Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Who's Schrödinger and what's with his cat?

 That’s what my hapless heroine asked when confronted with that phrase. It all has to do with quantum physics, believe it or not.

“Oh, I thought you meant cat, like pussy cat,” Chorie said.
"I do mean a pussy cat.”
“Quantum physics has pussy cats?”
Yes, quantum physics has a cat. A cat trapped in a box. A cat that is neither dead nor alive. It all started like this:

The tiny building blocks that make up matter, like electrons and photons, have dual personalities. Scientists can do experiments that prove these quanta are not particles but wave functions. Unfortunately for those of us who are rational, they also can do experiments that prove they are not wave functions but particles. Quantum physicists learned to live with the ambiguity and declared that it was the observation of these entities that determined which face they showed to the world.

Along about that time, Schrödinger said something like, “Wait a minute, guys. That makes no sense at all. Suppose you put a cat in a box and then you shoot an electron at it. Suppose the box is rigged to kill the cat if the electron turns out to be a particle and not kill it if it is a wave function. What happens to the cat until an observer takes a peak to see which face the electron showed us?”

Everyone went something like, “Oh, yeah. You’re right. There must be something wrong with our math. With our experiments. With our equations.”

Then along came Everett. And he said, “Wait a minute, guys. Your theory is correct because everything that can possibly happen does happen. Each possibility splits off into a new dimension. Schrödinger’s electron is both a particle and a wave function. The cat both lives and dies. The observer sees the cat both dead and alive. This is my Many Worlds Theory and it gets rid of Schrödinger’s troublesome cat and lets you keep your math and science and ambiguity. For in one world the electron is a particle and the observer finds the cat dead. In another world, the electron is a wave function and the observer sees the cat alive.”

Or something like that.

"A speeding bullet of a story..."

“Ever wish you could live two lives?"

"A psychological mystery of the first order..." 

"Chilling -- a fast and fascinating read! " 

"The zinger of an ending? It will knock your socks off! (Don't say I didn't warn you.)"

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Eileen Schuh, Author

Schrödinger's Cat

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