Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger’s thought experiment revolving around the mortality of a cat came about in a disagreement regarding light with Albert Einstein. The experiment Schrodinger came up with involved enclosing a cat into a box with a radioactive source and a flask of poison. When an internal detects radioactivity, the flask is shattered, releasing the poisonous fumes, thus killing the cat. The point of the experiment is to illustrate the idea that to the outside observer, one cannot know for sure whether the cat is dead or alive.
Unless said observer was to open the box and see the cat for himself, there would be no definite answer. The cat can be either dead, or alive. The idea that the cat can exist as both dead and alive was the key point to Schrodinger’s thought experiment. He wanted to show that results can come out to be two different things, in regards to the outside observer. Therefore, his results regarding light being a particle could coexist with Einstein’s results of light being a wave.
Schrodinger’s idea can pose interesting thought-inducing questions for modern philosophers and scientists.
Can two non-compatible outcomes exist simultaneously? Can a result actually occur without the view or knowledge of an outside observer? Let’s take, for instance, a dog and a bowl of food. Let’s say we leave the house for an hour and the food is gone when we come back. Did the dog eat the food? Normally we would conclude that yes, the dog did enjoy some lunch.
Scientifically however, we can make no conclusion. No one witnessed the dog eating the food, so we cannot conclude that the food was eaten by the dog.
Perhaps some crazy dog-food-loving burglar broke into the house and took the food for his demented self. We just do not know. Therefore, according to Schrodinger’s thought experiment can be applied to the scenario and we conclude that the dog both ate and did not eat the food. There are numerous experiments that can be conducted to put Schrodinger’s cat experiment into thought and practice. The simple flip of a coin, for example can be uncertain. If the coin lands and is immediately shielded by one’s hand, the coin is either heads or tails. There is no definite answer.
It is an interesting conundrum for the human mind, as the usual tendency for mankind is to a central solution for a dilemma. It is difficult for our minds to wrap around the idea that something can exist as two different contradictory things simultaneously. Truly, Schrodinger was having a good day when he came up with this puppy dog (or rather kitten) of an experiment. To this day, the cat experiment captivates the intelligent minds of scientists, philosophers, and even AP Chemistry students! Through simple thought experimentation, we can open minds up to Schrodinger’s cat experiment.
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