Schrödinger’s cat: A thought experiment in quantum mechanics

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So is the cat alive or dead in the box, or do things exist, when they are not observed?

Small kids often make an assumption that things do not exist when these things are not within their sight. Parents then have to explain that different objects – places, toys, humans, and all the rest – remain real, no matter what we think. But in the domain of quantum mechanics it is not that simple.

Image credit: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay, free licence

One of the most popular examples used to illustrate paradoxes of quantum mechanics is the famous Schrödinger’s cat. Austrian-Irish physicist, one of the founders of the theory of quantum mechanics, Erwin Schrödinger devised this classic thought experiment while having a discussion with Albert Einstein and other colleagues. The question behind this hypothetical experiment is brutal, to say the least: if you put a cat in a hermetic box and use equipment that has 50% chance of killing that cat within an hour, what will we observe at the end of this experiment, after we open the box?

People often are curious: did Schrödinger actually put a cat in a box? Don’t worry, no actual cat was harmed. There are other, completely peaceful and humane ways to re-create this quantum dual-state mechanism, or quantum superposition, in laboratory settings. At the level of sub-atomic particles this evidence of simultaneously existing different states of matter is obvious and has very real implications in our everyday life.

This interesting, fun and easy to understand video explains the Schrödinger’s cat experiment in more detail:

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