On 12 August 2013 Google celebrated Erwin’s Schrödinger’s 126th birthday by a special Google cat doodle. As a true cat lover I became hugely interested in why and how a cat appeared in something that sounds like deep science. What it appears to be is a famous experiment Schrödinger made on a cat. Here is what it is about with a loveliest follow up from The Big Bang Theory!
Luckily for a cat and all cat lovers, it was just a though experiment, so no cat was harmed which I’m very happy about! I’ll try to explain the experiment and how a cat appeared there.
Warning! If it all sounds too difficult, just scroll to the end of the article to see the explanation of the Schrödinger’s Cat in The Big Bang Theory episode! (Hilarious!)
In 1935 some super smart guys were discussing quantum physics. (For simplicity sake don’t worry about what this is, just think about that as a topic of discussion.) There is a principle of quantum theory called “superposition”. It means that if you don’t know what the state of an object is (as you have not checked the object yourself yet), then the object is actually in all possible states simultaneously. So until you check and make sure that somebody is a male, you cannot be sure about that, and according to the “superposition” theory that person is simultaneously male, female, and hermaphrodite! (Sounds pretty crazy, I know!) So the fact that you actually check the object’s state limits the options to a single possibility.
What Erwin Schrödinger was after is a theoretical experiment aimed to show those guys that their way of thinking could lead to absurd situations. While guys were talking about electrons, Schrödinger took a (theoretical) cat as an example.
In his experiment a cat was put in a steel box (or a room separated from the outside world) along with a vial of hydrocyanic acid and a tiny amount of a radioactive substance. A Geiger counter and a little bit of a radioactive element are in the box. Within some time, say one hour, one of the atoms of the radioactive material may decay, or it may not. The Geiger counter can measure that. If the material breaks down, it will release poison gas, which will kill the cat. At the end of the hour the question is whether the cat is alive or dead. According to the principle we talked about in the beginning, as long as the door is closed, the cat is dead and alive at the same time! There is no way to know for sure until the box is opened.
The cat paradox is that observation, i.e. measurement, affects the outcome. It means the outcome does not exist until the measurement is made. So in simple words the Schrödinger’s Cat is a theoretical cat that used in discussions about some important physics stuff! And now as promised:
Dr. Sheldon Cooper explains Penny’s future relationship with Leonard using Schrodinger’s Cat.
Watch till the very end, you will like it!