Saturday, 8 August 2015

Schrödinger's Cat

I'm going to venture into a deeper school of thought here by writing about a popular physics experiment I was reminded of by a book I was reading this afternoon. If you've never heard of Erwin's Schrodinger's experiment, you should Google it up cuz it's too complicated for me, a literature student who has never seen a physics textbook in her life, to explain correctly. Although I hardly know a thing about physics, I find this experiment to be brilliant because it not only illustrates the quantum theory of superposition but it also makes you think about the laws of probability, observation and perception, and even parallel universes and all it's infinite outcomes. It's bound to make you wonder.

So, onto Schrodinger's Cat. Simply put, a cat is put inside a steel box with a device containing a vial of hydrocyanic acid and a radioactive substance. This device has a 50/50 chance of breaking the vial of acid that will poison the cat. The lid is opened after an hour and you'll either be greeted by a really confused cat or a corpse.

Whatever happens to the cat inside the box is not our business, its job is simply to stay alive or be killed by the poison within the box (poor kitty!) Mr Schrodinger states that as long as we don't open the box, the cat is both dead and alive. I'll repeat that again: as long as we don't open the box, the cat is both dead AND alive. Think of it as time being suspended while the box is closed, and as long as it remains unopened, both outcomes remain as possibilities. Only when the box is opened and the contents observed, will the cat be confirmed as either dead OR alive. 

Get it? No? Okay, stay with me. What Mr Schrodinger is trying to say is that as far as we (the observers) are concerned, the cat is only dead or alive after we open the box and find the answer ourselves. In simple terms, we decide the cat's status by the meanings we attach to its dead/alive body. The cat is just doing its own thing, whether or not the box is opened doesn't change the fact it was/wasn't killed. It's our perception of things that gives things their meanings, it's how we choose to see things that makes things they way they are. 

If a tree in the middle of a deserted forest falls, do you think it still makes sound if no one is around to hear it? Sound is defined as something that "travel through the air or another medium and can be heard when they reach a person's or animal's ear." If it isn't heard by anyone, is it still considered sound? 

Another example would be Israelites, who were convinced that that they were perfect and good until the Lord gave the Ten Commandments that told them that they were in fact, sinners. If a man commits terrible crimes, is he still evil if we didn't perceive the crimes to be evil? Is the sky still blue if no one can tell that it's blue? Hey, maybe there's another color that exists right here in front of us but we can't see it, and so as far as we're concerned, it doesn't exist EVEN THOUGH IT DOES. And here's the real mind-blower: if that was true, we'd never know. Yep, I told you it'd make you wonder.

Science and physics and sub-atomic particles aside, here's how I came to understand and interpret the Schrödinger's Cat experiment: we're just like the cat, affected by different circumstances that gives us our own set of stories to tell. And just like the scientist who opens the lid and declares the cat dead or alive, these stories won't be considered truths until an observer understands us enough to deem it so. And aren't we all hoping for our own stories to become truths someday?

Alain de Botton puts this so beautifully in a quote I love so so much:
"Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone who can understand what we are saying in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved."

Thank you for hearing me out, nerdy Jac appreciate it loads. *smiles, pushes up glasses and disappears behind a book*