The Famous Schrodinger’s Cat Thought Experiment Comes Back to Life in an Off-Kilter Animation

Schrödinger’s Cat is one of the more famous thought exper­i­ments in mod­ern physics, cre­at­ed by Aus­tri­an physi­cist Erwin Schrödinger back in 1935.  The Tele­graph sum­ma­rizes the gist of the exper­i­ment as fol­lows:

In the hypo­thet­i­cal exper­i­ment … a cat is placed in a sealed box along with a radioac­tive sam­ple, a Geiger counter and a bot­tle of poi­son.

If the Geiger counter detects that the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al has decayed, it will trig­ger the smash­ing of the bot­tle of poi­son and the cat will be killed.

The exper­i­ment was designed to illus­trate the flaws of the ‘Copen­hagen inter­pre­ta­tion’ of quan­tum mechan­ics, which states that a par­ti­cle exists in all states at once until observed.

If the Copen­hagen inter­pre­ta­tion sug­gests the radioac­tive mate­r­i­al can have simul­ta­ne­ous­ly decayed and not decayed in the sealed envi­ron­ment, then it fol­lows the cat too is both alive and dead until the box is opened.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Not­ting­ham’s Six­ty Sym­bols YouTube chan­nel pro­vides a more com­plete expla­na­tion. But with or with­out any fur­ther intro­duc­tion, you can watch the off-kil­ter ani­ma­tion, above, which imag­ines the ori­gins of the orig­i­nal exper­i­ment. It was cre­at­ed by Chav­dar Yor­danov for an ani­ma­tion show in Lon­don.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site ear­ly last year.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

80 Free Online Physics Cours­es

When a Cat Co-Authored a Paper in a Lead­ing Physics Jour­nal (1975)

Nick Cave Nar­rates an Ani­mat­ed Film about the Cat Piano, the Twist­ed 18th Cen­tu­ry Musi­cal Instru­ment Designed to Treat Men­tal Ill­ness

Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tions to Quan­tum Mechan­ics: From Schrödinger’s Cat to Heisenberg’s Uncer­tain­ty Prin­ci­ple

Ani­ma­tions of 6 Famous Thought Exper­i­ments

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  • Leonardo Rubino says:


    In quan­tum mechan­ics and in mod­ern physics in gen­er­al, the observ­er is often held as not real­ly an enti­ty which has noth­ing to do with the exper­i­ment, as it could hap­pen in a clas­sic envi­ron­ment more than a hun­dred years ago, but still as an enti­ty which starts affect­ing the exper­i­ment only when, at the end of the exper­i­ment itself, he wears a white over­all and starts car­ry­ing out mea­sure­ments. On the con­trary, the observ­er is part of the exper­i­ment since the begin­ning.
    Schrödinger’s Cat-1935 (from Wikipedia):

    “A cat is penned up in a steel cham­ber, along with the fol­low­ing device (which must be secured against direct inter­fer­ence by the cat): in a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioac­tive sub­stance, so small, that per­haps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal prob­a­bil­i­ty, per­haps none; if it hap­pens, the counter tube dis­charges and through a relay releas­es a ham­mer that shat­ters a small flask of hydro­cyan­ic acid. If one has left this entire sys­tem to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if mean­while no atom has decayed. The first atom­ic decay would have poi­soned it. “

    We are talk­ing about Schrödinger’s sup­po­si­tion, accord­ing to which the cat is in an unknown state (alive or dead), as it is impos­si­ble, before open­ing the cham­ber, to know if the poi­son has been released or not. Let’s find some mis­takes in the rea­son­ings around that, hop­ing that they look like mis­takes to the read­ers, too:
    1) The steel cham­ber is not per­fect­ly tight! There­fore, in the observer’s opin­ion, it is always open!!! Per­fect­ly tight cham­bers do not exist (ther­mal or grav­i­ta­tion­al tight­ness).
    The wave func­tion would col­lapse on time any­way, as a per­fect tight­ness of the cham­ber with cat, poi­son, counter and radioac­tive sub­stance inside, is impos­si­ble. An exter­nal observ­er imme­di­ate­ly inter­feres with the exper­i­ment, by the grav­i­ta­tion­al pull exert­ed by his own body on the cat, on the poi­son, on the counter and on the radioac­tive sub­stance, or also by the heat of his own body, which is trans­mit­ted towards the cham­ber, which is not per­fect­ly tight. Hence, the cat is sure­ly dead or alive, but nev­er a mix­ture of those two dif­fer­ent states. The observ­er can’t even deny he knows the state of the cat before the open­ing of the cham­ber, as the death of the cat has an effect on the observ­er him­self, as it trans­mits less heat towards the observ­er (cold body of a dead cat) and this would slight­ly change the phys­i­cal state of the observ­er him­self, who is a per­ma­nent and com­pelled observ­er. The same can be stat­ed about an alive cat, which is warmer and which sends more heat to the observ­er, so send­ing a ther­mal infor­ma­tion on its state and even though such infor­ma­tion is not express­ly request­ed by the observ­er.
    2) Quan­tum physics would allow the observ­er to chose to observe or not. This is absurd!!! The observ­er is not free! He must always observe!
    Einstein’s God, that who is not play­ing dice, is not giv­ing us such a free­dom. The observ­er is not free to refrain from observ­ing. If I don’t look at the Moon, does the Moon exist? My answer is yes, also adding that I can­not stop look­ing at the Moon, as also if I turn back, I still inter­act with the Moon, grav­i­ta­tion­al­ly etc (also this is a look­ing at). Since the begin­ning of the above exper­i­ment, as an observ­er I affect the events inside the cham­ber of Schrödinger by the grav­i­ta­tion­al pull exert­ed by my body, or also by the heat trans­mit­ted by my body. And even if I want to keep my eyes closed, at the end of the exper­i­ment the high­er quan­ti­ty of heat trans­mit­ted by an alive cat (or low­er, in case of a dead one) throug a non per­fect­ly tight cham­ber, inex­orably informs my body on the state of the cat!

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