, so does their observation matter?  Or is it the person who opens the box?

Q: And where were you in the research?

A: We thought we had devised a way to isolate the various observations for testing.  We prepared a suitable "box," obtained the cat, set up the parameters.  We were in the middle of the first test when the girl broke into the lab in her misguided attempt to rescue the cat.

Q: So when the deceased broke into the lab to free the cat there was a container of toxic gas present in the room?

A: Yes, cyanogen chloride.  It was enclosed in the box with an airtight seal.

Q: I am going to refer to cyanogen chloride as "the gas" or "gas" from here on so we don't have to keep saying its name.  Is that all right with you?

A: Fine.

Q: Was there a warning sign on the door indicating that such a hazard existed in the lab?

A: Well, the gas container is not normally stored in the room where the box had been set up, so there wasn't a permanent sign, but there was a warning sign stating that an experiment was in progress and that only authorized people should enter.

Q: But no specific warning about toxic gas.

A: No.

Q: So the deceased would have had no way of knowing her life would be at risk upon entering the room?

A: A warning sign was on the door.  She wasn't an authorized person so she should have stayed out.

Q: Was there a warning on the box?

A: No, but there was a warning on the gas cylinder itself.

Q: But there was nothing on the box indicating that the gas cylinder was inside?

A: No.

Q: What was the cause of death of the deceased?

Scarpelli: That's part of the medical examiner's statement. Dr. Collins you don't need to answer that.

Q: Okay - the medical examiner states that the deceased died due to cyanogen chloride inhalation. Was this gas in the air of the lab when the deceased entered?

A: No.

Q: How do you know that?

A: There was a calibrated detector for the gas set up in the room attached to an alarm system.  The detector read no gas in the room itself.

Q: Was there gas in the box when the deceased entered the room?

A: There was the bottle containing the supply.

Q: No, I'm asking if there was any gas floating free in the air of the box.

A: Yes and no.

Q: Yes and no?  It's got to be either one or the other, Dr. Collins.

A: Not according to the quantum mechanics principles we just discussed.  Both states are in superposition until an observation occurs.  In this case, it was Miss Levy who provided the observation when she opened the box. By opening the box she affected reality, the superposition collapsed into the gas being in the box, and she was exposed.  Until that moment reality wasn't determined.

Q: You're saying that the process of opening the box caused the gas to be present?

A: That is exactly what I am saying.  And our results from that trial bear it out.  Neither the detector nor that cat caused the superposition to collapse.  It was the observation by Miss Levy, and I have the data to prove it.  She caused the condition that got her killed.  Not me. That was our discovery.

Q: That's absurd.

A: That's science.

Scarpelli: And that's the end of this interview.  We're done here.



Jeff Hargett said...

I remember this. I forget which state I was in at the time though. ;-)

Christina said...

Quantum physics is way too abstract for me!