Schrödinger’s cat

In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger imagined a cat locked for an hour in a box with a radioactive substance which has a 50% probability of emitting a particle that would then trigger the release of deadly cyanide. At any point during the hour, is the cat dead or alive? Quantum theory seems to imply that it’s simultaneously in ‘coherent’ dead and alive states – until you open the box and ‘observe’ its condition. . .

I am not a happy cat.
I was sitting on my mat
When they locked me in this box. “A test,” they said.
But now I’m feeling queer,
It’s as though I’m not quite here –
Am I really still alive, or am I dead?

It’s my quantum states, I s’pose;
They’ve all got superposed.
But I know the way to crack this paradox:
In order to preserve me
I must get them to observe me,
So I’ll kick up a commotion in this box.

Well, I’ve jumped and banged and crashed,
But something in here’s smashed;
There’s a nasty smell – it’s cyanide, I’m sure.
I fear my plan’s misfired –
I’ve decohered . . . expired.
Erwin Schrödinger has much to answer for.

[Image from University of Toronto]

[See also Schrödinger’s dog]

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