Quantum Superposition and Probability Amplitudes

Mihirsinh Chauhan
4 min readSep 5, 2023


Welcome to Day 5 of your quantum journey. Today, we’re delving into one of the most captivating and puzzling aspects of quantum mechanics: superposition. This concept challenges our classical intuitions and is central to understanding quantum states.

Quantum Superposition: The Blurred Boundary

In classical physics, objects have well-defined properties. For instance, a coin can be either in a heads or tails state, but never both at the same time. However, in the quantum world, particles can exist in a state of superposition, where they simultaneously possess multiple contradictory properties

Key Concepts in Quantum Superposition:

Superposition Principle: This principle states that a quantum system can exist in a linear combination of multiple states. Mathematically, it’s represented as:


  1. Here,∣ψ⟩ is the quantum state, ∣0⟩ and ∣1⟩ are basis states, and α and β are complex numbers (probability amplitudes).
  2. Probability Amplitudes: The complex numbers α and β in the superposition equation are called probability amplitudes. The square of the absolute value of these amplitudes gives the probability of finding the quantum system in the corresponding basis state when measured.

Schrodinger’s Cat: Superposition in a Thought Experiment

One of the most famous thought experiments in quantum mechanics is Schrödinger’s Cat. It’s a paradoxical scenario designed to illustrate the concept of superposition.

The Scenario:

In Schrödinger’s thought experiment, we imagine a cat enclosed in a sealed box with a radioactive atom, a Geiger counter, a vial of poison, and a hammer. The setup is as follows:

  • The radioactive atom has a 50% chance of decaying within a certain time frame.
  • If the Geiger counter detects the decay, it triggers the hammer to break the vial of poison, which would kill the cat.
  • If no decay is detected, the cat remains alive.

Here’s the paradox: According to the principles of quantum superposition, until we open the box and make an observation, the cat is in a superposition of being both alive and dead simultaneously.

The Role of Measurement in Schrödinger’s Cat:

In Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment, the role of measurement is pivotal in highlighting a fundamental principle of quantum mechanics called the “collapse of the wave function” or “measurement collapse.”

  1. Superposition Before Measurement: Initially, the cat is in a superposition of states. According to quantum mechanics, until we open the box and make an observation or measurement, the cat exists in a combined state of “alive” and “dead.” This superposition is a fundamental aspect of quantum systems.
  2. Measurement as a Decisive Act: When we open the box and look inside, we perform a measurement. This measurement is akin to a quantum observation where we gain information about the system. At this point, according to quantum mechanics, the superposition collapses into one of its possible states.
  3. Result of the Measurement: Depending on the state of the radioactive atom (whether it has decayed or not), the measurement will yield one of two possible outcomes:
    a. If the Geiger counter detects radiation (the atom has decayed), the cat is exposed to the poison gas, and it is deemed “dead.”
    b. If the Geiger counter does not detect radiation (the atom has not decayed), the cat remains unharmed, and it is deemed “alive.”

Implications of Schrödinger’s Cat:

Schrödinger’s Cat illustrates several key aspects of quantum mechanics:

  1. Superposition: Until measured, quantum systems can exist in superpositions of multiple states. The cat is neither alive nor dead until we open the box and make a measurement.
  2. Measurement Collapse: Measurement collapses the superposition into one of the possible states. The act of observation or measurement affects the outcome.
  3. Uncertainty: The uncertainty principle, as proposed by Heisenberg, is evident here. We cannot know the cat’s state (alive or dead) until we measure it, and the act of measurement introduces uncertainty.
  4. Macroscopic vs. Quantum: While Schrödinger’s Cat is a fascinating conceptual experiment, it also highlights a significant paradox. Quantum superposition is usually associated with microscopic particles like electrons, not macroscopic objects like cats. In practice, macroscopic objects don’t exhibit quantum behavior at the observable scale, as they rapidly decohere due to interactions with their environment.

Mathematical Representation:

We can represent Schrödinger’s Cat scenario mathematically using the principles of superposition. Let:

  • A⟩ represent the quantum state of the cat being alive.
  • D⟩ represent the quantum state of the cat being dead.

Now, let’s consider the radioactive atom’s decay as a quantum event that triggers the outcome:


In this equation, the cat is in a superposition of being alive and dead, each with a probability amplitude of 1/√2​. When we square these amplitudes, we get the probabilities:

  • The probability of finding the cat alive upon observation is 1/2
  • The probability of finding the cat dead upon observation is also 1/2.

Until we open the box and make an observation, Schrödinger’s Cat remains in this superposition state. It’s only through measurement or observation that we “collapse” the superposition, and the cat is either found alive or dead.


Schrödinger’s Cat is a vivid illustration of the bizarre and counterintuitive nature of quantum superposition. It underscores the idea that particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously until observed, challenging our classical notions of reality.

In practical quantum computing, superposition is harnessed to process information more efficiently, allowing quantum computers to explore multiple possibilities in parallel. While Schrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment, it highlights the profound implications of superposition in the quantum world.


In Day 5, we’ve explored the concept of quantum superposition and probability amplitudes. This phenomenon challenges our classical intuitions, allowing quantum systems to exist in multiple states simultaneously until measured. Superposition is not only a fundamental aspect of quantum mechanics but also a key building block of quantum computing, enabling its potential for exponential speedup in specific applications.

#Day5 of #Quantum30 day challenge



Mihirsinh Chauhan

《Quantum computing Enthusiast |Future Innovator》《Under grad at SVNIT | ML| Buisness Amateur》