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The Theory of Schrodinger’s Cat and Why it’s Important

Can you explain the theory of Schrodinger’s cat and why it’s important?

We have two sets of physics at work in our reality. They are connected in some still unknown way – we are still working on it- but often appear to contradict each other.

In the world with which we are all familiar, the very large world, we observe and try to explain, and make sense of what we see. The physics of this world includes us, your house, your furniture, our world, the planets, the sun, our galaxy and the visible universe.

In the world of the very, very small; as small and smaller than an atom, very different things happen. The Quantum world is this second realm of physics.

In it, some things that defy our logic appear to be real such as an object being in two places at the same time, or a particle popping into and out of existence, or the act of watching an experiment determining its outcome, or something very, very far away being influenced instantaneously by something here (quantum entanglement).

In the quantum world we speak of the likelihood or probability of a particle being where we think it is.

Bell Curve
Bell Curve

We draw a graph known as a bell curve- because it is shaped rather like a bell. In the drawing,  most of the time, something will be near its middle. The size of the area on the graph determines its likelihood.  But sometimes, even though less likely, it will be at a different place, landing in a smaller less likely place in the graph. The least likely occurrence occurs on the far sides of the graph.

Probability theory used these curves to determine the likelihood of an occurrence. This theory also applies to gambling in a casino. The payoffs are larger the less likely they occur. Casinos make fortunes because they don’t pay you the true odds or chances or likelihood that a bet you make will happen.

In the quantum world we really never know where a particle – say an electron- might be. It is likely to be near the middle of the graph but we don’t really know. If we try to observe it, the act of observing- because we have to observe information – for example- something being reflected off of it to measure it- interferes. That interference may change what we are observing.

Schroeder's CatSchrodinger’s  cat is a thought experiment – not really done to some poor cat- that simply says if you put a cat in a box with a vial of poison that would be broken if a radioactive sample emits a particle (triggering the vial to break) that after a period of time you cannot know if the cat is alive or dead, because you cannot determine if the radioactive sample did or did not emit the particle. The emission is random- it could happen (probability near the center of the curve) or not (probability near the extremes of the curve).  

Until you open the box  [newsletter_lock] the cat might be alive or it  might be dead. So according to the quantum interpretation of physics you should consider the cat BOTH alive and dead. It might sound absurd. But it is the way quantum interpretation works.

In other words if something might be either, until you find out it could be both. If you are solving a problem, you must look at both possibilities, and hence solve for both solutions. Gambling and many other scientific applications do this with the diagram above. We use” the odds” all the time when we make decisions. We fly because we know the odds are we will arrive safely.

The quantum world is indeed strange and should you desire you may read more about it here:

So what do you think? Should the cat be both alive and dead at the same time?


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