[CQ-Contest] What the heck is Schrodinger's cat?

Paul Beringer ng7z at arrl.net
Sat Dec 6 05:41:21 EST 2003

> n4gi at tampabay.rr.com wrote:
> > This stuff is starting to sound like one of Stephen Hawking's
theoretical physics novels...
> --------------------------------------------
> Is that a book with no end, ever?
> 73
> Ed

>Only if you never look into the box that has Schrodinger's cat in it.

>73, Zack W9SZ

I didn't know what Schrodinger's cat meant and I can't believe I'm the only
one. So I looked it up on the web and here's what I found.

Schrodinger's cat is a famous illustration of the principle in quantum
theory of superposition, proposed by Erwin Schrodinger in 1935.
Schrodinger's cat serves to demonstrate the apparent conflict between what
quantum theory tells us is true about the nature and behavior of matter on
the microscopic level and what we observe to be true about the nature and
behavior of matter on the macroscopic level.
First, we have a living cat and place it in a thick lead box. At this stage,
there is no question that the cat is alive. We then throw in a vial of
cyanide and seal the box. We do not know if the cat is alive or if it has
broken the cyanide capsule and died. Since we do not know, the cat is both
dead and alive, according to quantum law, in a superposition of states. It
is only when we break open the box and learn the condition of the cat that
the superposition is lost, and the cat becomes one or the other (dead or
We know that superposition actually occurs at the subatomic level, because
there are observable effects of interference, in which a single particle is
demonstrated to be in multiple locations simultaneously. What that fact
implies about the nature of reality on the observable level (cats, for
example, as opposed to electrons) is one of the stickiest areas of quantum
physics. Schrodinger himself said, later in life, that he wished he had
never met that cat.

Thanks to Zack, I'm just a tiny bit smarter than I was yesterday. 8-]

73 Paul NG7Z
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