# Editing 45: Schrodinger

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Schrödinger's cat is a famous thought experiment proposed by {{w|Erwin Schrödinger}} to question the {{w|Copenhagen interpretation}} of quantum mechanics. | Schrödinger's cat is a famous thought experiment proposed by {{w|Erwin Schrödinger}} to question the {{w|Copenhagen interpretation}} of quantum mechanics. | ||

− | Under the {{w|Copenhagen interpretation}}, any particle is described by a {{w|wave function}} that allows one to calculate the probability that it is any given state. A radioactive nucleus with a half-life of one hour, for instance, would have a wave-function that would split, showing two distinct states (decayed, undecayed) that change over time until some "observation" forced the wave-function into one state or another (called "collapsing the wave-function"). Before the wave-function is collapsed, it is incorrect to say that the atom has decayed or has not decayed; it is in a "superposition" of states, effectively | + | Under the {{w|Copenhagen interpretation}}, any particle is described by a {{w|wave function}} that allows one to calculate the probability that it is any given state. A radioactive nucleus with a half-life of one hour, for instance, would have a wave-function that would split, showing two distinct states (decayed, undecayed) that change over time until some "observation" forced the wave-function into one state or another (called "collapsing the wave-function"). Before the wave-function is collapsed, it is incorrect to say that the atom has decayed or has not decayed; it is in a "superposition" of states, effectively partially decayed and partially undecayed. |

Schrödinger thought that the Copenhagen interpretation was absurd, and devised the below thought experiment to show this. The experiment goes as follows: Put a cat in a box, he said, with a device triggered by the decay of an atom with a half-life of one hour that would release a poisonous gas if triggered. Then, after waiting an hour, the Copenhagen interpretation would say that the atom is in a superposition of decayed and undecayed states, and thus, by extension, the cat would be in a superposition of alive and dead states. Only when the box is opened would the wave-function for the cat collapse into either alive or dead states. This thought experiment is not meant to be taken literally, as every interaction of a particle with another constitutes an observation, and many particles must interact for a cat to die, but still his argument was that since it is absurd for a cat to be both alive and dead, it is absurd for an atom to be both decayed and undecayed. | Schrödinger thought that the Copenhagen interpretation was absurd, and devised the below thought experiment to show this. The experiment goes as follows: Put a cat in a box, he said, with a device triggered by the decay of an atom with a half-life of one hour that would release a poisonous gas if triggered. Then, after waiting an hour, the Copenhagen interpretation would say that the atom is in a superposition of decayed and undecayed states, and thus, by extension, the cat would be in a superposition of alive and dead states. Only when the box is opened would the wave-function for the cat collapse into either alive or dead states. This thought experiment is not meant to be taken literally, as every interaction of a particle with another constitutes an observation, and many particles must interact for a cat to die, but still his argument was that since it is absurd for a cat to be both alive and dead, it is absurd for an atom to be both decayed and undecayed. |