Schrödinger’s Cat and Less Famous Felines

  • Amazing science, heard on the ra-didio the other day: folks with insomnia, and others who subsist on too few hours of sleep each night, tend to put on the pounds – compared to skinnier counterparts who get in their traditional eight hours a night. What about the obvious fact that “fat cat” sleeper A is presumably eating or snacking an extra couple of hours or so every day, compared to sleeper B, who by definition is fasting? The radio report just didn’t say.
  • The December Scientific American did a bit on Hugh Everett, who first (and controversially) proposed that the split between quantum physics and classical physics was needless. In the quantum world, the mathematical position of a particle in space and time may have either of one or two states, depending on its interaction with an observer. Superposed particle waves might be said to exist in two states at once. In the classical “macro” world that we know, an object may be at position A, or B, but never both at the same time.
  • You may think this pure twaddle, but as it turns out that math of the quantum world works beautifully, while the math of the classical world falls flat, in describing and predicting actual experimental quantum results. Everett’s way to reconcile this monstrous theoretical contradiction was to postulate alternative universes, where both macro states exist at the same time, but in parallel and diverging worlds. For this effort, Everett was theoretically lynched in absentia by the scientific community.
  • After being egged on by Albert Einstein, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger hatched up his famous Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment. A geiger counter is rigged to detect the decay of a subatomic particle. If the particle decays, the geiger counter triggers release of a poison gas, which kills the cat. If the particle doesn’t decay, the cat lives. But, if in the quantum world we have to entertain the possibility of a particle in two different states at once, don’t we have to admit to the possibility of a dead-and-alive cat existing in both possible states at once?
  • My brother (who is neither as famous as Schrödinger or Einstein singularly, nor as both at the same time) was grudgingly adopted by a stray cat sometime in the 1980’s. People would say, “Oh, what a beautiful cat you have! What’s its name?” My brother would answer, “That’s not my cat”. They would say, “Yes, but what is the name of the cat?” And he would answer, “That’s not my cat“, for that indeed turned out to be the name of the cat.
  • As mean and hurtful as it sounds, there’s still more than one way to skin a cat (but not my cat). Happily, unless your cat is about the size of a subatomic particle, it can still only be skinned, so to speak, one way at a time.

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