Tuesday, July 05, 2011

The Quantum Tivo

Chuck Klosterman writes on watching sports on tape delay and Jeff Ely follows up. I take a quantum mechanics view: A sporting event saved on my Tivo is like Schrödinger's cat: Until I watch the game or otherwise learn the result, the outcome hasn't been determined. There are multiple worlds with different game outcomes and until observed we do not know which world we live in. There is no physical difference between watching an event live or delayed. If I get partial information on the outcome, like a half-time score, then the outcome is then just conditioned on this partial information.

We also have entanglement. Two people can be light-years apart watching the same gave on their Tivos. They will see the same outcome. The Tivo's are entangled. Even though in each person's view the outcome is random, they will be random in the same way.

That's where the analogy to quantum ends. Entangled Tivos can't explain Bell's inequalities.

Let me add a reason for watching on tape delay: The fast-forward button. If a game looks one-sided, I can speed up the game to see if it gets close again. And some sports (yes, soccer, I'm talking about you) are vastly improved with the entire game watched in double speed. 


  1. The mere fact that the game is "known" makes the experience different for most people even if there isn't a logical difference. This says something about human psychology and is analogous to how solving an "Open" math problem seems a lot harder than solving a math "exercise" even if the difficulty is actually similar.

    Random thought: The pleasure obtained from re-watching a movie is quite different from the pleasure of watching it the first time. The same with rewatching a game on ESPN classic and watching the Superbowl live.

    Lets also think about relativity: if you're travelling near the speed of light and watching a game "live" you might reach the end of the game centuries "after" it ended, but I think it would still feel live for you since no one in your "light cone" would know the outcome. But if you learned that faster-than-light communication existed (an you could learn the outcome quicker than watching it) then you probably would be less excited about the game.

    Lastly, American Football should probably be watched at quadruple speed (I've heard there is only 15 minutes of action in a 4 hour game) and baseball and golf should be better watched at 10 times speed. At least soccer is mercifully short and doesn't have commercial breaks.

  2. Sounds like classical probability to me!

    In fact, in football, interference (a key part of quantum mechanics) is not allowed.

  3. some sports (yes, soccer, I'm talking about you)?

    Funny that you didn't mention NFL football where a "one hour" game takes three+ hours with commercials and stoppages in play, and baseball, whose typical games are an hour longer than they used to be because of extra stoppages (including many more pitching changes).

    For NBA basketball you can fast forward to the 4th quarter and forget the rest of the game, which probably didn't matter anyway.

    NHL hockey is the only major North American sport that has continuous action that matters to the outcome of the game, as far as the viewer is concerned (barring fights of course).

  4. 1) My first experience with this was WAY before VCR's. In 1973 I was listening to a NY KNICKS vs
    BOSTON CELTICS bastketball on the radio. At halftime the teams were about even. During a commercial I flipped around the dial I managed to tune into another station (possibly from boston,
    I was in NY at the time) that had the game 60 minutes later. The station I had been listening to was on time delay. I found out that the Knicks were going to have terrible third quater and lose badly. I debated if it was worth listening to the NY channel anymore. I kept going back and forth I KNOW THE OUTCOME, but
    IT WOULD BE DEPRESSING. I decided not to.

  5. 2) The first time I even VIDEOTAPED a sports even to see later I felt very weird doing it. This was the world series Oct 25, 1986. I'm glad I did- if you know what happened that day you'll know why.

    3) I used to tape the superbowl just for the commercials. (Now that they have shows of
    BEST SUPERBOWL COMMERCIALS I don't bother anymore.)

    ANYWAY, I feel weird rooting for events that already happened. I suspect my great nephews and nieces have no idea what I'm talking about.