In 1961, the Nobel prize winning theoretical physicist Eugene Wigner proposed what is now known as the 'Wigner's friend' thought experiment as an extension of the notorious Schroedinger's cat experiment. In the latter, a cat is trapped in a box with poison that will be released if a radioactive atom decays. Governed by quantum mechanical laws, the radioactive atom is in a superposition between decaying and not decaying, which also means that the cat is in a superposition between life and death. What does the cat experience when it is in the superposition? Wigner sharpened the question by pushing quantum theory to its conceptual limits. He investigated what happens when an observer also has quantum properties.
In the thought experiment an observer, usually called Wigner's friend, performs a quantum measurement and perceives an outcome. From the point of view of another observer, called Wigner, the measurement process of the friend can be described as a quantum superposition. The fact that quantum theory sets no validity limits for its application leads to a clear tension between the perception of the friend, who sees a specific single result, and the description of Wigner, who observes the friend in a superposition of different perceptions. This thought experiment thus raises the question: What does it mean for an observer in a quantum superposition to observe the result of a measurement? Can an observer always trust what they see and use this data to make predictions about future measurements?
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