Schrödinger’s cat

Schrödinger’s cat is a very famous philosophical thought experiment, devised by Erwin Schrödinger in the 1930’s. It challenges our interpretation of the world, and applies some quantum mechanics to a seemingly obvious situation.

The experiment involves a cat, which is placed in a box, with a flask containing poison and a radioactive source. In the box there is also a Geiger counter  – a device that measures ionizing radiation. If this detects a certain amount of radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison which kills the cat.

Schrodingers cat experiment

The application of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is both dead and alive. Open the box and the cat is instantly dead, or, instantly alive, depending on what you find. Despite this, until you perceive what is inside the box, the cat is both alive and dead. Complicated I know.

“Surly when the Geiger counter measures the radiation at the set level, the flask will shatter and the poison will kill the cat.” – Don’t call me Shirley, and yes, that would appear so. However, if the radioactive source does not decay at the expected rate (which is possible) then the poison may not reach the cat and kill it, so the cat is still alive.

This is why the cat is both dead and alive, because as soon as you shut the box lid, there could be a massive spike of radiation, and the cat could die instantly, or the radiation may be emitted much slower than anticipated, so the cat survives. That is why the cat is both dead and alive.

Now the whole thing gets much more complicated when you add a camera into the experiment. If you place a camera in the box and watch it as a live stream, then the cat dies, when you see it die on the camera – or is it when you open the box? If you watch the camera with a time delay (say 10 seconds) does the cat die, when you would logically believe that it dies, or does it die 10 seconds after that, when it is perceived to be dead, or when the box is actually opened?

Is the cat alive when the box is shut, both dead and alive when you would logically think that it dies, and dead 10 seconds after, when it is perceived as dead?

There is also the question that “can the cat not perceive itself dying?” This could be true, until actual death, as you cannot perceive your own death, can you? Then again, if you are religious, and believe that “God perceives all” then does the cat not die when you would think that it would die anyway, as God sees the cat die?

Throw in fate and destiny and you have a whole new kettle of fish. If the cat is destined to die at a set time, can the radiation affect that?

Schrödinger cat jokeNo animals were harmed in the writing of this article, I was simply presenting a theory, and I needed a living thing as an example for the experiment. It is purely theoretical!

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