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Schroedinger's Dog in Copenhagen

27 May 2009, 21:23 UTC
Schroedinger's Dog in Copenhagen
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My bloggy buddy Chad Orzel, over at Uncertain Principles, has a new book coming out in December, called How To Teach Physics To Your Dog. The dog in question is Emmy, known to Chad's readers as "The Queen of Niskayuna," who has a tendency to browse Chad's physics books when she's bored. And oh, yes, fame will most certainly go to her head.Chapter 3 deals with the "Copenhagen Interpretation" of quantum mechanics, specifically, the infamous thought experiment known as "Schroedinger's Cat." Back in 1935, physicist Erwin Schroedinger illustrated how ludicrously counter-intuitive the implications of quantum mechanics could be by suggesting one could place a cat in a closed box with a single uranium atom (a highly unstable element), right next to a Geiger counter. The uranium atom has a 50% chance of decaying and emitting an electron, and that tiny bit of radiation would set off the Geiger counter. To up the stakes, Schroedinger pictured a hammer rigged to smash a small vial containing cyanide, should the Geiger counter detect any radiation, instantly killing the poor kitty. (Emmy, not surprisingly, has no moral qualms about this.) That's not the mind-bending part of the thought experiment. According to quantum mechanics, we ...

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