Tag Archives: Schrodinger’s cat

Schrödinger’s Cat and the Trousers of Time

At the end of last week’s quasi-theory, I made the mistake of mentioning Schrödinger’s cat. I have been told by a higher authority, i. e., the Reverend Jeff, that I should somehow expand on Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment, even though I specifically said that, and I quote, “I refuse to explain Schrödinger’s cat.”

Erwin Schrödinger devised his thought experiment in 1935 to illustrate a problem in applying a quantum mechanics idea to larger, complex systems. The idea was, that at the atomic and smaller level, quantum systems, like electrons, atoms, protons and such, the actual state of the system is a sort of superposition of all possible states that that system could possibly have. It isn’t until an outside observation is made that the superposition of all possible states collapse into one specific state. The observer can be anything from another quantum system getting close enough to interact with the system under consideration, to a real experimental physicist, who does real things, and doesn’t just play around with mathematics all day. Schrödinger named this weird ass connection between the observer and the observed, “entanglement”, although, being Austrian, he actually named it “verschränkung”, which means, oddly enough, entanglement.

So, Schrödinger thought that this whole entanglement thingy was absurd, especially since it surely didn’t seem to be happening to anything in the normal world. He took, purely in thought, his cat and stuck it in a box. He put a mechanism in the box with the cat, presumably in way that the cat couldn’t play with it and thereby muck up the thought experiment. The mechanism had a bit of radioactive material, a Geiger counter, a trip hammer, and a vial of hydrocyanic acid. When the Geiger counter detects the decay of an atom of the radioactive material, it triggers the trip hammer to smash the vial, the hydrocyanic acid evaporates and becomes cyanide, and presto change-o, the cat is dead. There’s only a teensy bit of the radioactive stuff, so there’s only a small chance at any moment that the cat will be killed.

Now, if the whole quantum entanglement theory works on big things, too, the radioactive decay, will, or won’t, happen, until we open the box. The cat is therefore both dead and alive until we take a peek in the box.

Here’s where it gets weird. Quantum entanglement has been experimentally shown to be real. It has been shown to be real in experiments using around ten million electrons, as well as ten million photons.

And here’s where the trousers of time enter the scene.

We have all become familiar with the idea that, at any given instant, when we make a decision to do one thing or another, our timeline splits, like the legs of a pair of pants, thereby producing an alternate universe. There’s a timeline where we had chocolate instead of vanilla. There’s a timeline where we chose strawberry instead. If we are picking from amongst Ben and Jerry flavors, with Baskin-Robbins thrown in, the legs of the trousers of time become more like pants for a millepede.

Schrödinger’s cat had only two choices: alive or dead. I ask you, is that poor kitty therefore a zombie?

My thanks to the late Terry Pratchett for the beautiful trousers of time metaphor.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

Rerun on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:

For the reading impaired, an audio version of this quasi theory may be found here:


Flatland is an Event Horizon

The Reverend Jeff, of Squatcher’s Lounge Fame, suggested that I do a quasi theory on the idea that the event horizon of a black hole is two dimensional, an idea that was initially proposed years ago, but has somehow popped up again in various news feeds of those of us who have gone and liked, as in Facebook “liked”, a number of science related Facebook pages.

After spending a good deal of time yesterday researching the proposed two dimensional flatness of black holes, researched as in Googling the bejesus out of black hole related words and phrases, I have come to the conclusion that the mathematical physicists doing the research mean one thing by two dimensional, and the people writing the articles popping up in news feeds mean another.

What I mean is that black holes are, in point of fact, spherical. They are not flat, as such. The two dimensional surface being discussed is the flat surface of a sphere, which is flat only if you are a flat being living on the surface of the sphere and can’t look up, but only sideways along the plane of the sphere.

Of course there aren’t any beings, as such, living on the surface of a black hole, because a black hole has no surface, as such. It has what they euphemistically call an event horizon. Matter, light, what have you, disappears almost utterly when it passes the event horizon, giving a last gasp of breath, or maybe sort of a fart, known as Hawking radiation, named after Steven Hawking.

I know that if I were being crushed by a black hole, I’d be hawking up everything, too, so the name is quite appropriate.

Hawking radiation is defined as a virtual particle. A virtual particle is neither here nor there. A Hawking radiation virtual particle only gets to here, or there, if it gets to escape the event horizon. If it does that, it becomes the radiation that lets us detect the black hole. Apparently a lot of these virtual particles escape black holes and head our way because we have detected black holes. This seems like circular reasoning to me, but that’s mathematical physics for you. Neither here nor there, much like Schrodinger’s cat, who is neither dead or alive until you open the door of the box the cat lives in.

I refuse to explain Schrodinger’s cat, but I have often wondered if Schrodinger put a litter box in with his cat.

First shared on the Squatcher’s Lounge Podcast:
Bigfoot captured stalking girl in Tatra Mountains – SLP4-19