Cat Gives Life for Quantum Leap 10/11/2011

This is written as a warning to anyone out there that is not totally and utterly prepared to have their brain completely scrambled. It is a warning not to browse unsuspectingly through the on line papers looking for interesting articles, and I urge, no implore you not to go near the science section unless you are very, very clever and have lots of degrees in things like physics.

I made this mistake and am now paying the price.

It started when I came across a piece that caught my eye because the headline involved a cat. I like cats and began to read mainly because being in the science section I assumed the worst for the cat.

The said cat belonged to a man called Schrodinger who was an Austrian Physicist. In 1935 he came up with a thought experiment to challenge an article written by Einstein, Podolsky and a chap named Rosen. This is where my ability to follow the story ended.

I had unwittingly and without any warning been drawn into the world of quantum mechanics


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Now I had heard of quantum mechanics but had no real knowledge of the subject. I have done my share of Radio 4’s “In our Time “ with good old Melvin Bragg. Normally I would  be able to brush off my inability to understand this kind of subject with “Oh well I am driving, lost my concentration there for a mo” Unfortunately there is no such escape from the written word. I confess I read this article twice and was still was no further forward. Thus my understating of Mr Schrodinger’s cat is as follows.

His experiment involved the idea that if his cat which sadly always seems to be nameless were put in a box it could be in a state of being either alive or dead at the same time and that its state would only be determined by the act of observation i.e. Opening the box. This was then described as being a paradox. There was also mention of introducing a sub atomic particle in with the cat to further complicate the story but I think I had glazed over by this stage. So despite my very best efforts the only thing I learned was that Mr Schrodinger had a cat and he used to think about putting it in a box. Hardly what the article probably wanted me to conclude.

I suppose the question I should be asking myself is: – Am I just reading papers beyond my intellectual capabilities? Had I been reading a tabloid instead of a broad sheet would I be reading about “Austrian Man Named and Shamed in Cat in a Box Cruelty Crime” much more up my street.

To test this idea further I am including a quick summery of what quantum mechanics is about courtesy of Wikipedia. (Where would we be without it?)

Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of the wave–particle duality of matter and energy. The theory was developed in 1925 by Werner Heisenberg.[1] Quantum mechanics describes the time evolution of physical systems via a mathematical structure called the wave function. The wave function encapsulates the probability that the system is to be found in a given state at a given time. Quantum mechanics also allows one to calculate the effect on the system of making measurements of properties of the system by defining the effect of those measurements on the wave function. This leads to the well-known uncertainty principle as well as the enduring debate over the role of the experimenter, epitomised in the Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment.

Now that to me means nothing, other than giving me a very strong feeling of being dumb. If you have read it and can understand it – congratulations you are either a) A complete geek. B) An alien or  C) Both of the above.

I know these branches of science exist but my inability to understand them is very frustrating. I am completely in awe of the people who can grasp this stuff and to a degree appreciate the massive contribution they make to our world.

I have therefore concluded that in the interests of preserving my sanity the most sensible thing I can do is limit my exposure to this kind of information. This in turn will allow me to remain deluded in the belief that I am not completely thick.

Please feel free to leave comments.

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