Erwin Schrodinger and His Cat

Schrodinger 02Here’s a shout out to Erwin Schrodinger, the Austrian physicist who formulated the thought experiment known as Schrodinger’s cat. The problem illustrates the contradiction to common sense that occurs when quantum mechanics is applied to everyday objects – in this case, to Schrodinger’s cat.

According to the thought experiment posited in 1935, a cat sealed up in a box with radioactive materials and a flask of poison can be both alive and dead at the same time until the cat is observed, at which point the cat exists in one and only one state. This is a little difficult for most of us to accept. In fact, Schrodinger’s thought experiment caught the attention of Einstein who wrote to him in 1950,

You are the only contemporary physicist, besides Laue, who sees that one cannot get around the assumption of reality, if only one is honest. Most of them simply do not see what sort of risky game they are playing with reality—reality as something independent of what is experimentally established. Their interpretation is, however, refuted most elegantly by your system of radioactive atom + amplifier + charge of gunpowder + cat in a box, in which the psi-function of the system contains both the cat alive and blown to bits. Nobody really doubts that the presence or absence of the cat is something independent of the act of observation.

Why the shout out today? Because Schrodinger and I share a birthday!

Meet you back here in a couple of weeks!


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