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21 July 2021

Schrödinger's Ring?


I guess most readers of this will be familiar with the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s Cat, even if, like me, as non-quantum physicists, the ability to grasp the concept fully is a tad ephemeral. Just to recap briefly, Schrödinger made the proposition of a cat sealed in a steel box with a piece of nuclear material which may or may not decay, but whose decay, if it did happen, would provoke a mechanical reaction to release a poison that would kill the cat; such a sequence of events implied that the cat was both alive and dead at the same time, and only fixed as one or the other when the contents of the box were observed. Schrödinger produced this somewhat tortured concept in fact as a way of demonstrating the problems of the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation, the prevailing theory of quantum physics at the time. That’s all from me on stuff I frankly struggle to understand. Effectively, the concept is that the cat can exist simultaneously in two forms, alive and dead -  the so-called superposition. 

Now, why would we want to be considering complex quantum mechanics on a hot, sunny summer’s day?

Well, it’s that concept of something existing in two states simultaneously. One could suggest that the LME have been seduced by that idea, and have applied it to the Ring. 

When the re-opening day arrives in September, the LME’s cat - the Ring - is going to be alive in the morning and dead in the afternoon. And then, the next day, and on an ongoing basis, it’s going to need to regenerate itself to perform the same trick again. To mix metaphors horribly, how many times can a dead cat bounce?

I fully understand the reasoning behind the hybrid nature of what is proposed, but it’s not always the case that compromise will be effective; sometimes, a decision, one way or the other, has to be taken. I’m not sure which way I would make that choice. Emotionally, I would love to see the Ring continue; it’s been an integral part of my career, and thus my life, for a very long time. It brings a unique element to the LME, which gives it its particular nature. Yet rationally, intellectually, I am drawn to the idea that the last sixteen months or so have very well demonstrated that a purely electronic system is completely viable. It’s also cheaper for the Members, and is undoubtedly the preference of regulatory authorities, since it provides a much easier-to-follow audit trail. 

There is a danger that the hybrid solution may create a polarisation of users of the market. We have already seen - over the years that Select has been working - that outright business largely prefers the electronic platform to the Ring; is it not possible that that kind of separation will be exacerbated, which I fear would weaken the overall status of the LME, which, let’s be honest, probably has more competition in its space than has ever been the case before.

The Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum physics was supported by some major figures, including Niels Bohr, so the LME are in good company in proposing that the cat can be alive and dead simultaneously. However, when the box is opened, and the observation is made, it’s one or the other, not both any more. Re-opening day in September is when the state of the cat will be revealed. 

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