Schrodinger's Cat

Does Stuff Exist, Or Not?

Schrodinger Said:

"One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of one hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid.

If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The Psi function for the entire system would express this by having in it the living and the dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts."

It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a ``blurred model'' for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."

What Does All This Mean?

the cat in the bag


For the sake of adding a little interest to this old saw of a scenario, the cat in mention has been placed inside an old bowling ball bag of mine. (Science is not always a literal art.) I have a Geiger counter here, but in lieu of an actual radioactive substance I was forced to use some very old Kraft macaroni and cheese. (It was that or my Timex Indiglo.)

Now, according to Schrodinger's theory as I understand it (and that's saying very little), the above cat's state is as of this very moment exactly alive and dead (though technically, 100% dead and 100% alive at the same time -- hence the paradox) ...until someone opens this here bag, that is.

Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

The "rather silly" part of "A Rather Silly Experiment In Quantum Physics"? You're soaking in it. Now here's the "interactive" bit. By pressing the button you "simulate" all that probability half life decay-jibberish by enacting a simple script. This will accordingly choose LIFE or DEATH for our wee quantum furball.

Go ahead -- hit the button below to discover the potential fate of Schrodinger's kitty...


Please, no wagering. Don't expect too much, kids...this is science, it sure as hell ain't "Whack-A-Mole".
it's a bowling ball. Quantum Links
  • Schrodinger's Cat by Cecil Adams. He of "The Straight Dope" explains it all for us -- and manages to make it rhyme, too.
  • Everything you ever wanted to know about lots of info on Albert Einstein. (Yeah, he's no Schrodinger, but it's all relative. Ugh...)

Errors in logic, flaws (or fleas?) in the cat theory, comments, regards to the cat? Email me.

Contrary to the ideas discussed above, the cat and I will indeed exist (barring any unforseen circumstances such as e coli, spontaneous combustion, or large falling objects) until and after the fact of your anticipated response.Carpe diem nonetheless...

Note to PETA: This is only a theoretical experiment...
...and it's okay, anyhow, because I ate the cat when I was done.
Copyright 1999 phobe.com